Our lad from the North – Howard Linskey
Newcastle and the North
It’s a unique setting in any book or film, and in real life too of course, but in the books by Howard Linskey, it takes on a very special meaning. This is the author’s patch, where he’s from (Ferryhill, Durham) and where he loves going back to. Newcastle is a city close to his heart and it’s in every one of this novels…along with the pubs and the special corners that only a crime writer could know…
They all mean a lot to me because I love Newcastle. I’ve been visiting the city all my life; to watch Newcastle United play, to enjoy nights out and now to launch and sign books there, which I do every year when a new one comes out.
It’s a city full of lively, friendly, welcoming people and a few very tough ones that I wouldn’t want to cross. It’s known as a party town and its identity is, sadly, inextricably linked to the fortunes of a perennially underachieving football club, everyone seems to care about except the man who owns it. To let off steam, after another depressing home defeat, head for the Bigg Market then the Quayside for a rejuvenating pint by the River Tyne.
I tirelessly spent many years visiting every pub in the city, often on multiple occasions and all in the name of research. I hope my readers realise how much hard work and effort goes into my books on their behalf. Aside from that, I did a fair amount of research on the plot and the criminal underworld but I knew the locations so well there was no need for any actual research on them.
As well as the pubs and St James Park, I have visited everywhere that gets a mention in the books and that even includes the foreign cities David Blake visits during his adventures, including Auckland in New Zealand, Hua Hin in Thailand and Helsinki in Finland. Okay I cheated a bit there because I needed similar locations for plot purposes and used cities I had already been to on my travels. That happens a lot in my books. I’ll work out a story then realise I already know the perfect place to set parts of it in.
The personal touch
I’m a County Durham lad from Ferryhill, so I have no childhood link to Newcastle other than a youthful obsession with Newcastle United. When I grew up I got to explore the city. More recently I have forged some links with the places and people there. I’m always very proud to be invited to the Waterstones near Grey’s Monument to sign my books. Calling in to see Michael Hill, the owner of the legendary Strawberry pub, for post launch pints with mates is an absolute must. I’m often asked to do Newcastle Noir at the Lit & Phil, by festival organiser Jacky Collins, which is another honour and the local paper, the Evening Chronicle has been immensely supportive of both me and my writing. I also can’t go a day without logging on to ‘The Mag’, the NUFC fanzine I wrote for many moons ago. They were the first people to publish me and they set me on my way. These are just some of the important things that link me to my favourite city these days.
Pop in to Waterstones Emerson Chambers to browse books on several floors, then have a bit of lunch in one of the many local cafes and restaurants nearby. Round off an evening in Newcastle with the David Blake pub crawl, which takes in every pub he drinks in. Start with the best pub in the world ‘The Strawberry, which is right next to the football ground then take in ‘Rosie’s’, ‘The Newcastle Arms’, ‘City Vaults’, ‘The Bee Hive’, ‘The Crown Posada’ and ‘Akenside Traders’ finishing up at the ‘Red House’. You will have drunk your way from one end of the city to the other by then and might not thank me in the morning.
There’s a fine line between fact and fiction…
When it was published I did get a well-intentioned and credible offer to meet some well-known local ‘faces’ in the criminal world there but I didn’t take up the offer. I don’t want to blur the lines between fiction and non-fiction and feel happier inventing that world and not basing any of it on real people.
Many thanks Howard for a trip down literary memory lane!
BookTrail Boarding Pass: Howard Linskey novels
Twitter: @HowardLinskey Web: hhowardlinskey.co.uk/work