The Tale Of Rosebud Walk

Let me tell you a story…

…but it’s not about a person. It’s about a place.

A street called Rosebud Walk.

In Leeds. Of course.

A lovely, romantic name that conjures up country air and the scent of flowers. Quite bucolic.

Except for the fact that it stands on the edge of Sheepscar, running between Roseville Road and Dolly Lane Not long ago it was a short street of terraced houses, their brickwork covered with soot and smut. It’s little more than a good stone’s throw from the Victoria, the public house on Roundhay Road that Annabelle Harper runs in my Tom Harper novels; Rosebud Walk even gets a mention in one of them.

This is how the area looked in 1903. You can’t quite see the street, it’s off to the right.

This is the way it looks now. Not exactly pretty or rose-filled, is it? You at that low wall with the street sign? That’s the wall at the right-hand edge of the 1903 picture.

Yet it wasn’t always this way. Rosebud Walk has a history that reaches to the early part of the 19th century, and back then it earned its name.

We think of Sheepscar as part of the inner city, transformed from working-class housing into light industrial estate. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was countryside; hardly more than a few houses and farms. It had a bridge over the beck, carrying a turnpike road heading north towards Harrogate. A rapeseed oil mill and a ground redwood mill, along with the dye works, were the only businesses. The area, according to historian Ralph Thoresby, was “mostly inhabited by clothiers” – men who. wove wool into cloth and took it into Leeds to sell at the cloth market.

In 1810 another major road was constructed, branching off the turnpike just north of the bridge towards Wetherby – what we know today as Roundhay Road and the A58.

Nine years later, a cavalry barracks, locally known as Chapeltown Barracks, was erected over 11 acres to the east of the Harrogate turnpike and north of the Roundhay turnpike.

Curiously, this didn’t bring an immediate flux of businesses to Sheepscar. The trade directory for 1823 lists a pair of grocers, a seed crusher, a whitesmith, a painter, Holroyd’s dye works, and one cloth dresser. By 1828, a joiner was listed in Skinner Lane. They were the sole tradesmen listed in the area.

By 1834, there was a little more, but this was still very much well outside Leeds. A map from 1834 shows that the few buildings were clustered around the junction where the Roundhay turnpike, Sheepscar Lane, and Manor Street came together. But there was a new addition.

A little further up the turnpike you’ll notice a tea and pleasure garden across from the barracks, probably for the officers and their families. Owned by Mr B Beverley, it extended to Gipton Beck and beyond, stretching the track that would soon be called Dolly Lane.

This map from 1837 shows the extent of Beverly’s holdings. By this time they only seem to extend from Gipton Beck at the west to Dolly Lane in the east.

By 1839, the tea garden is listed on Roundhay Road, and run by Edward West.

Let’s move on to 1847. The tea garden has a name now – Rosebud Garden – and a house called Rosebud stands by to Gipton Beck. At this point the water would still be pure there, before it reached the piggery at the end of Manor Street and Holroyd’s Dye Works.

A path connects the garden to Roundhay Road and the barracks. Sadly, we have no information as to what the tea gardens were like. Very likely there was entertainment, musicians playing, possible more, but we’ll never know the details.

Rosebud Gardens still existed in 1866, and the house named Rosebud was still there. Even at that point, there was very little building in Sheepscar. It would have been green, the air reasonably clean, pretty much semi-rural.

Everything began to change soon after, in 1870. The streets began to rise up in Sheepscar. Housing for the growing numbers of the working classes, back-to-backs and through terraces. By 1890 Rosebud Gardens had gone. The top boundary was now Roseville Street, and the bottom had become Rosebud Walk, a line separating the backyards of Roseville Terrace from the land behind. That name would be the only way the place would live on.

By 1906 it was even more hemmed in, with the Keplers to the north, and then the Andersons as Harehills grew.

That was how it would stay for a few decades, until the demolition of Sheepscar. Roseville Terrace has been pulled down, although one side of Roseville Street remain.

And Rosebud Walk is there, a single lane through from Dolly Lane to Roseville Road. Not even a memory of the tea garden, or even of the houses that were once there. Only a name.

Rosebud.

It could almost be Orson Welles…

The Bold Escape Of The Suffragette

As you’ll almost certainly be aware by now, my new book called Brass Lives is published next week.

