Meet my New Characters

After writing two trilogies it has been so exciting to work on a new series of novels and develop a whole new set of characters. The Mark was recently published and, although this book is the first in my new Working Girls series, it can also be read as a standalone. The same applies to all of the books in the series as each novel tells a separate story which, with the exception of The Mark, concentrates on a particular working girl. However, each book in my Working Girls series will have links to the other books in the series and some character overlap.

It is now a few weeks since The Mark was published and books two and three, Ruby and Crystal are already available for pre-order on Amazon. As I am progressing well with books two and three I thought it would be a good time to introduce you to some of the main characters in The Working Girls series.

Maddy

On the surface Maddy has it all – a good job, nice home and lovely daughter. She’s also intelligent, classy and attractive, and has a way with people. But Maddy has a weakness for the opposite sex, and has several failed relationships behind her. In the aftermath of her divorce she still feels vulnerable and tries to bolster her ego by dating men much younger than her. Unfortunately this leads to problems in her life that ultimately threaten to destroy her.

Aaron

Young, good looking and a successful businessman, Aaron seems too good to be true. He uses his charms to woo Maddy and soon starts to dominate her life. But Aaron isn’t all he seems and, as The Mark progresses he reveals more of his sinister side.

Gilly

The ruthless pimp that develops an obsession with Maddy, Gilly is bad through and through. He is skinny and scruffy looking, and is a drug addict who uses his income from prostitution to squander on drugs and alcohol. Gilly is abusive to his partner, Crystal, and refuses to acknowledge the child they have together. People are wary of Gilly because of his nasty streak. As his obsession with Maddy develops we are left wondering what the outcome will be.

Ruby

She is my favourite character since Rita in The Riverhill Trilogy. Standing at almost six foot and with a slim but muscular physique, Ruby is a formidable woman. She is feisty and fierce and won’t stand any nonsense from anybody. She also has a profound mistrust of men due to childhood experiences. But, despite her feisty side, Ruby has a good heart. She is a loyal and caring friend and is always willing to help out when needed.

Crystal

Crystal is a complex character. Although she is basically good at heart, she is driven to desperate acts because of her compulsion for drugs, her love of Gilly and her need to take care of her daughter, Candice. Despite some of the things she does, Crystal has a conscience and tries to only hurt the people who she feels deserve it. She has been through a lot in her life, which has toughened her up even though by nature she is actually quite a sensitive person. When she goes on a revenge mission she targets the men who have treated her badly during her time as a prostitute, and we see her change from submissive to vengeful.

And there’s more:

This post features the main characters in the books that are now available through Amazon. However, although I am currently only contracted for these three books, I have a further two books in mind. I’m not revealing the characters in those books yet because I’m not sure whether I’ll be writing those next or something different. Also, the idea for the fifth book is a bit sketchy at the moment and needs more research in order for me to flesh out the outline a bit more. I’ll keep you up to date as things develop.  

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Starting Work on a New Novel

Having completed most of the initial promotion for my second novel A Gangster’s Grip I’ve finally made a start on my third novel. I use the words, ‘initial promotion’ because I realise that promotion is ongoing. However, it is more concentrated at the launch of a novel. Because of this, together with client work, it has been several weeks since I have done any actual book writing.

After such a prolonged break I found it difficult to get started with the third book. I already had a plot outlined so I thought it was just a matter of doing some research and then the ideas would start flowing as they usually do. Unfortunately, after carrying out some initial research I found that my plot was totally unworkable. So there I was a few days ago with no plot whatsoever for my third book.Trilogy

It was an ironic situation because there are plenty of other books I would like to write and I have even penned some ideas for several of them. The problem was, I had to write this book because it’s a trilogy. It’s promoted as a trilogy, the book cover designs show that the first two books are part of a trilogy and I’ve written the first two books with a third book in mind.

Panic!!!

Ok, I was tempted to panic but instead I tried to stay calm and think of a different angle. It wasn’t coming to me immediately so I broke for lunch. Then, when I had switched off, the ideas started forming. By about three in the afternoon I had the bare bones of a plot. I know that my subconscious brain kicks in when I am relaxed so I took another break and had a walk to the bank. By the time I returned I had the whole thing worked out and couldn’t wait to type it up.

It’s still quite daunting though because what I have is a basic plot outline. I would still like to throw in a few more and twists and turns here and there. I’m also feeling a bit dissatisfied because I had psyched myself up to write the book I had originally planned. However, I have only just touched on the research for this book and I know that more ideas will start to flow once I get engrossed in the writing. (They usually do as long as I keep focused and stay positive but, like most authors, I’m prone to periods of self-doubt.)

Author at Work

I think starting a new novel is always going to be a bit scary if you let yourself get carried away. Basically what you have initially is the germ of an idea, which may be between a few hundred to a few thousand words. You then have to decide whether that idea can run to a full-length novel. Even when you’ve made that decision you can still have feelings of trepidation that you might not quite make it, even if you’ve succeeded with previous novels.

You might even have the characters in mind but how do you flesh out the plot? How do you take a novel from a sketchy outline and develop it into a full-length novel. I personally go through a process. Beginning with the outline I gradually build it up into a chapter by chapter synopsis. I start to write the actual narrative when I think I’ve got enough ideas to work with. These ideas can come at different stages and are helped along by various processes: research, exploring any initial ideas, adding sub-plots to the main plot, building on the early outline, planning the sequence of events and the highlights of the novel etc.

What ifThe more engrossed I become, the more the ideas flow. I also often find that I write out of sequence if, for example, I think of an idea for a scene later in the novel. I prefer to write it out in full straightaway while it’s fresh in my mind then I can slot it into the overall framework.

I love the feeling when the ideas are flowing. I’ve not quite reached that stage yet and I think this is because I hadn’t done any (novel) writing for several weeks. It’s starting to come though, but I need to carry out more detailed research before I can push forward. I’m off to the library tomorrow to comb through the archives. I need to read eye-witness accounts of a particular event so that I can get a real sense of what it felt like. I’m hoping to come home fired up and raring to go.

