That was the abiding thought in my head when I was writing 'Special' and I thought that you, my loyal fanbase (what do you mean you were looking for a 'dodgy' site and tumbled into this?) might like to see some of the thinking behind it so I've put together an exclusive set of "Authors notes" just for you.
Read on kids...
Byker is a council estate in the East end of Newcastle. I grew up there in the 70’s and 80’s - it was hard, violent, funny, dodgy and brilliant! The whole estate was conceived in the late 60’s by some smart-arse architect or other who decreed that it should be a mix of low and high-rise housing. There are numerous alleyways, cut-throughs and gaps between houses that visitors to the estate frequently get lost in. Initially it was full of bushes and trees as well but these came down pretty quickly once it was realised that a mugger’s paradise had been created! The estate is partially encircled by ‘The Byker Wall’ (see front cover) a long, unbroken, block of around six-hundred maisonettes which can stretch up to twelve storeys high in places. Sadly people have come off the balconies in the past - one of them fairly recently ( a murder inquiry is ongoing as I write this) and the wall has spawned many a crook in it’s time - remember ‘Ratboy’ in the 90’s? He hid in the heating shafts from the police when robbing houses.
All of this is, of course, a crime-writers dream, but Byker was, and still is, full of great people so I obviously want to get that to show in the book as well. I hope I managed it.
Some of the Characters
Matt is approaching the back-end of his youth and as an intelligent, but lazy, lad he recognises that just floating through life as a recreational drug-user and half-hearted womaniser hasn’t done him any favours. He’s realising that he wants more from life and is capable of getting it...if he could just keep his mouth shut. He needs a good woman - luckily he just met her. I knew (and still know) numerous lads like Matt, sharp as knives but breaking their backs making money for other people when they could be achieving great things.
A big fish in a small pond he keeps the estate in the grip of fear but is a bit wary of stepping out of his comfort zone to mix it with the big boys. I’ve seen people like this before and the situations like the one I mention where the blokes on the estate are aware that the burglar robbing their houses and stealing their goods is employed by Falcus are very real. It’s a bit absurd and is pointed out to the reader in the book by Vicki - maybe it takes a woman to burst the macho bubble?
It seems to me, as someone who came up the hard way in the 70’s, that the law in this country is at something of a cross-roads. On one hand crime seems to be becoming more violent (people being stabbed, killed with one-punch, domestic abuse etc) and on the other anyone who steps in is at risk of being nicked and jailed themselves. Throw in the various police enquiries about misconduct etc. and, should anything happen to you, you’ve got to make some quick decisions. Do you ring the law and hope they turn up? Do you give your assailant/burglar a good hiding and hope you don’t get put away or do you take the assault/burglary hope you don’t die and lose all your cash or belongings?
That’s where the idea of a vigilante striking fear into the heart of all the scrotes out there appealed to me. Someone who fights fire with fire and goes further than them. Someone who can’t be frightened or ‘got at’, can’t be threatened by them and, in reality, is far worse than them when it comes to violence.
But then, where do you draw the line? When do his actions become unacceptable? I tried to explore that in the book and (hopefully) put a clear(ish) marker in for you, the reader, to think about.
Also, as is my wont these days, I put in a sub-plot about a 'lad about town' meeting the girl of his dreams. Obviously as it's me I couldn't make it easy for them. I tried to make them modern characters with faults and quirks like everyone else - did I succeed? You tell me...
Special is available in both paperback and Kindle form, to see more blurb, visit my author page or see the reviews just click HERE.