#BookReview To The Dark by Chris Nickson @SevernHouse @RandomTTours

To The Dark BT Poster

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for To The Dark by Chris Nickson, the third book in his Simon Westow historical mystery series. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour and to Severn House for my digital review copy via NetGalley.

To The DarkAbout the Book

Winter is about to take a chilling twist…

Leeds, 1822. The city is in the grip of winter, but the chill deepens for thief-taker Simon Westow and his young assistant, Jane, when the body of Laurence Poole, a petty local thief, emerges from the melting snow by the river at Flay Cross Mill.

A coded notebook found in Laurence’s room mentions Charlie Harker, the most notorious fence in Leeds who’s now running for his life, and the mysterious words: To the dark. What was Laurence hiding that caused his death? Simon’s hunt for the truth pits him against some dangerous, powerful enemies who’ll happily kill him in a heartbeat – if they can.

Format: ebook (224 pages)                       Publisher: Severn House
Publication date: 31st December 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery

Find To The Dark on Goodreads

Purchase links
Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

To The Dark is the third book in Chris Nickson’s historical crime series featuring thief-taker Simon Westow. Having not read the previous two books in the series, I can testify to the fact To The Dark works perfectly well as a standalone. Indeed for the benefit of new readers like myself the author includes nuggets of information about the back stories of the main characters – Simon himself, his wife Rosie and his assistant Jane.

Jane is a particularly intriguing character. Clearly she has a troubled past but possesses an uncanny ability to pass unnoticed in a crowd, mingling with those on the boundaries of society in order to gather information helpful to Simon’s investigations. And she’s more than capable of looking after herself in risky situations.

Simon is an intuitive reader of others’ actions and intentions – useful in a fight, when seeking information or in a game of cards. It’s just as well because his work as a thief-taker (recovering stolen goods for a fee) brings him into contact with some pretty shady types. Now a family man, he has more to protect than before.

Set in early 19th century Leeds, readers familiar with that city are likely to recognize many of the locations featured in the book. It’s a city that is changing though as it becomes more industrialized with many of its inhabitants taking up employment in the new “manufactories” that fill the air with smog and smoke. I enjoyed the way the author conjured up the sights and sounds of the city such as during this evening stroll down Briggate.

“The night was alive with people. Groups moved from beer shop to dram shop, singing and laughing. The whores stood their pitches at the entrances to courts, joking and teasing for business. Lights glowed behind shutters and reflected in puddles on the pavement. Someone played a fiddle, a rousing jig that carried in the winter air.”

From the beginning, Simon senses there’s more than meets the eye about his engagement to help find the murderer of Laurence Poole, especially as that should be the responsibility of the city’s Constable. “He knew he was caught up in something political, a twisted, grubby little spectacle.” His suspicions are proved correct when the hunter becomes the hunted. Soon there are scores to be settled and justice to be served.

To The Dark is a well-crafted historical mystery with plenty of twists and turns. I liked the fact that Simon’s role is not that of traditional detective or police officer. It’s certainly a series I shall be looking out for more of in the future.

In three words: Suspenseful, assured, atmospheric

Try something similar: None So Blind by Alis Hawkins

Follow this blog via Bloglovin

Chris Nickson Author PicAbout the Author

Chris Nickson has published 28 novels, all historical crime, most of them set in Leeds, whose people and history are his passion. The Richard Nottingham series began things, taking place in the 1730s, followed by the Tom Harper novels, which begin in 1890 and have now moved to the 20th century. Between them, Lottie Armstrong, Urban Raven and Dan Markham cover Leeds from the 1920s to the 1950s.

The three books featuring thief-taker Simon Westow explore a changing Leeds, growing rapidly in the 1820s as industry – the factories and mills and belching chimneys – comes to dominate the town. The Hocus Girl, the second in the series, received starred reviews from Kirkus, which called it a “tour de force,” and Publishers Weekly, which declared “historical mysteries don’t get much better than this.’

Chris grew up in Leeds, but lived in the US for many years, making his living as a music journalist. He still reviews occasional releases, but his focus these days is fiction.

Connect with Chris
Website | Twitter

#Extract One Chance: Surviving London’s Gangs by Terroll Lewis @midaspr

I’m delighted to be joining the launch celebrations for One Chance: Surviving London’s Gangs by Terroll Lewis Published by Ad Lib in hardcover and as an ebook on 21st January 2021, it’s been described as “2021s most inspirational true story”. In advance of publication, I’m able to bring you an extract from the book.  Please be aware it does contain some swear words.

One ChanceAbout the Book

“It’d be easy for me to go back to my old life, but I know where that old life leads you. You’re either behind prison bars or six feet underground.”

Born and raised on Brixton’s notorious Myatt’s Field and Angell Town estates, Terroll Lewis has lived a crazy life. Surrounded by gang culture from an early age, like so many other young inner-city people, he found it hard to resist the lifestyle. By the time he was 15, he had already joined a gang, been stabbed, shot at, and was selling drugs. A chance to play professional football at Stevenage offered him a way out, but the short-term allure of a glamorous street life – the promise of girls, money, and cars – compared to the £50 a week he was being paid to play football, led Terroll back to South London and the notorious OC, or Organised Crime, gang. Violence and drug dealing were the norm in OC, and in 2009, aged 20, Terroll was accused of being involved in an extremely serious crime. After spending 11 months inside Thamesmead’s Belmarsh prison, he was acquitted of all charges and released back into mainstream society, which signalled the start of a new life.

