John Gimlette was born in 1963. At seventeen, he crossed the Soviet Union by train and has since travelled to over 60 countries. In 1982, on the eve of the Falklands War, he was working on an estancia in Northern Argentina, branding cattle and planting grass. As hostilities got under way, he crossed the border into Paraguay, the beginning of a fascination that’s lasted many years. He returned to England via Bolivia and Chile to read law at Cambridge.
In 1997, John won the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize competition. The following year he won the Wanderlust Travel Writing competition. His first book was 'At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig; Travels in Paraguay', which was published in New York, London and Milan. His second book, 'Theatre of Fish', about his travels in Newfoundland and Labrador, was published in 2005. In it, John sets off after his great-grandfather, Dr Eliot Curwen, up the Labradorian coast. Curwen, who arrived here in 1893, was sent as a medical missionary, to look after Labrador’s migratory fishermen and Eskimos. Using Curwen’s remarkable photographs and journals, John finds himself back among the people who were his ancestor’s patients.
Both The Pig and The Fish were nominated by The New York Times amongst its ‘Books of the Year’. Both also formed the subject-matter of lectures that John gave to the Royal Geographical Society, in London and in the provinces. In addition, he’s also appeared at both the Hay and Edinburgh literary festivals, together with several others.
In 'Panther Soup' (published in Spring 2008), John travels with an American war veteran, back along the campaign trail of 1944-45: Marseille, Alsace, Lorraine, Swabia, Bavaria and the Austrian Tyrol. For the American, it is the first time he has been back in 60 years, and along the way they meet the survivors of this conflict: resistance fighters, children, draft-dodgers, German veterans, Austrian aristocrats, a spy and a mothy Tyrolean militia.
'Wild Coast: Travels on South America’s Untamed Edge' was featured on the BBC Radio 4's 'Excess Baggage'.
In John's latest book, 'Elephant Complex', he explores the people and history of Sri Lanka, interviewing everyone from ex-Presidents, cricketers and Tamil Tigers. It was published in autumn 2015 and was selected as one of the books of the year by the Spectator and The Times, receiving widespread praise on all sides.
Writing is very much in John’s blood. On his mother’s side, both Eliot Curwen and Dr Cecil Curwen (John’s grandfather) were great amateur archaeologists - the last of their kind - and their written work was widely admired. On the other side, the Gimlettes were military surgeons, deployed around Asia. George Gimlette’s history of the Nepali royal family, published in the 1890’s, is still printed in India today. John D Gimlette’s ‘Malay Poisons and Charm Cures’ (1915) is also still in print, in Singapore, the unsurpassed textbook for all poisoners.
John is also a regular contributor of travel features to the national press, in particular the Telegraph, Times and Guardian, and to specialist travel titles, including the Condé Nast Traveller and Wanderlust. His travel photographs have appeared in the Traveller, Telegraph, Independent, Wanderlust and Geographical.
John lives in London, England, where he continues to practice as a barrister.