Welcome to the start of the #BornBad blog tour, in which we celebrate the start of a new gritty series for Marnie Riches. Hooray! Marnie is back on the blog today talking about Manchester, the setting for Born Bad.
Born Bad is published on 9 March 2017 by Avon and is available to buy here
What is Born Bad all about, you say?
A powerful, darkly comic novel set in the criminal underworld of Manchester from bestselling author Marnie Riches.
The battle is on…
When gang leader Paddy O’Brien is stabbed in his brother’s famous nightclub, Manchester’s criminal underworld is shaken to the core. Tensions are running high, and as the body count begins to grow, the O’Brien family must face a tough decision – sell their side of the city to the infamous Boddlington gang or stick it out and risk losing their king.
But war comes easy to the bad boys, and they won’t go down without a fight. So begins a fierce battle for the South Side, with the leading Manchester gangsters taking the law into their own hands – but only the strongest will survive…
Born Bad’s Manchester – City of Gritty Dreams
by Marnie Riches
With the first three George McKenzie thrillers already under my belt, when my publisher, Avon approached me, asking what I’d like to write next, I had initially wondered if I should be penning standalone thrillers. I knew that I definitely wanted to publish more George McKenzie stories. I love George and Van den Bergen, and the series has a loyal following of readers. But what else could I turn my hand and my imagination to? The wise folk at Avon suggested I write a series about Manchester. Why not? I am a Mancunian, born and bred. Leaving home at eighteen to go to university, I did spend some fourteen years living abroad and in the southeast. But I returned home to the northwest in the mid-noughties. It’s a city I know and love so very well, and there’s definitely Mancunian blood running through my veins – my family has lived here for generations in north Manchester and Salford. I’ve got the obligatory webbing between my fingers (not really, though that would help, given the weather). So, I said yes.
My imagination was immediately all fired up. Naturally, given Manchester has a reputation for being the most violent city in the UK, it made sense to write about gangsters, in a similar vein to Martina Cole and Kimberley Chambers. I realised, having grown up in north Manchester and now, living south-side, I wanted to create a series based on north vs. south conflict, since the two halves of the city are so very, very different. Born Bad was conceived.
So, who would run the south side? Paddy O’Brien and the O’Brien clan cover the south, from the fictitious area of Parsons Croft (adjacent to Moss Side) out towards Bramshott (a fictitious slice of footballer-belt on the north Cheshire/south Manchester border). Like a hefty chunk of Manchester’s population, Paddy would have an Irish heritage, and it made perfect sense to me that his brother, Frank, would be an erstwhile musician – part of Manchester’s legendary musical hall of fame – who now runs a super-club, called M1 House that is inspired, in part, by the fabled and much-mourned Haçienda. Where Paddy is a ruthless psychopath, wanting to distance himself from the abject poverty and violence of his childhood, Frank embodies that typical Mancunian friendliness and happy-go-lucky nature. The two brothers couldn’t be more different but in them, we have that quintessentially Mancunian mix of music, drugs and gun-power.
And who runs the north side? Well, north Manchester has very large thriving minority ethnic communities. I grew up on a rough estate near Strangeways and went to school in Cheetham Hill, so those areas – filled with bustling small businesses, devout Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Hassidic Jews, liberal Jews, Eastern Europeans, Africans, people of Caribbean descent and plenty of aspiring flash-Harrys, driving around in blinging premium cars, hoping that with a lot of hard work, they’ve escaped the poverty of their forefathers for good – were the perfect stomping grounds for my Boddlington Gang bosses, Jonny Margulies and Tariq Khan. The two childhood friends run their nefarious business from the commercial area behind Strangeways prison, using a legitimate company that imports and exports fancy goods as a front.
The glue between north-side and south-side is found in Gloria Bell and her son Leviticus. Gloria, an ex-cleaner, consummate hypocrite but one of life’s grafters, lives in Chorlton and is an elder at a gospel church in Parsons Croft. She is also the business partner of Sheila O’Brien, Paddy’s ex-model wife. Together, they run a cleaning company staffed by trafficked women. But Gloria’s estranged son, Lev, is a low-level dealer for the Boddlingtons. He lives on the beleaguered Sweeney Hall estate – a fictitious area of north Manchester that will ring with authenticity to anybody familiar with Higher Broughton and the parts of Cheetham that inspired it. Sheila, Lev and Gloria are central to the plot of Born Bad, where the stakes are impossibly high and the price of losing to your enemy is death.
Clearly, in real life, not every legitimate business man or woman, north or south, runs their company as a front for criminal activity. Manchester is chock full of caring, law-abiding citizens who bear the frequent rain and overcast skies with a fortitude and humour you often only see in the northwest. But it’s still a city of violence, drugs, gangs and shifty goings on. Our men’s prison – Strangeways, aka HMP Manchester – and Styal women’s prison are both bursting with folk who will bear testament to that. Very often, their crimes have been committed through poverty and desperation. Breaking the law might have offered a way out of the ghetto and an alternative to facing a lifetime of fruitless struggle and lack of opportunity.
So, it has been the true stories of many Mancunians’ daily struggles and very real areas of the city, where those people live hard lives, that have inspired the fiction of Born Bad. Manchester has always been a city that evokes tall tales about saints and sinners. It is a city of musical and sporting heroes. It is a city of ruthless killers and feral gangs. It is a city where many inhabitants face difficult choices; running the gauntlet in tough areas that are morally as grey as the skies that hang over us. For my part, as a crime-writer, Manchester is a gritty city of dreams. Born Bad is the first story in which I have tried to put my vision and version of my hometown into words. I hope readers will enjoy the highs, the lows and the laughs!
Check out my review of Born Bad Born Bad – Marnie Riches
Say hello to Marnie Riches on Twitter https://twitter.com/Marnie_Riches
Find Marnie Riches’ website
Buy the book on Amazon UK
Check out all of the blog tour for more #BornBad #Badchester love!