Ian Pattinson

A Death In Didsbury

I’m serialising A Death In Didsbury here and on my Patreon. For as little as $1 a month, you can get to see the first draft unfold in near real time. (The real time of writing it, not of the events, obviously.)

This is book five in the Rain & Bullets series. You can get books one and two for free if you sign up to the mailing list. Book three, Solstice, is available from Amazon, Smashwords, and other stores. Book four, Kettled, is also available from Amazon, Smashwords, and other stores.

Here’s the first two scenes of A Death In Didsbury, to get you started.

It doesn’t always rain in Manchester, no matter what people may say. The rainy city is a myth which the locals are happy to help propagate. Annual rainfall is below the national average, as is the number of days on which it precipitates. Manchester has its fair share of glorious days.

It was raining in Manchester.

Rachel Evans had watched the rain come in, the sky and then the ground darkening. This late in the afternoon, weather like this would put a cap on the day, and she didn’t expect any more customers. She looked down at the newspaper open on the counter before her, and started dreaming about buying a house.

There was a tapping sound from the front of the shop, distinct over the hiss of cars along the wet street. Customers never knocked to ask if they could come in to On The Wall, so Rachel had a good idea what she would see when she looked up.

Standing in front of the gallery was Joe Hill. Bedraggled, looking like a sad, wet puppy, he was an amusing sight. He let go of his bike long enough to give a shrug at being caught in a downpour without waterproofs. Rachel grinned as she shook her head. She pointed to her right, telling him to go round to the alley that ran along the back of the row of shops. Joe did a little bow, then mounted his bike and rode off.

“Mind the fort for a while.” she told her assistant.

“Oh absolutely. Because south Manchester’s art lovers are all out today.” Julian had to be the campest straight man going. At least, he claimed to be straight, Rachel had yet to see any evidence for or against.

“It’s the rain. It brings them to the surface. Just like worms.”

By the time Rachel had released all the locks and bolts on the back door Joe had made his way around the block and along the alley to it. “I told you this would happen.” she reminded him.

“Next time I shall pay attention to your weather forecast, honest.” Joe propped his bike against Julian’s and kissed Rachel.

“Don’t drip on the artwork.” Rachel ordered, “Hang your shirt over there and let it dry.”

A few minutes later, the glass teapot was sat on a tray in the middle of the sales counter, brewing. Three cups crowded around it, eager to be filled. Joe had stripped off his wet shirt and T-shirt, and changed into a long sleeved top he had stashed in the office some time earlier.

“You’d think, after all these years, you’d know to pack a waterproof when you go out for a ride in Manchester.” Rachel told him. “I mean, I learnt quickly enough.”

“Oh, I packed a waterproof. I just didn’t think I’d need it. It started out as that sort of misty drizzle. You know, the tiny dots of water that seem to sit on your clothes without getting them wet. Then they started soaking in, and it was too late. Then it started pissing down. But by then I was on Burton Road, so carrying on and getting here as fast as possible was the best bet.”

On The Wall sold art, but the front of the shop was still decorated in the tiles that had served so well when it had been a butchers. The stainless steel behind the old counter, were the cutting and hacking had been done, had been removed. The sales counter was a rectangle of dark blue slate now, the back room an office with internet access and tea making facilities.

Some of the pieces on the walls were by Joe. They hadn’t just found their way there because he was sleeping with the manager. “Does that sticker say sold? Is that the last of the Burton Road series?” he asked, pointing at one canvas in particular.

“Burton Road Ten.” Rachel told him. “Sold it today. Well, provisionally. They have to make sure they have the cash. If they do, it’ll be out of here in a couple of days.”

Joe nodded approvingly, trying not to grin. “That’s a big canvas. That’s a three grand painting.”

“I know. How do you want to celebrate?”

“Blow job.” suggested Julian, picking up the glass teapot and started pouring into the cups, “It should always be a blow job.”

“Julian.” Rachel feigned shock.

“I sold the painting. I’m sure I can make a little fun.”

“Maybe you should get the blow job.” Joe offered.

