Fomer York Press journalist John Wheatcroft takes us back to the space age in his new book.

John’s hero in Rocket Boy is Simon, who as a child was photographed with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – then the world’s most famous man.

His adult life, though, isn’t so much out-of-this-world as very much down to Earth. Divorced, and with a new obsession with the women he never dated, Simon’s journey allows John to explore how the world has changed.

“A major theme of the novel is memory,” John says. “Simon learns that memory can be a powerful, toxic force – especially when an unforgiving and violent inmate is on his case.

“Because Rocket Boy is also a novel about bullying, although it’s not always clear who are the victims and who are the targets.”

Set in York, the novel spans life from the early Sixties to more modern times which John says gives him the chance to make some observations “about what it is acceptable to say and think”.

It is described as “a tough but tender and ultimately upbeat love story”.

John’s previous novel Here in the Cull Valley was described by author Andrew Martin as “doom-laden, but laced with humour as elegantly dry as a good Chablis”.

Rocket Boy is published by Stairwell Books, price £10. It is available from the website, and the Little Apple Bookshop on High Petergate, York.