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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‘Slur’ Free Promotion

To celebrate the launch of my concluding novel in the Riverhill Trilogy, ‘Danger by Association’, on 24th June, I will be holding a limited period free offer of ‘Slur’ – book 1.

‘Slur’ will be FREE to download to the Amazon Kindle from Friday 17th June until Sunday 19th June only. You can grab your copy by following the link: Slur Free Promo.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00022]

If you haven’t already read ‘Slur’, here is the book blurb to tempt you:

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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The latest book in the trilogy, ‘Danger by Association’ is already available for pre-order, and you can grab your copy here.

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Announcing my Latest Novel – Danger by Association

I can now announce that my latest novel ‘Danger by Association’, book 3 in the Riverhill Trilogy, is available for pre-order on the Amazon Kindle. Here are the links:

UK: http:/www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01FE2A2BU.

US: http:/www.amazon.com/dp/B01FE2A2BU.

I am also thrilled to reveal the cover for ‘Danger by Association’. It is the work of talented book cover designer, Chris Howard, and I think it is his best one yet.

The image captures the exact mood I was looking for, and features our feisty heroine, Rita, complete with fiery red hair to match her temperament. Also, the colouring conveys the theme of danger, even in a thumbnail size. When you view the book cover in full size, you can see that bullets form a lot of the background image.

If you are interested in Chris’s work, he can be contacted at: blondesign@gmail.com.

Here is the cover image with the book blurb below:

Danger

Book Blurb

Rita has been avoiding Manchester; it brings back too many bad memories. She still has harrowing flashbacks of ruthless gangster, Leroy, and the death of a loved one. It takes the wedding of her brother, John, to persuade her to return. She agrees, on the condition that she steers clear of the Riverhill estate and Leroy’s family.

When her son, Daniel, is placed in danger, Rita is lured back to the Riverhill where she confronts those she believes responsible. She receives support from an unlikely source who promises information subject to terms. Realising that she needs help to act on that information, Rita turns to her brother, John.

But John works for the law. And he will have to go against everything he believes in if he agrees to embark on a maverick mission to help save his sister’s son.

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‘Danger by Association’ is scheduled for publication on 24th June. I will be making further announcements regarding promotions and other activities via this blog as we draw nearer to publication date.

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John Rylands Library

John Rylands Library

John Rylands Library

In the last of my posts about historic libraries of Manchester, we will take a look at the John Rylands library, a neo-Gothic building situated on Deansgate in the city centre. The John Rylands library is now part of the University of Manchester, but it is open to visitors. It houses one of the most unique collections in the world, consisting of 1.4 million items collected from numerous countries, and covering a period of over 5000 years. The items include more than 250,000 printed books.

Although the building is a little dark and formidable in appearance, I personally think that the beauty of many Gothic buildings lies in the detail rather than the overall impression. It also has a much more attractive interior.

John Rylands Front Entrance

John Rylands Front Entrance

John Ryland Exhibition Gallery

John Ryland Exhibition Gallery

History

The library opened on 1st January 1900. It took ten years to build and was founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her late husband, John Rylands. She commissioned architect Basil Champneys to design the building in 1889 after being inspired by his design of Mansfield College in Oxford.

Enriqueta Rylands purchased Lord Spencer’s Althorp Library of 43,000 items in 1892, which was then regarded as one of the finest private collections in the world, with 3,000 of the items dating from before 1501. This collection made up the original stock for the John Rylands library at a purchase price of £210,000.

Since then further collections have been added to the library’s stock including:

  • The addition of Richard Copley Christie’s library of 8,000 volumes in 1901, which includes many rare books from the Renaissance period N.B. This was originally acquired by the University of Manchester, but was transferred to the John Rylands library following the merger with the university in 1972.
  • The purchase in 1901 of 6,000 manuscripts formerly owned by James Linsay, 26th Earl of Crawford, which was one of the rarest collections in Britain at that time
  • 5,000 items bequeathed by Walter Llewellyn Bullock in the 1930s, which are early Italian imprints

The library has Grade 1 listed status. It merged with the University of Manchester in 1972 and now houses special collections from both the John Rylands library and the university.