While one of the main characters is based on the real-life Leeds-born gangster Owen Madden, one small strand features another real person – suffragette Lilian Lenton. She was in Armley Gaol on Leeds, accused of arson in Doncaster. On hunger strike, she was released under the Cat and Mouse Act. The idea was she’d eat and gain weight, then be hauled back to prison.

However.., in the book, Special Branch is watching her. Let’s say it’s not a success. What I’ve described seemed to be what really happened.

Lilian Lenton

Friday morning, half-past eleven. Harper sat in the chief constable’s office, listening to Inspector Cartwright of Special Branch. Beside him, Sergeant Gough’s face was so red with anger that he looked as if he might explode.

            ‘None of my men had seen any sign of Miss Lenton, so I knocked on the door first thing this morning and asked to see her. I wanted to know if she was well enough to be returned to Armley Gaol.’ Cartwright spoke as if he was reciting from his notebook in court.

            ‘Go on,’ Parker said. He clamped down on the cigar in his mouth to hide his amusement.

            ‘The maid told me that she wasn’t there. My men searched the house from top to bottom and the information was correct. She was not there.’

            Parker studied the rising smoke. ‘Have you discovered what happened?’

            ‘She escaped, that’s what happened.’ Gough was close to shouting.

            Harper raised an eyebrow. ‘How?’

            ‘As best as we can ascertain, sir, she was in disguise,’ Cartwright continued, avoiding their eyes as he stared at the wall. ‘She arrived on the Tuesday. Late that afternoon a delivery van appeared on Westfield Terrace. It was driven by a young man. He had a boy with him. We observed the boy eating an apple and reading a copy of Comic Cuts. The driver called out “Groceries.” A servant opened the door and said, “All right, it’s here.” The boy took a basket into the house through the back door.’ He went silent for a moment, glaring at the sergeant. ‘Shortly after that, the delivery boy reappeared with an empty basket, returned to the van and it drove away.’

            ‘The delivery boy who came out was Lilian Lenton in disguise?’ Harper asked.

            ‘Yes,’ Cartwright said through clenched teeth. ‘That’s what we’ve managed to discover. I talked to the grocer. He told me everything as soon as I threatened him with prosecution. Miss Lenton was taken a mile away to—’ he consulted his notebook ‘—Moortown, where her friends had a taxi waiting to drive her to Harrogate. We’re pursuing our enquiries from there. At this point we have every reason to believe she’s fled the country.’

            ‘That’s very unfortunate,’ Parker said. ‘And it makes the Special Branch look pretty poor.’

            ‘Yes, sir, it does.’ Cartwright was staring daggers, but he had to sit and take it. His men had messed up. They’d allowed the woman to escape as they sat and watched. ‘You can help us, if you’d be so good.’ He looked as though they were the hardest words he’d ever had to speak.

            ‘What do you need?’ Harper asked.

            ‘If you could ask the force in Harrogate to talk to people they know and discover where she’s gone, that would be a great help. The sooner we can find out the better, of course.’

            ‘We will.’

            ‘Thank you, sir.’ The men stood.

            Before they could leave, the chief said: ‘A word to the wise, Inspector. I’d advise you not to prosecute the grocer. If this comes out in court, you’ll look an utter fool.’

Brass Lives is published June 24.

Three Weeks To Go

Yes, as June arrives and summer really seems to be here – 23C yesterday and the allotment is grateful! – the times is paxssing quickly. In just over three weeks, Brass Lives will be published in the UK (ebook everywhere on August 1, and US hardback publication in September, I believe).

It’s the first time I’ve used a real, well-known person as the foundation for a major character, and given his life the kind of turn it never had.

Who? A Leeds-born man who moved young to New York and become notorious as a gangster and bootlegger – and as a killer. Owen Madden. Here’s a short film I made about him in my other role as writer-in-residence at Abeey House Museum. He really is a fascinating person.

My version of him, Davey Mullen, is a little different.

Why not read it and find out? This place has the cheapest price, and free shipping (and they’re not Amazon).

An Excerpt From Brass Lives

It’s just four weeks until Brass Lives, the ninth Tom Harper novel, is published. Set in 1913, it features Davey Mullen, who was born in Leeds but moved to New York as a child. Now 21, he’s a gangster, a killer, recuperating from an ambush in Manhattan, where he was shot 11 times and left for dead.

Mullen – based on a real figure, Owen Madden – is supposedly back to visit his father, who remained in Leeds. The New York police have warned Leeds, and Tom, now Deputy Chief Constable, has uniforms tailing Mullen. But he’s still surprised when the man shows up at the Victoria one night…

He’d finished his supper and poured the last cup of tea from the pot when Dan the barman came up the stairs to the parlour.

