The Iron Water – Cover Story

Coming in July – in the UK, at least – is the fourth Tom Harper novel (and yes, Annabelle Harper is very much a part of things), The Iron Water.

Detective Inspector Tom Harper is witnessing the demonstration of a devastating new naval weapon, the torpedo, at Roundhay Park. The explosion brings up a body in the lake, a rope lashed tightly around its waist.

At the same time, dredging operations in the River Aire are disrupted when a woman’s severed leg floats to the water’s surface, still wearing a stocking and boot. Could the two macabre discoveries be connected?

Harper’s investigations will lead him right to the heart of the criminal underworld that underpins the city – and into the path of a merciless killer.

Why am I mentioning this? Because my publisher, Severn House, has just sent me the cover image their designer has created. And yes, I think it’s great. I hope you will, too…

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2015 Round Up And Thanks

So here were are, staggering to the end of the year, with thoughts is holidays cheering/wearying (delete as desired). It’s been a big year for me, and believe me, I have no plans to try and top it in quantity next year. But quality…well, I’ll try.

I’m grateful to many people – both individuals and institutions – who’ve helped out. But ultimately, thanks to you, the readers. If you don’t ready the books I’m just yelling into the void. Whether you buy them or borrow them from the library, I’m grateful to all of you for taking the time to read what I write.

I popped into Waterstone’s in Leeds yesterday and found this:

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It certainly made my heart beat faster to see my new book up there with the heavy hitters. Even more when I was told they’d sold out of the copies they had me sign after last Thursday’s launch. So, of course, I signed a few more for them. They also said – and I find it hard to believe – that I’m the biggest-selling crime author in the Leeds branch. Truth or lie, it’s lovely to hear.

I now have a clip of the interview Made in Leeds TV did before the Skin Like Silver launch. An interview with me, one with Carolyn Eden, who played Annabelle Harper, and a little of her performance. Enjoy.

Finally, I wish all of you a wonderful end to 2015, and a happy, peaceful, healthy New Year.

 

 

Tales Within A Tale 5 – John Laycock

Now it’s just two months until Skin Like Silver is published in the UK. That’s still plenty of time to introduce you to some of the characters. Not Tom Harper or Annabelle, not Billy Reed or Superintendent Kendall. Not even Ash. But some of the others who populate this book – there are over 60; I counted.

They’re relatively minor characters, but they all have their stories to tell. About once a fortnight until publication you’ll get to meet some of them. One of them could well be a killer. Or perhaps not. But when you read the book and come across them, you can smile and say ‘I know you.’

Read the first Tale within a Tale, about Patrick Martin, here, the second with Robert Carr here, the third with Miss Worthy here, and the fourth with Barbabas Tooms here.

And, of course, you can read about Skin Like Silver here.

Like what you see? Order your copy here (this is currently the cheapest price by far!).

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This time is the landlord of the Royal Inn on South Accommodation Road in Hunslet. In the book he’s not named. In my head he is – John Laycock. He was the landlord at the time, just arrived in Leeds. How do I know? He was my maternal great-grandfather. Around 1920 he moved to take over the Victoria on Roundhay Road, Annabelle’s put in the books, and stayed there until sometime in World War II. That’s a good five decades as a pub landlord..

He stacked one crate of bottles on top of another in the cellar, followed by the third and a fourth. Never too much call for the stuff, and why would there be when there were barrels of beer around?

John Laycock stood and stretched. From somewhere up above here heard the squall of a baby. At least Elizabeth had a healthy pair of lungs on here. God alone knew she’d need it to survive in Hunslet with all the factories and mills around.

He thought he’d landed on his feet, arrived from Barnsley and offer a job as the landlord of the Royal Inn. Just twenty-three, young for a job like that. More than a job, really. A home. Rooms upstairs and soon part of the area. After a year he knew all the locals, he and the family had become part of the fabric of the area.