John Rylands Stained Glass Window

John Rylands Stained Glass Window

John Rylands

John Rylands was an industrialist who rose from humble beginnings to become Manchester’s first multi-millionaire. Together with his father and two brothers, he founded a textile company during the Victorian era. The company produced cotton goods and, at its peak, it owned 17 mills and factories, and employed 15,000 people.

Originally from St Helens, John Rylands moved to Manchester in 1834. By 1855 he had moved out of the city centre and into the suburbs. He bought Longford Hall in Stretford where he kept a library of books, which were mainly religious. On his death in 1888 he left over £2.5 million.

The Collection

John Rylands Rare Collection

John Rylands Rare Collection

John Rylands library now has a collection of over 250,000 books and well over a million items in total. These consist of an amalgamation of items from the John Rylands library and the University of Manchester’s rare collections. It is regarded as one of the finest collections of books, manuscripts and archive items in the world.

The collections span more than 5000 years, cover more than 50 languages and include a vast range of subjects. There are hundreds of archives from businesses, landed families, charities, trade unions and business associations. Papers from well-known scientists and academics are also housed here.

Other items worthy of mention are the medieval illuminated manuscripts, early printing including books printed by William Caxton and a fine paper copy of the Gutenberg bible, and the personal papers of historical figures such as Elizabeth Gaskell, John Wesley and John Dalton.

Present Day

John Rylands Extension

John Rylands Extension

The building was refurbished between 2003 and 2007 at a cost of over £17 million. This was funded by a grant of 8.5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £3 million from the European Regional Development Fund together with other funding. This funding provided enhanced facilities for both visitors and readers. The new facilities include exhibition galleries on the ground floor and a Special Materials Reading Room. The funding also financed conservation work to the building. Personally, I’m not too keen on the modern addition to the building but I suppose it’s all a matter of taste.

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The Portico Library

The Portico Library

The Portico Library is situated on the corner of Mosley Street and Charlotte Street in Manchester, and shares the building with a pub called the Bank. The pub was named after the Bank of Athens, which previously leased the building. Visitors can’t fail to spot the impressive Mosley Street entrance, which has a grand façade in the Greek revival style with four stone pillars.

Although the Mosley Street entrance looks rather impressive, this is, in fact, the pub entrance. The library entrance is round the corner at Charlotte Street, and appears more modest. I haven’t been inside the library but, from what I have read, I think it would be worth exploring.

Unlike the other libraries that I have featured in this series of blog posts, the Portico Library is a private members’ library. However, it also hosts events and exhibitions that are open to the general public, and certain areas of the library are available for venue hire. The gallery area and cafe are open to non-members as well, and are situated beneath a stunning Georgian glass and plaster dome.

Membership

Portico Entrance

The Portico Entrance

For an annual fee, members have exclusive access to the Reading Room, Reading Corner and Cobden area. They can borrow books from the library’s collection, which mainly dates back to the 19th century. The collection focuses on the Georgian and Victorian era of Manchester during a time of great affluence in the city. It includes first editions by a number of authors including Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell and Wilkie Collins.

Membership fees start at £58 per annum for young members up to £184 per annum for a town membership. There is also a lifetime membership option, and a one off administration fee of £30 has to be paid by each member.

History

The library is housed in a grade ll listed building, which was constructed between 1802 and 1806. It was designed by Thomas Harrison, the architect who also designed the Lyceum in Liverpool. The Portico is a Greek revival building with four Ionic Rogets Thesauruscolumns, and it was built from sandstone ashlar.

An interesting fact is that the first secretary of the library was Peter Mark Roget who began work on his thesaurus during his time there. And there you have it: Roget’s Thesaurus. (No wonder our schoolteachers used to harp on about it being the best thesaurus you could buy. They were displaying their loyalty to Manchester, of course.) Their teachings have stuck – here’s my battered old copy.