“You really aren’t my type. No matter what my boss may say.”

“Oh well, you’ll just have to settle for the commission then. Nice one, Jules.” They bumped fists when Julian had put the teapot down.

Joe spotted the newspaper, and pulled it toward himself. “If it’s Thursday, you must be looking at the house listings in the Evening News.” he said. There were some very nice properties for sale in the area, but the prices had rocketed up so much in the last few years that they were far out of the reach of first time buyers.

“A girl can dream. If you can sell a few more paintings, I think we could afford the deposit.”

“I’ll see what I can do. But we can’t forget Julian’s contribution in selling them.”

“I should hope not, darling.” Julian said, saluting with his cup.

“You have been busy today, haven’t you? Not just riding around in the rain.” Rachel nudged Joe with her elbow. She already knew what he had planned to do with the day. I’m going to have some spare wall space soon. If you haven’t got anything to go there I’ll have to put up something by one of the artists I’m not sleeping with.”

“The fast food collection’s almost done. But they’re all quite small. I packed in early and went for an explore.” Joe opened his bag and pulled out his battered old digital camera. “I found something interesting. Where is it? Ah, there.” He put the camera on the table so they could both see the image on the view screen.

Julian cocked his head to one side as he puzzled out what he was supposed to be excited about. “Graffiti?”

Rachel nodded, “Is it a Banksy? It would be cool if there was another Banksy in Manchester.” She appraised the image some more, “It doesn’t look like a Banksy.”

“It’s not a Banksy. But it is rather impressive. I found it in one of the buildings they’re demolishing near my studio. It’s like they’re taking the building down around it.”

The graffiti depicted a cartoony countryside scene, where chaos reigned. Famous rabbits and ducks chased each other with swords and axes, whilst Disney princesses did something sapphic behind a bush. Exactly what was going on in the shrubbery was only hinted at by ecstatic faces and stocking clad legs sticking out on either side. Julian, who had been trying to remember why it all looked so familiar, slapped the table, “That’s the Wally Wood Disney orgy isn’t it? I knew I recognised it.”

“Almost. It’s definitely got some of the elements in there. But there are Hanna Barbera characters in there, Looney Tunes as well. And some characters I don’t know which might be from some obscure anime or could be entirely new creations.”

“What’s this Wally Wood orgy all about?” Rachel asked.

“Have I not shown you it? It’s a cartoon of all the Disney characters misbehaving because Walt’s died and he’s not around to control them any more. I’ll show you it later.”

“Before or after the blow job?” Julian enquired.

“There’s inventory to be done if you don’t behave yourself.” Rachel warned.

* * *

Nathan Vincent still had all his hair. He carried more weight around his waist than his doctor would like him to, but he could afford to have suits cut to hide that. He didn’t need any little blue pills to perform in the bedroom, and an Audi was the right mix of practical, luxury and performance. His mid-life crisis was going well.

All he needed now was the younger woman, and she seemed to have found him. Jenny wasn’t young enough to be his daughter. She wasn’t old enough that his son would call her a cougar, either. The age difference was more than enough to be inappropriate, and he would have it no other way.

If anyone asked, their relationship could be explained away as mentor and student. It wasn’t- she had come to him with the information he was about to use to make himself rich- but it wasn’t yet sexual, either. That would change in the next few days, he was sure.

It was another late night session, as they prepared their play. She was at his dining table, poring over photographs and old reference books, learning everything there was to know about their score. Her dark hair was piled up on top of her head, held in place by crossed pencils threaded through it. The look was so effortlessly practical in appearance, that it must have taken a long time to perfect. The thick, wavy strand that hung down from her brow, bouncing when her breath hit it, was likely calculated as well.

She was trying to look at ease, perfectly happy to be here, in his house, late at night, working with him. He thought he might love her for the effort she was putting into the pretence. “Are you absolutely sure I can’t get you some wine?” he asked, as he took the seat beside her at the table. He had a cut crystal glass of single malt in his hand. A little Dutch courage before he asked her to stay the night.

