Excerpt from Born Bad

There’s now only a month to go until the launch of Born Bad.

So, as the exciting countdown begins, I thought I’d tempt you with an excerpt. Here goes:

As soon as Adele walked into the back garden of her home in the Manchester suburbs, she was horrified by the sight that met her. Among the overgrown bushes and weed-filled borders was an assortment of cracked and mossy flagstones that acted as a path. There, her ten-year-old brother, Peter, stood facing her. He was wielding a large twig which he had stripped bare. For him it now represented a whip; flexible enough to slash rapidly through the air, yet strong enough to inflict damage.

He chuckled as he repeatedly thrashed his whip onto the paving slabs in front of him. His target was several squirming caterpillars of differing sizes and various shades of green and brown, which he had lined up. Adele could see their tiny bodies writhing as savage blows from the hand-made weapon assailed them, causing their oozing entrails to spill out onto the path.

‘Stop it!’ she yelled.

Peter paused briefly to reply, ‘They’re only insects.’ He laughed and lashed the whip once more.

‘I don’t care. It’s cruel and disgusting,’ Adele shouted, becoming annoyed.

‘You’re stupid, you are. I’m not doing any harm. Go and mither someone else, Miss Goody-goody.’ His impish laughter had now disappeared, transforming his face into an unwelcoming sneer.

‘At least I’m not like you!’ said Adele.

‘What do you mean?’ he asked, staring at Adele while the caterpillars wriggled around on the paving slabs.

Adele could sense his change in tone but, despite her unease, she refused to give way. ‘You’re always up to no good, you are. You’re gonna get in trouble again if you don’t watch it.’

‘Oh shut up, you crybaby! Go and play with your dolls.’ And ignoring her pleas, he went back to meting out his vicious punishment.

Adele felt her stomach lurch at the sickening sight and cried out to him, ‘Peter, stop it; it’s horrible!’

Unfortunately, her cries soon reached the ears of their father who sped through the back door, pushing her aside. She noticed that he was still in his shabby vest, and knew that he hadn’t been out of bed long, even though it was midday. He was a menacing sight. The scruffy vest emphasised his bulky muscles, and his rugged features were set in a hard expression. She knew that he wouldn’t take kindly to having his Sunday disturbed.

‘What the bleedin’ hell’s going on here?’ he demanded.

Peter dropped the whip and looked up guiltily at his father. His jaw hung loose but he failed to utter any words of defence.

Their father didn’t need a reply, however, as his eyes took in the revolting sight. In one stride, he was on Peter, grabbing at his shirt collar and thrusting upwards until his feet left the ground.

‘You dirty little get!’ he yelled. ‘Look at the bleedin’ state of that path.’ He released his hold, allowing Peter to drop shakily to the ground. Then, prodding his forefinger into Peter’s face, he ordered, ‘Get it cleaned up… NOW!’

Peter hung his head in shame and approached the house in search of something with which to clean up the mess.

‘Where the bleedin’ hell do you think you’re going?’ roared his father. ‘I told you to clean them up.’

‘I’m going for some newspaper to wipe them up with,’ Peter replied.

‘No you’re bleedin’ not! You weren’t bothered about newspaper when you put the bleedin’ things there, so why bother now? You can get them shifted with yer hands. And I want every bit cleared up, including that slimy shit that’s come out of ’em. That’ll teach you, you dirty little bastard!’

He turned and pushed Adele aside again as he trundled back indoors. Just before stepping into the house, he turned his head back and added, ‘And you can get your bleedin’ hands washed when you’ve finished as well.’

For a few moments, Adele stood still, her eyes fixed on Peter, awaiting his reaction.

‘What you looking at, you bitch?’ he muttered. ‘It’s all your fault! If you hadn’t started carrying on, he wouldn’t have known.’ As he murmured these few words, he made a show of wiping up the slimy mess with his fingers, as though deliberately trying to antagonise her.

Adele couldn’t take any more. She ran into the house retching, and headed straight for her bedroom where she threw herself onto the bed. But the tears didn’t come. At eleven years of age, she’d suppressed her tears so often that it had become an automatic defence mechanism that helped her get through life.

Adele felt bad. She shouldn’t have carried on so much at Peter, then her father wouldn’t have known. It was bound to annoy him, especially on a Sunday. He was always in a mood on a Sunday. In fact, he was always in a mood any day, but Sundays were particularly bad. It was only recently, as she was growing up, that Adele realised why; it was because of the skinful he had had on a Saturday night. All he wanted to do on Sundays was sleep it off. Then he would sit and pore through the papers whilst their mother, Shirley, made a pretence of cleaning the house, and cooked the traditional Sunday dinner in an effort to please him.

