Location, Location, Location #16

Location No 16 – Toxteth, Liverpool 8

This time on our literary tour through the pages of my novels, we return to 1980s Liverpool and visit Toxteth, an inner city area through which the characters of You’ll Never Walk Alone frequently pass.

I doubt that many people outside the UK will have heard of Toxteth, and even anyone who has will probably associate it only with the headline-hitting riots of the summer of 1981. As it happened, I moved to Liverpool that autumn, although initially to a different part of the city, but three years later, I’d moved to the south of the city and was living in bedsit in a large, three storey dwelling on the edge of Toxteth. It was on this house, complete with its Chinese landlord, who lived in the room opposite mine, that the house occupied by the main characters in the You’ll Never Walk Alone was based.

At one time, Toxteth had been rather grand. In the 18th and 19th centuries the district became home to the wealthy merchants of Liverpool, alongside a much larger, poor population, living in modest Victorian terraces, who came from all around the world to work as dockers and builders. Come the late 1970s, Liverpool, and Liverpool 8 in particular, had been badly hit by economic stagnation and unemployment, sowing the seeds of a growing unrest that escalated and eventually led to the riots. You can read more about ‘The Summer Liverpool burned’ here.

By the 1980s many of the large Georgian and Victorian houses were converted into flats, mainly occupied by students and others on very modest incomes. Crime levels rocketed, especially house-breaking. My landlord, on whom the fictional Tony Wong is based, owned a second property on Princes Road, one of the main thoroughfares in L8, and I put minor characters, Mark and Stu, in a very similar basement flat (‘The Bunker’). We briefly visit the Bunker in a later chapter and the security measures described are no exaggeration. I remember them well, since a succession of my friends lived there in the mid-80s.

It was one evening in 1984 that a friend and I were walking back to my house from that very basement flat. We happened to come across a couple of young guys who were trying to push start an old van. By chance, I bumped into one of them up by the University only a few days later. Reader, I (eventually) married him; but that, as they say, is another story.

Regeneration began in parts of the area in the 1990s and the area was gradually gentrified and transformed. This is Princes Boulevard today.

Moving onwards towards the city centre, as we do in today’s book excerpt, we walk down the formerly grand boulevards with their blackened exteriors and boarded up windows, passing St Luke’s ‘bombed out church’ (seen in a previous tour), then crossing the road past ‘The Blackie’, which was once a chapel and later a community centre. It was so-called because the walls had been blackened by the soot and smoke over many decades. Finally we come to Liverpool’s Chinatown, the oldest Chinese community in Europe, but it’s getting late, so we’ll come back and have a proper look around here another day.

‘The Blackie’ (left) now cleaned up and (right) the beautiful archway through which you enter Liverpool’s Chinatown that was brought from Shanghai and re-erected, piece by piece, in 2000.

In the following excerpt, Tony Wong takes an after-dark walk into the city centre. Why Asmar, his tenant Cynthia’s cat, follows Tony into town isn’t immediately apparent, but let’s just say that later on in the story it was just as well he did.

It was this journey, in which Tony Wong was not alone as he ventured into Chinatown, which partly inspired the title of the novel. The fact that it’s also the title of Liverpool Football Club’s well-known anthem is (largely) coincidental. The song, You’ll Never Walk Alone, was written by Rogers and Hammerstein for the musical, Carousel. If you’re not familiar with it, you can listen to a selection of excellent renditions by moseying on over to see Jen Goldie who, by happy coincidence, just happened to post them earlier this week.

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Excerpt from You’ll Never Walk Alone

Tony Wong had been woken by the beep of his Casio watch. He lifted his head from the cushion and listened. The house was quiet. He pushed the coverless duvet over the back of the couch and stood up.  He pulled on his suit trousers and tucked the shirt he had been wearing earlier that day into the waistband.  He pulled on socks and pushed his feet into scuffed white plimsolls.

