The Working Girls – Cover Reveal

If you’ve been checking out the announcements from my publishers, Aria at Head of Zeus, this week you will have noticed that they have revealed the covers for the first three books in my Working Girls series. Just in case you missed them, I’m thrilled to be able to reveal them here on my blog. I’m really pleased with them and also love the taglines that my publishers have added. All three books are now available for pre-order. Here are full details including links and I have added the tag lines for each book.

The Mark – ‘When everyone is on the make, it’s hard to tell who’s fooling who…’

Publication date 13th June 2019.

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07MVJV3Q4

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MVJV3Q4

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2BKxbBw

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2NiphE4

 

Ruby –  ‘Being a madam comes with responsibilities, can she keep her girls safe…’

Publication date: 5th December 2019

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07MVJ9FMB

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MVJ9FMB

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2Sgd6sg

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2T65ahm

 

Crystal – ‘Blackmail is a high stakes game, but who is going to be the winner…’

Publication date: 1st June 2020

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07N8GDS5V

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N8GDS5V

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2GSlhZp

I hope you like the covers as much as I do and that you will enjoy reading the books as much as I am enjoying writing them.

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Strangeways Prison

Strangeways prison, now known as HMP Manchester, is one of the places featured in my forthcoming novel, Danger by Association. It is a high-security category A prison.

In my latest novel, a rather unsavoury character called Maurice leaves the prison after serving a five year sentence. Maurice is then released back into a society, which isn’t very accepting of people like him.

For this article I thought I would give some background to the prison, which dates back to the nineteenth century and is a rather imposing building.

Strangeways 2

The building itself is Grade II listed, and its construction was completed in 1869. The original design was for the prison to house 1,000 inmates. It has walls which are 16 feet thick and were designed to be impenetrable. The ventilation tower, shown in the background of the picture, is a well-known landmark, which is often mistaken for a watchtower.

The design of the prison is based on a panopticon. This is a type of building designed by Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher, in the 18th Century. A panopticon building is in the shape of a star. It has an inspection house or watchtower at its centre with wings branching off from the central area. The idea of this concept was for inmates to be observed without them always being aware of the fact that they are being watched.

Strangeways has ten wings, which branch out from two blocks. The diagram below shows the largest of the two blocks, which houses six wings.

Strangeways Aerial View

Strangeways housed both male and female prisoners until 1963, but it is now a male only prison. It currently holds over 1200 hundred prisoners, and began taking remand prisoners in 1980. The name ‘Strangeways’ originates from the Anglo-Saxon word Strang gewoesc, which means, ‘a place by a stream with a strong current’.

Until 1964, executions were carried out at Strangeways. It had an execution room and a cell for the condemned prisoner as well as a permanent gallows. Between 1869 and 1964, 100 people were executed at Strangeways including the hanging of James Inglis. This was recorded as the world’s quickest hanging, and took just seven seconds.

The Strangeways Prison Riot – 1990

Prisoner protests about the conditions within the prison led to the riots of 1990. At that time, over 1600 prisoners were being held in a prison designed to house 1000 prisoners. The riot began in the prison chapel, but soon spread to other areas of the prison.

The riot lasted 25 days and prisoners were famously captured staging a rooftop protest. During the riot one prisoner was killed, and one prison officer died of a heart attack. Injuries were sustained by 147 prison officers and 47 prisoners. The total cost of repairing the damage to the prison was £90 million. Prisoners across the country responded by carrying out further disturbances in a number of other prisons.

Following the riots, the Government held a public enquiry. The outcome was for a major reform of the prison system. Strangeways was closed while substantial repairs and modernization took place. It re-opened in 1994 when it was renamed, HMP, Manchester. It now houses over 1200 male prisoners.

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What is a Sink Estate?

The two housing estates, which form the main settings for my Riverhill Trilogy, are what are often described as sink estates. These are the Riverhill Estate and the Buckthorn Estate. In the lead up to the release of the third book in the trilogy, ‘Danger by Association’, I thought I would give some background relating to sink estates and describe how they earned the label.