The third book in the trilogy will be another work of fiction but, as with ‘A Gangster’s Grip’, it will be based on real events. It looks like I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. 🙂

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“A Gangster’s Grip” – Launch Date Announcement and Chapter One Preview

I am pleased to announce that I have now fixed a launch date of 7th October for my forthcoming crime thriller, “A Gangster’s Grip”.
To give you a taster, I have included the first chapter below:
Gangster's Grip V4

Chapter 1

Saturday 9th March 1991 – early afternoon

Rita couldn’t wait to get to her parents’ house, and had been discussing it with her husband, Yansis, during the taxi ride from the airport. It had been so long since she’d been back from Greece, and she had missed everyone, despite their shortcomings. She got out of the cab, and waited for the driver to take their cases out of the boot.
Once the cases were on the pavement, Yansis carried them to the front door while Rita settled the cab fare. She had no sooner taken her purse out of her handbag than she spotted something in her peripheral vision, causing her to look up.
Too late!
Before she knew what was happening, a youth swung by on a bike. Maintaining his speed while riding one-handed, he snatched her purse and zoomed past.
She gave chase, yelling and screaming. Yansis joined her when he realised she had been robbed. But it was no use. They couldn’t keep up with a bike, especially Rita in her high heels, and the youth was soon out of sight.
“Fine bloody start that is!” she cursed. Walking back to the taxi driver, she continued her rant, “And a lot of help you were.”
“Don’t blame me, love. If you think I’m leaving my cab round here, you’ve got another think coming.”
“Oh, come off it! Just because my purse has been snatched, doesn’t mean your cab’s gonna be robbed.”
“Doesn’t it? You don’t know what it’s like! How long is it since you’ve been back, love?”
“A few years. Why?”
“I think you’ll find it’s changed, and not for the better either.”
Rita shrugged off his comments, anxious to get inside the house, while Yansis paid the cab fare.
Her mother, Joan, answered the door. “Hiya love, how are you? Where’s that lovely husband of yours?” she asked, hugging Rita.
“I’ve just been robbed, Mam. Some bugger’s just whipped my purse out of my hands while I was trying to pay for the taxi.”
“You’re joking! The bloody swines! What happened? Where are they?” her mother replied and, within seconds, her parents were both outside, searching up and down the street.
“You’re too late; he’ll be long gone. There was only one of them; some kid on a bike. He was off like lighting.”
“Well, what did he look like?” asked Joan. “We might be able to find out who he is.”
“I don’t know. I only saw the back of him. Young, a teenager, I think. He had a dark hoody on, navy or black, and jeans. That’s about all I saw. It all happened so fast.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Reet. That’s all you need when you’ve only just got here!”
“I know,” Rita replied, her voice shaking. “It’s gonna be loads of hassle … I’ll have to cancel all my cards … I’ll need to find out the bank’s phone number …”
“Can’t trust no-one these days,” interrupted her father, Ged, who was hovering behind her mother looking shifty. That wasn’t unusual for him, but he looked even more shifty than usual. Rita released her mother and gave him a tentative hug while her mother greeted Yansis.
When they had spent a few minutes in the hallway discussing the theft, Joan said to Rita and Yansis, “Come on you two, I’ll make you a cuppa; I bet you could do with one after that. Let’s get in and have a sit down.”
Although tiny at 5ft 1, Rita had a big presence. Her towering heels increased her height, and her liberal application of make-up enhanced her moderately attractive features. She had dark brown hair, which she wore in a fashionable textured bob, and was dressed casual but smart.
Leaving their cases in the hallway, they headed towards the living room. Rita was the first to step into the room and stopped short at the sight of a large, mean-looking black man sprawled across the sofa. Spliff in one hand, can of lager in the other, he was resting against some cushions with his legs stretched out across the coffee table. As Rita entered the room, he took a long hard drag on the spliff as though challenging her. Then he slowly exhaled the smoke, his face forming a sneer, as he examined her in minute detail.
Rita noted the scar that cut across his forehead, the primed muscles and the abundance of tattoos. She saw the letters H-A-T-E tattooed across the fingers of his right hand. ‘Why did these self-professed hard men always have to make a statement with this LOVE and HATE tattoo thing? It was so corny and pathetic,’ she thought.
When he lifted his can of lager, she glimpsed the tattoo spread across the fingers of his other hand, expecting to see the letters L-O-V-E. However, disconcertingly, that also bore the letters H-A-T-E.
There was a break in the tension as Rita’s father dashed to her side, “This is Leroy, Jenny’s boyfriend,” he gushed.
Rita already knew that her sister, Jenny, had a boyfriend, but she didn’t know much about him. Despite her automatic reservations, she tried to appear friendly as she said, “Hello, Leroy, pleased to meet you.”
Leroy briefly nodded his head in response then continued to take drags of his spliff while Rita’s mother, Joan, and Yansis entered the room. When Joan introduced Yansis, he received the same cool appraisal. During this time Leroy remained seated and didn’t attempt to converse with them.
Rita suspected that her parents were equally aware of the uncomfortable atmosphere created by Leroy. This was borne out by her mother’s waffling, “Rita and Yansis have got a restaurant in Greece but they’ve come back to stay for a while, haven’t you love? It’s alright though; Yansis has got a big family so there’s plenty of people to look after the place for them while they’re over here. You’re looking well our Rita. You’ve got a lovely tan and I love that leather jacket. Was the flight alright? You two must be shattered. Let me make you that cup of tea …”
“Where’s Jenny?” asked Rita.
“She’s just nipped to the loo. She’ll be down in a minute,” said Joan. “Oh, here she is now.”
Rita turned round and rushed towards her sister, but stopped when she noticed Jenny’s swollen stomach, “Jesus, when did that happen? You might have bloody well told me!”
“How about congratulations?” said Jenny.
“Sorry, it’s just … it’s a lot to take in. There’s been a lot of changes since I was home. Yeah, congratulations. I’m pleased for you; you look well.”
Rita gave Jenny’s arm a gentle squeeze, attempting to hide her mounting levels of unease, and surreptitiously flashing Yansis a concerned look. Apart from the pregnancy, Jenny had changed in other ways in the few years since Rita had last seen her.
Like Rita, she was tiny, although taller than Rita at 5ft 2, but there was now a maturity about her. She was an attractive girl and pregnancy suited her, bringing with it a radiant glow.
“I’m sorry, Reet,” said Joan. “We were going to tell you, but it didn’t sound right in a letter and I never seemed to find time on the phone. You know how it is phoning there. It costs a bloody fortune, and I’ve no sooner said hiya than the pips are going. Anyway, I knew you’d be coming home soon so I thought I’d tell you face to face.”
“Soon! She’s about five bloody months gone.”
