For the first five years of my life I lived opposite my Nan and Granddad in Bethnal Green, East London. We – my mum, dad and sister – left to live on a council estate in Essex but they remained behind. So I would go back a lot. Back to Bethnal Green. Back to Roman Road and to Holman House.
That period of my life is seared into my memory. The feelings, the images, and the sounds are all stored deep in my brain. I had a great childhood on Harold Hill, but the times spent with my Nan were special. She created a world that I loved to be in. A world of impossible stories, of tales from the war years, of trips ‘up the other end’ (the west-end of London) of endless cups of tea, of cakes and sweets and good times.
My Nan’s world had that other precious quality that (I realise now) most adults don’t have in theirs.
And she’d spend it willingly with me. It wasn’t hard for her. She didn’t have to force it. It was what she loved to do.
I can’t remember how old I was when my Granddad died but she never recovered from that. Not fully. Our world was changed too. She tried to recreate it like it was but something was off. It was broken somehow.
When I got older I worked in the city of London. On the edge of the east-end. A few hundred yards from the old Spitalfields market where my Grandad worked for fifty years. By then the market had moved to Leyton and the site was abandoned. It had not yet become the new Covent Garden it is today, so it was grey and empty and cold. I would go there in my lunchtimes. Just to walk around, to look at buildings, to imagine what went on for all those years. Then I’d return to the office feeling deflated and empty. Like I’d lost something.
And I had. I’d lost a chunk of the past.
That’s why place is important to me. I was aware after finishing Kill&Cure and certain after writing Dead Innocent that the city/east-end setting was an attempt to recreate my Nan’s world. Visiting those streets in my head, remembering the bustle of it, the smells of it and the feel of it is a way of connecting with her.
I desperately want to find her again.
I hope I succeed.
I hope too that you take a chance on Dead Innocent. Kill&Cure became a ♯1 bestseller both here and in the USA. As a thank-you to the thousands of you who downloaded it, we’ve kept Dead Innocent to under a dollar. You can get it here:
I sincerely hope you enjoy reading my novels. Let me know how you get on.