Shuffling past the coffee table, he approached the wide bay window and drew aside one of the heavy curtains, the velvety fabric was stiff and slightly sticky to the touch.  Peering around the curtain he checked outside.  Pools of orange light illuminated the empty street, reflecting in the puddles of the day’s rain. Letting the curtain fall back into place he picked up a folded note from the table. He re-read the Chinese symbols and stuffed the note into his pocket. Then he put on his jacket and took his keys from the chest by the door. He unlocked his door and listened.  The hallway was silent.  He glanced at Cynthia’s door opposite and saw the post-it note by the payphone on the wall. He didn’t stop to read the message.

He opened the front door with his key. The large panelled door swung open easily.  Streetlight played on the frosted glass casting awkward patterns on the tiled floor of the hall.  Tony stepped out and carefully locked the door behind him. His tennis shoes were silent on the worn sandstone steps that led down to the path.  At the foot of the steep driveway he turned and headed towards the main road.

Asmar detached himself from the garden shadows and padded silently behind him.  His red-gold coat glowed in the light from the street lamps.

Tony Wong trudged purposefully towards the city centre, the cat following.  The midweek traffic was light: just the occasional black cab.  Up ahead a police car, blue lights flashing, siren off, crossed the intersection of Princes Road and Duke Street.  The tall red brick houses with their blank, black windows were silent.  Once the dwellings of rich merchants, some had been converted to bed-sitters over cheap shops, whilst the many boarded up and blackened buildings were the legacy of the notorious riots which had happened a few summers ago.

Man and cat crossed Berry Street by the bombed-out church on the corner with its well-tended public gardens. The church had remained unrestored, a monument to the devastation of the city of World War Two.  Trying to ignore the sounds of the couple who were busy in the grounds of the community building known as The Blackie opposite, Tony pressed on.  He heard the man grunt and swear, then saw him push the girl away.  Tony glanced towards them and saw the man zip up his jeans, while the girl straightened her short orange skirt. He watched them part without a word, he to the cab rank while she, on spikey white heels, stalked back up the hill towards the cathedral.

The lights were still on in the Nelson Street restaurants, the boundary between club land and Chinatown.  Two men holding takeaway cartons swayed past Tony Wong.  ‘All right, China?’ one asked him cheerfully.  The other mumbled something and they both chortled as they staggered off up the road.

Asmar remained out of sight clinging to the shadows, skipping up and down through the basement areas and railings.

A few yards further on Tony Wong paused and looked around. Sure that no-one was watching he darted down the passageway into the back entry of the famous Chinese pub which in English was called ‘The Nook’.  He picked his way along the rubbish strewn alleyway trying not to think about what might be lurking there.  The cat followed carefully along the top of the wall avoiding the glass shards which had been set in concrete on the wall-top as a security measure. Turning the corner, Tony Wong scampered up the steps at the rear of the building. As he opened the door, light flooded the entry.  He closed it quickly, trying to ignore the flurry of scurrying amongst the rubbish.

Asmar settled down on the wall and waited.


You’ll Never Walk Alone is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook and on Kindle Unlimited
USA UK ~ CAN ~ AUS IND ~ the rest of the world

Note that the advertised Audio CD is not my book. It has somehow found its way onto my page. I’m not sure what it is but I have asked Amazon to remove it. If it’s still there, I’m still waiting for them to do so.

Image credits: Liverpool Echo, Liverpool City Council

You’ll never walk alone – A review

How nice is this then? A splendid endorsement of my novel ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone” by ace-blogger, Sadje. I’m always touched when someone takes the time and effort to review my work. Thank you, Sadje!

Keep it alive

I have just finished reading this very fascinating book by Chris Hall.

This is a spoiler free review.

The book is set in 1980’s Liverpool, England. The story is fast moving and completely attention grabbing. I finished reading the book in a couple of days. And I feel compelled to share my views with you all.

I loved the pace of the story. The characters are well developed and the plot is very interesting. Lots of things are happening and the threads of the story are woven expertly to make a believable tale. There is a monkey and a cat who are more than just pets. The charming monkey is playing a vital role in the story.

The Chinese triad is in an undeclared war with a mysterious hypnotic man and his minions. There are mysterious objects with magical powers which both parties are desirous of acquiring.