“Twenty two weeks actually,” verified Jenny.
“What’s the big deal?” asked Leroy.
Rita turned to see a look of undisguised aggression cross Leroy’s face, and decided not to pursue the matter.
“Anyway, are we having that cuppa, Mam, or what?” she asked.
While Joan went to make the drinks, everybody else sat down on the three piece suite. Her father, Ged, took an armchair and Jenny settled herself next to Leroy. Rita felt uncomfortable sitting next to them, so she sat on the remaining armchair and invited Yansis to sit on the arm. They told Jenny about the theft of Rita’s purse, and she seemed concerned, but Leroy showed no emotion.
Apart from the discomfort of sharing her parents’ living room with the hostile Leroy, Rita was bothered about the sleeping arrangements. Her parents’ house was a three bedroom modern terraced on a council housing estate. It had two decent sized bedrooms and a further bedroom that was only big enough for a single bed. She had hoped that she and Yansis could share one of the large bedrooms, and that Jenny wouldn’t mind staying in the single room temporarily. In fact, as her parents had been aware of her imminent arrival, she hoped they had already arranged this. Rita therefore broached the subject when her mother returned carrying a tray of drinks.
“You have a seat here, Mam. Me and Yansis will take our cases up and, if you want, we can fetch a couple of chairs from the kitchen. Are we in the front bedroom?”
“The front bedroom’s already taken by me and Jenny,” growled Leroy, with an air of menace, which took Rita by surprise.
She turned to her mother, “Are we in the small bedroom then?”
Rita was trying to visualise how she and Yansis would manage with a single bed in a room that measured no more than 10 foot by 6 foot, but she figured it would have to do. After all, her sister was pregnant so it was only fair that she and Leroy had more space.
As she was mulling over the possibilities, Joan replied, “Ooh, that’s something I need to have a word with you about, Rita. There isn’t a bed in that room anymore. We didn’t see a need for one after you’d left. It’s been such a long time since you’ve been home so we use it for storage now. You’re welcome to the settee, though, and I can fix you up with a sleeping bag, if you like, so Yansis can kip down next to you.”
“You’re joking! We could be here for months. How can we manage for months on the settee and the floor? And where will we put our stuff?”
“You ought to be bloody grateful we’re putting you up. We’ve not seen hide nor hair of you for donkey’s years,” Ged chipped in.
Rita was about to retaliate; she and her father hadn’t always seen eye to eye, but Yansis changed the subject in order to defuse the situation.
“It’s no problem. We can find somewhere to stay, Rita. Manchester is a big city. There must be lots of hotels.”
“That’ll cost us a bloody fortune,” Rita replied before a thought occurred to her. “Oh don’t worry, we’ll find somewhere.”
A few minutes of uncomfortable silence followed before the phone rang in the dining room and Joan went to answer it.
“Leroy’s expecting an important business call,” boasted Ged.
“Oh, what is your business?” asked Yansis.
“A bit of everything, this and that,” came the guarded reply.
“Leroy, it’s for you,” announced Joan, on returning to the living room.
At last, Leroy prised himself from the sofa to take the call.
“So what exactly is ‘this and that’?” asked Rita, once Leroy had left the room.
“Leroy’s a business man, and a well-respected one too. He deals a lot in imports and, before you go sounding your mouth off, he’s been very good to us,” said Ged.
“I haven’t said anything,” Rita snapped back.
It was obvious she wouldn’t gain anything by continuing to probe, so Rita cleared the finished cups from the living room instead. Although it gave her an excuse to get away from her father’s goading, she was also curious about Leroy’s ‘important business call’.
The kitchen of her parents’ home was next to the dining room, and while she carried the cups through to the kitchen and placed them in the sink, Rita strained to hear Leroy’s conversation. He seemed angry about something, and his voice was becoming louder. She was glad she wasn’t the person on the other end of the phone. As Leroy became increasingly agitated, she stopped what she was doing, realising that it might be best if he didn’t realise she was there. She crept towards the dining room where she could overhear what he was saying more clearly.
“I want the fuckin’ goods. They should have been here yesterday. I’ve got customers waiting, and if I stop supplying, they’ll get them from someone else. I can’t afford to have them taking over my turf.”
There was then a brief pause while Leroy listened to the person on the other end of the line, before adding, “No, the usual, H.”
The call ended abruptly and Rita panicked. If Leroy saw her in the kitchen, he would surmise that she had overheard his conversation. Then she heard him make another call. He had calmed down a little by now so she couldn’t hear everything he was saying, just brief snippets … “It’s sorted … promised tomorrow … It’s sweet … should be a few days … be sorted then … somewhere to store them.”
Rita could sense that the call was ending, so she ran quietly from the kitchen to the living room, on the pretext of checking for more cups. She made sure she was still there when Leroy returned to the living room. Once she was satisfied that he had noted her presence in the living room, she made her way back to the kitchen to finish what she had been doing.
When Rita walked in the living room again, the atmosphere hadn’t improved much. While her mother was asking Yansis about life in Greece, her father was discussing some sort of business deal with Leroy. Rita couldn’t hear everything because of her mother’s chatter, but she got the impression that Leroy was providing goods for her father to sell somewhere. From the tone of the conversation, she could tell that her father held Leroy in high regard. Meanwhile, Jenny stayed silent, snuggled up to Leroy while passively observing.
There was something about the whole scene that didn’t feel right to Rita and, after a short while, she made her excuses and prepared to leave. While she and Yansis were in the hallway saying their goodbyes, her mother announced, “I hope you get fixed up love.”
“We’ll sort something out,” said Rita.
“Well let me know if you don’t. Our Jenny will be getting her council house next week, and Leroy will be moving in with her, so we should have some room then.”
“Now you tell me.”
“Ooh, sorry love. I forgot with all the excitement.”
“Good luck with it, Jenny. I hope it all goes well.”
“Thanks,” Jenny replied.
Rita hugged her mother and sister, said goodbye to her father and shouted goodbye through to the living room for the benefit of Leroy, who remained seated. Although she assured her mother that they would be back if they didn’t find somewhere to stay, she noticed the look that flashed across her father’s face. She knew that as long as Leroy was around, she and Yansis would be about as welcome as a dose of flu.
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“A Gangster’s Grip” is the second book in The Riverhill Trilogy. The first book, “Slur” is available from Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. I will be publishing further details of how to obtain a copy of “A Gangster’s Grip” once it becomes available.
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A Gangster’s Grip – Cover Reveal