Sink

The name sink estate is usually given to British council housing estates in deprived, urban areas. This type of estate often has high levels of crime although this isn’t necessarily a characteristic of such estates.

There are various theories as to how the name sink estates originated, and it is believed that it was probably a label given by the media. It came into use in the 1980s although this type of estate existed before then. Tony Blair famously used the term sink estates in a 1998 speech when he referred to ‘so-called sink estates’.

One of the theories is that the tag relates to the term, ‘behavioural sink’, which was used by ethologist John B Calhoun to describe the breakdown in behaviour resulting from overcrowding. He used rats and mice to conduct experiments on overcrowding and published a report in the Scientific American weekly newspaper in 1962 based on his findings.

Estate

There is a belief that sink estates were created by the right to buy scheme that existed under Margaret’s Thatcher’s conservative government of the 1980s and 1990s. Residents on the more popular council estates were most likely to take advantage of the scheme, and also most likely to qualify for mortgages.

On the other hand, in areas with high levels of unemployment and high crime rates, residents were unlikely or unable to purchase their council properties. At that time, there were cutbacks on council spending for housing improvements. Therefore, the less popular areas became increasingly run-down, and their residents became more isolated from the rest of society.

On the worst estates, crime is a way of life. It happens openly and residents are often frightened of reporting it to the police because of reprisals. Many also turn to crime to boost their income as a result of a lack of employment opportunities.

The word ‘sink’ itself also has various other negative connotations:Down

  • Sink or swim
  • To descend or plunge as in sinking to lower depths
  • To decline in value
  • To submerge or go under
  • To deteriorate in health

It is often difficult for residents of these estates to break away as behaviour patterns pass from generation to generation. Moreover, residents may have difficulty finding work because of employer pre-conceptions relating to certain areas.

I am making good progress with ‘Danger by Association’ and should be on schedule for a June launch. More news will follow.

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Mind your Language

On a couple of occasions when I have been looking at books on either Amazon or Goodreads, I have noticed bad reviews based on the fact that the books contained a lot of swearing. One of the  Star-12920-medium reviews was for a book that had received predominantly good reviews, and this particular one star review was based solely on the fact that the book contained bad language. There was no mention of the rest of the content.

As an author, it irks me when people leave a one or two star review based solely on the bad language in the book, which, let’s face it, probably makes up no more than 5% of the content. What about the rest of the book? Does it not matter that the author has toiled for months, or even years, to produce that book? And if the book is otherwise excellent, is that overlooked in that puritanical reader’s quest to banish all bad language from books?

The type of approach described above causes me a little concern because my own books contain more bad language than most. Although I haven’t yet had a bad review because of the swearing in my books, I expect that it is likely to happen sooner or later. The use of bad language in my books isn’t because I am being gratuitous in an attempt to shock readers. It is simply because I want my books to be authentic and to reflect the way the characters would have spoken.

SwearingEven if books are fictional, they are often a reflection of real life, and in real life people swear. Anyone who thinks they can eliminate the use of those words from the English language is on a pointless mission. Swearing is used as a form of expression, to convey anger or humour, or perhaps because the character being described in a novel would typically speak that way. This can reveal a lot about the character’s personality or environment. In fact, in my forthcoming novel, the bad language (and violence) are a fundamental part of who my characters are and, to remove it, would be taking something away from the characters.

So, what can authors do about these negative reviews from people offended by bad language?

I have included an introduction in each of my novels explaining why I have chosen to include swear words and slang, and apologising to those readersNo-Entry-12083-medium who may be offended. I did toy with the idea of putting a warning on the Amazon description page, but would this be taking it too far? After all, the books are crime thrillers, targeted at the over 18s, and the book blurbs give a good indication as to the content, with words such as ‘murder’, ‘killer’, ‘spliff smoking’, ‘thug’ and ‘shady dealing’. Surely, the readers of such books would expect some bad language as well as violence?

I would love to know your thoughts regarding this. Is it a good idea to put a warning on the product page, or not? Do you find the use of bad language in books offensive or off-putting? Do you agree with people giving bad reviews because of the swearing in a book?

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