It’s four weeks until the publication of Dark Briggate Blues, set in Leeds in 1954 and featuring enquiry agent Dan Markham. It’s 50s English provincial noir, Northern noir if you like, and very full of Leeds at the time, including the jazz club Studio 20, which was downstairs at 20, New Briggate (where Sela Bar now stands).
It is, I hope, a very dark book. That was my intention. And to whet your appetite, here’s another little extract. You can pre-order it here. And it’s in paperback, people, paperback!
Although it’s not out until the New Year, I would like to point out that I have several other Leeds books out there – the Richard Nottingham series and the first in my new Tom Harper Victorian series, God of Gold. They (ahem) make wonderful Christmas presents, whether in hard copy or ebook. Thank you, and back to your regularly scheduled broadcast.
The ‘phone rang before he had a chance to sit down, the bell ringing loud and urgent.
He answered with the number and heard the clunk of coins dropping in a telephone box.
‘Mr Markham?’ a man’s voice said.
‘I understand that you’re missing something.’ The hairs on the back of his neck prickled and he drew in a breath without thinking. The Webley stolen from his desk. ‘Well, Mr Markham? Do you know what I mean?’
‘I do,’ he answered quietly. ‘Who are you?’
‘Tell me,’ said the caller, ignoring the question, ‘would you like the return of the … item? Or perhaps I should see it ends up in official hands?’
He didn’t know the voice. Not local. From the South. Long vowels.
‘What do you want?’
‘Many things, Mr Markham.’ The man sounded amused, in control and taking his time. ‘But for the moment I’ll settle for your attention.’
‘You have it,’ he said.
‘Do you know the Adelphi?’
‘Yes.’ It was a grubby old Victorian pub at the top of Hunslet Lane, just over the river.
‘Be in there at, oh, let’s say one o’clock. I’ll tell you more then.’
‘How will I know you?’
The voice turned to a chuckle.
‘You won’t need to, Mr Markham. After all, I know you.’
The line went dead. Markham replaced the receiver and looked at the clock. A little after noon. Soon enough he’d know exactly who was so keen to set him up. Someone had known he was back in the office. Why, he wondered? What the hell was going on?
In the service, as part of his military intelligence training, they’d taught him how to shadow someone and how to throw off a tail. Everything hammered into him in drill after drill. He’d never been as good as some of the others. His friend, Ged Jones, seemed able to disappear in a crowd. But Markham could get by. He walked out purposefully, taking a quick note of the faces on the street as he crossed Briggate, slipped through County Arcade and Cross Arcade, then along Fish Street, ending up staring at the reflections in a window on Kirkgate to see who was behind him.
The man was an amateur. By the time he came out into Kirkgate he was almost running, staring around nervously until he spotted Markham. Older, NHS specs, his overcoat buttoned up and belted with a scarf at the neck and a hat was pulled down on a ruddy, jowly face. It was no one he recognised, no one he could remember ever seeing. But the face was imprinted on his memory now.
He set off again, ambling back to Briggate and stopping often, then down to the bridge over the river Aire. The buildings were old, decayed and black from a hundred or more years of dirt that had built up layer on layer.
The Adelphi probably hadn’t changed since the turn of the century. An old gas lamp still hung over the front door. Inside, the pub was dark wood, dull brass and bevelled etched glass, all neglected and in need of a thorough cleaning. At the bar he ordered an orange squash.
A table and two chairs sat in the middle of the snug. This room was different; freshly scrubbed, the hearth black-leaded, tiles gleaming and windows shining.
‘Have a seat, Mr Markham,’ the man by the window said. The voice on the telephone. He checked his wristwatch. ‘You’re right on time.’ He smiled. ‘Punctuality is a good sign.’
‘An organised man.’ He was probably in his late forties but well-kept, broadly built, neat dark hair shot through with grey. His nose had been broken in the past and there were small scars across his knuckles. But he didn’t have the look of a bruiser. His eyes shone with intelligence. The dark suit was costly, a subdued pinstripe, cut smartly enough to hide the start of a belly. The tie was real silk. He sat and gestured at the chair opposite. ‘We have things to talk about.’