My second novel, “A Gangster’s Grip” is now only a few weeks away from publication, so I’m excited to reveal the book cover and book blurb. The cover has once again been designed by the talented Chris Howard who can be contacted at: blondesign@gmail.com.

Gangster's Grip V4

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When Rita returns to Manchester after a few years away, she doesn’t expect to find a spliff smoking, beer swilling thug called Leroy firmly ensconced on her parents’ sofa. Rita is horrified to discover he is her sister Jenny’s new boyfriend, and she senses trouble.

The more Rita finds out about Leroy, the more she mistrusts him. As she uncovers the truth about his shady dealings, she becomes anxious about Jenny’s safety and is desperate to lure her away from him. Rita’s mettle is tested as she tries to protect her sister while battling with personal health concerns.

But it’s worse than Rita could ever have suspected. Through her association with Leroy, Jenny is about to become embroiled in the most dangerous phase in Manchester’s recent history.

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“A Gangster’s Grip” is the second part of The Riverhill Trilogy, and is the sequel to my first novel, “Slur”, which is available from Amazon. The new cover for “Slur”, showing the Riverhill subtitle, has been uploaded to Amazon and will be displayed shortly.  I intend to publish the third and final part of The Riverhill Trilogy in early summer 2016.

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Anticipating my Arrest

I’ve just finished the first draft of my second novel and happily sent it off to my lovely beta readers, so I’m feeling a bit frivolous and in the mood for some light-heartedness.

A recent occurrence led me to think about my Internet browsing history during the course of writing the novel. It makes for some pretty disturbing reading:

  • Drug abuse
  • Machetes
  • Guns
  • Bullet wounds
  • Gang culture
  • Drug skimming
  • Law enforcement
  • Dog attacks

And that’s just in the last few weeks.

The occurrence that led me to think about my Internet browsing history was something as innocuous as searching online wool shops. (Yes, despite the graphic nature of my novels I’m actually quite Knittingboring and mainstream in real life). Within a few hours of searching the wool shops, I was seeing advertisements for wool on Facebook and other social media sites. I was flabbergasted at how they had managed to get hold of this information. If advertisers can cash in on your browsing history so easily then the possibilities for the police are endless.

At this point I want to add that as well as carrying out online research I also have “brainstorming sessions”. Most of these occur while I’m at my computer and usually entail me sitting at my desk talking to myself. Then, to capture certain scenarios I sometimes mime my character’s actions just to check whether it would work in practice, and to make sure it would be realistic. Sometimes it’s necessary to use a mirror so that I can study the positioning of limbs, facial expressions etc. It’s all in the name of my art, you understand, and has nothing whatsoever to do with being slightly eccentric.

Simple-Teddy-Bear-1-5496-largeSo, I’m picturing the scene. The police have had a tip-off from their technical team about a dodgy browsing history so they start monitoring the house. One of the officers spots someone carrying out what appears to be a frenzied knife attack but when he zooms in the perpetrator is attacking a teddy bear with a biro pen. He calls for support. When the two officers arrive they approach the house with caution and creep up to the window. There they spot a middle aged woman sitting at her desk having an in-depth conversation. After a few seconds the conversation becomes heated and she seems to be taking on the roles of two different characters.

Ooh dear, how would I explain that one? Maybe this home working isn’t such a good idea. While writing the plot, I’m also losing the plot!

Is it just me or do other authors find themselves acting out scenes and talking to themselves while they work? I’d love to hear your views on this one. Talk to me please; my sanity depends on it! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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In the News

I’ve finally got round to adding the news features relating to my recent book signing at my local book store. I would like to point out that there is an error in one of the articles. Contrary to what is written in the article, Diane Mannion Writing Services is still trading.

Reporter Oct 23rd

Reporter Oct 16th

SLUR will be available on Kindle Countdown for the reduced price of 99p or 99 cents from 20th to 22nd November only at: http://viewbook.at/Slur.

Slur Chapter 2

Here is chapter 2 of Slur. If you missed the blog post showing chapter one, you can find it here or read the pdf, which you can find on the books page of my website at: http://www.dianemannion.co.uk/books.html. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the box that reads, ‘Read a sample chapter’.

I have now fixed my official launch date as Friday 19th September and I’ll be throwing a big online launch party with competitions and great prizes. For those that can’t make the Friday, I’ll be re-running some of the competitions on Saturday 20th September, because most of the competition answers don’t have to be in straightaway.

If you’re tempted by the first two chapters of Slur and don’t want to wait till launch date, the book is already available to purchase online at: http://viewbook.at/Slur.