The Bank Entrance

The Bank Entrance

Events

The library hosts a range of events and exhibitions, which are available to the general public as well as to members. Events are usually charged but entrance to art exhibitions is free. Members generally pay a reduced rate to attend events. Typical events include readings, talks, special interest evenings (often with a literary theme) and the hosting of literary competitions. Specific areas of the library can also be hired for private functions.

The Portico Prize

The Portico Library hosts three competitions: The Portico Prize for Literature, The Portico Poetry Prize and the Young Readers and Writers. The competitions take place on alternate years, and are intended to celebrate writers and poets from the north of England.

Described as the North’s leading literary award, the Portico Prize for Literature is backed by Arts Council England and The Zochonis Charitable Trust. It offers a £10,000 first prize, and Val McDermid is a former winner.

This is a fabulous opportunity for writers, and I’ve promised myself that I will enter the competition in the future as well as attending some of the events hosted by the library.

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Fancy Getting Married in a Library?

It’s a book lover’s dream, but hopefully one that is shared by your other half. Even if you’re not both book lovers, Manchester Central Library is still a stunning venue in which to hold a wedding. An extreme enthusiasm for books and libraries will help though when it comes to footing the bill.

 Library left

The package costs £15,000 for 50 daytime guests and 50 evening guests, with an additional cost of £125 per daytime guest and £30 per evening guest. The maximum number of guests that can be accommodated is 80 in the daytime and 120 in the evening.

You do get a lot for your money though including exclusive use of the library on a Sunday, five course wedding breakfast, evening reception and a champagne toast. You also get access to the Wolfson Reading Room and other heritage spaces. Judging by the photographs in the brochure I think some of these areas are private rooms that aren’t usually available to the public. There are also lots of other touches, but rather than sounding like an advertising brochure, I’ll just give you the link so you can download the very impressive pdf: Central Library Wedding Brochure.

 

Manchester Central Library

As the name suggests, it is the headquarters of Manchester libraries. Although it doesn’t have the same historic significance of some of Manchester’s older libraries, nevertheless it is a grade II listed building, which was constructed between 1930 and 1934. The design itself is eye-catching and was loosely based on the Pantheon in Rome.

The library was closed from 2000 until March 2014 while extensive renovations took place at a cost of £40 million. As part of the renovations the Library Theatre Company moved out of the library basement and into its new premises at HOME, a centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film at First Street, Manchester. This was following a merger with the Cornerhouse, a centre for cinema and the contemporary visual arts.

 

Manchester Central Library is the second largest public lending library in Britain. It has a host of facilities as well as dramatic design features. Personally, I prefer the original architecture and am not so keen on the glass paneling that has been added following the recent renovation, but I guess I’m an old fashioned (old) girl at heart.

Just some of the facilities include:

  • Free use of computers for up to one hour.
  • Free Wi-Fi connection.
  • A media lounge with creative software and gaming stations.
  • Services for the visually impaired including assisted technology and software.
  • A business centre giving advice to help you start or run your own business.
  • Rare books and special collections.
  • The Henry Watson Music Library where you can play or record your own music.
  • The Ahmad Iqbal Ullah Race Relations library, which specialises in the study of race, ethnicity and migration.
  • A café.

Oh, and did I mention that you can borrow books, DVDs and audio too?

 

In terms of the architecture, the interior is as striking as the exterior. It was difficult to capture the internal dome by camera but each of these marble pillars is about 1.5 to two feet in diameter. The inscription around the inside of the dome is from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament and reads:

‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honour when thou dost embrace her, she shall give of thine head an ornament of grace, a crown of glory she shall deliver to thee.’ Proverbs 4:7

Shakespeare Hall has stained glass windows including one of Shakespeare and scenes from his plays. The ceiling shows the arms and crests of the Duchy of Lancaster, the See of York, the See of Manchester, the City of Manchester, and Lancashire County Council. As you move out of Shakespeare Hall and up the stairs to the first floor you pass a lovely statue made from white marble, which was presented to the library by the family of the late industrialist and promoter of the Manchester Ship Canal, Daniel Adamson. It is called ‘The Reading Girl’ and is by the Italian sculptor Giovanni Ciniselli.

