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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
“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.
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.
The 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.
- 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/.
I am due to release my second novel, “A Gangster’s Grip”, in the next few months, and it is currently with my beta readers. It will be the second part in “The Gunchester Trilogy”; Slur is the first part. All three books are set during the Gunchester era, an infamous period in Manchester’s recent history when gang-related gun crime escalated. This was, in fact, the reason why the press dubbed Manchester, “Gunchester” during the 1990s.
Slur features many of the same characters as the following two books and takes place at the beginning of the Gunchester era, in the 1980s. However, the 80s was the prelude to what was to become one of the most dangerous periods in Manchester’s recent history. It was during the 90s when things really got out of control. My second book, “A Gangster’s Grip”, is set at the height of the Gunchester period and I will be giving more details about the novel in a future blog post. Firstly, though, I would like to tell you about the Gunchester era, which provides the backdrop for “A Gangster’s Grip”.
Manchester, like any major city, has always had its share of crime and organized violence. Even in the 19th century there were gangs such as the Scuttlers and the Bengal Tigers who would be involved in fatal knife battles.
Since the 1970s, Moss Side, an inner city area of Manchester, has been known as a place to purchase illegal drugs such as cannabis. The drug scene changed during the 80s though when heroin started to arrive on the streets of Manchester. At the beginning of the same decade, the police received reports of a gang war between rival gangs from Moss Side and Cheetham Hill. Up until that point the gangs had maintained good relations but something had caused a major rift.
At the start of the hostilities the weapon of choice had been the machete. Gang members also used knives to settle disputes. However, as time went on guns were increasingly being used in gang violence. The incidents of gun related crime soon escalated, reaching a peak in the 1990s. During a five year period when gun violence was at its worst there were 27 gang-related deaths and 250 injuries.
Apart from the rivalry between Moss Side and Cheetham Hill, there was also rivalry between two Moss Side gangs whose members lived in close proximity to each other. Youths as young as 15 became victims of the violence and, as well as the nickname of “Gunchester”, Moss Side was also dubbed “The Bronx of Britain”.
In an attempt to rid the area of gangs, the authorities redeveloped the estate in Moss Side where the two local gangs were based. However, as a result, some of the gang members moved to other areas where they formed new gangs in places such as Longsight and Rusholme.
At the same time the city was experiencing problems with gangs from other parts of the city, mainly Salford, which controlled nightclub security in the city centre, and demanded a percentage of the income from nightclubs. At one point no nightclub was safe, and gangs loaded up with weapons would move in as soon as they heard about a new nightclub opening.
Eventually the police managed to bring the problems under control by carrying out ‘stop and search’ operations on cars entering the city centre on Friday and Saturday nights, and confiscating weapons. Manchester also set up a multi-agency task force to tackle gang-related problems. Nowadays, there is still gang related violence but the number of casualties has been vastly reduced since the figures reached their peak at the height of the Gunchester period.
“A Gangster’s Grip” features three rival gangs. Although I have set the book during the Gunchester era, and based the gangs in Moss Side, Cheetham Hill and Longsight, the gangs featured in the novel are fictitious, as are the pubs that are mentioned. The book is scheduled for launch around September/October and I will be including further details on this blog in the lead-up to the launch.
I was nominated for the Work in Progress Blog Hop by the lovely Georgia Rose who blogs at Georgia Rose Books. Georgia is a prolific blogger who reviews books on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team. She is a very supportive member of the indie author community and also writes revealing and entertaining author interviews via her blog. Georgia is currently completing her third book in the excellent Grayson Trilogy and I know that I am amongst the many readers who are looking forward to reading it and finding out what happens next.
Thanks for the nomination Georgia. My second novel is currently at the first draft stage so before I revisit the first three chapters to see whether they pass muster, I want to introduce four other bloggers in line with the blog hop rules which are:
- Link back to the person who nominated you.
- Write a little about and give the first few lines of your first three chapters from your WIP.
- Nominate some other writers to do the same.
So, here are my nominations:
Guy Portman’s Blog – Guy shares lots of insightful information about famous authors and notable novels via his blog. He also includes details about his travels and other interesting observations.
Marilyn Chapman blogs at Guernsey Girlie. I love the retro feel of Marilyn’s blog and she covers history topics (amongst others) in an entertaining way – I think my school history teachers could have learnt a thing or two from her about approach.
Sue Coletta blogs at Crime Writer Blog, which has a wealth of information for anyone who writes in the crime genre. As well as her murder blog Sue generously shares crime writer’s resources, writing tips and a whole lot more via her website.
Yasmin Selena Butt blogs at Hello You. Yasmin’s blog is full of personality and she’s a girl who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. I’ve also included Yasmin because I can’t wait to find out more about her second book.
Here’s a little about my work in progress:
I’m currently writing the sequel to SLUR and am at the first draft stage so I might edit some of these excerpts at a later date. We’ve now moved on five years to 1991. During the 1990s Manchester was infamously nicknamed ‘Gunchester’ by the local and national press due to the upsurge in violent gun crime by drugs gangs in certain areas of the city.
In SLUR I hinted at the fact that Rita (one of my main characters) had a father who was a petty crook and a sister who hung around with some dodgy characters. I’ve therefore decided to explore her story further and make her the main character in the sequel.
Rita returns from Greece for reasons that I don’t fully disclose until later in the book. When she arrives at her parents’ home she finds out that her sister is going out with the local gangster. She senses danger straightaway but her parents refuse to take her seriously for their own dubious reasons. Despite the lack of support from her parents Rita sets out to lure her sister away from her boyfriend. This proves more difficult than she anticipates and many lives are put at risk due to the boyfriend’s shady dealings.
Here is the first paragraph of each of the first three chapters:
Rita couldn’t wait to get to her parents’ house, unaware of what to expect when she arrived. It had been so long since she’d been home from Greece and she had missed everyone, despite their shortcomings. She rushed to the front door while Yansis struggled behind with their overstuffed suitcases.
The scene at her best friend Julie’s house was in complete contrast to the one Rita and Yansis had left behind half an hour earlier. Before they even got inside Julie’s home, the differences were apparent. Rita’s parents lived in Longsight, a deprived area of the city that Rita had been glad to leave behind when she had gone to live in Greece five years ago. The estate where her parents’ home was situated was particularly run-down. During the years that Rita had lived there she had grown accustomed to the abundance of litter, overgrown gardens, graffiti ridden walls and areas of worn grass used as dumping grounds for old furniture. The latter doubled up as play areas for small children who used the bug infested mattresses and sofas as trampolines.
Leroy was at the wheel of his black BMW driving along the busy Cheetham Hill Road on his way to a meeting with his suppliers. He cruised through this vibrant multi-cultural area where new architecture mixed with old, and industrial units, furniture stores and car showrooms stood alongside churches, mosques and synagogues. He’d left early with the intention of collecting some other goods before his meeting.
I’m looking forward to seeing everybody else’s blog posts and finding out more about their WIPs.