Jenny looked up from the book that had engrossed her. As if noticing the strand of hair for the first time, she brushed it back, and tried to twine it around one of the pencils. She smiled at him, but he was drawn to her dark brown eyes more than her lips. “Oh no. I couldn’t. I have to get home. I mustn’t have any alcohol if I’m to drive.” Arthur hadn’t pinned down the hint of an accent she had. There was the occasional, almost musical, lilt to her voice, as she put the emphasis on inflections others would slide past.

The little voice in Arthur’s head told him that this was the point in the script where he suavely brought up the subject of his spare bedroom, and told her she wouldn’t be putting him out at all if she stayed. Then there would be some wine for her. A chat about things other than art missing since the Second World War, and her being charmed into the main bed rather than the spare one.

He smiled back at her, and took a long sip of whisky instead. “Of course. Most sensible.”

She did want to sleep with him, he was certain. There were the coquettish laughs at his jokes, the way she listened so intently when he talked about art, and how he kept catching her looking at him when she thought he didn’t notice. But this was a big job they were working on. It could make both of them the equivalent of several years worth of income, possibly even millions. So, it made sense that she was concentrating on the preparation so much.

There would be time for celebrations when they had pulled off the job, and collected their rewards. There would be champagne, good food, perhaps an expensive hotel, and the lovemaking he knew they both wanted. For now, going over the details one more time couldn’t hurt.

Arthur took another sip of whisky, then pulled an old, battered, German book on art toward himself.

The Ruins of Manchester   Recently updated !

I get around to most jobs, eventually.

For years, I’ve been taking pictures of run-down and characterful buildings in and around Manchester (and elsewhere, when I’ve been able to visit other cities). I’ve finally started uploading them to Redbubble, so you can get them printed onto various items. Every image is available as a card, but some of them are also available on mugs, phone and tablet covers, and as larger prints. You can even get a redbrick miniskirt.

I’m only up to 2010 so far, so there’s more to come. Keep dropping in to see what’s new. Ruins of Manchester isn’t the only series I’m doing. I’ve got other photos, and several designs, that are also available. Check out all my works here.

Buy me a coffee

I’ve set up an account with a service called ko-fi, which lets people share small cash gifts. It’s a possible way for me to ask for support when I start serialising the next Rain & Bullets story, and get to work on my fantasy graphic novel, Uninvited Guests, later this year.

So, as a test, would you care to buy me a coffee, kind people?

The internet rise of Britain’s far-right

On my list of possible subjects for a story is the threat of far-right violence and terrorism. I don’t have a specific hook for this story yet,
but I am collecting background information for research.

(And getting worried for my country as I do.)

Today, though, there is an autonomous mass of far-right activists propagating hate independently of formal far-right organisations, some of which we have outlined in our new report out today, State of Hate 2018. Some of the biggest names in this world are from the UK and they have global audiences. Many of the largest and most influential far-right sites in the world are visited by huge numbers of UK activists.

Source: Britain’s far-right keyboard warriors are taking advantage of our complacency

Licensed to litter (and commit other minor offences)

So, the government has revealed that MI5 agents can commit crime in UK in pursuit of their duties. There’s been no detail released, yet, of just how serious those crimes can be, or any of the more detailed guidelines.

In Bond-like stories, the MI5 agents become daring cat burglars, whilst in Le Carre land, retired agents live in fear of their misdemeanours in the line of duty being used as blackmail them into off the books espionage.

The mass shooting conspiracy theory script

There’s a script the conspiracy theorists, and gun nuts go through it every time there’s a mass shooting in the US. This article on The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories blog picks it apart.

These days, a mass shooting in the news is basically a guarantee that in the next 24 hours at least 100 different people on the internet are going to use the red paintbrush tool in MS Paint to put meaningful circles around pictures of people’s eyebrows.

I used to regularly argue with a conspiracy theorist in his site’s comment section. I’d investigate his claims, quickly find out how reality disagreed with them, then get accused of being part of the conspiracy for pointing out its flaws.

