Jonathan Hayes

Born in England, early childhood in Jamaica. I was five when we visited New York; I knew right away I'd live there someday. The bit in-between is a blur—some grade school in the US, boarding school in England, medical school in London. Pathology in Boston, forensics in Miami. And then, finally, New York, where I've spent the best part of my life.

I'm a forensic pathologist; it's demanding and important work, still fascinating after all these years. I've lectured on forensics around the world, including for the New York Police Department, the National Institute of Justice and the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA in the states, and to groups of forensic pathologists in France (in French, probably to their dismay), most recently to the staff of the Institut Medicolégal de Paris.

I also write. I got my start in Paper magazine, doing a column on the music and culture of raves and nightclubs. Then the gastronomy thing took off, and my food writing started popping up in bigger and bigger magazines—Food & Wine, then Martha Stewart Living, then the New York Times, GQ etc. I became a contributing editor for Martha Stewart Living, which I think kept me sane during the hard times after 9/11. The cops found this hilarious—one detective liked to say, "Dr. Hayes—he spends his days with the dead, his nights with Martha Stewart Living!" (The same cop also sang Hendrix's "Purple Haze" as "Doctor Hayes", with the chorus "Excuse me/While I cut this guy".)

My first novel, Precious Blood introduced Jenner, a burnt-out forensic pathologist dragged out of retirement to hunt a serial killer in post-9/11 New York (USA Today: "a nail-biting masterpiece", The Sun Sentinel: "a dark, hard-boiled procedural that soars".) Jenner returned in A Hard Death, set in a reimagined version of the Florida county in which I now work (Booklist's frothing quote drives home the point best: "a CinemaScope novel, in Technicolor and surround sound: bloody murders, hot sex, decadence, incest, drug cartels...")

I sold my loft in Manhattan, bought a small studio near Madison Square Park to keep as a pied a terre, and took a job as a medical examiner in Naples, Florida. There, I built the tropical compound I've dreamed of since my childhood in Jamaica. Centered around a lap pool, it's a modernist concrete and glass box in a high walled garden with a 64 foot lap pool—basically a glorified pool house with a big patio. And it really was kind of perfect, but I missed New York City too much. After 2 years, I resigned and returned to my old job in the NYC medical examiner's office, huddled next to Bellevue on the banks of the East River.

I've spent the last two years pouring obscene amounts of cash into the renovation of an apartment in an imposing old brownstone building on lower Fifth Avenue (renovation is always a miserable experience, and during a pandemic? Don't. Just... don't.) I collect Victorian taxidermy, and midcentury Scandinavian ceramics. I used to live with two endlessly warring cats, one the legacy of an old girlfriend, the other acquired at her suggestion "to keep the first company"—the worst advice since someone whispered "$28 worth of trinkets for this useless island? We'd be crazy not to take it!" The first cat died before I moved to Florida. The second lived with me there, fat, asthmatic and happy, but his meter ran out not long after he and I moved back to New York. I'll get another one, but I just don't want to put a cat through a renovation. Hell, I don't want to put myself through a renovation, but there you go.

And now the time has come for change. I’ve had enough of toiling away in the autopsy room, so I’m pivoting, giving up full-time forensic pathology for occasional consulting and regular teaching. I’ve been aching to get back to writing—something more substantial than my garrulous social media activity. And to travel. Basically, just live a regular life, like regular people, with little blood and more sleeping in.

And the first step? We shall see.