The people were all reet. Same as folk anywhere. The wife had made some friends. Course, there were always a few…especially when they had a bit of drink in them. But he was a big lad, he could handle them if they got stroppy. It was one of the reasons they’ve given him the position. That and the fact he had a quick mind, able to do sums in his head. Coming up to Leeds when his wife had the babby inside her had been a gamble but it had paid off nicely.

Upstairs, he inspected the brasses and checked the woodwork was polished. Sometimes he wondered why he bothered. An hour after the men started coming in and everything would be grimy again. All the dust and dirt of the steel works in every bloody nook and cranny.

But you kept up appearances. You make it all look neat and cared-for. Even if no one ever noticed. His man had drummed that into him. So, each morning, the servants took care of that right after their breakfast.

‘John.’ Jane’s voice carried down the stairs. If she had a mood on her it could carry halfway across Yorkshire.

‘What?’

‘I think there’s a blockage in the chimney. The fire’s not drawing properly.’

‘I’ll come and take a look in a minute.’ He sighed. If it wasn’t one thing it was another.

Skin Like Silver – The Video

Well, not quite the video, but at least the video trailer.

The book isn’t out until November, but this is part of the head start. If you want a review copy, register with NetGalley and my publisher, Severn House. They should be available in October. And buy the book when it’s published, of course!

I believe in this book. I feel it’s the most compete book I’ve ever written.

In the meantime, maybe this will whet your appetite.

Tales Within A Tale 3 – Miss Worthy

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Four months until Skin Like Silver is published in the UK. That’s plenty of time to introduce you to some of the characters. Not Tom Harper or Annabelle, not Billy Reed or Superintendent Kendall. Not even Ash. But some of the others who populate this book – there are over 60; I counted.

They’re relatively minor characters, but they all have their stories to tell. About once a fortnight until publication you’ll get to meet some of them. One of them could well be a killer. Or perhaps not. But when you read the book and come across them, you can smile and say ‘I know you.’

Read the first Tale within a Tale, about Patrick Martin, here and the second with Robert Carr here.

And, of course, you can read about Skin Like Silver here.

This time it’s Miss Martha Worthy, milliner.

‘I’m very sorry, Miss Bell, but that won’t be possible.’ She said it with a smile, trying to ease the harsh pill.

‘Well!’ The woman puffed out her cheeks and pushed her lips together to make a thin line. It made her look even less attractive, Miss Worthy thought. But the woman had to be told: no more credit. She’d paid nothing on her account in six months, then flounced in expecting gratitude for her custom. Maybe they’d do that elsewhere, but she couldn’t afford to. ‘I shall take my business elsewhere.’

‘You’re more than welcome to do that, of course.’ Another smile, just enough to show her teeth, and a slight nod of the head. ‘But before you leave, perhaps you’d care to settle your bill.’

‘Why should I?’ Miss Bell sniffed. ‘I came to buy a hat, not to be insulted.’

‘I’m sorry you feel that way,’ Miss Worthy told her. ‘I truly am. But perhaps you haven’t received the statements I’ve sent out every month? Have you perhaps changed your address?’

She meant it to sting and it worked. The woman’s face reddened and she drew herself up to her full height.

‘I don’t believe a tradesman should talk to me that way.’

‘Tradeswoman.’ She took pleasure in the correction. ‘This is my business. There is no Mr. Worthy, and hasn’t been since my father passed away. The success or failure of this milliner’s shop depends on me, no one else.’ She left the words to hang for a moment, then added. ‘And for my customers to pay their bills, of course.’

Miss Bell glowered for a moment, then abruptly turned on her heel, letting the door slam shut behind her. She’d never pay now, of course, but then the woman probably never had any intention of settling the account. Still, there was some satisfaction. Miss Worthy had talked to quite a few others in the business; dear Miss Bell might discover it a great deal harder to obtain any credit now.

It wasn’t easy to be a woman in business. But she’d made a small success of the milliner’s after learning the trade. Miss Worthy had a flair for design, a little family money to give her the cushion to start, and plenty of determination.