‘I’m sorry to bother you, Tom, but there’s a man downstairs asking for you.’

            That was unusual; people rarely sought him out at home. ‘Not one of my lot, is it?’ he asked. Maybe they’d found Fess. No, couldn’t be, Harper thought; they’d have telephoned.

            ‘This one’s definitely not a copper.’ Dan frowned. ‘You ask me, he’s got the smell of crime about him. Young and big. Talks strange, too. Like he’s from Leeds but with something else on top that I don’t recognize.’

            Harper gave a grim smile. Mullen had decided to come to the Victoria.

            ‘Thanks, Dan. I’ll be down in a minute.’

            Annabelle was watching him. ‘You know who it is, don’t you?’

            ‘I can take a good guess. It’s that man I told you about, the one from New York. Mullen.’

            ‘The one who’s killed people.’

            ‘Yes.’

            ‘Here. In my pub.’ She glared and started to rise.

            ‘Give me a minute before you come down,’ he asked. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he doesn’t cause any trouble.’

            ‘He’d better not.’

            Mullen was sitting at a table with his back to the wall, a pint of beer in front of him. He had the handsome, dark Irish looks that he’d shown in his police photograph, wearing an expensive grey suit that fitted him flatteringly, with a soft collared shirt and a brilliant red silk tie fastened with a gold pin. Flaunting his money in his clothes.

            He sat with his legs crossed, shining black shoes catching the light, looking at faces and assessing their eyes for danger as Harper settled across from him.

            ‘You’re safe enough in here. From the customers, at least.’

            A dip of the head in acknowledgement.

            ‘This must be different from the places you’re used to at home,’ Harper said.

            Mullen grinned and showed his good, even teeth. ‘A bar’s a bar, doesn’t matter where you put it. Sláinte.’ He took a long drink of bitter. ‘I’ll tell you this, though: the Americans have a long way to go before they can brew beer like the English.’ He stared at the glass. ‘And Leeds is home, after a fashion.’

            ‘Some parts of it might be. But not this place. What brings you out here?’ Harper’s voice was sharper, his face hard.

            ‘A man told me that you lived above a public house. I was curious to take a look and see what kind of deputy chief constable would do that. Anyway, it’s only a short stroll from Somerset Street.  Perfect for a summer’s evening.’

            Harper saw the man’s gaze shift and his smile broaden.

            ‘This is the woman who owns the public house,’ he said.

            ‘Mrs Harper.’ Mullen stood. For the briefest moment, he looked awkward and self-conscious, as if he wasn’t quite sure how to act around a woman. ‘A pleasure to meet you. You have a very welcoming pub here.’

            She sat, never taking her eyes off him. ‘Are you enjoying your visit to England, Mr Mullen?’

            ‘I am, ma’am. I’m enjoying being back and seeing my father again.’ Dan was right, Harper thought; there was still a definite trace of Leeds in his voice, somewhere deep in the bedrock. But much of it had been overlaid by the nasal New York cockiness. ‘I got to say, it’s changed a lot in ten years.’

            ‘How is your father?’ Harper asked, as if he hadn’t seen a report on Francis Mullen just the day before. The man spent the better part of his time drunk. He’d been kicked out of two beershops for trying to start fights.

            ‘Happy to see me,’ Mullen replied after a moment.

            ‘I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s another American in Leeds at the moment. Someone called Louis Fess. He’s from New York, too. Maybe you know him.’

            He’d dropped the name drop to see Mullen’s reaction. It was a pleasure to watch the way his face shifted: anger first, then worry, and finally a snapped-on grin of bravado. All in the course of a second or two. Interesting; he hadn’t known that Fess was here.

            Mullen ran a hand down his jacket, smoothing the material. ‘No,’ he said, ‘it don’t mean anything.’

            Maybe that worked on the American police, but it wouldn’t fool any copper in Leeds. He knew exactly who Fess was, and he wasn’t pleased to hear the name. No surprise, since he was from a rival gang.

            ‘A suggestion,’ Harper said as the man drained the rest of his pint in a single swallow. ‘Actually, it’s more like an order. You’re going to take out that gun very carefully and leave it with me.’

            ‘Why?’ The man’s body stiffened, as if he was preparing for a fight.

            ‘First of all, you spent a lot of money on that suit and it’s ruining the cut. It’s also illegal under the 1903 Pistols Act. Do you have a licence for the weapon?’

