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Bradford-born PJ (Philip) Whiteley is an author who writes romantic comedy novels and books about management and the workplace. He is also a renowned ghostwriter.
Philip has been a professional writer since 1988. Having earlier tried to become a professional cricketer, then struggling respectively with engineering and social work, he discovered a passion and flair for writing and began work as a trainee reporter for the trade magazine Printing World. An eclectic career followed that took him to forests of southern Chile, health clinics in Nicaragua and community care in the UK.
In 2015, Philip’s debut romantic comedy novel Close of Play (Urbane Publications) was published and received an enthusiastic reception from readers and critics. Marching on Together (Urbane, 2017) attracted a cover quote from legendary author Louis de Bernières. Philip’s third novel, A Love of Two Halves (Unbound, due late 2019), focuses on a blossoming romance between a wealthy entrepreneur and a single mum on the minimum wage. Philip strives for clarity and profundity, humour and reflection, in contemporary dramas that include romance, events, and some sport, as well as opportunities for characters to reshape their understanding of the world.
Philip’s journalism and non-fiction publications focus on the world of work, particularly the gap between the evidence for enlightened workplaces, and the dismal reality of most offices and factories. His work encourages the dissemination of this evidence so that employers can treat their workers and the environment better while actually enhancing business performance. The ground-breaking article Your Company Doesn’t Exist – the People Who Work in it Do, co-authored with Dr Jules Goddard, was published in May 2017 in the London Business School Review.
Philip was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire in 1962, but attended schools in several areas of the UK including Wiltshire, North Yorkshire and Kent. He has lived in London and the Netherlands and spent a year in South and Central America in the 1990s, where he learned Spanish to a high standard. In 2018 he returned to Yorkshire and now lives in central Leeds.
Some of his favourite writers are Javier Marías, George Orwell, Albert Camus, Norman Lewis, Iris Murdoch, David Lodge, Charlotte Brontë, Gabriel García Márquez, Donna Tartt, Louis de Bernières, Manuel Puig, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Joan Armatrading.
Photographs of Philip
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About Philip’s novels
Close of Play
Brian Clarke has an ordered life, a life of village cricket, solid principles, and careful interaction with those around him. He is resolutely fending off advancing middle-age with a straight bat, determined to defend his wicket against life’s occasional fast balls. Then he meets Elizabeth a gentle, caring, genuinely selfless soul who is a glowing bloom amongst the ordered hedgerows of his existence. As Elizabeth demands Brian’s interest and breathes hope into his heart he must reassess his self-defined role as the lone batsmen and fight to find the courage to fall in love. Or risk losing her forever.
Close of Play is a thoughtful, funny, beautifully honest story of love and manners. It is a tale of missed opportunities and a chance at redemption and the fear of opening our hearts to another when we think we have forgotten how to love.
Philip Whiteley says: I’ve always been fascinated by culture clashes, especially of the more subtle kind. Social mores changed enormously in the 1960s and 1970s, and I had the idea of a sympathetic character for whom casual dress, loss of deference, the decline of church attendance, hippies and punks were an unexpected disaster. So, I created Brian, born in the wrong time, who’s turning 40 in the 1990s.
I felt these themes had the potential for both pathos and humour, and I’ve been delighted by the reaction to the book. Brian is very conservative with a small c, but of a liberal disposition. He’s so out of touch with popular culture he thinks Phil Collins the drummer and Phil Collins the singer must be two different people. He’s also an expert opening batsman. Cricket is the perfect existentialist metaphor, because you don’t know what’s going to be bowled at you, and you have less than a second to make a decision. He’s excellent at the choice of shot to make as a batsman, but ill-equipped to react to real-life situations. Until Elizabeth comes along.
Religious faith is a central part of both their lives, but both have struggles with faith, for different reasons. There’s also a strong theme of racial inequality, as Brian forms a bond with Jeffrey, from the visiting London-West Indian team, but both experience sadness as cricket starts to decline in popularity in the capital. Brian’s turning point is to learn more about the reality of racism and reassess his world view. I think many of these themes are neglected in modern literature, especially the potential of sport to reduce racial barriers.
