JOUR­NAL­IST

AND NOV­EL­IST His­tor­i­cal novel on pol­i­tics and love Novel sees UK sell York­shire to China

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - BOOKS -

WE tend to as­so­ciate noir thrillers with Amer­i­can films and writ­ers of the 1940s – think Ray­mond Chan­dler, Humphrey Bog­art and var­i­ous sul­try femme fa­tales – but a new book by lo­cal au­thor Chris Nick­son places the genre firmly in 1950s Leeds.

Dark Brig­gate Blues is set in Leeds in 1954 and re­volves around a mys­tery that lands on the doorstep of young pri­vate eye Dan Markham.

Di­vorces and fraud cases are his bread and but­ter – it’s all fairly straight­for­ward and pays the bills, but then one day things get com­pli­cated. A blonde walks into Markham’s of­fice to hire him to spy on her busi­ness­man hus­band who she thinks is be­ing un­faith­ful.

Noth­ing re­mark­able in that – but then the man is killed, Markham is im­pli­cated in the mur­der and he has to prove his in­no­cence to the po­lice while avoid­ing the at­ten­tions of the real killer, a man with con­nec­tions that seem to lead all the way to White­hall.

The book is a pacy, at­mo­spheric and en­ter­tain­ing page-turner with a whole host of well-rounded char­ac­ters – in­clud­ing Markham’s feisty bo­hemian artist girl­friend Carla, world-weary lo­cal po­lice of­fi­cer De­tec­tive Sergeant Baker and spoilt good­time girl, and un­happy wife, Joanna Hart who sets the plot in mo­tion.

“I re­ally like the Amer­i­can writ­ers Ray­mond Chan­dler, Dashiell Ham­mett and Ross Macdon­ald but I re­alised there was very lit­tle English noir and par­tic­u­larly noir set in the 1950s,” says Nick­son.

“I wanted to ex­am­ine how it would be dif­fer­ent from Amer­i­can noir. I thought I’d write it in the third per­son and with­out all the wise­cracks, be­cause that’s not the English way.” Mu­sic plays a fairly ma­jor part in the nar­ra­tive – Markham is a jazz fan who plays The­olo­nius Monk records in his flat in Chapel Aller­ton and fre­quently vis­its a jazz club called Stu­dio 20 on New Brig­gate. This is not sur­pris­ing given that Nick­son was a mu­sic jour­nal­ist for many years. The de­scrip­tions of Markham’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion of var­i­ous jazz mu­si­cians whether live or on vinyl are very elo­quent and in­formed, but Nick­son says that he wasn’t ex­pect­ing jazz to be such a sig­nif­i­cant el­e­ment of the sto­ry­line. “It was when I found out that Stu­dio 20 ac­tu­ally ex­isted; I re­alised that it was a good way of il­lus­trat­ing the way that Leeds was at the time and Markham’s love of jazz.”

Nick­son him­self was born in Leeds in 1954 and while he was too young at the time to have any re­li­able mem­o­ries of the city in that era, he has added some per­sonal touches.

“The build­ing where Dan Markham has his flat was where I spent the first year of my life,” he says. “And where he has his of­fice on Al­bion Place is where my fa­ther had an of­fice.” Other au­then­tic lo­cal de­tail and colour, es­pe­cially sat­is­fy­ing for read­ers familiar with Leeds (par­tic­u­larly those of a cer­tain age), in­cludes de­scrip­tions of the il­le­gal drink­ing clubs that were around at that time, which Nick­son was told about by his fa­ther, many of them just off Chapel­town Road, and ref­er­ences to Quarry Hill Flats, the Khardomah Café on Brig­gate and the depart­ment store Mar­shall and Snell­grove at the junc­tion of Bond Street and Park Row. “Some­thing I tried to do was to make Leeds a char­ac­ter in the book, to make it an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Nick­son. “I love ex­plor­ing Leeds in dif­fer­ent eras – this is my eighth book set in Leeds. I have a se­ries of books – all crime fic­tion – set in the 1730s and 1890s that all take place in the city. There is a thread of con­ti­nu­ity but in each pe­riod Leeds is al­most a dif­fer­ent place.” A pro­lific writer, Nick­son has three books com­ing out later this year – an­other in his Vic­to­rian-era se­ries, a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries and a se­quel to Dark Brig­gate Blues set in 1967.

“I am lucky that I am do­ing some­thing that I love and have the chance to do it,” he says. “You can’t ask for more than that in life.” A NEW his­tor­i­cal novel will shed light on El­iz­a­beth Lan­caster.

Anne O’Brien’s novel The King’s Sis­ter is set in 1380 and is about the daugh­ter of John of Gaunt and cousin to Richard II – who de­fies her fa­ther by mar­ry­ing the man she loves, but po­lit­i­cal un­rest means her hap­pi­ness is short-lived.

The au­thor was born in York­shire and lived and worked in East Rid­ing for many years as a teacher. Her book will be re­leased on Fe­bru­ary 26. A CON­TRO­VER­SIAL York­shire­based film­maker has a book re­leased. Richard Wool­ley’s novel Sek­abo is set in the fu­ture and ex­plores the pos­si­bil­ity of parts of York­shire be­ing sold to China to pay off a UK debt.

The au­thor made a name for him­self with the film Broth­ers & Sis­ters, at the height of the York­shire Rip­per hunt.

He will be sign­ing copies of his book at Wa­ter­stones in Leeds on Fe­bru­ary 7 and Har­ro­gate on Fe­bru­ary 14.

LEEDS NOIR:

PRO­LIFIC WRITER:

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