SLUR – Chapter 2

Friday 20th June 1986Make-up

It was Friday night, the big night out of the week. Julie was sitting at her dressing table putting the finishing touches to her hair and make-up. When she was satisfied that she had achieved the desired result, she pouted her lips and kissed her reflection in the mirror, saying, ‘you’re gonna knock ’em dead tonight – you sexy beast.’ She was disturbed by the sound of a, ‘tut tut’ coming from the doorway of her room. It was her mother, Betty.

‘Julie Quinley, I don’t know. You get dafter by the minute. When you’ve finished dolling yourself up, Rita’s downstairs waiting for you.’

Julie took no offence at Betty’s comments as she was accustomed to their friendly banter. She turned in her chair, gave her mother a beaming smile, then dashed across the room and planted a kiss on her cheek, saying, ‘Here I go, don’t wait up!’

She headed downstairs to find Rita in the hallway. As they greeted each other, Betty passed them on her way to the living room. Julie stepped away from Rita, allowing her mother to pass. As she did so, she noticed what Rita was wearing. “My God, she’s really gone to town this time!” she thought, observing Rita’s white lycra mini skirt, low cut red top and towering, white stiletto heels.

‘You look nice Rita,’ she commented politely.

‘Oh thanks,’ Rita replied, preening herself.

Julie then heard the sound of voices coming from the living room. She put her fingers to her lips, motioning Rita to keep quiet as she led her towards the living room door while they listened in on Bill and Betty’s conversation.

‘She’s at it again, is she?’ Bill asked.

‘Aye, she’s only kissing the bleedin’ mirror now. I swear she gets more puddled by the minute that girl,’ replied Betty, in an amused tone.

Julie looked at Rita and managed to stifle a giggle as she heard her father grumble, ‘I can’t understand it me, young women out till all hours of the night up to God knows what, and with all these dubious characters hanging about.’

‘Yes, I know your feelings Bill, you have mentioned it once or twice.’

‘Well, she’s twenty years of age for God’s sake! She should be married with a family now, not stuck in some nightclub getting drunk, with a load of riffraff!’

Julie held up her hand for Rita to see as she formed the shape of a mouth opening and shutting, in imitation of her father’s familiar complaining.

‘She’ll have plenty of time for settling down when she’s had a bit of fun and built up a career for herself,’ Betty replied. ‘A lot of women don’t even think about having children until they are in their thirties these days. Anyway, she’s got her head screwed on the right way. She won’t do anything daft.’

‘Huh,’ was Bill’s response, followed by silence.

Julie and Rita backed away. Julie then opened the front door and they stepped out into the street, shutting the door as quietly as possible so that Julie’s parents would be unaware of their eavesdropping. As soon as they were outside, they gave in to uncontrolled laughter.

‘I bet your mam was a right one in her day!’ giggled Rita.

‘She might have been, given half a chance.’

Julie thought about her mother and the tale she had told her many times about her married life. Times had been hard for Betty when she got wed and their finances were fully stretched after Julie’s birth. Therefore, they decided to postpone extending their family until they could afford it.

When Julie was in school, Betty found herself a job in a store in order to bring in some extra income. After a few years of being stuck at home, Betty was a bit apprehensive at first, but she soon settled in and made lots of new friends. This in turn improved her social life and she began to relish her newfound freedom. After that, there never seemed to be an appropriate time to have more children.

However, as Betty reached her thirties and sensed her biological clock ticking away, the desire grew to extend her family before her time ran out. This resulted in the birth of Clare, twelve years Julie’s junior, and now a likeable, sweet girl of eight.

Although Betty was immensely proud of both her daughters, at times she regretted not doing more with her life, and every time Julie thought about her mother’s lack of achievements, she was determined not to make the same mistakes.

As Julie and Rita made their way up the street, on the way to their friend Debby’s house, the familiar clickety clack of high heels reverberated on the pavements.

Julie’s home was in a street full of three bedroom semis in a Manchester suburb. Many of the houses looked dreary and run down, a result of the poverty in the area. The home of Bill and Betty Quinley, however, was one of the more presentable houses in the street. The front garden was well tended and baskets of bright blooms hung at either side of the front door.

Julie’s sister, Clare, and her friends, who were playing further up the street, paused in their play as Julie and Rita approached. For a group of eight year olds, the image of Julie and Rita dressed to go out was a sight to behold, and they gazed in awe as the two older girls walked by.

‘Bye our Julie,’ shouted Clare.

‘Bye sweetheart. I’ll see you in the morning and don’t forget to be a good girl for mam and be in at eight o’clock.’

‘I won’t,’ said Clare, full of respect for Julie who she saw as a role model.

Julie couldn’t help but swell with pride as she sensed the idolatry glances of the young girls, and caught snippets of their conversation on passing.

‘Wow Clare, I wish I could go out all dressed up like your Julie, wearing make-up and everything!’

‘Our Julie lets me wear her make-up sometimes.’

Julie turned to Rita and they smiled at each other on hearing these childish comments. They looked an oddly matched pair: Julie, tall and elegant, and Rita, who was just a year older than Julie, smaller, brasher and louder in every sense of the word. Julie, although slim, was also curvaceous and well proportioned. Her features were sharp but nonetheless attractive.

She usually opted for the sexy but sophisticated look, and tonight she was wearing a shortish pale blue skirt with a matching fitted jacket, which bore the popular shoulder pads of the eighties. She wore the customary white stiletto heels and had a white leather handbag to match. Her make-up was subtle and served to define her striking features, and her blond hair was naturally wavy.

As they rounded the corner at the top of the street, Rita opened up the conversation, by talking about her day at work, which was at a food factory.

‘Me and Debby were talking to Charlie at work today. He’s a card! He told us this joke…What’s white and slides across the dance-floor?’ Then, pausing for effect, she added, ‘Come dancing,’ the double entendre being a reference to a popular TV dancing show around that time. ‘Well, that was it! We couldn’t stop laughing after that. The slightest thing set us off.’

They both laughed at this and Julie replied, unwittingly. ‘Oh I wish I worked somewhere like that Rita. It sounds as though you have a great time.’