It was fun, in its own dumb way. But he withdrew from being wrong on the internet, and now the United States has a conspiracy nut as its President.
Conspiracy theories aren’t just amusing stupidity any more, they’ve become weaponised, and they’re being used to create further division (and endanger people such as the students in Florida who are speaking out after they came under fire- their friends were killed- in the latest school shooting).

The digital evidence disaster

There’s a story in the Police’s problems with properly handling digital evidence. I don’t know what it is, but I’m linking to a couple of stories from today’s Guardian for future reference.

Justice system at ‘breaking point’ over digital evidence

Public faith in the fairness of trials is being eroded and the justice system is approaching “breaking point” due to failures to disclose key digital evidence, the head of the criminal bar has said. The comments from Angela Rafferty QC come as a leading forensic scientist, Dr Jan Collie, exposes the difficulties defence experts have in obtaining downloaded material from police and prosecutors, including dealing with “games” officers play in pursuit of convictions.

Police outsource digital forensic work to unaccredited labs

The Guardian has learned that:

At least 15 police forces, including Greater Manchester police and the Metropolitan police, have outsourced digital forensics work – typically the analysis of mobile phones and computers – to unaccredited private companies, some of which are subject to no regulatory oversight.
One private company that holds a major contract covering more than a dozen forces had its accreditation revoked last year after failing its first audit, but continued to perform forensic work for the prosecution.
Just 15 out of 43 police forces met a government deadline in October to bring their in-house laboratories in line with minimum quality standards for analysing mobile phone, computer and CCTV data.

Break It Down!

Breaking the story down

This is the next stage in creating Uninvited Guests. I’ve taken the brief scene descriptions I wrote over Christmas, and laid them out as pages, ready for thumbnailing. Now I’m going to do a Marvel-ish method of partial scripting and page layouts as the next part of the process.


Uninvited Guests rough v2

I’ve done a couple of pieces of very rough concept art for the comic I’m planning. This is version two, done yesterday. Version one is below.

Obviously, I’ve got a lot of work to do. The monster isn’t going to be the clunky lupine thing in the second drawing, nor the flat black one in the first. I think I need to get to planning some layouts, and letting them suggest how to have it sneak into full view over a few pages.

Uninvited Guests rough v1

I’m being censored! Censored, I say!

Anyone who isn’t buying and reading all my books is complicit in the ongoing censorship of my awesome ideas, and should be ashamed of themselves. It’s my absolute right to sell millions of books, and you’re infringing my rights by not doing your part.

I exaggerate, of course, but I’m only a little leap of illogic from some of the cries of ‘Censorship!’ that have been raised since Virgin West Coast announced they won’t be selling the Daily Mail on their trains. It’s nonsense, of course, but proclaiming their victimhood when people are no longer going to take their shit is a very right wing thing to do.

The ‘newspaper’* is still going to be on sale at other shops, presumably even ones on the station, and, as far as I can see, no-one’s stopping people displaying their narrow-mindedness by reading the rag on VWC trains. Virgin made a commercial decision. They barely sell any Daily Fails anyway, and were reacting to complaints.

The corner shop nearest to me stocks only tabloids. I don’t for a minute think they’re censoring the Guardian, Times and Telegraph. I live in the sort of area where broadsheets aren’t commonly read. They’re stocking what they will sell, not making political or ideological statements.

The Daily Mail is, sadly, the largest source of opinion dressed up as news. The paper has railed against all manner of far less offensive material over the years, and practically led a campaign to have Channel 4 closed down. They’re not about to collapse because they’ve lost a dozen or so sales on Virgin trains. But they can see that this decision is another example of a significant shift in public opinion against them, and they’re scared that it’s getting harder for them to get away with their bullying and obsessing over the bodies of women and girls. Which is a good thing.

[But, seriously people, why aren’t you buying my books? It’s a terrible constraint upon my freedom to be a millionaire author. I say it’s your civic duty to pick up a copy of Sounds of Soldiers, Northern Gorehouse, or any of the other great (if I say it, it must be true) books by myself or Garth Owen.]

