Anger turned David Nolan into a crime fiction author.
Everything was too much, and storming around the house in a huff wasn’t helping. He needed to get it out.
One day, he sat down at his laptop and let his white-hot rage spray over the screen like a scalding shower.
Fury guided his fingertips as they crashed across keyboard; every word its own powerful release of emotion.
But when he finally stopped typing, David realised something. He had a story in front of him.
Of course, there was a very real reason why he was so angry in the first instance.
David had been spending every waking hour researching a fact-based book about the scale and breadth of abuse in Britain – as well the connection to media, politics and power.
It was a topic that had cast a long shadow over his life.
David was one of many abused at St Ambrose school in Altrincham during the seventies – with teacher Alan Morris found guilty of 19 sex assaults carried out against 10 boys.
After initially going to the police, David decided to withdraw his evidence to report on the case in his capacity as a journalist.
As an investigation peeled back the layers, it became clear that the abuse involved numerous individuals and spanned decades – becoming the biggest of its kind Greater Manchester Police had ever seen.
David braved a journey into his troubling past to interview fellow victims, families, detectives involved in the case; building a huge amount of material that included a book (Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil) and a documentary for Radio 4 (The Abuse Trial).
And it isn’t over, either. Almost 40 years on, victims are still coming forward.
“Ex-pupils still talk to me about it now,” says David.
“I’m still getting calls and emails from them even today – because they want someone to talk to about what happened to them.”
David’s work on the St Ambrose case led to him being commissioned for a huge project – all-encompassing book titled Abuse of Power that would reach further and delve deeper into abuse cases and their connections to the wider world.
But suddenly he was ordered to stop.
“‘Actually, here’s some money to piss off and not write it,’” David paraphrases his would-be publishers, who’d apparently had an abrupt change of heart.
With that, Abuse of Power was shelved.
Embittered and incensed at the injustice of it all, David decided to channel the anger into his writing.
What came out was Black Moss – David’s debut novel.
The dark, frightening pages were marketed as fiction. But in reality, much of it was fact.
“With Black Moss, I realised I could say all the things I wanted to say, but just pretend it’s a rip-roaring crime thriller,” David explains.
“It was a way for me to let out my anger and tell a story based on truth.”
This was a big change for David – who’d previously regarded fiction writing to be “cheating.”
He’d spent his entire working life as a reporter, after all – where he’d been taught to focus on facts and tell things as they were.
His career had been a thrilling one, too; with David’s rise up the ladder coinciding with the moment that Manchester was fast becoming centre of the world.
Everything was happening here between the eighties and nineties: The Strangeways Riots; Madchester; The IRA Bomb; Mosside gang fights.
In David’s words, it was a “ridiculous” time to be a journalist, and his colourful experiences on the beat – and chapters of his dark past – have found their way into works of fiction he never could have imagined himself writing when he was a fledgling reporter in Altrincham.
But today, he is flying the flag for a brand new local crime genre: Manc Noir.
Black Moss was perhaps the first ever book to be given the Manc Noir label; telling the story of a young boy killed by the eponymous reservoir in Saddleworth whilst everyone else was distracted by the inmates on the roof of Strangeways Prison.
The novel received rave reviews – and it convinced David to write another story in the same universe.
It already had a concept; titled The Mermaid’s Pool after the peculiar moor-top body of water hidden in the shadow of Kinder Scout.
But to get The Mermaid’s Pool out onto the page, David had to remember what had turned him into an author in the first instance.
“With Black Moss, I didn’t set out to write a novel – it was an accident,” David explains.
“This time, with TheMermaid’s Pool, it was intentional. But I had to think: ‘How did I do it last time?’
“I remembered it was because I was angry. So, I thought: ‘What am I angry about, right now?’”
“I was angry at the rise of the far-right; the murder of Jo Cox, and the guy who planned machete attack on another MP.
“I was angry about my wife having breast cancer – sat in the Christie (hospital) feeling like a spare part and wanting to say to the doctors ‘take it from her and give it to me’.
“I was angry about the Moors being on fire because of some divvy with a portable BBQ.”
It all served as inspiration. Machete-wielding neo-nazis, heartbreaking tragedy, ferocious blazes. Everything that stirred rage in David made it into the book.
“Some people like to have a few drinks before they write, others like to go for a run.
“For me, it’s getting angry.”
Emotion got the text flowing, but again, much of The Mermaid’s Pool is rooted in reality.
The novel’s ‘thank you’ list reads like a who’s-who of anyone and everyone in Greater Manchester – from ex-detectives and the fire brigade to ecstasy-takers and councillors.
David even contacted Kinder Mountain Rescue Team to discuss the logistics of manoeuvring a dead body from the moorland.
They helped him out, too – realising he was a meticulous author rather than a murderer.
But as real as the book feels, there’s also some myth in there.
“The Mermaid’s Pool itself has a legend around it – which says there’s a mermaid that lives within it,” David explains.
“Apparently, if you climb up on Easter eve, you can call out to her.
“If she likes you, she’ll give you eternal life. If she doesn’t, she’ll drag you down and drown you.”
David said he’s never had to look too far from home for this kind of inspiration.
Manchester might have been depicted in predictable ways on television in the recent past, but David says there’s far more in its makeup than many might have recognised.
A closer look reveals that Manchester has the ideal balance of pure beauty and unsettling strangeness to function as an optimum canvas for crime fiction.
“Manchester is so much more than Cold Feet or Shameless,” David declares.
“It’s a city, it’s canals, it’s posh, it’s poor, it’s multicultural, it’s Catholic, it’s Irish, it’s Jewish.
