Looking Ahead For Tom And Annabelle Harper?

It’s ironic, really. I always swore I’d never write a crime novel set in Victorian times. There era was overdone, with Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins – even Dickens – and all who’ve followed in their footsteps. And now I have six of them out there, plus a seventh just completed.

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It still makes me shake my head. Especially the reviews that have come in so far for The Tin God. I’ve created something that people seem to love…

Actually, it all began with a painting by Atkinson Grimshaw, the Leeds artist. A woman standing by the canal, holding a bundle. The water is almost empty because of a strike, the smoky skyline of Leeds tries to peer through behind her. She’s alone, just staring.

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She was Annabelle. That’s how she came into my life. It simply grew from there. A short story at first. Then, after reading about the Leeds Gas Strike of 1890, a novel. An event where the strikers won in three days, even as the Council Gas Committee imported strikebreakers? I had to commemorate that.

So Annabelle came back. She told me all about it and introduced me to her husband, Detective Inspector Tom Harper and his assistant, Sergeant Billy Reed. Out of that arrived Gods of Gold.

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The books are unashamedly political. No apologies for that. But they’re also crime novels, the two intertwined in a heart around Leeds. The newest, The Tin God, is the most political of all, and one where Annabelle finally takes centre stage.

In fact, she doesn’t, although the plot revolves around her bid (along with six other women) to be elected as a Poor Law Guardian in 1897. Trying to stop the man who doesn’t want women in politics is the core. But the heart, the linchpin, is Annabelle trying to win in the Sheepscar Ward.

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The Tin God was a book that seemed to write itself. I was simply the conduit. And over the last few years, Annabelle (in particular) and Tom have become every bit as real to me as friends I meet. I know them, and they know me. They’re family, in a way.

I’d like to say that I have plans for them, but the truth is, they have plans for me. To tell their story to the end of the Great War. Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen. But I’d like to do it. Although the books themselves aren’t planned out, I know what happens in their lives, and in their daughter Mary’s, too.

The book I’ve just finished writing will actually be my last Victorian (assuming my publisher likes it, of course). No, I’m giving nothing away about it, except it’s set in 1899. If another follows, that will be after 1901, and we’ll be into the Edwardian and George V eras. There’s plenty of Leeds material – the 1908 Suffragette ‘riot,’ the start of the war, news from the Somme in 1916, the Leeds Convention of 1917, and finally, finally, the Armistice a year later.

That will prove interesting. I’d certainly never imagined writing an Edwardian crime novel. Or even given a second through to George V. But I have a strong impression that Annabelle and Tom will guide me through it all.

In the meantime, I’d be very grateful if you read The Tin God. And the other books in the series.

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2 thoughts on “Looking Ahead For Tom And Annabelle Harper?

  1. Brilliant Chris, I love reading your articles, your right theirs that much material on Leeds. I’ve unearthed many stories, surprising, by reading your article my research to Bram Stoker also connects Grimshaw, Dickens, Doyle, Hall Caine, to Leeds and Bram Stoker. By reading your articles, you’ve inspired me to dig even deeper into the History of Leeds, and I’ve uncovered some fascinating stories and items, and many I believe have been missed. I uncovered a newspaper clipping 3 years ago on the floor in a locked room in the Grand Theatre, that hadn’t been opened for over 60 years, I researched the man on the photo, his story was unbelievable, it took me to many parts of the world and the Somme, a remarkable man. I’ve compiled a stack of paperwork relating to this man and his achievements, his links to many well known people, including A.A Milne, Royalty and many more, he was an orphan from the workhouse and relished life. Ive been documenting for the last 2 years, and trying to write his story, that I feel needs to be finished this year, with it been 2018, 100 years since WW1, any advice or guidance especially from you Chris would be appreciated.

  2. Lee, you’re doing some incredible work, you’ve uncovered rare things that weren’t known. I don’t know what I can really do to help – you’re the one who knows the topic better than anyone else right now. Happy to advise on the writing, but really, this is your baby and you’re the one who deserves the credit for all you’ve put in – and to see it through until it’s finished.

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