            ‘I didn’t know I needed one.’

            It was a lie, it showed in his eyes. He wanted to be challenged.

            ‘If the barrel is shorter than nine inches, the law says that you do. Since you’re a visitor here, we’ll let that pass as long as you leave the weapon here.’

            For a moment, Mullen didn’t move and Harper could feel the tension grow around him. Then he reached into his pocket, brought out the gun with the barrel between his fingers and placed it on the table.

            ‘Satisfied?’

            ‘For now. Thank you.’

            The outside door opened and Mary entered, waving before she disappeared upstairs.

            ‘Is that your daughter? Mary, right?

            Annabelle turned her head to stare into his eyes. ‘I tell you what, luv, now it’s my turn to make a suggestion.’ Her voice was iron. ‘Only mine’s an order, too. You’re going to forget you ever knew her name, or that you saw her. And if you show your face in here again, I’ll bounce you out on to Roundhay Road by the seat of your fancy trousers before you can say Jack Robinson.’ She stalked away.

            Mullen glared but said nothing. Harper watched as the man stifled his anger. No one would dare talk to him like that in America; he’d tear them apart for the sport of it. But New York was half a world away. He was in Leeds now. The rules were different and he was powerless.

            ‘I think your wife has taken against me.’

            ‘Very perceptive, Mr Mullen. There are plenty of other places to drink in town. You’d do better in one of those. I’m sure you can find your way back to where you’re staying. The Metropole, isn’t it?’ He stood. ‘I’ll wish you goodnight.’

            The constable following Mullen was standing outside the Victoria, watching his quarry stride furiously away. Harper stood next to him. ‘Make sure you don’t let him out of your sight.’

Brass Lives is published in hardback in the UK on June 24 (7 September in the US). You can pre-order it here (cheapest price and free postage). Prefer ebooks? Here’s the Kindle link (available worldwide August 1)

If you’re on NetGalley and authorised for Severn house releases, you can find it here.

The Real Brass Lives

In Brass Lives, set in 1913 Tom Harper – promoted now to Deputy Chief Constable – finds himself face with Davey Mullen. He’d left Leeds when he was a boy to join his mother in New York. Over there he’d become a gangster, a killer. Ambushed by another gang in Manhattan, he was shot 11 times and left for dead.

They should have finished the job. Now it’s his would-be assassins who are in the morgue, while Mullen is back where he began, in Leeds. To visit his father, he claims. But death seems to have taken passage with him, and Harper needs to discover the truth and stop all the killing that threatens to take over Leeds.

Davey Mullen is based on Owen Madden. He was born on Somerset Street to parents of Irish descent. He did follow his mother to New York when he was 10, and he did jon a gang, the Gophers. He developed a reputation for violence and murder.

He really was shot 11 times outside a dancehall, and he survived.

Did he come back to Leeds under another name? Maybe he did…

It’s just a few weeks until Brass Lives is published. You can pre-order from all the usual places…but buying it from a real bookshop would be a lovely gesture. After being closed for so long, they need the business.

Lastly, if you’re new to the series – this is the ninth book – you can make an easy start, as the ebook of the first novel, Gods of Gols, is just 82p (99c) on all platforms. Here’s the Kindle link.

It’s Competition Time!

It’s April, and spring is supposedly here. Not that you can prove it by the weather in Leeds. Below freezing at night, slicing winds during the day making a mockery of the sunshine. Anyway, as we hope for something warmer soon and the chance to return to libraries next week (my books are available to borrow, you know), how about a competition?

Three novels, one from each of my main characters. There’s The Broken Token, my very first novel, the book that introduced Richard Nottingham. The Hanging Psalm, the opener to the Simon Westow series – the third, To The Dark, came out not too long ago and could use a plug), and finally, The Leaden Heart, the seventh in the Tom Harper series. His newest, Brass Lives, comes out in June, and I certainly won’t mind if you pre-order it now. This place will give you the cheapest price.

Those are your prizes. To win, simply reply with the name of Simon Westow’s young assistant. It’s not hard to find. You have until April 18, when I’ll pick a winner. Sadly, postage rates mean it has to be UK only.

Good luck!

The New Tom Harper Novel

There’s a new Tom Harper book coming. The UK hardback publication is June 24th. While I don’t have another date dates, a fair guess would be global ebook publication on August 1, and US hardback on September 1.