Then there is…

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You’ll Never Walk Alone

Many thanks to author and songwriter, Kevin Cooper, for his review of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. My two animal characters are thrilled to bits at the shout out he gave them. “Sound bloke this Kevin,” said Fingers when I read out the review. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Author Kevin Cooper

When Lucy is given a beautiful ruby necklace by Pierre, a gorgeous man she’s only just met, her life suddenly becomes more complicated. 
But the necklace isn’t Pierre’s to give and he and Lucy are forced to flee from Albie Chan, the local Triad boss. With night-club owner and would-be gangster, Big Al, also in pursuit, Lucy is drawn into Liverpool’s shady underworld via a secret network of underground tunnels. Here we meet the enigmatic Aurora, her suave yet sinister assistant, and a band of strange little people.
There’s a kleptomaniac monkey called Fingers, and an Abyssinian cat with a talent for tracking which comes in handy when an odd little jade statue in the shape of a camel turns up. A possibly-forged painting is discovered, and there’s even a cameo appearance by 1980’s pop star, Pete Burns, although these two things are not necessarily related.
Finally, when the adrenaline…

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Your time’s up on Sunday!

YNWA by Chris Hall for UK on twitter

It’s been an interesting few days running the freebie promo for this new book of mine. 

Those of you on Twitter might have seen some interesting activity on my feed in the past couple of days. Unless you’re from (certain parts of) the UK it might not have meant that much to you. Suffice to say, some of us Northerners are very tribal, particularly over our football (soccer) teams.

Actually, let me elaborate a little more.

Of course, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ isn’t really about football. However, writing a book set in Liverpool (to me) requires a passing mention or two of that fine sport. The book title somehow wormed its way into my consciousness and fixed itself there. I never gave a thought to the impact it would have on my fellow Scousers* and other folk beyond the boundaries of our fair city.

You see the rivalry between our two football teams, Liverpool and Everton, is legendary. Between Liverpool and Manchester United (just 30 miles away), it is epic. Seriously so. And LFC’s anthem, shared by a number of other teams incidentally, is the Rogers and Hammerstein song, from the musical Carousel,  You’ll Never Walk Alone.

The song is pretty much synonymous with Liverpool Football Club and its supporters, of which you will have guessed I am one. Did you spot the top my husband and illustrator was wearing at the book launch a few weeks ago?

So, the result of this reckless labelling for my book? It was said I was sticking my neck out way too far, that I’d alienate 50% of Liverpool, all of Manchester… and so on. Oops!

So, maybe an ill-judged title? I don’t know. There was a bit of back-tracking on the Twitter feed, and now I’m honoured to find an Evertonian** has downloaded my book and has even tweeted that, having read the blurb, he’s actually looking forward to doing so!

I thought the whole thing was hilarious. 

asmar

And before I go, just a reminder that the free download runs until midnight on Sunday (Pacific Standard Time) which is 9am on Sunday morning here in South Africa, 8am Sunday morning in the UK, and 4pm on Saturday afternoon in Sydney, Australia etc. We are so very international aren’t we?

Thank you to everyone who’s downloaded the book. I hope you enjoy reading it and look forward to your feedback.

Have a great weekend and happy reading!

___________________________________
*a person coming from Liverpool

**a supporter of Everton FC (and possibly a resident of the Everton district of Liverpool)

shankly quote

 

 

 

Tunes from the book

YNWA by Chris Hall for UK on twitter

You see the couple dancing on the cover of my latest novel? Well, that’s Pierre and Lucy, whose prowess on the dance floor is a key element of the main plot.

There are a number of musical references in the book, and I thought I’d share them with you. It’s music which was around in the 1980s, so will be familiar to some.

Come and take a walk down memory lane with me…

Dancing Queen by Abba

 

You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) by Dead or Alive

 

Let’s Dance by David Bowie

 

One in Ten by UB40

 

Finally, this is how I imagine the fictitious ‘Kingston Jazz Cats’ might have sounded playing Godrell Clarke’s beloved American Jazz in the 1960s


If you want to find out how all this fits together you’ll have to read the book.

Have a great weekend further!

 

Special Offer!

Cover pic

The Kindle version of my new novel is out now!

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and if you’d be so kind
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