It’s a great pleasure today to be joining in the tour for David Evans, The Wakefield series with a guest post. The Wakefield Series which consists of Trophies, Torment and Talisman has been republished by Orchard View Publications.
THE WAKEFIELD SERIES
My good friend and thriller writer Sally Spedding often talks about how a location is every bit a character as any other in a book. Think of Rebus and Edinburgh, Charlie Resnick and Nottingham, DCI Banks and the fictional town of Eastvale (which is actually Richmond in North Yorkshire) or Roy Grace and Brighton. These series would not be so rich and three-dimensional without the setting. Sally loved the original opening paragraph of Chapter 1 for Trophies and often quotes it.
“Wakefield; home of Double-Two shirts, Trinity Rugby League, two railway stations and a cathedral. A city with strong connections to crime; home of the highest grade prison on mainland Britain as well as West Yorkshire’s Police Training College. The cathedral was once the haunt of a choirboy by the name of John George Haigh, who gained notoriety in the late nineteen-forties as the Acid Bath murderer. Behind the cathedral and opposite the Town Hall stands Wood Street police station, a four storey stone building, battered by the wind and rain of another bleak January day.”
Why Wakefield, I’ve often been asked. I well remember the first time I set foot in the city, arriving on a cold miserable drizzly evening in November 1974 at Wakefield Kirkgate railway station. The woman I was later to marry had invited me over for the weekend. The first place I was taken to was The Wakefield Arms, situated next to the station. It was also an extremely popular venue for live music, jazz especially, and it was often difficult to get in on Sunday lunch-time. The whole city had a great feel back then, friendly and welcoming, although there were some dark corners and ginnels (narrow passageways and alleys).
But the main reason to set the books here is down to one of the main threads of the first book, Trophies. It was in the Police Training College mentioned above that Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield conducted the press conference releasing the tape that purported to be from the Yorkshire Ripper. As we all know now, that was a hoax and the man responsible, dubbed Wearside Jack was not discovered until 2005. Setting the book in 2000 meant that he was still unknown at that time.
I was familiar with Wakefield and had visited regularly since the mid-seventies and so enjoyed setting the action around the city. The main characters have met up in various establishments around the place, not least of all the pubs; The Eagle, The Black Rock, haunt of many a detective, The Talbot and Falcon, plus, on a couple of occasions now, The Redoubt, famously proclaiming itself as the start of the challenge known as the Westgate Run.
Characters adapt, develop and move on and Wakefield is no different. The city has changed much since the 70s; it’s even changed since the turn of the century when the books are set. Many of the pubs have closed their doors, even The Wakefield Arms, a Grade II listed building has been left to decay. The concrete structure of Balne Lane Library has been demolished and even that in Drury Lane no longer functions as a library but, thankfully, the beautiful stone building remains in use as a gallery.
DI Colin Strong was based at Wood Street Police Station, now sadly, since 2014, no longer an operational station. Plans are afoot to convert the building into a luxury hotel. So who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to stay in Colin’s office (or DCS Flynn’s on the floor above) and gaze over to the Town Hall as they have done.