Manchester Central Library is not the only library that can be hired as a wedding venue. It seems that it has now become a popular trend, and a quick search of Google shows that the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Manchester’s historic Portico Library, The Signet Library in Edinburgh and various other libraries in the UK can be hired. In fact, hitched.co.uk published an article about library wedding venues, which you can read here. It strikes me as a good idea if you’ve got the cash to spare because some of these buildings provide a stunning setting.

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The Positive Side of Manchester

People who read my books might get the impression that I don’t like Manchester much, as I always write about the shady side of life. I tend to focus on that aspect of Manchester because I write Manchester based crime thrillers. Really, though, it’s no reflection on how I feel about Manchester. Sadly, every city has its share of crime. However, Manchester also has a heck of a lot going for it and I’m extremely proud to be Mancunian. So, I thought I would dedicate this blog post to things about the city that are worth celebrating.

Sports

As well as having two famous football teams, Manchester City and Manchester United, Manchester also has many other sporting facilities. These were vastly improved following the hosting of theNat Football Museum Commonwealth Games in 2002 and include:

Manchester Aquatics Centre – one of the biggest swimming centres in the UK and the only one with two indoor 50 metre pools.

The City of Manchester Institute of Gymnastics – run by qualified gymnastics coaches who train gymnasts up to Olympic standard.

National Squash Centre – seats 1,200 spectators and hosts tournaments at national and international level.

A J Bell Stadium – Home to the Sale Sharks, one of the UK’s top rugby union teams.

Chill Factore – an indoor ski centre with the longest indoor skiing and snowboarding slope in the UK.

National Cycling Centre (The Velodrome) – The first indoor Olympic cycling track in Britain, which houses the headquarters of Britain’s governing body for cycling. The track’s regular users include Sir Chris Hoy and Laura Trott.

Arts and Culture

Manchester has a good selection of art galleries, theatres and museums. Here’s a list of 10 art galleries that are well worth checking out: ten Manchester art galleries. There are also many smaller art galleries outside the city centre, and private art galleries in the Northern Quarter and elsewhere.

There are many museums in Manchester, some of them housed in historic buildings, and several of them themed, such as the Greater Manchester Police Museum, the Gallery of Costume, and the Manchester Jewish Museum. One of my favourites is the Museum of Science and Industry, which is a great day out for children because of its interactive exhibitions.

Theatres are abundant and tickets are a fraction of the price you would pay in London. You can expect to pay around £30 – £50 for a city centre performance of a well-known play or musical. However, I enjoy visiting local theatres in towns outside the city centre where you can watch lesser known plays written by local writers with tickets costing as little as £8.

Architecture

According to Wikipedia there are 236 Grade ll* listed buildings in Greater Manchester and 48 buildings are Grade l listed. Here are a couple of examples of the city’s architecture:

Manchester Cathedral

Manchester Cathedral is a grade I listed building, which has a rich history. It is built from locally sourced sandstone with floors made of limestone from the nearby Peak District. Although the cathedral has been redeveloped and added to over the years, there is evidence of an early Saxon church. The cathedral has a small carving of an angel with a scroll in one of its walls. It’s called the ‘Angel Stone’ and dates back to around 700 AD.

Sinclairs & Old Wellington

The Old Wellington Inn and Sinclair’s Oyster Bar are both Grade ll listed buildings. The Old Wellington Inn was built in 1552 and was the residence of the Byrom family from 1554. Writer John Byrom was born there in 1692.

Following the Manchester bomb in 1996, and the regeneration of the city, these two old pubs were dismantled and rebuilt on a site 300 metres away. They now form part of an area known as Shambles Square which is located near to the cathedral.

