Chris Heal

Chris Heal completed his PhD at Bristol University in 2012 when he was sixty-five-years-old. His reconstruction of almost 500 years of the Avon felt hat industry received many awards and was reviewed as ‘first-rate, well-written with immensely impressive scholarship’.

He published Sound of Hunger in 2018, an acclaimed social biography of the lives of two brothers, WW1 u-boat captains, set against Germany’s political and militaristic development from Bismarck to Hitler. His researches led him to rediscover the wreck of UC-61 under the sand on the beach at Wissant, south of Calais, and to reintroduce its history in a packed conference to the village’s inhabitants. He also found, interviewed and reunited the brothers’ families in Bavaria and the United States.

A semi-fictional autobiography, Disappearing, was published in 2019. It tells of a ‘bolshy pensioner with a mission’ in a slow-burner of covert information, rebellion, escapism, and a high body count. Set in today’s world, a man in later years is upset by his life experiences and decides on a great experiment: to disappear. The security community called his methods ‘subversive’ and tried hard to ban the book.

Reappearing, the sequel to Disappearing, was published in 2020. Heal’s imagined last journey until 2024 takes him through the decline of the French empire, the terror of Islamic insurgency and the modern African slave trade. His nomadic life leads him to places he really shouldn’t visit; meeting people it’s best not to know. All the time, he follows clues that might lead him to his unknown father, fearful of what he might find. This is an intelligent detective story, wrapped up in a global travel adventure and set against the background of twentieth century history. Reappearing is also a scary prophesy of everyone’s near future when the Chinese government decides to take control.

In 2020, Heal published The Four Marks Murders as a 100th birthday present for his mother. It told of twenty carefully researched and almost always true untimely deaths. The book became a local bestseller with almost 3,000 copies sold. Heal then wrote two further contributions to local history:

Ropley’s Legacy, 2021, was backed by a financial grant from the Hampshire Archives Trust. It tells the newly-researched and disturbing history of the forced enclosure of common land by unscrupulous landowners and avaricious local clergy. The effect on the lives of the agricultural workforce was devastating and permanent.

In The Winchester Tales, 2022, Gilbert of Bayeux, orphan, a young, natural administrator and brilliant linguist, is called to Winchester from Normandy to oversee the theft of lands from the families of the English who fell at Hastings. He finds his Lord, bishop Odo, the new king’s half-brother, is the most greedy and devious of all the invaders.

Heal’s latest book, Bad Moon Rising, published in October 2023, contains three novellas which deal with despair in the modern world.