Back at the start of 1986, a decade after moving to America, I ended up in Seattle. Once I had the chance to find my feet, the city felt like home. For those who don’t know it, it’s a place that lives up to the hype in its beauty, scenery and people. I was happy there. But there was that lingering feeling of being a man without a country, not quite American, not quite English.
Four months ago I finally came back to Leeds. It only took 37 years for me to find my way home. And home is a real, deep feeling. I do feel like someone who’s found his true place in the world. Considering that most of my novels have been set here, it’s taken me a while to realise that this is where I belong. I feel this city deep in my bones, the way I can feel no other. I understand it, and in an odd way I feel that it understands me.
I’ve been writing about Leeds quite a bit lately. Not just the monthly history blog (which has now migrated to the Leeds Big Bookend website), but my books. August sees the publication of Gods of Gold, the first in a new series set in the Leeds of 1890. I’ve completed another one set in Leeds, Dark Briggate Blues, a surprisingly noir novel – well, that aspect surprised me, anyway – in 1954 Leeds, and I’m at work on the second Victorian novel.
This is the place that moves me, that makes my heart beat a little fast.
And yet. And yet…I can’t fully say goodbye to Seattle. It’s a place with plenty of memories, the home of my son, and where I made many friends. I’m not ready to see it sail away just yet. My way of dealing with all that, to try and make sense of the past, is to write about it. Out of that comes West Seattle Blues. It’s the second of my Seattle books, and this one takes place in March and early April of 1994. For anyone who knows music and Seattle, that’s a time to ring big bells. A time when the course of history altered a little. Here’s the cover.
But it’s going to be Leeds that fills my time for a while yet. Not just living in the here and now, but also with my head in 1890/91.
And I teased with that talk about a quote, didn’t I? It’s one that’s made my month, probably my year. I had one a year ago from Candace Robb, one of the great historical crime novelists (and someone who’s become a treasured friend), whose work influenced the way I’ve looked at mine. My publishers used it on promotional material and it really helped. For Gods of Gold I plucked up my courage and approached the wonderful writer Joanne Harris, who’s read the Richard Nottingham books, to ask if she’d be willing to read this new one and, if she liked it, to write a few words about it. Well, she was willing, more than gracious and once she’d finished it, this is what she replied:
“Gods of Gold creates a vibrant sense of living history and of place, with strong, well-drawn characters and dialogue that’s just made for film, as well as a damn good story.”
Happy? I was over the moon. I still bloody am. As was my publisher. Thank you, Joanne. That, very proudly is going on the book cover.
And I wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day.