Free Promotion – A Gangster’s Grip

‘A Gangster’s Grip’ will be FREE to download to the Kindle from Friday 28th October until Sunday 30th October so, if you haven’t already got a copy, here’s a chance to grab one. Just follow the link: http://viewbook.at/GangstersGrip.

‘A Gangster’s Grip’ is the second book in the Riverhill Trilogy but it can be read as a standalone novel so you don’t need to have already read ‘Slur’. I must confess that this is my own personal favourite of the trilogy, and readers seem to enjoy it too. To date, it has gained 44 reviews on Amazon UK, averaging 4.5 stars.

Gangster's Grip V4

Here’s the book blurb for ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ to give you a little taster of what it’s about:

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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I hope you enjoy it and, if you’ve already read and enjoyed the book, please let your friends know about the promotion.

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Alexandra Park, Moss Side, Manchester – An Historical Landmark

Alexandra Park in Moss Side, Manchester is another of the locations featured in my forthcoming novel “A Gangster’s Grip”. Its reputation has suffered in recent years due to violence and crime in the vicinity. As recently as 12th May 2015 there was a report of a stabbing in a street next to the park, which left a man in his 20s in a critical condition.

It’s sad to think that Alexandra Park hits the headlines due to violence in the surrounding streets because, actually, the park has a rich and significant heritage. Not only is Alexandra Park the home of the Manchester Caribbean Carnival, a colourful, vibrant event that has been taking place for over 40 years, it is also Grade 2 listed and has been declared a place of national importance because of its heritage.

ParkThe Park was opened by the Mayor of Manchester on 6th August 1870 and was named after Princess Alexandra. It covers an area of more than 60 acres and is one of the most complete Victorian parks in Manchester. In fact, it was considered the showpiece of Manchester’s Victorian parks, boasting a lodge designed by Alfred Darbyshire, male and female gymnasia, a cricket ground, the Serpentine lake, a walkway and terrace designed for promenading, and Manchester’s first sunken bowling green. Later additions to the park included a bandstand, propagating houses and refreshment rooms.

Alexandra Park also has connections with the Suffragette Movement. Emmeline Pankhurst was born on the Alexandra Park estate only yards from the Park. Thousands of suffragettes marched to Alexandra Park on 24th October 1908 where they held a political rally called the “Great Demonstration”. In 1905-6 a large glass house was built inside the Park to house the impressive cactus collection bequeathed by Charles Darrah upon his death. The bombing of the cactus house in November 1913 was attributed to the famous Suffragette, Kitty Marion.

In December 2012 a programme of restoration began for Alexandra Park after decades of neglect. A total of £5.5 million has been invested using money granted to Manchester City Council by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Big Lottery Fund and various sporting bodies in addition to some funds from the council itself. The improvement work has now finished and includes:

  • Restoration of Chorlton Lodge to be used as a community area downstairs and office space upstairs.
  • New cricket pitches with markings for two lacrosse pitches.Football
  • Restoration and extension of the pavilion to encompass changing rooms for the cricket pitches, a larger community space, public toilets and a café.
  • Four new tennis courts.
  • Renovation and/or demolishing of depot buildings to provide views into the park and a community room, and improvement of the existing depot changing rooms for the tennis courts and football field.
  • Extensive landscaping including a flower garden, flower beds, the planting of additional trees, repair and/or replacement of footpaths, replacement of street furniture, improved drainage and restoration of the drinking fountain and flagstaff.

Following completion of the work Alexandra Park now looks stunning. You can see some images of the Park, including some taken during the refurbishment phase, at: http://www.alexandraparkmanchester.com/.

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Announcing the Launch of ‘Crime, Conflict & Consequences’

I am pleased to announce the launch of my new short story book ‘Crime, Conflict & Consequences’, which is now available to download on the Kindle at: http://viewbook.at/Consequences for only 99p (UK) or $1.48 (US).

The book has ten short tales, which cross a number of different genres and styles, and cover various topics including crime, love and family dilemmas. There are also a few twist in the tale types. The stories are ideal for an enjoyable quick read during your coffee break or whenever you have a spare few minutes.

Crime v3

Developing my Alter Ego

I am continuing to publish under my new pen-name Heather Burnside and am making a few changes to the blog. I have separated my book writing endeavours from my writing business entirely so the blog is no longer an add-on to my writing services website. I now want it to have its own presence to complement my new identity.

As part of the ongoing development I want Heather Burnside to have more than a blog so that I will be able to showcase my books etc. The first step was to drop the ‘wordpress’ from my URL and pay an annual fee which allows me to have my own name for the URL i.e. www.heatherburnside.com and add more pages to the website rather than just the standard About page and blog that you get with the free WordPress account.

At the moment I’ve only added a books page but I’ve made a few other changes such as the theme and the addition of my mailing list link at the top right of every page. As I publish more books I will be expanding the website and hopefully adding more features.

What’s next?

Now that I’ve published my short story book I can’t wait to move onto my second novel which is also a crime thriller. In fact, I’ve already started work on it, but it isn’t the book that I originally previewed in the back of SLUR. I will be writing that one eventually although it will have to wait a while. There is a reason for this switch, which I will tell you more about in my next blog post. In the meantime I hope you enjoy reading ‘Crime, Conflict & Consequences’.

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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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SLUR Cover Reveal

Here it is at last, the cover for my forthcoming crime thriller, “Slur”, designed by the talented Chris Howard at: blondesign@gmail.com.

slur_V2

I think that this image captures my lead character (Julie) perfectly and I love what Chris has done with it. By focusing on her face he has shown the distress that Julie is going through. She is also a very stunning young woman and the image is big enough to show both of these elements even at thumbnail size. Chris has added some make-up as well, which makes Julie even more attractive.

I love the background colours and fonts that Chris has used. I wanted “Slur” to appear almost handwritten – you’ll understand why when you read the book. Chris was great to work with and willing to make changes until we had a cover that we were both happy with. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend his services to other authors.

Here is the blurb for the book:

How would it feel to be accused of a murder you didn’t commit? To believe your friends, family and colleagues had turned against you. Would you reach breaking point or fight to prove your innocence?

Julie Quinley finds herself in this position following the events of one fateful night. She has to bear the slights and accusations of colleagues and acquaintances, and life becomes unbearable. Eventually, thinking that she has lost the respect of everyone around her, Julie plunges into a deep depression.

However, unknown to Julie, those closest to her are rallying support. She reaches a turning point when her friends reveal that they may have found the real killer. Realising she must act in order to clear her name, Julie joins them in trying to find evidence.

But proving a vicious murderer guilty is never going to be easy, especially when the police remain unconvinced. Will Julie and her friends succeed? And is their suspect really responsible for the crime?

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I’m hoping to launch “Slur” sometime in September and will be posting updates as we get nearer the time. To celebrate the publication of my debut novel I’ll be hosting a big online launch party with competitions and lots of great prizes, and will publish announcements via this blog, on my Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/DianeMannionWritingServices and on Twitter @Dydywriter. In the meantime, you can preview the first chapter at: http://www.dianemannion.co.uk/books.html. Just scroll to the bottom of the page and click ‘Read a Sample Chapter’.

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