Marching on Together
It is August 2014. Six Leeds United supporters set off for a short break in Bruges. Two brothers Allan and Johnny Collins – the former a successful businessman, the latter just out of prison – are visiting great-grandad’s grave on the Western Front, at the time of the centenary of the start of the Great War. They’re joined by Johnny’s mates, Craig and Terry; the tomboy Petra; and the out-of-sorts Yvonne, who failed to persuade estranged husband Tony to accompany her. For all the political events, historic and current, that surround them, they find it difficult to avoid discussion of the wildly eccentric new owner of their beloved football club as it languishes in the second tier of English football. He has sold the best striker and banned the Number 17 shirt as being ‘unlucky’. Meanwhile, other obsessions, secrets and ambitions lie within their hearts. Can Johnny find love again, or a job? Will Terry make it as a photographer? Is Allan’s business as successful as it appears to be? What is the family secret behind the antique silver locket that Yvonne keeps in her handbag? And can she finally accept the result of the 1975 European Cup Final, and begin to move on with her life?
Warm, funny and tender, Marching on Together is a beautifully realised journey of friendships and revelations.
Philip Whiteley says: Growing up as Leeds United fan in the south of England in the 1970s was a fascinating, if at times painful experience. At the time, Leeds were simultaneously the best team and the least popular. The press put the label ‘Dirty Leeds’ on the team, and it stuck. Ever since then I’ve been fascinated by the dominant narrative, and how it is formed and sustained by influential voices and repetition.
When the Damned United appeared, as a book, motion picture and play, reviving many of the pejorative narratives about the famous Leeds manager Don Revie and his team, I felt compelled to pen a narrative that puts the Leeds United fans’ views on the stage. But I didn’t want to write a direct riposte, to feature fictionalised versions of real people or make football the only subject. Another theme that fascinates me is the long memory of the tribe. Leeds fans still sing about how we felt cheated at the European Cup Final of 1975. It’s also true of army regiments, and I find it intensely moving when a regiment gives a full ceremonial burial to one of the fallen of 1914-1918, when an identifiable fragment of his remains is found by a Belgian farmer.
So, I put six Leeds fans on a tour of the Flanders battlefields and the pubs of Bruges, in August 2014, and made a woman, Yvonne Fairclough, the central character. She has her own personal memories of the terrible night in May 1975, in the street violence that followed the controversial cup final, and one of these memories returns to haunt her during the short sojourn in Belgium.
The Rooms We Never Enter
George Mowatt, a management consultant-turned entrepreneur, is one of the wealthiest people in Britain. Karen Barnes, a single mum living in a terraced house in south Leeds, is not. When George decides that his third home should be close to the stadium of his beloved sports team, they become neighbours. Both George and Karen have been unlucky in love and the chemistry between them is instant. Yet their lives are a world apart, and their hearts keep missing each other’s beat. The gulf in their experiences presents a culture clash, while the difference in income raises questions over whether George’s appeal lies in his character or his solvency. Karen’s feelings are genuine, and George is fascinated by how a smart, attractive Mum with a talented teenage daughter could be single and clearly struggling. Just as they begin to chart a route to happiness, someone from Karen’s past reappears, and she is forced to reveal a secret she has kept from them both.
The Rooms We Never Enter is a funny, heartfelt tale of missed opportunities, unlikely romance and a love that seems to be forever out of reach. It also raises sharp questions over the extent to which traditional gender roles have really changed in modern Britain.
Philip Whiteley says: While it’s an old theme to explore whether a love affair can overcome a difference in background, I saw an opportunity to address it from what I hope will be seen as an original angle. The Rooms We Never Enter is very deliberately an ancient fable in a 21st Century setting, that begins when a successful entrepreneur parks his expensive car outside the small terrace house of a single mum on his way to watch a football match. Yes, it’s the man who’s rich and the woman who’s good looking ….. again, quite deliberate. I thought about inverting the stereotype but, for all the talk of gender equality, this book asks: have we really changed that much? And while it’s considered shallow to be attracted by wealth or looks, we cannot avoid their inescapable allure.