‘Why not?’ Rita replied enthusiastically. ‘I can let you know when there’s any vacancies. You should get a good reference from your place and you’ll soon learn the ropes. There’s not much to it really and I can put in a good word for you so it won’t matter if you haven’t got any experience.’

Julie was a bit taken aback by this as deep down she saw herself as being a bit above factory work, but she didn’t quite know how to put her thoughts into words without offending her longstanding friend. So she replied with caution.

‘I’d love to, but I don’t want to waste my qualifications.’

‘Come off it Julie, what’s a couple of ‘O’ levels? Besides, if you decide you don’t like it at the factory, you can always go back to office work. Anyway, you’re a bloody receptionist for Christ’s sake. You’re hardly gonna qualify for the High Achievers Award, are you? I mean to say, I earn more than you do.’

Julie resented Rita’s views concerning her choice of career, but tried not to show it. Despite her resentment, she appreciated Rita’s open and frank manner, which she had been grateful for in the past, so she maintained a cautious approach.

‘It’s what it can lead to that matters. I could do a course in computers or something.’

‘Like as if. You’re too busy enjoying yourself to stick a college course. Besides, I could do a course in computers, come to that.’

Julie didn’t wish this to escalate into a full-blown argument but felt that she must assert herself, so she replied, ‘You haven’t got the ‘O’ levels or the office experience.’ Then, realising that she was now becoming a bit confrontational, she tried to lighten the conversation by joking, ‘Anyway, the talents always a bonus.’

Rita, however, was not so easy to pacify. ‘Come off it. All men who work in offices are bloody wimps! You can’t beat a bloke with a good trade. That’s what my dad says and it’s true.’

‘What’s the use of a good trade if there’s no work around for them?’

‘Oh that’s just temporary. They’ll be all right now we’re getting over the recession. It’s all down to that bleedin’ Maggie Thatcher anyway.’

‘Well while all your blokes with a trade are still busy looking for work, there’s blokes being promoted at our place.’

‘Yes blokes, exactly! Anyway, Vinny’s a builder isn’t he and there’s nowt wrong with him?’

Knowing the mood that Rita was in, Julie guessed at what was to follow, and she was reluctant to discuss the subject of her boyfriend Vinny.

‘Yes, he’s all right, I suppose.’

‘But?’ prompted Rita.

‘Well, I just wish he had a bit more ambition, that’s all.’

‘You know your trouble Julie? You don’t know when you’re lucky. Vinny’s gorgeous. Loads of girls fancy him. I wouldn’t kick him out of bed myself! He’s got his own place, and he’s good between the sheets, from what you’ve told me.’

Julie smiled, amused at her friend’s audacity. ‘Well he does know which buttons to press and when to press them, but there’s more to life than sex you know Rita.’

‘Oh yeah? Well when you find it let me know, and I’ll have a double helping,’ Rita quipped.

As Julie laughed, she turned to Rita and said. ‘Let’s stop being so bleedin’ serious! It’s Friday night for Christ’s sake! We’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves, not putting the world to rights.’

Rita decided that she had made her point anyway, so there was nothing to be gained in pursuing the matter. ‘Yeah, you’re right Jules. Come on, let’s go for it.’

They carried on walking for a few moments before Julie asked Rita, ‘What time are we supposed to be at Debby’s house?’

‘Dizzy Debby?  Oh I said it would be about seven by the time we got there.’

‘Don’t be rotten. She can’t help being a bit slow at times.’

‘It’s all right, she’s used to being called Dizzy Debby. It’s her nickname at work. Anyway, there’s an offy on the way so we can grab some booze and have a few before we go and meet your friends. Eh, I tell you what Julie, we’d better make sure we give your friend Amanda a good time, seeing as how it’s her birthday night out.’

‘Don’t worry, we will,’ replied Julie with a smile.

When they reached Debby’s house, it was Debby who answered the door and led them straight up to her bedroom. Her home was in complete contrast to the one that Julie had just left, and the décor was shabby and dated. Julie recoiled as they passed the bathroom and smelt the pungent aroma that emanated from it. She looked at Rita for her reaction, but Rita didn’t respond. Julie wondered why; could it be that Rita was used to it so it didn’t bother her. “No,” she chided herself. “Rita’s home might be a bit untidy, but it was certainly a lot cleaner than this one.

Julie could see that Debby was excited about the forthcoming night out and was anxious to get started. When they entered her bedroom she noticed Debby already had three half pint glasses ready and the sound of Luther Vandross was blasting out of the stereo.

‘Don’t your parents mind you having your music that loud?’ asked Julie.

‘No, they have the bloody tele so loud, they can’t hear it anyway.’

‘Mine are as bad,’ said Rita. ‘Ever since my dad came home from the pub with that dodgy VCR he’s been like a bleedin’ kid with a new toy.’

LagerThe girls seated themselves and began to pour the cans of lager. Julie pretended not to notice the greasy marks that covered the glasses. She inwardly cringed on observing Debby’s choice of clothing, accessories and make-up, but was too considerate to comment. Everything about Debby was overstated, from her fluffy bright blond hair to her fashion sense. All of her clothes were in vivid colours, uncoordinated and clung perilously to her large breasts and rotund hips.

The girls settled down with their drinks and began to discuss music, fashions and other topics of mutual interest. At eight o’clock, in a more animated state than when Julie and Rita had arrived, they set out, giggling, towards the nearby bus stop in order to make the trip to the city centre which was just a few stops away. When they got off the bus they had a short walk to the pub where they had agreed to meet two of Julie’s workmates, Amanda and Jacqueline, at eight thirty. While they were walking along, they spotted two policemen just ahead of them.

‘I think it’s time we had a bit of fun!’ said Rita.

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I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be publishing the agenda for the online launch party a couple of weeks beforehand. We’ve got lots of fun lined up so if you can’t make the full day you might want to choose which events you want to take part in.

