At the moment I’m re-working Cold Press – a novel I first wrote in 1993 when I was living in Sunderland and a journalist on the Sunderland Echo. The new version is hopefully a lot more compelling (at the time I was just pleased to write something of novel length, but I knew it wasn’t good enough for publication).
Part of the novel is set in Sunderland, part in London. Back in 1993 I didn’t know London very well, even though I’d spent three years there as a student in the ’80s. So I went down for a day to walk around, scout locations, and make copious notes that formed big chunks of the background to scenes set in Camden, Fleet Street and Paddington. The Sunderland bits were much easier. I just had to look out of the window.
Now, 23 years later the reverse is true. I left Sunderland in 1994 and have only been back for football day trips and the odd weekend since. And so, in the process of the re-write I’ve been doing lots of research and checking via the occasional trip north and – of course – the Internet.
The novel is still set in 1993 and I’ve been keen to maintain the authenticity of the era – and ensure that the new parts don’t look out of place. In 1993 mobile phones were a rarity and dot matrix printers were much more common in the home than inkjets and lasers. But in the process of doing the research I came across a real ghost of the past.
In 1993 one of my main jobs at the Sunderland Echo was to write the monthly Nightstyle entertainment magazine, and this involved regular trips to nightclubs to shoot pictures of clubgoers having a blast. A scene in the book is based on this, set in a nightclub called Bentleys.
Bentleys has long gone now, but I wanted to check to see how much of my original writing was accurate, how much was artistic licence, and which areas could be improved upon. So I typed Bentleys Nightclub Sunderland into Google and found a couple of interesting features published in the Sunderland Echo in 2015.
One shows pictures of the interior from 1993 and this proved incredibly useful. However another article from June called Remembering Sunderland clubbing in the 1990s was particlarly evocative. The pictures in the article were ones I’d actually taken, all those years ago.