Having used fitness, and calisthenic exercises in particular, as a coping mechanism while in prison, Terroll soon realised there were other people like him who couldn’t pay for a gym membership but still wanted to keep fit. Determined to spread the word further, he created a YouTube video demonstrating his workout regime. The views and messages quickly began rolling in, which encouraged Terroll to start conducting classes in local parks. As his client base grew, so did his ambition and self-belief. Leveraging his rapidly growing social media fame to reinforce his case, Terroll was granted a spot – a converted depot on Somerleyton Road in Brixton – to turn the newly titled Block Workout into a fully-fledged street gym.

Through Block Workout and Brixton Street Gym, Terroll is now able to give something back to the community he was raised in, offering young people an opportunity to follow a different road to the one he took during his adolescence – helping them to develop their minds as well as their bodies – and the chance to live a better life.

Not only is One Chance a truly authentic guide for the urban youth, steering them through the world we live in today – from education and relationships, to jail, social media and mental health issues – it also has the power to educate wider society on the experiences that this frequently demonised demographic face. Whichever form it takes, the aim of the book is to increase understanding on both sides, leading to a more harmonious, progressive, and positive society.

Find One Chance: Surviving London’s Gangs on Goodreads

Pre-order/Purchase links
Disclosure: If you buy a book via the above link, I may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshop

Hive | Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme

Follow this blog via Bloglovin

Extract from One Chance: Surviving London’s Gangs

Chapter 1: Warming Up

I still laugh when Mum tells me about the moment I was born. I shot into this world at 3.20 p.m. on 14 December 1989 – a Thursday. It rained all day, but the vibe was chilled and festive on the maternity ward, with tinsel everywhere and Christmas music playing. Staff wore reindeer antlers and Santa hats and all that crazy stuff. My dad wasn’t there and Mum’s friend Joy went along instead. This Joy woman had dreads down to her waist, loved her weed and always kept two forks in the back pockets of her jeans. ‘Called ’em her weapons,’ Mum says, ‘and she wouldn’t hesitate to use them, either.’

Respect to Joy: seems she got into the spirit of things, sticking by Mum’s side throughout her thirty-six-hour labour, holding her hand in the delivery room and chatting away as the contractions hit. Though when the gas and air got wheeled in, Joy abused her position of birthing partner. ‘She kept nicking me mask,’ Mum explained, ‘She had more of the stuff than me. She was gasping it down.’ Joy watched the entire delivery through heavy eyelids, swaying as she peered between Mum’s legs. As the midwife cut the umbilical cord and I let out my first piercing cries, Joy staggered backwards, hit the wall, and slowly slumped to the floor, saying, ‘Wow, that was one the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced, man’.

That evening, brimming with emotion, Mum called my dad’s mum’s house. There had been bad vibes between her and Terence, but he she had just delivered their child, her first-born. He had a son now and Mum wanted to be the one to tell him so. She shambled out of the ward to the nearest payphone. A woman answered, but Mum didn’t recognise the voice. It definitely wasn’t the Jamaican accent of Terence’s mother,  Big Mama June. Nah,this girl sounded young and cockney. Rude ’n’ all.

‘Who are you? What d’ya want Terence for?’ she snapped. Mum went, ‘I’m Jakki and I’ve just given birth to Terence’s first child. It’s a boy. I just wanted to let him know, in case he wants to see his son … or something?’ The line fell silent for a few seconds, then the girl exhaled loudly.

‘What d’ya mean? What baby? I’m Alison and I’ve got Terence’s baby: I had our girl Sasha in October. Is this a wind-up or what?’

Mum almost dropped the receiver. She was gutted. She suspected my dad had been cheating on her with Sharon, but she hadn’t imagined he’d have another girl on the go at the same time, let alone have a kid with her.

‘Just tell Terence I’ve had the baby,’ she said and hung up.

I was sound asleep in one of those plastic cot things when my dad arrived at the hospital. Mum had drifted off but was woken by the sound of shouting and swearing on the ward. A bloke was going off, audibly pissed, his voice instantly recognisable to Mum. A nurse hurried over.

‘Ms Doherty, I’m sorry but there’s a black man in reception who says he’s the father of your …’

‘I wanna see my fucking son. I’m the father, I’m his fucking father.’

Boom, there he was, staggering towards us, beating his fist into his palm. Eyes blazing, rain-soaked locks bouncing about his head, reeking of booze: my dad. He was there less than a minute before security guards told him to leave. Mum says he was so drunk she couldn’t even have a simple conversation with him, let alone confront him over Alison and the ‘other baby’ drama.

‘He stormed out of there, hollering, “I’m gonna wet the baby’s head,”’ Mum says.

Terroll LewisAbout the Author

Terroll Lewis is the founder of the Brixton Street Gym, a charity-based community gym that has gained a huge cult following in the short time that it has been around. He also founded the BlockWorkOut Foundation – the charitable base that supports this amazing gym, making it accessible to everyone regardless of income – and The ManTalk, an online platform that promotes male positivity.

Terroll had been embroiled in some of the most serious street gang warfare even seen in London, leading a band of armed and dangerous young men through the streets of the city, a wild time that ended in him being accused of murder. He was eventually acquitted of the crime and proven innocent, but is thankful for his time in prison, as it enabled him to re-evaluate his life and come out a better man, the man he is today. Terroll Lewis was named an Evening Standard Next Generation Trailblazer and included in Men’s Health Inspirational Black Men of 2020.