“Then you’ve got the hills all around; bleak and windy and horrible. It’s a landscape that’s amazing, foreboding and frightening all at the same time.
David pauses for a second and lets out an incredulous gasp.
“Honestly… why would you want to write about anywhere else?!”
The Mermaid’s Pool is out now. The book is available to order here.
Yara, the family-run Syrian and Lebanese restaurant serving Manchester for fifteen years
Take a trip down to the Stockport village of Cheadle and you’ll find a surprising glut of great Middle Eastern eateries nestled on the Cheshire border.
Amongst them sits Yara, a family-run Syrian and Lebanese restaurant that’s been serving Manchester for fifteen years.
First opened in Altrincham in 2008, today it has five sites across Greater Manchester – all serving up traditional Middle Eastern favourites like succulent kebabs, crispy donut-shaped falafels, and fluffy pittas with flavourful homemade dips.
With further restaurants in Whitefield, Chorlton, Cheadle and Alderley Edge, it’s clear that people just can’t get enough – so we made the trip down to see what all the fuss is about.
Suffice it to say, after tasting their sharp and citrussy babaganoush, stuffed vine leaves, and tabbouleh – a super fresh herb and bulgur salad dominated by parsley – we fell head over heels just like the rest.
Yara is a haven for those on the hunt for some finger-licking Middle Eastern goodness, with vegetarian starters like charcoal-grilled halloumi and creamy pots of homemade hummus pooled with rich olive oil sitting alongside crunchy pastry treats.
These include chicken or cheese and spinach bourak (often referred to as Assyrian or Middle Eastern egg rolls), lahembajeen – filo pastry topped with minced lamb, pomegranate sauce, pine kernels and onions – and mossahab, a chicken-stuffed puff pastry with added onion and herbs.
As for the main attraction: the meaty charcoal grill. This, more than anything else, is what we really came down for. At Yara, tender cuts of lamb and chicken come rich with Mediterranean spices and herbs, whilst lamb kebabs come in the shish, shawarma and kafta varieties.
Oh, and to save on your next Deliveroo order from Yara make sure to use our code 5OFFATYARA when you check out.
Feature image – The Manc Eats
Where to find a great pint of Guinness in Manchester city centre
When it comes to finding good pints of Guinness, it’s fair to say that not all Manchester boozers are created equal.
Some pints are thin and watery, some have a very bitter taste, and some are missing that all-important signature creamy head. All things you want to avoid. In fact, if you go into a pub and see any of this our advice is to run.
Any bartender worth their salt will tell you that there’s a certifiable art to pouring out a proper pint of the black stuff, starting with a two-part pour – a practice considered sacrosanct for literally hundreds of years.
Your pint should be properly poured with 3/4 of it filled with old stout, rested, then topped up with new, and when the glass is emptied a white, creamy residue should remain.
These, as we know them, are the basics but serious Guinness drinkers can likely reel off a whole list of other criteria that we haven’t even touched on. For now, though, that’ll do.
Keep reading to find the best places to drink Guinness in Manchester.
Mulligans of Deansgate
Widely renowned for having the best pint of Guinness in Manchester hands down, if it’s authenticity you’re looking for then Mulligan’s is a must.
An authentic Irish bar with live music and plenty of cosy snugs to tuck yourself away in, it’s typically packed to the rafters and bartenders pride themselves on never, ever leaving a bubble in your pint.
The Bay Horse Tavern
This Northern Quarter boozer on Thomas Street is another favourite for those looking for a great pint of Guinness.
This St Patrick’s Day, lovers of the black stuff can get a pint for just £4 between 4-7pm. as well as £5 double Jameson and gnger and £2.50 Jameson all day long.
The Peveril of the Peak
A historic city centre boozer, The Peveril of the Peak is not just one of Manchester’s most beautiful but also one of its most unique public houses.
Run by one of Britain’s oldest and longest-serving landlords, come for its bold green tile-clad exterior and stained glass windows and stay for a creamy pint of Guinness.
Another great Northern Quarter boozer, this time on Oldham Street, The Castle Hotel is another spot you can completely rely on for quality Guinness. Its pours have even been accredited.
The real ale pub boasts several cosy snugs, a small beer garden out back and a gig room where you can watch local bands whilst sipping on proper pints.
The Crown & Kettle
This gorgeous Grade II-listed freehouse sits the border of Ancoats and Northern Quarter and dates all the way back to 1774.
Reopened in 2005 in cooperation with English Heritage, it has an incredibly fine and unusual ceiling and one of the best pints of Guinness in the neighbourhood.
Whilst we’re talking about Ancoats, Edinburgh Castle also deserves an honourable mention for its Guinness pour.
This lovingly refurbished Victorian boozer not only boasts Manchester’s most elite chip butty and a stunning upstairs restaurant, but is also widely considered one of the best places for a pint of Guinness in town.
O’Shea’s Irish Bar
Obviously, we have to talk about O’Shea’s. This Irish bar is widely considered a go-to fo a good pint of Guinness, with some even reporting they prefer their pints to Mulligans.
During Covid, the bar made a splash in Manchester by opening a giant outdoor Guinness garden. This year on St Patrick’s Day, it is opening from 10am for breakfast pints.
Another historic boozer reborn after two years of sitting boarded up on the busy Manchester stretch from which it takes its name.
The Deansgate is now under the ownership of Greene King and serves a cracking pint of Guinness from its ground-floor and first-floor bars alongside a menu of hearty pub grub.