Michael Cox was born on August 30 1948 in Northamptonshire, England, where his two novels are largely set.. He was the only child of a machinery manufacturer. Cox graduated from St. Catherine's College, Cambridge in 1971. He studied English and had intended to be an academic, but he instead signed a contract with the record-publishing group EMI and made two albums and several singles under the pseudonym Matthew Ellis. He also recorded an album for DJM as Obie Clayton.
In 1973, Cox married Dizzy Crockett to whom he dedicated both of his novels. They later had a daughter.
In 1977, he got a job with Thorsons Publishing Group (later part of Harper Collins), and 12 years later he started work at the Oxford University Press. In 1983, Cox published his first book, a biography M. R. James, a Victorian ghost story writer. Between 1983 and 1997 he compiled and edited several anthologies of Victorian short stories for Oxford University Press. The first two were co-edited by R. A. Gilbert. He also did encyclopaedic work: compiling A Dictionary of Writers and their Works (1991) and The Oxford Chronology of English Literature (2002).
His first novel, The Meaning of Night, was published in 2006. Inspired by authors such as Charles Dickens (a childhood favorite), Wilkie Collins, and Elizabeth Braddon, this thiller novel is set both in a dirty, corrupting 1850's London, and Evenwood, an idyllic country estate - both equally full of mysteries. It was followed by a sequel, The Glass of Time set twenty years later.
In April 2004, he began to lose his sight as a result of a rare vascular cancer, haemangiopericytoma. In preparation for surgery he was prescribed a steroidal drug, one of the effects of which was to initiate a temporary burst of mental and physical energy. This, combined with the stark realization that his blindness might return if the treatment wasn't successful, spurred Michael finally to begin writing in earnest the novel that he had been contemplating for over thirty years, and which up to then had only existed as a random collection of notes, drafts, and discarded first chapters. Following surgery, work continued on what is now The Meaning of Night, and in January 2005, after a hotly contested UK auction, it was sold to John Murray (a subdivision of Hodder Headline). Michael Cox died of cancer on 31 March 2009.