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.
Man uncovers long lost photos in charity shop depicting historic suffragette march
Whilst digging away in a charity shop, a man has uncovered a set of old Victorian era glass slides depicting what appears to be Women’s Sunday – a suffragette march held in London, organised by Moss Side’s own Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).
Amongst a heap of slides that appear to be taken sometime around the early 1900s, one depicts a large group featuring women in the signature stripy hats worn by the protest group.
What’s more their new owner, Ray Newman, has even suggested that one of the photos may depict Emmeline Pankhurst herself.
Writing on Twitter, he shared a thread of the images with his followers: adding short commentary to each one.
One the photo in question, he comments: “If you zoom in on the woman in dark clothing seen looking towards the camera from between two PCs she looks like Emmeline Pankhurst, or am I fooling myself?”
Others have chimed in with suggestions as to the date of the photograph, with one writing: “The boater straw hats plus mutton sleeves equals c.1910.”
Given that the Women’s Sunday protest was held just two years prior to this in 1908, it does seem possible that this incredibly old photograph has captured one of the biggest moments in the suffragette’s history.
The event, organised by Pankhurst’s WSPU, featured the organisation’s colours (purple, white and green) for the first time in public. In days leading up to the event, over 10,000 scarves in the colours were sold at two shillings and elevenpence each, whilst men donned ties in solidarity.
Held to persuade the then Liberal government to support votes for women, the march is thought to have been the largest demonstration to be held until then in the country – drawing around 30,000 women marched to Hyde Park in seven processions.
Of course, the photos not being dated or marked in any way, it is hard to know if these really are images of Emmeline Pankhurst and the historic march but there are quite a few people online speculating that it could well be.
Several have pointed to the seemingly large police presence (and one person claims to have counted eleven officers), suggesting that that could indeed point to it being a photograph of a large suffragette protest.
Elsewhere amongst the collection of photos, images show a stately home, school or institution with flamingos outside, what appears to be a boy scout troop or group of cadets armed with rifles, boaters on the water at Alexandra Park, and a number of people posing in period dress.
Writing above a picture that depicts an old British high street, Ray comments on how the glass slides are tricky to scan adding that he had to “do it with my phone against a bright white screen.”
He continues: “This is a high street… somewhere… c.1910, I’d guess. I can see a sign for an inn with an ‘excellent motor garage’ but can’t work out any more than that.”
Above another, he said: “A stately home, school or institution. There are statues of flamingos on the left. Definitely haunted. (House and slide.)”
Offering a fascinating look into a lost world, some of the images are over 100 years old and taken when photography was something of a new art form. Unlike today, when everyone has a camera in their pocket, to own a camera was something of a rarity – making these images even more intriguing.
If you would like to see the full thread of pictures uncovered by Ray, you can do so by clicking here.
Feature image – Ray Newman
Rugby legend, ultra-marathon runner, inspiration | Kevin Sinfield — Manc of the Month November 2022
It’s that time of the month again (no, not that one): it’s time to pick our Manc of the Month for November and while there were plenty to pick from, one man has stood out in the past few weeks.
Kevin Sinfield is the ex-rugby player turned coach, ultra-marathon-runner and mega-fundraiser from our very own Oldham who did something truly amazing earlier this month.
The 42-year-old former loose forward, who currently serves as a defensive coach for the Leicester Tigers in the rugby union, has gone from a Manc-born sporting role model to a national hero thanks to his extremely admirable charity work over the past couple of years.
This bloke is a machine.
Seven ultra-marathons in seven days
For anyone unaware of Sinfield’s latest exploits, the former Leeds Rhinos player and director undertook the immense ‘Ultra 7 in 7‘ challenge earlier this month, tasking himself with the ridiculous feat of running seven ultra-marathons in seven days.
To put that into context, a standard marathon measures just over 26 miles or 42 kilometres; ultra marathons regularly clock in at 50km or more. Sinfield is said to have covered more than 256 miles (approx. 417km), averaging more than 60km a day. Insane.
Finishing the series of ultra-marathons alongside his dedicated team of runners on November 19 at Old Trafford, just in time for the 2022 Rugby League World Cup final, he was met with rapturous applause from the crowd — and rightly so.
The ex-Rhinos and England international set himself the target of raising £777,777 for Motor Neuron Disease in honour of his former teammate and equally inspiring close friend, Rob Burrow. He went on to absolutely smash that goal, amassing an incredible £1.4 million in donations in just a week.
Moreover, just last year he put himself through similarly unimaginable levels of strain by running a 24-hour marathon for the first time, raising over £1m for MND in November 2021 alone.
Again, this man is utterly remarkable.
Covering more than double the distance he managed the last time around, raising a total of over £2.3m across his two 7 in 7 ultra runs, it cannot be understated how much he has done for more than five different motor neuron disease charities in just a few short years.
Even before his latest heroics, Sinfield’s contributions to motor neuron awareness and fundraising were recognised by the local ouncil alongside record-breaking rower and Oldham native, Frank Rothwell, who were both bestowed with the little-known ‘Freedom of the Borough’ award back in March.
As for this year’s ultra-marathon challenge, his route saw him trek all the way from Edinburgh, through various parts of Yorkshire and, finally, back down to his home county of Greater Manchester. Not even bathroom breaks could stop him.
Compelled to run and raise as much as possible to support the MND community and honour Burrow, who was diagnosed with the disease back in 2019, Sinfield has made it his mission to help raise awareness and fund research into the rare condition which affects the brain and nervous system.
Joined by peers like footballer Stephen Darby as well as late rugby union colleague and fellow MND suffer Doddie Weir, who sadly passed away just last week, these and many more who supported Sinfield’s campaign have done untold levels of good when it comes to highlighting the disease.
Since beginning his fundraising journey in 2019, Kevin Sinfield has now raised over £7 million for the Motor Neuron Disease Association (MNDA) and related charities through his ultra-marathons and other charitable efforts, a miraculous and potentially fortune-changing amount that could save countless lives.
This absolute hero has already helped raise in excess of £2.6m all told with this year’s Ultra 7 in 7 alone, but if you want to join the millions of people still donating then you can do so HERE.