He was born in northern England, but has lived in many places including Japan, and is currently the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, where he specializes in the performance history, theory and criticism of Renaissance English drama, and works as a director and dramaturg.
Hartley applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Steeplejack, and reported the following:
Page 69 finds our hero, Anglet Sutonga, a 17 year old steeplejack—the only young woman to be so in the city of Bar-Selehm—has been abducted and is being interrogated by a suave young man who seems to have considerable wealth and status:Visit A. J. Hartley's website.“I . . . I lost my job,” I said, looking down. “By choice?” I wasn’t sure how to answer that. “Morlak wasn’t happy with my work.” I spoke as carefully as he did. The young man nodded. His fingers, which he had steepled together, were long, the nails manicured.The scene is pivotal in the book because it’s the moment in which Anglet, who is on the run from her former employer, is given a new job and identity, becoming effectively a private detective or spy. It’s a tense scene, because Anglet doesn’t know what’s going on and she is out of her element. Till now she has been, in truth, one of the lowest of the low socially speaking, and she is not comfortable in this mysterious young man’s luxurious home. She would rather be at work, doing what she does better than anyone else: scaling the city’s tallest spires and chimneys with her satchel of tools. She’ll end this encounter with a new sense of purpose and a full purse, but she’ll still be dependent on her wits and her climbing skills if she’s to figure out the strange and deadly events which have begun to overtake the city.
“So unhappy, in fact,” he said, “that he sent people to kill you, yes?”
There was no point denying it. His men—the phrase was odd, considering they all seemed older than he was—had obviously seen as much.
I nodded once.
“That’s a curious development, wouldn’t you say? You must have upset Mr. Morlak a great deal.”