SLUR Chapter 1

The launch date for SLUR is drawing closer. While I’m not quite ready to announce the date yet, I’m hoping to do so soon so I thought I would share the first chapter of the book. Here it is:

SLUR – Chapter 1

Saturday 21st June 1986
It was Saturday morning and Julie lay in bed dreaming of last night; she could feel the throbbing beat of the disco music. As she came to the throbbing intensified and she realised that this was no longer a dream. It was a loud hammering on the front door. The after effects of too much alcohol meant that the noise multiplied tenfold inside her head.

She staggered out of bed and reached for her dressing gown, but somebody had beaten her to the door. The hammering was followed by the sound of raised voices that Julie didn’t recognise, and she dashed to the landing to see what the commotion was about.

As she peered down the stairs her father glanced towards her bearing a puzzled but grave expression. There were two strangers in the hallway; a plain, manly-looking woman of about 30, and a tall middle-aged man with rugged features. Julie’s mother stared up the stairs, her face a deathly pallor, her voice shaking, as she uttered, ‘They’re police. They want you love.’

Julie panicked and began to walk downstairs while asking, ‘What are you talking about mam? What would the police want with me?’

She saw the policeman nod in her direction as he addressed her father, ‘is this her?’

‘Yes,’ Bill muttered, and hung his head in shame.

The policeman then focused his full attention on Julie as he spoke the words that would remain etched on her brain for the rest of her life:

‘Julie Quinley, I am Detective Inspector Bowden, this is Detective Sergeant Drummond. I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of Amanda Morris. You do not have to say anything unless you wish to do so, but what you say may be given in evidence.’

Julie stared at the police officer in disbelief and confusion as she tried to take it all in. She wanted to ask – What? Why? When? but the shock of this statement rendered her speechless and she couldn’t force the words from her mouth.

Inspector Bowden, heedless of Julie’s emotional state, was keen to get down to business straightaway. ‘Sergeant Drummond – accompany her to her bedroom while she gets dressed and watch her very closely.’

He then turned to Julie’s parents. ‘As soon as your daughter is dressed she will be taken to the station for questioning while we conduct a thorough search of the house.’

‘What do you mean, search? What are you searching for?’ asked Bill.

‘Drugs Mr Quinley,’ the inspector stated.

On hearing the word ‘drugs’ Bill was unable to contain himself any longer and Julie watched, helpless, as he metamorphosed into a frenzied maniac.

‘Drugs? What the bloody hell are you talking about, drugs? My family’s never had anything to do with drugs, never!’ he fumed.

He shocked Julie by grabbing her shoulder and shaking her violently as he vented his anger. ‘What the bloody hell’s been going on Julie? What’s all this about drugs and …and …people dying. Just what the hell have you been up to?’

Inspector Bowden took control of the situation. ‘Mr Quinley, can you please let go of your daughter and let Sergeant Drummond accompany her while she gets dressed?’

Bill mechanically released Julie and stared at the police officer in horror. This was a side of Bill that Julie, at twenty years of age, had never witnessed. Although he had often complained about her lifestyle, she usually shrugged it off, content in the knowledge that he was a kind and caring father who thought the world of her. Seeing him like this, though, she submitted to tears as she struggled to reply. ‘I’m sorry dad, but I really don’t know! I’ve never done drugs in my life!’

Then she began to sob in desperation, ‘Drugs? I don’t know anything about drugs …Amanda’s dead …Oh mam, tell him please?’

Julie’s mother, Betty, turned to address her husband, ‘Leave her alone Bill. Can’t you see she’s in a state? You’re only making matters worse!’

Inspector Bowden continued, officiously. ‘Now, if you will permit me to explain to all concerned – Amanda Morris died of severe intoxication and a possible drugs overdose in the early hours of this morning. As she was in the company of Julie Quinley and one other until approximately twelve thirty this morning, and returned home with them in an extremely drunken state, I have no alternative but to place Julie Quinley under arrest and take her down to the station for questioning. Now, if you will permit me to continue in my duties Mr Quinley, nothing further need be said at this point.’

Julie’s father retreated into the living room, mumbling to himself in despair. ‘I can’t take no more of this, I really can’t!’

Led by Sergeant Drummond, Julie mounted the stairs dejectedly. From the corner of her eye she could see her mother standing motionless in the hallway until Inspector Bowden disturbed her. ‘Mrs Quinley, could you help me to open the door please?’

When Julie’s mother had released the awkward door latch, he stepped forward, shouting, ‘in here men, start in that room there, then work your way through to the kitchen.’

Julie’s senses were on full alert, the adrenaline coursing around her body, as the police officers charged into the house with her father issuing a barrage of complaints at them. She was aware of her mother’s distress emanating from the dismal figure at the foot of the stairs. Apart from that, she could feel her own fear and helplessness, then shame and anger as, turning back, she noticed a group of nosy neighbours shouting and jeering at her mother. When one of them had the audacity to enquire, ‘Everything all right Betty love?’ her mother shut the front door in response.

Once inside the upstairs bedroom, Julie could sense Detective Sergeant Drummond scrutinising her as she put her clothes on. They didn’t speak but Julie tried to dress as covertly as possible while the police officer’s eyes roamed up and down her body. She could feel her hands shaking and her heart beating, and could hear people talking downstairs. One of the voices was her father’s and he sounded angry.

Julie headed towards the bathroom to wash her face, which still contained traces of make-up from the night before, but she was informed that there was no time to waste and they wanted her down at the station for questioning as soon as possible. ‘What about my hair?’ Julie asked.

‘If you’re so concerned about it, you can take a brush and do it in the car.’

Julie grabbed her hairbrush and placed it inside her handbag, which she threw over her shoulder.

‘I’ll take that if you don’t mind!’ said the sergeant, indicating Julie’s handbag. ‘It’ll have to be searched.’

Julie, aware of the sergeant’s hostile manner, replied, ‘That’s all right, I’ve got nothing to hide!’