This was usually the first attempt at cleaning that Shirley had made all week. She spent most of her days gossiping with the neighbours, sleeping or watching TV. Her evenings were spent in a similar fashion, except for the few nights a week in which she tore herself away from the street to go and play bingo.

Adele got up off the bed and drifted towards the window. She avoided the sight of Peter but looked out instead at the other houses, watching people go about their business. Allowing her mind to drift, she contemplated, for the umpteenth time, her miserable existence.

Lately she was realising that although this way of life was commonplace within these four walls, there was a different world out there. Talking to her friends had made her understand that her circumstances weren’t the norm, and other parents were different from her own. Other children went out with their families to the cinema or country parks. They had holidays at the seaside and expensive presents for their birthdays.

The only advantage she had over other children was her freedom. Her father was hardly ever home, so that gave her and Peter a chance to roam the streets and do whatever they pleased as long as news of their mischief didn’t get back to him. Their mother scarcely showed any interest in where they were going or what time they would be back.

Adele often consoled herself by imagining that one day things would be different. When she was old enough she would get a good job and a rich husband, and she would escape her domineering father and slovenly mother. She would have a beautiful home and children who would never want for anything. It was this dream that kept her going.

Just then Adele was jolted back to reality by the sound of raised voices downstairs.

‘Don’t go, Tommy, I was gonna do you a nice dinner later,’ pleaded her mother.

‘Bugger off, I’m going for a pint. There’s nowt to stay in this bloody pigsty for. I’m sick of you, you lazy cow, and those two scruffy little gets!’

This was followed by a loud slamming of the front door and Shirley muttering something to herself. Adele couldn’t quite hear her mother’s words, but she gathered that she wasn’t happy about him going out.

Adele had had enough of home for one day, so she decided that she would go outside for a while too. She was heading downstairs when she heard the sound of the door knocker. Worried it was her father coming back, she scuttled back to the top of the stairs. It was only after her mother had answered the door that Adele realised it was her grandma, Joyce.

She entered loudly and, appearing as bumptious as ever, declared, ‘I’ve just passed His Lordship in the street. He’s got a right face on him, as usual. It took him all his time to say hello. What the bleedin’ hell’s up with him this time?’ The soft features of her plump face had tightened to form an expression of scorn.

Shirley said nothing, but shook her head from side to side as she led her mother into the living room, leaving the door ajar. Adele would normally have raced down the stairs to greet her grandma, who she thought the world of. Although loud and opinionated, Joyce had a kind heart and was full of good intentions. But the look of resignation on her mother’s face, and the tired way she dragged her feet, stopped Adele from following them. She had guessed that they were about to have one of their chats, and overcome by curiosity, she crept down the stairs so she could listen in. She could just about see them both through the gap of the open door.

‘Jesus, Shirley love, what the bloody hell’s happened to this place? It looks like a bomb’s hit it and smells bloody awful! It’s worse than last time. I thought you were going to try and get on top of things!’

‘Oh don’t start, Mam. Don’t you think I’m sick of it? It’s not me that makes it a tip you know, and what’s the use of tidying it anyway when they only mess it up again?’

‘I’m worried about you, love. Every time I come you’ve let yourself go more. You’re just not happy, are you? Has he been at you again?’

‘Not really. It’s Peter he’s pissed off with, because he made a mess on the garden path, squashing some caterpillars or summat. I wish he’d leave him alone; he’s not a bad lad really.’

‘I don’t know, I worry about our Peter, always up to mischief and getting into fights. I’ve told you, he takes after his side of the family.’

Their conversation then became much quieter, and Adele had to strain to hear them. Without getting too close, and risking being caught out, she managed to catch snippets of her grandma’s words.

‘Bad lot… told you before… bad blood… mad… great-uncle… always fighting… ended up in an asylum.’

A few moments of silence followed until Shirley said, ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do, Mam. I’ve no idea what our Peter will turn out like. I’m just glad our Adele’s all right.’

‘Aye, she’s a good girl,’ replied Joyce whose voice had returned to its normal level. ‘Keep encouraging her to do well at school so she can bugger off to university or summat. She’ll be bloody better off out of it.’ Joyce’s voice then adopted a sympathetic tone. ‘I do worry about you, Shirley love. You’ve changed so much over the years, ever since you met Tommy. You don’t seem to care anymore and you were never like this when you were younger. Did you go to the doctors like I told you to?’

