Cross, Neil 1969–
CROSS, Neil 1969–
PERSONAL: Born 1969, in Bristol, England; children. Education: Attended college.
CAREER: Novelist Lead singer in Atrocity Exhibition (rock band); Pan Macmillan (publisher), London, England, key accounts manager in sales department.
Mr. In-Between, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1998.
Christendom, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1999.
Holloway Falls, Scribner' (New York, NY), 2003.
Always the Sun, Scribner' (New York, NY), 2004.
Heartland, Scribner' (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: During the late 1990s, while finishing college and working for a publishing company, Neil Cross made his literary debut with the dark novel Mr. In-Between. The plot revolves around Jon Bennett, an emotionless assassin who renews his friendship with an old school friend and begins the path to a new life when he helps that friend after the man's wife's accidental death. "I wanted to do something about a man with no redeeming qualities," Cross commented in a PureFiction.com interview. "Also, I'm kind of fascinated with the way assassins are portrayed in films and popular fiction as being super cool, emotionless and conscienceless." Alexander Harrison noted in the Times Literary Supplement that, "Although Cross shows his relish for language, he has no care for the characters he has created." Christina Patterson, writing in the London Observer, found Cross's prose uneven but praised the novel in general, noting that the author's "portrayal of male friendship, the rituals of working-class life and the shock of bereavement" are "superbly done."
Cross's second novel, Christendom, as well as his more recent Heartland, was inspired by one of the author's stepfathers, a Mormon as well as a white supremacist. In Christendom, set in a future America ruled by extreme Christian fundamentalists, a combat veteran smuggles prohibited books and films and becomes involved with an assassin. Times Literary Supplement contributor Stephen Goodwin judged the plot to be too similar to others of the thriller genre and the work's shock value to be overplayed at times. However, Goodwin also noted that the novel's settings are "original" and commented that "Ross handles his fast-paced, suspenseful story efficiently, and he is adept at set-piece scenes."
In Holloway Falls Cross tells the story of Will Holloway, a cop set up for a murder he did not commit who attempts to clear himself with the help of conspiracy theorist Jack Shepherd. Writing in the Manchester Guardian, David Jays commended Cross for keeping "his sentences brisk and his editorial voice bone-dry, letting us hear the fears scampering round his characters' skulls." The critic also called the story "nasty, a little deranged and very, very tense."
In Always the Sun Cross strays from his urban thrillers with a story about Sam, whose wife dies from a degenerative brain disorder called fatal familial insomnia. Sam and his son Jamie move to Sam's home town to start life over. When Jamie becomes the target of a school bully, Sam confronts the bully's father in a bar, is beat up, and loses the respect of his son in the process. In an effort partly to live up to his son's expectations, Sam becomes unhinged as he seeks revenge both for his son and himself. Writing in the New Zealand Herald, Michele Hewitson called Always the Sun "uneven" and noted, "You could waste a lot of good sleeping time trying to work out what sort of book this is." Shirley Dent, writing on the Culture Wars Web site commented that, "Apart from finding one too many plot devices veering towards the wrong side of implausibility in the last thirty or so pages, I remain convinced that this is a novel that sets out to tell a truth about society. And that truth seems to be that we are so petrified of action, that when we do act we lose all perspective and rationality."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bookseller, November 7, 2003, Philip Jones, "The End of Violence: Neil Cross' Fourth Novel Explores the Powerful Emotions of Fatherhood," p. 27.
Guardian (Manchester, England), October 25, 2003, David Jays, review of Holloway Falls, p. 30.
Observer (London, England), April 5, 1998, Christina Patterson, review of Mr. In-Between, p. 16; October 25, 2003, review of Holloway Falls, p. 30.
Times Literary Supplement, March 27, 1998, Alexander Harrison, review of Mr. In-Between, p. 21; June 25, 1999, Stephen Goodwin, review of Christendom, p. 24.
Culture Wars Web site, http://www.culturewars.org.uk/. (February 1, 2005), Shirley Dent, review of Always the Sun.
New Zealand Herald Online, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ (February 1, 2005), Michele Hewitson, review of Always the Sun.
Pulp.net, http://www.pulp.net/ (February 1, 2005), Neil Cross, "My Literary Top Ten.".
PureFiction.com, http://www.purefiction.com/ (March, 1998), interview with Cross.