She passed her handbag to Sergeant Drummond, then cringed with embarrassment as Sergeant Drummond rummaged through it and withdrew a packet of Durex and a small, empty bottle of vodka, which she proceeded to scrutinise. Once Sergeant Drummond had finished her thorough search, she tossed the bag back to Julie.

After several minutes Julie was ready to leave her bedroom without having showered, brushed her hair or even cleaned her teeth.

They began to descend the stairs.

Inspector Bowden materialized in the hallway and instructed Sergeant Drummond to lead Julie out to a waiting police car. He then ordered his men to check the upstairs of the house. As Sergeant Drummond was propelling Julie through the front door, Betty took hold of Julie’s arm and wept, ‘I hope you’ll be all right love.’

The look of anguish on Betty’s face brought renewed tears to Julie’s eyes, but she was too distressed to utter any words of reassurance to her mother. Her father, who had now calmed down a little, said, ‘don’t worry love, they can’t charge you with anything you haven’t done,’ and he put his arm around Betty’s shoulder in a comforting gesture. Julie knew that this was Bill’s way of apologising for his earlier accusations.

When Julie stepped outside the front door she was horrified at the sight that met her. The crowd that had gathered on the opposite side of the street had increased to such an extent that people were spilling over into the road. As Julie stepped onto the pavement with Sergeant Drummond gripping her arm, the excited mutterings of the crowd subsided and there was a series of nudges and whispers.

Julie was now the focus of everybody’s attention and she became painfully aware of her unkempt appearance, her untidy hair and unwashed face with mascara now streaked across her cheeks because of crying. The few steps from her house to the police car seemed to last longer than any other steps she had taken in her life. Although she knew she was innocent, she felt embarrassed in front of the crowd and ashamed that she had brought this on her parents.

She knew that they would be subjected to malicious gossip for weeks to come. For anybody who had ever held a grudge, or felt envious of the Quinleys, it was now payback time.

The sight of the over inquisitive mob soon refuelled Bill’s anger and Julie heard him, first arguing with the police officers, and then shouting abuse at the intrusive audience. ‘Have you nothing else better to do? Get back in your houses and mind your own bleedin’ business! Our Julie’s innocent and she’s better than the bleedin’ lot of you put together. Now go on, piss off!’

His shouts were interspersed by Betty’s uncontrolled sobbing.

Not one of the crowd flinched. Julie had no doubt that her father’s spectacle had added to their entertainment. It occurred to her that she had never before seen her father so out of control, never seen her mother so upset, and her neighbours had never before seen Julie looking anything less than immaculate. For her it marked the beginning of a prolonged descent.

Suddenly, Julie caught sight of her younger sister, Clare, heading towards her. She could hear her astonished voice repeating to her friends, ‘It’s our Julie!’ As she became nearer, she shouted, ‘Julie, what’s happened, where are they taking you?’

A policeman rushed in front of Clare, preventing her from making any contact with her sister, and Julie was bundled into the police car. As she repositioned herself on the rear seat, Julie could hear her younger sister’s frantic screams and, while the officers tried to restrain Clare, she shouted, ‘Get off me, leave me alone, that’s my sister, you can’t take my sister!’ It was all too much for an eight year old to take in.

The police car began to drive away. Julie heard her father shouting at the crowd again. ‘I hope you’ve enjoyed your morning’s entertainment. Now bugger off home the lot of you!’

She turned to see her mother trying to comfort Clare as the Quinley family stepped back inside their defiled home.

Inside the police car Julie tried to put aside her feelings of sorrow and despair in an attempt to pull herself together. She needed to remain calm in order to tackle this situation. But despite knowing she was innocent, she felt degraded and helpless.

She eased open her handbag, aware of Sergeant Drummond’s observation. Julie took out a mirror and held it in front of her face. Her reflection echoed the way she was feeling about herself. She removed a tissue and used her own saliva to dampen it so that she could wipe away the remains of stale make-up. Having achieved that, she set about brushing her hair.

Sergeant Drummond turned towards the officer driving the police car and quipped, ‘Look at that, her friend’s just snuffed it after a night out with her, and all she can think about is what she looks like!’

Julie tried to ignore the caustic comment. She needed to remain as composed as possible under the circumstances. For Julie, looking good meant feeling good, and she knew that it would help to give her the strength to get through this ordeal. In complete defiance of Sergeant Drummond’s remark, Julie continued to work on her appearance, adding a little blusher and lip-gloss.

She then attempted to think about her situation logically. “Yes, they had spiked Amanda’s drink with shorts. There was no point in denying that. Chances were the police would find out anyway and that would only make matters worse. But what about the drugs?”

She thought about whether there had been any time when somebody could have given drugs to Amanda, but decided that it was impossible to account for everybody’s whereabouts throughout the entire evening. She had been too drunk herself for one thing.

As thoughts of Amanda flashed through her mind, she could feel her eyes well up with tears again, but she fought to maintain control. “I mustn’t let them get the better of me,” she kept repeating to herself. Then she remembered the inspector’s words when he had said, ‘possible drugs overdose.’ “So, there’s a chance that no drugs were involved anyway,” she thought, on a positive note. Then her spirit was further dampened by the realisation that, if there were no drugs found there was no possibility that anybody else was involved. That could mean only one thing; that Amanda’s death was purely down to her and Rita having spiked Amanda’s drinks with various shorts throughout the evening.

Julie’s thoughts turned to Rita, and she wondered whether the police had taken her in for questioning too, as she must have been the ‘one other’ to whom the Inspector had referred. She thought about the surly inspector, convinced that he was going to give her one hell of a grilling once they got inside the station. “But I can’t have killed Amanda,” she reasoned to herself. “She was starting to come round a bit when we left her.”

As she pictured her friend’s face the last time she had seen her, Julie fought once again to contain her tears, as she went through the events of last night in her mind.

Police car

I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be posting more chapters and further details of the launch party as the date draws nearer. For now I’m making the final checks as I upload my Kindle and print files to Amazon. I’ll hopefully be sending for my print proof in the next few days.

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