Just to whet your appatites, here’s a little bit about it:

Leeds. June, 1913. Tom Harper has risen to become Deputy Chief Constable, and the promotion brings endless meetings, paperwork, and more responsibilities. The latest is overseeing a national suffragist pilgrimage passing through Leeds on its way to London that his wife Annabelle intends to join. Then a letter arrives from police in New York: Davey Mullen, an American gangster born in Leeds, is on his way back to the city, fleeing a bloody gang war.

Despite Harper’s best efforts to keep an eye on him, Mullen’s arrival triggers a series of chilling events in the city. Is he responsible for the sudden surge in crime, violence and murder on Leeds’s streets? Tom has to become a real copper again and hunt down a cold-blooded killer, even as his world starts to crack apart at home.

Do you want to see the cover?

Sure you do, it’s absolutelt splendid.

Isn’t that great? The character of Davey Mullen is based on Owen Madden, a Leeds lad who did become a New York gangland figure. He owned the Cotton Club, and went on to die peacefully at a ripe age. A fascinating made – read about him here

Better start putting your pennies aside.

A Pair Of Coppers In The Family

There’s something both delicious and disconcerting about finding your family imitating your books. My maternal great-grandfather had been the landlord of the Victoria public house at the bottom of Roundhay Road – the place Annabelle Harper owned. His tenancy was later, in the 1920s. But that was deliberate on my part, I wanted the connection.

However, given that the Tom Harper books start off with Leeds police in 1890, it came as a surprise to discover I had two Victorian coppers in the family.

Matthew Lamplugh (the name was his great-grandmother’s surname) Nickson joined the force in 1865, when he was 21. He remained a constable, but rose in stature, even with a few disciplinary problems. He was 5 feet 10 inches (about 1.8 metres), with brown hair and light brown eyes, and a “florid” complexion, sworn in as PC 631. A year after joining, he moved to the brand-new fire brigade (one of 16 who made up the initial force under the police); or, rather, he was one of those policemen detailed to attend fires. By 1868, the police fire brigade was a group apart, working out of Centenary Street, close to the Town Hall, In November 1869, the record ends abruptly: “Died”. Sadly, I’ve been unable to discover how it happened.

He had a few disciplinary problems – fined in 1868 for being under the influence when off duty, and drunk on duty in 1865 and under the influence in 1867.

The uniform was changing around the time. It’s quite possible that when he started on the beat, Matthew dressed like this (not a million miles from a uniform of a bosun in the navy):

However, it soon became this:

One he became a member of Leeds Police Fire Brigade, he’d have dressed like this.

This photograph, taken in 1870, show the Leeds Police Fire Brigade with their engine. It had been bought in 1867 at a cost of £42. Anyone who knows Leeds can spot where it was taken, next to the Town Hall steps, with one of the lions in the background. It’s a little poignant to realise that these men, now long gone themselves, went into danger alongside Matthew. They knew him, laughed and joked with him. There’s no record that he ever married.

Richard Nickson became a policeman in 1888. He was 26 by then, a fully-qualified plumber who’d severed an apprenticeship. His father had died when he was young and his mother, Mary Caroline Nickson, carried on the successful painting and decorating business for several years. However, in 1877, when Richard was 16, still an apprentice, she married again, to George Heathwaite, who lived across the river in Hunslet. He was a master dyer with his own business, employing eight men. As was the way then, Mary Caroline either sold or gave up her business. The 1881 and 1891 censuses both show Richard living with his mother and stepfather in Hunslet.

He was 5 feet 10 and ¾ inches, blue eyes, brown hair, and a “fresh” complexion (interesting to see the number of former soldiers, especially soldier musicians, who joined up at this time, although there was no police band until 1924) and a qualified plumber.

His uniform would have been an early version of the one familiar to so many.

Although Richard was promoted to First Class Constable within a year, he wasn’t without his disciplinary problems – losing equipment, being late, being absent from duty, drunk on duty.

In 1891 he was promoted to the Good Conduct Class, ironic as he’d been punished for being late and also for vanishing from his beat for 30 minutes, a grave offence.

But what was likely the final straws fell in 1892. In February he was stopped a day’s leave for being absent from his beat for an hour and 20 minutes. The following month he was fined 3” for “abusive language to a female and making an admission of acting immorally”.