The modern buildings which I have shown in this article are located near to some more historic buildings. Yet the city is designed in such a way that the various periods of architecture sit comfortably alongside each other.

Music Scene

Take That, James, Oasis, Simply Red, Stone Roses, The Smiths, The Happy Mondays, New Order, Inspiral Carpets and Joy Division are just some of the big name bands to have come from Manchester. Although the days of Madchester and the Hacienda are now over, Manchester still has a vibrant music scene. As well as big venues such as the Manchester Arena and The Apollo, which host international artists, Manchester also has many smaller venues where local, unsigned bands play.

Nightlife

In some ways it’s a pity that my partying days were in the 80s because Manchester is so much busier than it used to be, and there’s something for everyone. Whether you want pubs full of old world charm, trendy nightclubs, bars that cater to office workers wanting to unwind at the end of the day or bargain priced cocktails for students, Manchester has it all. You can go out in Manchester on any night of the week and it will always be busy, unlike the recession-hit early 80s when Fridays and Saturdays tended to be the only really busy nights of the week.

Then there’s the world famous Gay Village, a collection of gay bars and restaurants centred round the pedestrianised canal street. The Gay Village holds the annual Manchester Pride carnival as well as other annual events.

Gay Village

Dining

As with nightclubs, there’s a vast array of places to eat, and almost every type of cuisine you can think of. China town has been around for a long time as has ‘The Curry Mile’ but following the redevelopment of the city centre, there are more and more restaurants springing up all the time. There are also newer developments where several restaurants can be found concentrated into the one area such as The Printworks and Spinningfields.

ShoppingHarvey Nichols

Manchester is a great city for shopping. Apart from the Arndale Centre with over 200 indoor shops, there are several department stores: Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Debenhams, House of Fraser and Marks and Spencer. There are also smaller shopping areas including The Royal Exchange, Barton Arcade, the trendy Affleck’s Palace, and The Triangle. The latter contains mainly upmarket shops. The Arndale Centre is Europe’s third largest city centre shopping centre, and is the eighth biggest UK shopping centre in terms of floor space. However, just a few miles out of the city centre, we also have the Trafford Centre, the UK’s second largest shopping centre.

For independent, boutique stores you could try the Northern Quarter, also known as the creative quarter. As well as individual shops, the Northern Quarter is the location for the Manchester Craft & Design Centre and the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art.

Manchester Arndale

Media City

Just outside the city centre is Media City, a relatively recent development aimed at the creative and digital sectors. It is home to BBC North and ITV, and has one of the biggest HD studio complexes in Europe. It’s a thriving and expanding area of the city which includes offices, retail space, apartments and restaurants.

Transport Network

If you’ve grown up in Manchester you probably won’t realise the advantage that the city has over many other parts of the country. It has an excellent road and rail network, regular bus routes to most parts of the city and an ever-expanding tram network. It does suffer from some problems caused by increased traffic flow, which the additional tram lines are designed to alleviate. Manchester also has an international airport with three terminals.

Others

I’m sure there are many more things that I haven’t thought of and no doubt they’ll come to me after publication of this post. However, just to make sure I haven’t missed anyone’s favourites, here’s a fun article I found: 27 Excellent Things Manchester Gave the World.

In upcoming blog posts I’ll be looking at some of Manchester’s wonderful, historic libraries.

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Goodreads Giveaway

As promised, the Goodreads Giveaway for ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ starts today. The wonderful Chris Howard has come up with another stunning cover design, which looks even better in print, so it’s well worth getting your hands on a copy.

For a chance of winning one of three signed print copies, just follow the link below. You will be prompted to sign into Goodreads and then be taken straight to the Goodreads Giveaway area for ‘A Gangster’s Grip’. Simples!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Gangster's Grip by Heather Burnside

A Gangster’s Grip

by Heather Burnside

Giveaway ends October 29, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Wishing you the best of luck!

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

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

Chapter 1

Saturday 9th March 1991 – early afternoon

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

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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.

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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.

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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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