Half The World Away
‘a fascinating glimpse into modern China’ The Sunday Mirror
‘detection merges with high emotion’ The Times
This book, my twenty-second, is the first to venture outside Manchester. It tells the story of Jo and Tom Maddox, an estranged couple, who reunite in a desperate search for their daughter, Lori, who has gone missing in China. I chose China partly because my son lives there, and it would make the job of research a little easier, but mainly because China is such a fascinating country and so very different from here. A place in the throes of huge development and change and somewhere that my characters would feel completely at sea, unable to understand the language, unfamiliar with the culture and customs. I’d never been to China – or anywhere in Asia – so I’d little idea of what to expect when I visited. Once there, as I gathered background material for the book, I knew it was important to capture the particular feel of the city, Chengdu. Not just with visual descriptions but by conveying the sounds and smells, the tactile sensations of the air and dust, the taste of the spicy food, the atmosphere. Here are some of the pictures I took, and some of these locations appear in the book.
Half The World Away comes out in paperback on July 14th.
My book Witness was inspired by two separate events. The first was a near-death experience when a car cut across ours at great speed on the motorway. I was driving but yelled at my son to write down the registration number and when we got home I rang and reported the incident to the police. They took the details and asked me if I’d testify if the case ever came to court. I agreed though I felt uneasy about it. After a few weeks I got a call back – the driver was being investigated for far more serious offences and so the police would not be pursuing my complaint. My gut reaction was a sense of relief, of having avoided something unpleasant and possibly frightening. The second event was the shooting of fifteen-year-old Jesse James in Moss Side, Manchester in 2006. Police believed that Jesse, who had no involvement with gangs, was mistakenly targeted by gang members. I was working in the area in the days after the shooting and there was great sorrow and outrage at the crime and a belief that some people in the community knew who was responsible. The plea for witnesses continues to this day. No one was ever charged with Jesse’s murder. It made me wonder what it would be like to be a witness, what impact it would have. What if you were too scared to go through with it, if you believed you were putting yourself and your family at risk?
That gave me the framework for the novel, four bystanders, people in the wrong place at the wrong time, who witness a shocking shooting. To research the book I spent time with the Witness Service at Manchester Crown Court and saw how they supported the people giving testimony. People without who our criminal justice system would fall apart. Ordinary people like you and me.
Witness is a Kindle Monthly Deal throughout June alongside The Kindest Thing.