I think the reasons some folk are poor and some are rich are not well captured by any economic theory, and I throw in some observations of my own. But it’s not an issues-led book; I’ve been told it’s funny, sweet and romantic. George and Karen have both been unlucky in love in the past and I think the reader will be rooting for them. I’m in a unique position to bring their two worlds to life, as my journalistic career has involved much reporting on poverty and social issues, but I’ve also covered international business and interviewed executives and entrepreneurs.
In praise of Close of Play
‘Close of Play is a wonderful English drama, combining moments that are touching with others that are laugh-out-loud funny.’
John Challis, actor
‘…well written, but most of all well observed’
In praise of Marching on Together
‘I very much enjoyed Marching on Together and was happily carried along by the wonderfully realised characters’
Louis de Bernières, best-selling author
‘Sometimes in our lives we read a book that resonates with our soul. This book is it.’
Sue Gale, blogger
‘I enjoyed this book [Marching on Together] immensely and highly recommend it for those who wish to read a more gentle style of book that focusses on human nature, conversation and how we all interact with each other.’
Jo Worgan, book blogger
Editorial reviews/media coverage
Close of Play
An interview with author PJ Whiteley – Boots Shoes and Fashion (blog), 22 May 2015
Marching on Together
1975 and all that! New novel is hailed as champion read for Leeds United fans – Yorkshire Evening Post, 21 February 2017
Philip can speak, or write, about the following topics and related themes:
Being a ‘northern bloke’ who writes sensitive female fiction
Unusually, Philip writes romantic fiction from a male point of view. He enjoys giving insights into the male psyche and his writing has won him a strong female following.
The benefits of lived experience versus writing courses
In some modern novels, the research is too obviously on display, and sections read like non-fiction. Philip has had a rich and varied life and believes he can use his experience without directly copying incidents or characters, conveying more emotion and depth than a research-based text.
The hidden depth of comedy
Philip is immensely proud when he reads in a review that a book of his contains laugh-out-loud moments. He enjoys a quality sitcom, and his favourite classic novels are rich in comedy – Don Quixote, Great Expectations, La Peste, 100 Years of Solitude and others. He laments the tendency to tone down or omit the comedy when staging a dramatization.
The crowdfunding experience
Crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly popular way for authors to bring their books to life, but it’s not for everyone. Philip is crowdfunding his third novel The Rooms We Never Enter, with Unbound. It’s the first time he has taken this route so can talk about the positives and the pitfalls.
The nature of masculinity and why men find it hard to express emotion
Men often feel exposed and vulnerable when talking about their emotions. They’re encouraged to do so but can come across as unsexy when they do. It’s a challenge for the modern male to be ‘just sensitive enough’.
Life as a full-time writer
Some people dream of spending their days being paid to write best-selling novels. Are the images they hold in mind accurate? How easy is it for a writer to divide their time between their own works of fiction and the copy that pays the bills? What does deadline dread feel like? Philip speaks candidly about his journalism, ghostwriting and his own journey to publication.
Returning to live in Yorkshire and setting up home in Leeds
Having recently returned to Yorkshire, Philip can offer insights into returning ‘home’ and moving to a city (Leeds) which has experienced significant changes since he first moved away. He can talk about the steps he is taking to meet people, creating work opportunities and finding his new favourite local.
Why the maligned former Leeds manager, Don Revie, should be celebrated
Former Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger may have introduced a transformative training regime at Arsenal but Philip can discuss why he believes Don Revie was decades ahead of the wellbeing curve.
Enough with the new cricket formats, already
Philip believes that England’s cricket administrators are ‘doing a Ratner’ – talking down the inherent appeal of the traditional game, by launching too many new formats. He enjoys T20 but believes the 100-ball game is a gimmick too far.