‘Yeah, he’s given me these for the daytime on top of the ones I take at night,’ she said, passing something to her mother.

‘Let’s have a look,’ said Joyce who then tried to read the words on the bottle of pills. ‘Dia… ze… pam. What are they supposed to do?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Shirley. ‘But I feel more knackered than ever. I’ve not got the energy I was born with, honestly Mam.’

‘Well, I don’t know what the bloody hell to make of it all. I wish to God you’d never married him in the first place. I tried to warn you, but you wouldn’t be told. I’d take you and the kids round to my house, but I’ve just not got the room.’

‘I know that, Mam. I’ve just got to put up with it, haven’t I? Besides, I love Tommy. I just wish he wasn’t so angry all the time.’

Joyce looked exasperated, but didn’t continue. It was a topic which she had already covered many times before, so she moved onto something else. When Adele had grown tired of hearing about what Joyce’s neighbours were up to, she returned to her bedroom. There she mulled over the conversation in her young mind.

She knew her grandmother had been referring to her father and his family. She was used to her grandma Joyce talking about them, but she had never heard her mention the word ‘mad’ before. Maybe it just meant they had bad tempers. She wondered about the word asylum. It wasn’t one she was familiar with, but she decided to check it in her dictionary.

Adele took her dictionary off the row of books on the shelf. She opened it up, and scanned the words under the letter ‘a’ until she reached asylum. She found two meanings; the first of them referred to a place of refuge, but the second related to a mental institution. She wondered which of these her grandma could have been talking about but she daren’t ask.

Adele stared at the dictionary for a few moments but when the words ‘mental institution’ seemed to leap out from the page, she quickly shut it. Those words frightened her. She knew her dad had a temper, but surely that couldn’t mean he was mental. She’d heard kids at school use the words ‘mad’ and ‘mental’ when they were trying to put down someone who was a bit stupid. They weren’t nice words and she didn’t like to think of them being linked to her family.

She was curious about the tablets her mother was taking as well; something called diazepam, her grandma had said. Adele opened her dictionary again and flicked over the pages, checking whether diazepam was listed, but she couldn’t find anything.

Her thoughts flitted back to the words ‘mad’ and ‘mental’. Adele was confused. She couldn’t understand why her grandma would use such words about her family. Grandma Joyce didn’t usually say nasty things. Grandma Joyce was nice. So if she was saying bad things about her dad, then maybe they were true. Maybe he really was mad. And, if Peter took after their dad’s side of the family, did that mean he was mad too?

***

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. If it has made you want to read more, you can check out the book at Amazon by following the link: Born Bad.

I’ll be keeping you up to date soon with news of my blog tour. Until then, bye for now.

***

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Book Launch -Danger by Association

I’m thrilled to have finally reached launch date for ‘Danger by Association’, book 3 in the Riverhill Trilogy. For some reason this one seems to have been a long time coming, but maybe that’s just because it’s the last book in a trilogy. If you would like to download a copy, here is that all important Amazon link: http://viewBook.at/DangerbyAssn.

Danger

Although we’ve only just reached publication day, ‘Danger by Association’ is already ranking well on Amazon UK as it has been available for pre-order since mid-May. I think its rank is attributable to the fact that the first two books in the trilogy had already found a readership, and this book appears on the list of books ‘also bought’ by purchasers of ‘Slur’ and ‘A Gangster’s Grip’.

If you have already purchased ‘Danger by Association’, I would appreciate it if you would consider leaving a review, once you have read the book, by following the above Amazon link.

I’ll be offering free copies of ‘Danger by Association’ in a Goodreads Giveaway to be announced in a later blog post so watch out for that. I’ll also be making an announcement regarding a local book signing event.

Bye for now, and thank you for all your support.

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Book Launch Update – ‘A Gangster’s Grip’

It’s been a busy couple of days since the launch of ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ and there’s still a lot happening. Here’s an update:

‘Slur’ Free Promotion – Although I originally planned to offer ‘Slur’ for free a few weeks after the launch of ‘A Gangster’s Grip’, I made an impromptu, last minute decision to offer it free at the same time as the launch. ‘Slur’ is therefore currently available to download to the Kindle FREE until Sunday. Here’s the link if you want to grab a copy before the offer expires: http://viewbook.at/Slur.

