John Donoghue


My creative career started in the 1980s, as a singer/songwriter with Liverpool band Jealous Heart. Since then, with a 25 year career in mental health behind me, with numerous articles published in a range of medical journals, I turned my hand to fiction and my novel, The Death's Head Chess Club, was published in 2015 by Atlantic Books. This is a story of the Holocaust, based in Auschwitz in 1944, and explores the relationship between a Jewish prisoner and an SS officer, revolving around the game of chess. Won the Waverton Good Read Award in 2016.


Literary (historical) fiction

Publications & Performance History

The Death's Head Chess Club, published in the UK / Australia / New Zealand by Atlantic Books in 2015; published in the USA & Canada by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2015; published in translation in China and Italy, 2015. Numerous positive reader reviews on, Amazon, etc. and positive professional reviews from the Sydney morning Herald and the New York Book Journal.

Workshop & Reading Experience

I have extensive experience as a specialist in health education, from small interative workshop sessions to lectures for very large audiences (1000+) and everything in-between. In this role I've worked locally, nationally and internationally, as far afield as the USA, Europe, Russia, Central Asia and the Far East. I have not had many opportunities (yet) to talk about my novel. So far it's been limited to independent bookshop, schools and local groups in the Liverpool area. I'm happy to provide workshops on creative writing or historical research or to do readings / talks about my novel and my writing.


Melanie Graaf (Bolton Library) Tony Higginson (Write Blend Bookshop, Liverpool) Sally-Anne Tapia-Bowes, (Alsop High School, Liverpool) James Roxburgh, (Atlantic Books) Peter Haddad, (Professor of Psychiatry, Manchester)

Group size preference

I'm happy to work with any group size, from small workshops to large audiences.

Group age preference


Working languages


Area prepared to travel


Other information

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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