Sunday, December 25, 2016

"The Iron Water"

Chris Nickson is the author of the highly-acclaimed Richard Nottingham series and is also a well-known music journalist. Born and raised in Leeds, he lived in the USA for thirty years and now makes his home in England.

Nickson applied the Page 69 Test to the latest book in his Tom Harper mystery series, The Iron Water, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Everyone knew where Gilmore held court: The Sword, just on the far side of Marsh Lane. It was right on the boundary of his territory, next to Quarry Hill, where Archer had made his start, and facing out towards Leeds with a challenge. It was the only pub in Leeds with a Fenian Brotherhood flag hanging behind the bar, right next to a picture of William Gladstone, the man who supported home rule for Ireland.

From the outside it looked shabby, as rickety and empty of hope as the rest of the Bank. A big man leaned against the door jamb, picking at his teeth with a sliver of wood.

‘Ready?’ Harper asked.

‘As I’ll ever be, sir,’ Ash answered. ‘I made out my will a few months ago.’

They’d made one more stop on the way, at the union office on Kirkgate. Tom Maguire was working, writing furiously, scratching out words almost as soon as they came, then carrying on. He glanced up at the footsteps.

‘Make yourselves comfortable,’ he told them. ‘I need to get this thought down before I lose it forever.’

He looked no better than he had a few days before, the inspector thought. His pale skin was almost translucent, and every few seconds he gave a small cough.

Finally he finished, blotted the sheet, and sat back.

‘How’s the little one, Mr. Harper? Still blooming with health?

‘Of course.’

‘Good, good.’ He nodded. ‘Well, I know I’ve done nothing, so the pair of you must be here for information.’

‘It’s just something Annabelle mentioned last night. She told me you used to be close to Declan Gilmore.’

‘I did,’ he admitted, his face serious. ‘But that was another world and time, back when there was some innocence in his soul.’
I’m not sure any small slice of a book can ever be typical. But this gives a flavour of some of the interactions on the book – between Detective Inspector Harper and his Sergeant, Ash and Harper with the union man Tom Maguire (who really existed and was a political force in the 1890s in Leeds), where Harper’s wife Annabelle, who’s also vital to the book, is mentioned.

In some ways, it’s a book about the old and the new. The old criminal gangs, with their ideas locked in the past, being outsmarted and used by someone new. The changing political face of the time and place, with the formation of the Independent Labour Party. And the police themselves, forced to adapt to confront a new style of crime.

Historical crime fiction offers the chance to show the present through the prism of the past, because, in many ways, so little changes through history. Yes, the emphasis is on fiction, of course, but the late Victorian setting isn’t as far removed from where we are now as we might like to believe. It is, perhaps, a mystery with a social conscience.
Learn more about the book and author at Chris Nickson's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Constant Lovers.

--Marshal Zeringue