How a lonely child came to fall in love with a monster
When he was five, Neil’s mother walked out of the family home. Two years later she returned with a new man; Derek Cross. His new stepfather prided himself on being an exemplary parent, kind, patient, never too tired to read him stories. Neil loved him. Yet underneath lurked another Derek Cross – a monster: conman, adulterer, liar, racist and a cold-hearted manipulator.
‘A wonderful memoir . . . a great example of how to wrest real life into a work of art’
Jonathan Coe, Guardian
‘The most disturbingly vivid fast-track into childhood’s unexpressed hugeness, that I have come across . . . fiction cannot compete with this’
Joanna Murray-Smith, Melbourne Age
Excerpt from Heartland
When I was very young, my mother suffered a prolonged melancholy. Her post-natal depression was compounded by grief for dead children and the sorrow of a long, unhappy marriage.
In photographs taken around this time, she’s always smiling, wearing the short skirts and clunky shoes of the early 1970s, the plastic macs. Her hair is permed, dyed a harsh black. She stands on the seafront at Weston-super-Mare. I’m in the pram, a Victorian-looking thing, and I’m wearing a white, knitted cardigan with pearly buttons. My mother is
either smiling or squinting into the sun. Behind the smile, she was thinking of killing us both.
Shortlisted, PEN/Ackerley Prize for literary autobiography 2006
British publicity for Always the Sun had centred on the familiar question; where do your ideas come from?
This time, for once, I had a partial answer: my violently disconcerted reaction to becoming a father was related to my experience of being a son. People asked to know more, so I told them. Then I was asked to write a book about it, so I wrote one.
Heartland was never supposed to be one of those popular memoirs that trade on self-pity. Nobody with the least sense of perspective could bear to write a book like that. Read more
UK Publication Details
Format: B- Paperback
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
1st Edition Published: May 2005