An adventure in No Man’s Land

‘I could feel it coming. War, I mean. Creeping up on us, into our town, down our street, into our house. Smiling like a friend, like it was Batman come to save us when really it was the joker all along.’

I’d aways sworn I would never write about a dystopia. This world, right now, I insisted, was difficult and interesting enough. But then came Brexit, and Donald Trump, and I had a terrible sense of where the world might be heading – far, far to the right. I also felt impotent. Unable, now I no longer worked in politics, to do anything about the state of society.

But I did have some little power. I had words. Words can and have changed the world, I reasoned. And so, in a state of mainly anger, I wrote the first few pages of what would become this book, and read them aloud at a summer workshop where I taught at Bath Spa. The reaction from the audience was so strong – there were a lot of tears, and I know writers are emotional animals but this level was new even to me – I knew I had to finish it.

And here it is.

With far right Albion on the brink of war with Europe, ten-year-old Alan and his little brother Sam are sent away to safety. Dad tells Alan he has to be brave, like the superheroes he loves, but Alan isn’t sure. He wants to be wherever Dad is, and, anyway – can he really be sure who’s a hero and who’s a villain?

Book cover featuring two small books lost on a hill. Their shadows behind them are in superhero stance.
Book cover featuring two small books lost on a hill. Their shadows behind them are in superhero stance.

I hope I’ve done justice to the glory of Cornwall and the Tamar valley where my father grew up. I hope I’ve said something worth saying. And I hope, above all, that I’ve shown you some hope. Because that’s the real power of words, I think – offering hope, in a new way to live.

Joanna Nadin is a phenomenal writer, able to move in a shimmering flicker from the intellectually dazzling to the profoundly moving. No Man’s Land is as wise at it is gripping, with deep and profound resonances. A little masterpiece of emotional storytelling. (Carnegie Medal Winner Anthony McGowan)

Wonderful characters, convincing voice, gripping story – beautifully done. (Julia Green, author of The Children of Swallow Fell)

It’s terrific… well conceived and beautifully written. Real characters in an almost real world. (Fleur Hitchcock, author of Shrunk.)

Every young person should read it. It’s not only a page-turning thriller but a prescient – a necessary – story of our times. (Catherine Bruton, author of Following Frankenstein.)

Buy the book here.

About Joanna Nadin

A former broadcast journalist and special adviser to the prime minister, since leaving politics I’ve written more than 80 books for children and adults, as well as speeches for politicians, and articles for newspapers and magazines like The Guardian, Red and The Amorist. I also lecture in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and hold a doctorate in young adult literature. I’m a winner of the Fantastic Book Award and the Surrey Book Award, and have been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the Booktrust Best Book award and Queen of Teen among others, and twice nominated for the Carnegie Medal, for Everybody Hurts, and for Joe All Alone, which is now a BAFTA-winning and Emmy-nominated BBC TV series. I've also worked with Sir Chris Hoy on the Flying Fergus series and ghost-written Angry Birds under another name. I like London, New York, Essex, tea, cake, Marmite, mint imperials, prom dresses, pubs, that bit in the West Wing where Donna tells Josh she wouldn’t stop for a red light if he was in an accident, junk shops, crisps, Cornwall, St Custard’s, Portuguese custard tarts, political geeks, pin-up swimsuits, the Regency, high heels, horses, old songs, my Grandma’s fur coat, vinyl, liner notes, the smell of old books, the feel of a velveteen monkey, Guinness, quiffs, putting my hand in a bin of chicken feed, the 1950s, burlesque, automata, fiddles, flaneuring, gigs in fields on warm summer nights, Bath, the bath.
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