His police career ended with him resigning (no date given) and he seems to vanish from all records after that, although someone with a similar name did die later in October 1895 in Sculcoates, part of Hull. Very curiously, a Richard Nickson, the same age and the same father’s name, had married a woman name Ada Humble in Hull in 1883. Yet in the 1891 census, she’s not shown as living with him in Hunslet. Is it the same Richard? After resigning from the force, maybe as an alternative to being fired, did he go back to her in Hull?

We’ll never know. But it’s all fascinating.

Mind you, if I discover I had a relative from the earlier part of the 19th century who was a thief taker, I’ll be very worried.

Win Your Christmas Presents

Well, some of them…

As you may know, the third Simon Westow book, To The Dark, comes out in about six weeks, blinking into the light in that strange limbo time between Christmas and New Year.

It should have arrived at the end of September, but Covid has upended everything. Honestly, I’m grateful that’s it’s being published at all.

It a dark, hard book, set in Leeds in the late winter of 1823, and much of it happens around Cynder Island, a part of Leeds that no longer exists by that name – it’s right around Sovereign Street these days. Back then it was on the edge of the river. People lived and worked there, and the old Flay Crow Mill was already falling down.

It’s a book of murder and deceit. Of violence had revenge.

It’s hardcore.

It’s Leeds.

To prime the pump for publication and take care of some of your Christmas present, I’m going to give away a set of five books. Yes, that’s five. The first two Simon Westow novels, The Hanging Psalm and The Hocus Girl (“outstandsing…historical mysteries don’t get much better than this” – Publishers Weekly), The Tin God from the Tom Harper series, The Broken Token, which kicked off the Richard Nottingham sagas and was my first published novel. To round it out, The Anchoress of Chesterfield, the most recent John the Carpenter novel.

How can you win, you ask? Simple, comment under the blog post with the name of the mill where part of To The Dark takes place; it’s mentioned above. I’ll select a winner on November 30. Sadly, postage costs man UK only. Sorry.

Good luck, and if you’re on NetGalley, please request To The Dark. And I’d be grateful if you left a review.

Some Bright News In Dark Times

Even in the brief flurry of sunshine and warmth we’re experiencing in Leeds right now, I know the days are dark. It doesn’t matter where you live. In Seattle, where I spent many years, it’s literally dark and choking with the smoke from the fires up and down the coast and father inland. You’ve probably seen the photos from California and Oregon, where the world looks like part of the apocalypse.

It’s hard not to be downhearted and depressed. I find solace in escaping to my allotment, where nothing else can touch me and I live simply doing the jobs in front of me (this week, stripping the borlotti beans – there are a lot this years, it seems!) and taking down the vice, before preparing that bed for winter. After that, pick blackberries and the rest of the apples. There’s a sense of order, of continuity in it all that makes me happy.

But I do have some more sunshine this week. First to bring you up to speed. The third Simon Westow novel will be published in the UK at the end of December. It’s called To The Dark, and yes, it’s dark indeed. For some reason, it’s not showing up to pre-order on Amazon. However, good independent shops will be glad to take your order, or there’s Speedy Hen, which has the lowest price I’ve seen and free postage. Look here.

What’s it about? I’m glad you asked: The city is in the grip of winter, but the chill deepens for thief-taker Simon Westow and his young assistant, Jane, when the body of Laurence Poole, a petty local thief, emerges from the melting snow by the river at Flay Cross Mill. A coded notebook found in Laurence’s room mentions Charlie Harker, the most notorious fence in Leeds who’s now running for his life, and the mysterious words: To the dark. What was Laurence hiding that caused his death? Simon’s hunt for the truth pits him against some dangerous, powerful enemies who’ll happily kill him in a heartbeat – if they can.

The middle of 2021 will bring Brass Lives, the ninth Tom Harper novel, set in 1913. It features a boy from Quarry Hill in Leeds who went to New York when he was 10 to join his mother. More than a decade on and he’s come back to see his father. Over in America he’s made a reputation as a gangster and a killer. The problem is that death has followed him to Leeds. It’s inspired by Owen ‘Owney’ Madden, whose true story is well worth reading. One of the few in his line of work who retired and lived to a ripe age.

And now….drum roll.

I’ve signed a deal for a fourth Simon Westow, tentatively titled The Blood Covenant, set in 1823. Very likely to appear at the end of 2021 in the UK. And also A Dark Steel Death, the 10th (!) Tom Harper novel, which is set in 1917, and probably out in the middle of 2022 – assuming we’re all alive them.

And no, I won’t tell you more about them. You’ll have to wait.

2022…I’m not even sure I can think that far ahead. But I have to now.