Sunday, 7 June 2015

People and places from 'A Suitable Young Man'

I thought it would be a good idea if I incorporated some of the locations used in ‘A Suitable Young Man’ into my blog, together with quotes from the book relating to those locations. Firstly, we have Coffin Alley, so called because of the irregular shape of the alleyway in Horwich, Lancashire, the real town I used for the setting of my novel.

Coffin Alley, Horwich
Ahead, lit by a solitary gas lamp, was Coffin Alley, the gap between two blocks of houses and, as she stepped into the alley’s shadows, she saw, too late, two figures. One of them grabbed her arms from behind then, as she screamed, the other clamped a hand over her mouth. ‘Shut up, you stupid cow!’ a rough voice whispered. She kicked out but whoever held her from behind laughed and dodged his body out of the way. In the dimness of the gaslight, a face leered close to hers and the hand was taken away from her mouth. Before she could scream again, whoever it was fastened his lips on hers in a mockery of a kiss. The stink of cigarettes on his breath sickened her. She wrenched her mouth away from his and, in the sickly light, saw that it was Jud Simcox. She’d never liked him, had always found him creepy.
From somewhere close by came a commanding voice. ‘That’s enough, you two. Leave her alone.’
‘Who says?’ jeered the one who held her, not loosening his hold.
‘Nick Roberts.’ Kathy’s heart leapt in the relief of recognition as a tall young man stepped into the meagre pool of light.

Next, we have the Crown, a largish pub that stands at the apex of two roads that make up the centre of Horwich.

Round the back of the Crown, he caught sight of three or four youngish lads clustered round what seemed to
The Crown, Horwich
be a bundle of rags on the ground. They were laughing and pushing at the bundle with the toes of their brothel creepers. ‘Now then, lads, what’s up?’ he asked as he drew near.
‘Just some drunk,’ returned one of them, a cocky young lad. ‘Nowt to worry about.’
‘That’s for me to decide.’ He was up to them now and saw that the bundle was a man, much the worse for drink. ‘Let me see’. He bent and touched the man’s neck. Possibly the cold of his fingers roused the man for he stirred and mumbled.
Behind him, he heard the lads muttering among themselves. ‘Who’s that?’
‘Nick Roberts.’
‘Who’s he when he’s at home?’
‘Heard of the Black Cat Gang?’
‘Who hasn’t?’
‘That’s Nick Roberts.’
To Nick’s amusement, there was an element of awe in the young lad’s voice. Putting on a stern face, he looked up and said, ‘You got a problem with that?’ The lad in question backed away, shaking his head. ‘Then you can all bugger off.’
The cocky one pushed forward. ‘What about him?’ he asked, indicating the man on the ground.
‘It’s all right; I’ll look after him. I know who he is anyway.’ The man was a Scot, a regular in the pub he frequented, a pleasant enough bloke but quiet. ‘Mac? Can you hear me?’

Mac is to play a large part in Nick’s life so this is an important scene.

Next is Rivington Hall Barn, a popular dance venue and located in the local beauty spot known as Rivington. Kathy has gone there with her friend, Carole, who has just been partnered onto the dance floor.

Rivington Hall Barn
… Kathy heard a deep dark voice at her elbow. ‘All alone, Kathy?’
She knew from the way her stomach fluttered who it was and, drawing a deep breath, turned to face him. ‘Hello, Nick. I wouldn’t have thought the Barn was your sort of place.’
He gave a nonchalant shrug. ‘Makes a change, I suppose. Come to that, I haven’t seen you here before. Decided to slum it, have you?’
She flicked her eyes away from his face. His dark, heavy-lidded eyes were playing havoc with her insides. ‘Something like that.’
‘In that case, care to lower your sights a bit more and dance with a Teddy boy?’ he asked.
She indicated the half full glass in his hand. ‘What about your drink?’
‘No problem.’ With a couple of gulps, the beer had gone and he put the empty glass on a table behind him. The dance floor was, by this time, crowded but Nick led her straight to the middle where couples, taking advantage of the close quarters, were smooching. Nick put both his arms round her and bent his head to whisper, ‘You don’t mind, do you?’
His high-handed attitude and her own physical reaction to him annoyed her. Did he expect her to fall at his feet in gratitude? ‘What if I said I did mind?’ she asked.
He gave her a calculating grin. ‘You don’t, though, do you?’

And here’s another pub. Officially called The Original Bay Horse, it’s popularly known as The Long Pull and it’s the favourite pub of Nick and his mates.

Nick’s mood lightened a little when they were able to get last orders in The Long Pull. ‘That’s better.’ He licked the foam that had accumulated around his mouth from the good head on his pint of bitter.
The Long Pull, Horwich
‘After the route march we’ve just endured, it tastes bloody marvellous,’ said Bragger, downing his pint in one.
‘It’ll be good practice for when you do your National Service,’ retorted Nick, with a grin.
Bragger laughed. ‘Busy in here tonight,’ he said, as he offered Nick a cigarette.
‘Reckon they’ve all come in tonight instead of last night.’ Nick gulped another swig of his beer and lit their cigarettes.
Bragger nodded to a large and noisy group of boys and girls seated by the window. ‘Sally Simcox’s in. You could always improve matters by taking her home.’
Nick followed his glance. ‘Not while her bloody brother’s with her.’

I hope the pictures and the quotes have given you a glimpse into the book. Enough to buy it perhaps?