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Editions: Collins, 1990; Fontana, 1991.

To be reissued by Holland House Books in paperback and kindle 2019-20.

The Legend of Captain Space

Set in the 1970s, The Legend of Captain Space is a compulsive novel about a mother who runs away from her child.


It is the story of two people who both want to, and can’t, make a marriage. Nick is glamorous, dangerous; he wants to drive a racing car, but for now drives heavy lorries. Sandy too is after a freedom she can’t capture. Her child seems to her something foreign, perhaps frightening.


Captain Space is Nick’s affectionate name for the child, who becomes the focus of a desperate struggle between warring parents. But what is the child’s story, in the middle of this marriage – and break?


A study of the terrors and battles of domesticity, with glimpses of something darker and more sinister: a daring, insightful novel about a section of society whose lives are rarely explored in fiction.


'A remarkable and terrifying exploration of the ordinary . . . The prose is charged, street-credible.'  Times Literary Supplement

'Compelling and enjoyable . . . John Harvey writes with consistent authority. The prose is spare, evocative and effective... In his prose, which is at once stylized, rhythmical and unadorned, Mr Harvey recalls Hemingway; it is a prose which commands attention by its laconic denial of any flourish; a prose which as it were steps modestly back into the limelight.'  ALLAN MASSIE, Scotsman

‘The pleasure of this tale lies in the quick nervy prose that tells it. Sharp images raise the urban gloom to the heights of poetry... Harvey’s deep concern for people at the receiving end of social injustice is so evident that his sad story ends not only hopeful but almost merry.’  DAVID HUGHES, Mail on Sunday

‘A most accomplished and powerful piece of writing.’  Guardian


‘Haunting . . . images, thoughts and dreams leave their mark on the reader . . . a writer of great power.’  Centrepiece


‘Compelling . . . the dialogue and characters have the ring of truth . . . one of the most involving novels I have read.’  Options


‘The novel is crisply told, the dialogue is totally believable, and the characters’ distress and pain, along with their ecstasy and their yearning, come across vividly to the reader.’  Bookseller

John Harvey podcast: The Legend of Captain Space

Holland House Books have produced a series of podcasts in which John Harvey discusses his separate novels. This podcast explores the novel The Legend of Captain Space.

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