‘Miss Bell must have been spitting feathers.’ Effie Johnson laughed when she heard.

‘Especially when no one else will extend her credit. It’ll teach her a lesson,’ Miss Worthy said, sipping at the sherry. They were in her rooms above the shop, all the bustle of Briggate in the evening outside her window. ‘She’ll be back within a week and pay in full, you marks my words.’

‘You can be a hard women, Martha.’

‘I can be a businesswoman,’ Miss Worthy corrected her carefully.

Tales Within A Tale 2

Four months until Skin Like Silver is published in the UK. That’s plenty of time to introduce you to some of the characters. Not Tom Harper or Annabelle, not Billy Reed or Superintendent Kendall. Not even Ash. But some of the others who populate this book – there are over 60; I counted.

They’re relatively minor characters, but they all have their stories to tell. About once a fortnight until publication you’ll get to meet some of them. One of them could well be a killer. Or perhaps not. But when you read the book and come across them, you can smile and say ‘I know you.’

Read the first Tale within a Tale, about Patrick Martin, here.

This time it’s Robert Carr

And you can read more about Skin Like Silver, of course.

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Three places were laid at the table, cutlery gleaming, glasses shining in the gaslight from the sconces. But only two men were sitting and eating.

‘Why?’ The younger man tilted his knife towards the empty plate across from him. ‘For God’s sake, father, she’s been gone two months now. It seems desperate.’

Robert Carr look down his nose. He was balding, the long mutton chop whiskers thicker than the hair that remained on the top of his head. The two sticks on the floor by his chair helped him walk. But his mind was still sharp.

‘You think what you like, Neville.’ There was a whip edge to his voice. ‘But it’s my house, I’ll do things as I choose.’

He began to chew some of the beef. It tasted stringy, cheap. Far too dry. Throwing down the knife and fork, he pushed the meal away and took a sip of whisky.

‘Not hungry?’

‘Bloody tasteless.’

The cook would never have served the meat like that when Catherine was here, he thought. She kept an eye on things. She knew. But then, she should; she knew just what the servants were like, she’d been one. He could still feel her in the house.

‘Mine’s fine,’ his son said.

Carr snorted. His son might be good at running the factory, but beyond that he was useless. Couldn’t keep his own boy in line. He’d heard the tales about the lad, the gambling and whoring. Carr might not get out much these days, but words reached him.

‘How’s the business this week?’ he asked.

‘A new order from the Army.’ Neville spoke with his mouth full. ‘Boots for India. It’s good money.’

‘A little extra gone to the right people.’

‘Of course, Father,’ he replied. ‘No need to worry about it. Everyone’s been taken care of. The next order’s in the bag, too.’

Robert had built up the business his father started on Meanwood Road. A few years before, he’d handed it to Neville. He’d trained his son well. Polite to the buyers, generous to those who placed the orders, firm with the men in the factory. It worked well. They made good money.

He had his house in Chapel Allerton, Neville his own close by. His son also had the mistress he kept in Headingley. An actress, of all things. No imagination. Not even a good actress, by all accounts. He hoped she played well in bed.

The Empire kept Carr & Sons in business. Boots for troops in all the colonies, and God knew there were plenty of them. Long may it continue.

Neville had cleared his plate, sitting back and drinking his wine.

‘I’ve been thinking,’ he said. ‘We ought to start making boots for working men.’

The old man shook his head.

‘Don’t be so daft. The market’s sewn up. You’d be trying to break in. We do what we do. Don’t rock the bloody boat.’

‘I was just trying-’

‘Don’t,’ Carr warned.

‘You’ve had an edge on you since she left.’

‘She’ll be back. I told you.’

Of course she would. She’d come to her senses soon enough. He’d make her pay for it, and he’d keep reminding her, but he’d have her back. Stupid, he knew that. Weak. She’d made her decision to leave all this. Money, everything she could want. He’d tried to stop her. Beaten her. But she’d gone.

