Neands by Dan Salmon

Fictional school based on Northcote College

An eagle-eyed visitor at the Northcote College Open Day spotted this display in our library – and pointed out that ‘Neands’ author Dan Salmon is a Northcote College old boy.

Well, THAT was a story I couldn’t resist, so I gave Dan a call for a chat – and discovered the layout of the fictional school in the book is based on Northcote College when he was a student here!

Dan, who was at Northcote College from 1983 to 1987, was delighted to hear his novel is in our library. He quickly added: “I hope you’ve also got ‘Neands 2’!”

Dan’s a multi-award-winning documentary director and producer – and I asked how he came to add ‘novelist’ to his already impressive CV.

“There are things that documentaries can’t do that fiction can. So I did a Masters in Creative Writing at Auckland University about 10 years ago, and have got into the habit of writing every day when I get up,” he says.

‘Neands’, published in 2020, is a dystopian thriller set in the near future of New Zealand. A strange virus is affecting human DNA and triggering a Neand throwback gene which makes people more hostile and aggressive. Fourteen-year-old Charlie find himself in an alarming new world where his parents, schoolmates, friends and authority figures are either succumbing to the virus or disappearing – so he and his mates undertake a dangerous journey to find some answers.

‘Neands 2’ was published earlier this year.

I asked what sparked Dan’s interested in this particular genre.

“I’ve got three kids and I realised there was a gap in the market between young adult and adult fiction – particularly for boys – so I felt there was a need there,” Dan says.

“And I wrote it at the beginning of the rise of Trump, and it’s an analogy for the Rise of Stupid.  But there’s no upper age limit for this book. Different people will get different things from it. Adults will get the political things that many of the kids won’t, while the kids can just enjoy the drama, romance, and fear.”

Current and former Northcote College students and staff will have a whole unique layer to appreciate, too.


“The layout of the fictional school in the book is based on Northcote College when I was there,” says Dan, who was intrigued to hear about the fabulous changes now underway.