Derek was born in London in June 1944 about the same time Hitler thought London was a great place to send his V1 flying bombs.
At the age of four he convinced his parents to emigrate and spent the next sixteen years in Auckland being called a Pommy and a wimp for playing soccer and not rugby.
His first published short story appeared in his grammar school yearbook.
Equipped with a million ideas for novels he approached the leading national newspaper for a traineeship and was told he was too undisciplined; approached publishers and was told he was too young; approached an advertising agency and was welcomed into their embrace – they knew a fast, facile, fashionably glib mind when they saw one.
His talent took him London in the sixties where his quirky style and commercial instincts brought a rapid rise through the ranks to the country’s top advertising agency, accumulating many international awards along the way.
Derek was lured to Australia by the usual inducements – money, sunshine, money, lifestyle, money, etc – and spent the next twenty-five years doing ads and wishing he was writing novels instead.
About the time Bryce Courtenay wrote The Power of One and Peter Carey wrote Bliss, Derek and his partners sold their advertising agency and three years later he was free to pursue his true writing ambitions.
Having spent a lifetime reducing masses of information to less than 100 words or thirty seconds of TV time, working in exactly the opposite direction did not come easy.
An idea for a novel can be written on a folded napkin. What follows takes thousands of tablecloths.
One day over lunch Derek had the bright idea of breaking his novel down into more easily managed bite-sized pieces and so the idea for the Lunch series was born.
Lunch with the Generals became an instant bestseller in Australasia and was sold into Britain, Scandinavia, France and Germany. Lunch with Mussolini followed but it was Sole Survivor that piqued American interest.
Simon and Schuster decided to publish an American edition and Kennedy-Marshall (Sixth Sense, Snow Falling on Cedars) bought the rights to the movie on behalf of Disney in a $US750,000 deal.
Three weeks before the movie was due to go into production, shooting began on Castaway with Tom Hanks. Two movies about a man on an island surrounded by salt water was deemed one too many, and Sole Survivor the movie bit the dust. How typical of Hollywood to choose to make the wrong movie.
Derek is married, has two grown-up children and lives most of the time in Avalon on Pittwater. Kingfish, salmon, bonito, bream and flathead live just outside his back door and the surf rises a short walk from the front door.
Someone had to have this life and Derek is just so glad that someone is him.