He glanced over at his son. A weak man. A drunken one now, to judge from the dull glint in his eyes.

‘I told you not to marry a servant. It’s like a novelette. But reality was less successful, wasn’t it?’

‘Shut up, Neville,’ he warned.

‘Sometimes I wonder which was stronger, her love of this ridiculous suffragism or her hatred of you?’

‘You’d better stop now,’ Carr told him as he reached down for a stick. ‘Right now.’

Tales Within A Tale 1

Four months until Skin Like Silver is published in the UK. That’s plenty of time to introduce you to some of the characters. Not Tom Harper or Annabelle, not Billy Reed or Superintendent Kendall. Not even Ash. But some of the others who populate this book – there are over 60; I counted.

They’re relatively minor characters, but they all have their stories to tell. About once a fortnight until publication you’ll get to meet some of them. One of them could well be a killer. Or perhaps not. But when you read the book and come across them, you can smile and say ‘I know you.’

And you can read more about Skin Like Silver, of course.

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I try. But as God sees, at times it feel like an uphill battle to fight against sin.

Patrick Martin sat back and looked at his words in his diary. An admission of weakness, he thought. But the week had been long and seemed fruitless. He’d given out Bibles, stopped to pray and talking with some of the families around Quarry Hill. He’d done some good, held a woman’s hand into the night as the Lord took her, given a little to a couple to buy food for their daughter. Prayed with some, read verses from the Testament to others. But so many more paid no mind to religion, to their souls, to right or wrong.

A tap on the door roused him from his thoughts.

‘Your supper’s on the table, Mr. Martin.’

‘I’ll be there in a minute, Mrs. Townes.’ He stood and studied himself in the mirror. Hair thinning, a thin mouth, not the face of a man who took life lightly.

He’d been a serious child, drawn to religion but never a man for the cloth. Working for the Leeds Town Mission suited him to the ground. Not to proselytize but to evangelize. That was the motto; that was his creed. To be the agent, to visit again and again, to hope for that open door in the heart.

One all too often slammed as he approached.

He knew he was a prim man, not one to bend with the wind or changing tastes. But what kind of example would he be without steel in his spine? How could he tolerate the girls who made their livings as prostitutes instead of honest labour, or the ones who had their children out of wedlock? The Scriptures made their points on these, and he quoted them, although he tried to be gentle.

He’d looked at girls when he was young, even lusted, although he couldn’t have given it a name then. Always the free thinkers, the ones with gaiety in their eyes. Now, though, he had his calling. Maybe a wife sometime, if he ever found someone Godly.

But Leeds was becoming overrun with socialists and suffragists. Women who thought themselves the equal of men, when the truth was that they needed a man to guide them, to lead them to responsibility.

His notebook lay on the desk. He opened it and leafed through the first few pages to the report he’d made for his superintendent after the first half year he’d worked in Quarry Hill.

The prevailing vices are these – adultery, fornication, drunkenness, swearing and gossiping. Since I came to the district, eleven children have died of burning; and to me it is no wonder, when I find so many houses left with the children, and the mothers ‘throng’ gossiping with their neighbours, The Lord’s Day is awfully profaned – washing, baking, and sleeping in the afternoon, and in the evening, drinking…

And so little had changed. Each day he attempted to make some difference, to affect a life, to bring someone closer to God, to help someone see the Lord, to put a little light in them. Just that afternoon he’d called at one house to see a woman who lived with her daughter.

‘I’ve called to see your mother. How is the old woman?’

‘My mother is in hell,’ she answered, giving the sharp edge of her tongue, ‘where you will be shortly; begone, you bloody Methodist, or I’ll let my dog at you.’

What could he do but walk away, finding consolation in the Scriptures: I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee. Speak my word and be not afraid.

Patrick Martin closed the book. In the mirror he straightened his tie and the wings on his collar before smoothing down his hair. Saturday evening. Mrs. Townes would have a pork pie for his supper.