I’m putting the last few flourishes to a brand new novella, A Bridge Too Far, which is an unconventional noir escapade set around the back streets and canals of Birmingham. (Hence the sudden appearance of the new header image, which I thought was rather appropriate.)
It’s an area I know quite well, having lived in the city for several years. In the old days, it was strictly a no-go area of dark back alleys, litter-infested canals, strange people and sudden, violent encounters. Muggings, drunkenness and begging were rife; the streets were smeared with a disgusting mixture of vomit and stale beer; and all in all you really didn’t want to hang around.
Then, in the 1990s, vast acres of old streets were cleared and the whole area refurbished, rebuilt, and generally spruced up. Thanks to the proximity of the entertainment quarter along Broad Street there’s still the occasional drunken fight, but with the opening of the Symphony Hall, National Indoor Arena, Sealife Centre, and various posh shops and restaurants, the whole area is pretty much unrecognisable.
Even better, the developers left many of the more interesting old buildings in place, so there’s an eclectic mix of old and new which adds to the atmosphere. After dark on a summer night, the canals and basins ring to the sound of laughter, pounding music and the chink of glassware. But go at a quieter time and you can still find surprising tranquillity amongst the lock gates and boats.