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Author Interview – Fellow author Georgia Rose has published a fabulous interview on her website at: Georgia Rose, in which we discuss some of the background behind ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ amongst other topics. Georgia is a busy lady who is a member of Rosie’s book review team as well as a talented author. You can find lots of great book reviews, author interviews and details of Georgia’s own riveting trilogy on her website. It’s well worth a visit.

First Reviews – ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ has received its first reviews, one of which is from the lovely Kath at Ignite Books. Kath only features 5 star reviews on her blog so I was extremely chuffed to get a mention. It’s also good to hear that Kath feels ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ is a better book than ‘Slur’ because, like all writers, I aim to improve with each novel.

‘About Manchester’ Feature – The launch of ‘A Gangster’s Grip was also featured in the ‘About Manchester’ online magazine so here’s another link to check out: About Manchester.

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I still have plenty of activities lined up so I’ll keep you updated as events take place. Right, now I’m off to post a print copy of ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ to my daughter – she’s first in the queue otherwise I’m in big trouble. 🙂

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Book Launch Day – A Gangster’s Grip

The day of the launch has finally arrived and ‘A Gangster’s Grip’, book two in The Riverhill Trilogy, is now available in both a Kindle and print format from Amazon. Here is the link: http://viewbook.at/GangstersGrip.

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I have plenty of events lined up to celebrate the launch of my second novel, including:

A Radio Interview – It will take place on 17th October at North Manchester Radio station in Harpurhey, Manchester. They have a Saturday afternoon slot specifically dedicated to books, creative writing and publishing so I am pleased to have been invited as a guest on the show.

Book Shop Signing – On 24th October I will be signing copies of ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ at Thackeray’s Book Shop in Denton, Manchester. Thackeray’s will also be stocking copies of both ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ and ‘Slur’.

Goodreads Giveaway – I’ll be giving away signed copies of ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ to two lucky winners in a Goodreads Giveaway so look out for details on my Goodreads author page by following the link here.

A Free Promotion of ‘Slur’ – From today ‘Slur’ will be available to download to the Kindle FREE of charge for five days. ‘Slur’ is the first book in The Riverhill Trilogy so if you haven’t already read it, this is a great opportunity to start at the beginning. Here is the link: http://viewbook.at/Slur.

Online Interviews and Features – I will be taking part in a few online interviews and features. The first of these is a chat ‘Around the Cauldron’ with Wiz Green aka popular author Mark Barry, which has earned me the amusing nickname of Hardcore Heather. (I must point out that this refers to the grit lit sub-genre that my novels fit into rather than my lifestyle :).) You can catch the full interview: here.

I will keep you updated about the above activities by publishing further details on the blog as the events take place.

And there was I telling myself that I would be less busy after the launch; I guess I will have to postpone my winter break.

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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:
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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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Should UK Police be Armed?

While carrying out my research for my forthcoming novel “A Gangster’s Grip” it has led me to think about the role of the police in bringing violent crime under control in Manchester. Although a multi-agency approach is responsible for the reduction in this type of crime, armed response teams played their part. Not only have armed response teams been used for raids on properties associated with gang members, but their stop and search approach also reduced the number of arms being carried into the city centre.

police-man-standing-smiling-12425-svg

This prompts the perennial question: should UK police be armed?

As a nation we are unusual in our decision not to routinely arm the police and there have been many calls to arm our officers. However, in a 2012 news report the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, Sir Peter Fahy, defended the decision not to arm the police, arguing that arming police would not mean that officers wouldn’t get shot. His statement was made following the fatal shootings of two WPCs in Greater Manchester.

Although public opinion is divided regarding whether the police should be armed, figures show that the majority of the police themselves are not in favour. According to a survey in 2006, 82% of Police Federation members were against being routinely armed on duty. In contrast, an ICM poll of the public in 2004 showed 47% in support of arming all police and 48% against. Additionally, a 2007 poll of 2,156 adults by Policy Exchange, the centre-right think tank, showed that 72% of those polled wanted more armed police patrols.

Police-car-9390-medium

My personal view is that I would not like to see the police routinely armed, but that armed response teams should be used when circumstances demand. It’s a tricky one though, because it’s not always possible to predict when a PC’s life is about to be put at risk.