*I don’t know whether it deserves the title, if I’m honest.

Lever Street

Lever Street 060118

Amongst this year’s plans is a comic, so I’m going to get more sketching done, to boost my confidence with pencil, pen and brush. I fully intend to improve, and this is here as much to provide a reference to check against at the end of the year as anything else.

The drawing was done in the coffee shop across from (and slightly to one side of) the building depicted. I’d have put in more details, but the windows steamed up and obscured my view.

Paramount Books

Paramount Books

Paramount Books is the shop I wish I bought more stuff from. If I had more money, and a lot more bookshelf space, I could happily go wild in this shop. As it is, I’ll pop in every so often to pick up a few old copies of Starblazer or similar sized cowboy adventures or romances.

It’s only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so you can’t always pop in on a whim. There was a worrying time, last year, I think, when it looked like it might be closing down. As it’s still there, I shall continue topping up my Starblazer collection.

Put a lid on it (if you want)

I put off writing about it at the time, but The Helmet Debate resurfaced just before Christmas, along with rumours that the Government may consider making cycle helmets compulsory*.

So a few quick thoughts on the subject.

The argument for making helmets compulsory is that they’ll make cyclists safer. This is toss. My helmet doesn’t make me any safer. It doesn’t throw up a forcefield to deflect close passing cars, or fill in potholes in the road ahead. Nor does it psychically alert pedestrians that they should look both ways before stepping into the road- even if all those cars are standing still. It’s not there to make me safer. It’s there to minimise a specific type of damage, for when its nonexistent magical abilities don’t prevent an accident caused by bad driving, crap roads, inattentive pedestrians, or my own mistakes.

So many of the things that people think of as safety devices are, likewise, really just damage limitation features. Staying on the roads, seatbelts aren’t safety devices. Nor are airbags, crumple zones, side impact protection, or strengthened pillars. Whilst you want your car to have all those things built in, to save your life, you don’t want to ever have to use them.

Safety devices are the things that can help you prevent the damage limitation features being used. Brakes, good tyres and suspension, a well maintained and marked road, and, most of all, actually using that thing between your ears.

If campaigners and politicians are genuinely interested in making the roads safer for all (but especially cyclists, in this context), they should ignore all calls for mandatory helmets, and look at ways to improve driver awareness, and build better cycling infrastructure.

*Based upon flimsy evidence, admittedly. But we have a ridiculously flimsy Government at the moment.

Meet the New Year, just like the Old Year?

Well, we made it out of 2017. Which is nice.

I’m trying to imagine that we’ve now entered the third act of a bizarre tragi-comedy. 2016 was the first act, where a bunch of really bad decisions were made. 2017 showed the first effects of those decisions, and signposted potential future horrors, but it also signalled the beginnings of resistance. 2018, hopefully, is when the resistance begins to undo the damage, and gives us signs of a more positive future.

One can hope.

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. But I have a few aims. I had begun to hit a work rhythm that combined my freelance job with writing and other creative work, but that got disrupted in the weeks before Christmas. I’m going to try to get back into it this week.

Cycling is something I’ve been doing less of in the last few years. That’s another thing I hope to do more of.

And I’ve not been experimenting with food as much, either. So more of what I call Collision Cooking is called for. In fact, I managed tp start the year with a little bit of it.

Some of Christmans was spent in Cumbria, which meant I got to have Rum Butter for the first time in years. It’s basically alcoholic, coarse grained, butter icing, and is more-ish in that way all the least healthy foods are. As a last bit of Christmassy decadence, I had some on my porridge this morning, instead of honey.

And it was nice. The butter melted, and added a rich creaminess which was a nice counter to the dark richness of the brown sugar and rum. I’ve still got about three quarters of a jar of it left, so it’ll be appearing on porridge in the future, when i really want to spoil myself.

So, I’ve begun the year in one way I intend to go on, as well as getting some (but not enough) writing done.. Tomorrow, I’ll try to get a few more started