Next on our literary journey through the pages of my novels, we’re going to hop over to the Isle of Man, a small island in the Irish Sea, which lies between northern Great Britain and the north of Ireland, where we’re going to catch up with Pierre, our handsome leading man from You’ll Never Walk Alone, who’s treating Lucy to a little break away (although, if you’ve read the book, you’ll know he has another agenda).
I have fond memories of the Isle of Man, even though I only ever visited as part of my job as an insurance surveyor. I used to go there for three or four days at a time a couple times a year, but unlike Pierre and Lucy, who travel on the Isle of Man ferry, I used to fly over from Liverpool on a little Shorts 360 airplane.
Although I was working, I still managed to see quite a lot of the place between appointments. The island is probably best known for the notoriously hazardous annual TT motor cycle race. On one occasion I drove my hire car around the famous circuit, although at a considerably more modest pace than the TT competitors, of course. During the initial draft of the book, I’d been planning for Pierre to take part in the race, but the logistics became problematic. Maybe he’ll return to the island to do just that in a sequel to You’ll Never Walk Alone that my characters are still begging me to write.
I was also tempted to take Lucy and Pierre on a grand tour of the island, but it would have got in the way of the story, so I contented myself with a brief interlude in which they drive out to Peel Castle on the west coast of the island. It’s a partially restored Viking ruin, and a pretty, peaceful location where once I sat overlooking harbour to dictate a report. My typist (yes, it was that long ago) told me she wondered why she could hear seagulls in the background.
Lucy and Pierre stay in the fictional Royal Hotel, where Pierre ‘has a bit of business’ to attend to. It’s loosely based on the Palace Hotel and Casino, one of the places I stayed in during my visits to the island. It made a fine and fitting backdrop to the story, although I never went to the casino itself where much of the action in this part of the book is set. Nor did I visit the ‘back of house’ areas in that particular hotel. Trust me, it’s not always a good idea to stay, much less eat, in a place where you’ve inspected the kitchens. However, my knowledge of hotel security did come into play.
Excerpt from ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’
Pierre crept along the second floor corridor. He’d left Lucy sleeping. As far as she was concerned, they were just going to help Verushka get away from the abusive Russian. Pierre hadn’t mentioned the jewels again. He decided he was going to make sure he got his hands on them himself, and since he still had the passkey and d-lock, what could go wrong? Provided he was careful.
He counted off the room numbers until he reached 287. Even from outside the door he could hear the Russian snoring. Pierre took out the passkey and ran it through the slot next to the door handle. The indicator light changed from red to green and the lock clicked open. Pierre paused and listened again; satisfied, he opened the door gently and slipped into the room. He closed the door quietly. The room was shrouded in darkness. The Russian snored on. Pierre could also hear Verushka’s slow, quiet breathing; she was also asleep.
Pierre moved silently over to the wardrobe and took out the pen torch he’d borrowed from behind the bar downstairs. As he opened the door, the Russian spluttered and muttered something. Pierre froze and killed the torch beam. He heard Denisovich turn over. Minutes passed. He heard the Russian breathing heavily again.
All clear, Pierre thought. He switched the torch back on and fitted the electronic device into the lock of the safe. The little door swung open. Pierre reached in and drew out a thick, velvet covered jewel case. He eased back the little golden clasp and opened it. There was the necklace, with the matching earrings and a brooch; the complete set.
As Pierre stood up he felt the cold, hard barrel of a gun press against the back of his head. ‘Turn around slowly and give that to me,’ said Verushka softly.
Isle of Man Tourism Board, Isle of Man Newspapers (David Kneale); jetphotos.com (Fraser McLachlan); Trip Advisor; Best Western Hotels