When I left University many aeons ago now, I moved to London, not too far from Haringey actually, and started work in my first permanent job. The city was a complete culture shift for me and even now I’m not really certain I ever found my feet. I’d been brought up in the countryside, and then in the suburbs outside Colchester, so finding shops that were open to 11pm and people who didn’t dress or even act like everyone else was a real eye-opener.
And, my dears, so many buses and all going to a hundred places I’d never heard of, at least!
I enjoyed the few years I spent there (and also met my husband in the Big City, so it was so definitely worth it!), but I was always very conscious of the dark and gloomier sides of city-life. It didn’t shock me at all but it had a huge effect on me. Looking back, I think I’d led a very sheltered existence in the countryside and suburbia.
So when it came to writing my second novel, gay psychological thriller A Dangerous Man, I found the deeply disturbed voice of my main character Michael was inextricably linked with his London setting (and the way I’d reacted to it) and there was no way I would ever be able to separate the two of them. In some ways, the city developed a voice and character of its own as I wrote the book.
Here’s the blurb:
Michael Jones, a young gay artist and part-time prostitute will do anything to stage his first exhibition. When he falls in love with rich financier, Jack Hutchinson, he seems set to achieve his goal. But as Mikey becomes caught between the unforgiving territory of smoky-bar Hackney and the green-garden luxury of upper class London, he finds himself having to fight for all he holds dear and in the only way he knows how …
And here’s an extract for you:
The quickest way to the City from Hackney was by bus, though given a choice I would have preferred to walk. It always cleared my head. But I had no time for doing what I wanted so I jumped onto the first bus that came along, finding a seat by myself and staring hard at anyone who looked as if they might want to join me. While the London pavements and people flowed past the window, scaled down through the streaks of dirt on glass to impressions from the side of my eye, I went through in my memory what was in my portfolio—it was way too big to open up on the bus—and tried to think what might work best.
It mattered so much. Drawing was the one thing I’d been able to do all my life. It had got me through some bad times, and some not so bad times, and I wasn’t intending to let go of what I spent long nights and longer days dreaming of. Not ever. So I considered in my mind the pictures I’d done, one by one.
First, a street in Hackney, near where I lived. I’d drawn it as if I was on fire, I remembered, hand ranging over paper as I sat in the tiny box garden at the front, the breeze making me shiver, and brought into the tips of my fingers the road I walked so often. Wild pencil strokes showing the untamed boundaries of tarmac, litter shifting in the acrid spin of traffic fumes, here and there a hunched figure shuffling towards an unknown destination, and always and everywhere the cars. So many cars, sometimes I felt as if they’d never stop. You could always hear them, even at that point in the night between today and tomorrow. Other London scenes followed as I continued to track my portfolio, such as it was; the South Bank, Westminster Bridge, the Embankment on a night when I’d got lucky twice and gone home richer than when I’d arrived.
Sometimes London could be easy money if you were prepared to flaunt it a little. More so on a Friday night with commuters spilling like wild dogs out of the late bars and heading home to their wives and families. Some of them had no idea what they were doing, but who cared? As long as they paid for it, and I always made sure they did, that was fine. Probably most of them didn’t remember me the next day they were so rat-arsed. Then I thought again of that night at Embankment. No, some of them would remember. No matter what they liked to tell themselves in the morning.
You can find out more at: http://www.gayreads.co.uk/novels/a-dangerous-man/
In the meantime, enjoy the London torch parade!