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.

Download the first chapter of Heartland


Shortlisted, PEN/Ackerley Prize for literary autobiography 2006

Author’s note

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
ISBN: 0-7432-6374-X
Format: B- Paperback
Pages: 326
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
1st Edition Published: May 2005

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