With regard to armed police, I can remember a security alert a few years ago just before going on holiday. We arrived at Manchester airport to find hordes of armed police patrolling the terminal building. It was the first time I had seen armed police in Manchester, and I remember feeling unsettled. We had the children with us who were only toddlers at the time, which I think added to my unease.

Gun

On another occasion, I had been out for a meal in Manchester with my husband and we were waiting in the queue for a taxi home. A man dashed into the road and, for no apparent reason, decided to launch himself, yelling and screaming, at any vehicle that looked remotely like a taxi. We were concerned that he would seriously injure himself but worried about going to his aid because his behaviour was so volatile.

Everybody in the taxi queue stood open-mouthed wondering how to react. It’s a difficult position to be in because you want to help but, at the same time, you have to consider your own safety. Fortunately, within a couple of minutes the police had picked him up on CCTV and the armed response team were quick to act. In that instance I was glad to see them.

What are your views on arming the police? Are you for or against, or do you think, like me, that armed response teams should just be used for specific circumstances?

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The Legacy of Gunchester

In a recent blog post I described the Gunchester Era of 90s Manchester when violent crime soared in the city. This is the backdrop to my forthcoming novel and if you haven’t already read my previous post, you can view it here. I would like to follow on from my previous post by looking at how the Gunchester Era has affected Manchester.

After the 1990s Manchester continued to experience gang related violence, and in the last decade the number of shootings across Greater Manchester peaked at 146 in 2007. However, an October 2013 newspaper article reported a reduction in the number of incidents to just 11 shootings in a period of six months. To put this into perspective, this is one of the lowest rates recorded in Greater Manchester, which is a county of two and a half million inhabitants. This level is also lower than the neighbouring county of West Yorkshire.

Graph

So how did Manchester manage to turn things around?

It is the result of a multi-faceted approach involving the community, the police, local councils and a number of other agencies all working together to tackle violent crime. The needless loss of young lives left family members devastated and led to various initiatives by relatives of deceased youngsters. Amongst these were Peace Week, Mothers against Violence and Fathers against Violence. The stand taken by communities meant that witnesses were given the courage to contact the police, leading to key arrests. This was a brave move as people had previously been too frightened to report gang-related crime.

The police also set up a specialist task force called Xcalibre whose function was specifically to tackle gun-crime and other gang-related crime. Xcalibre has been so successful in reducing the level of violent crime in Manchester that it is now held in high regard worldwide and hosts conferences for other forces so that they can follow its lead.

Community

However, it is the cohesive approach between the community, the police and other agencies such as youth offending services, probation and local councils that is responsible for the ongoing reduction in violent crime. This was acknowledged by the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Lloyd, who stated in a newspaper article in October 2013 that one of the aims was to provide alternatives for young people who might otherwise have joined gangs.

As the Gunchester period progressed it was recognized that gang members were becoming younger and younger and that children in schools regarded gang culture as their best option in life. At one time children as young as 13 were joining gangs but now that the police are working with schools and other agencies to raise awareness of alternatives, the typical age of gang members has become older.

People Working Together

The work of some of these groups has been so successful that it is now being taken up by other cities in the UK. Here is some further information on some of the groups that are still working to tackle violent crime and gang-related crime in Manchester:

Mothers against Violence (http://mavuk.org/) – This organisation was founded in 1999 by two women who had lost sons as a result of gang-related violence. It started out as a peer to peer support group for victims of violent crime or for those who had lost family members because of violent crime. It now runs a Community Counselling and Emotional Support Service Programme (ACCESS Programme) and offers a range of other services.

Fathers against Violence (http://fav-uk.org/) – This group is sponsored by a number of bodies and provides guidance to youngsters, giving them the confidence and awareness to seek out alternative opportunities to crime. Fathers against Crime works in partnership with schools, parents, local authorities and community groups and encourages positive male role models.

Manchester City Council – Integrated Gang Management Unit (http://www.manchester.gov.uk/info/200030/crime_antisocial_behaviour_and_nuisance/6134/integrated_gang_management_unit) – This is a multi-agency team, which includes the Xcalibre task force. Its aims are to safeguard people affected by violent gang-related activity, and to support gang members that want to leave the gang lifestyle. It also encourages young people to follow alternative pathways to gang crime, and enforces the law related to gang crime.

In a news report on 14th February 2015 the latest figures showed a slight increase in gun crime from the previous year in the Greater Manchester region, but this was nowhere near the number of incidents when Gunchester was at its peak. This is an indication though that for Manchester, like many cities, the fight against violent crime is an ongoing battle.

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