Bradford and its Underbelly

I set my DI Gus McGuire books in Bradford because I love the city. It’s rich with diversity, it has heart and, of course, it’s got a dark and brooding history too. So, when all’s said and done it’s got all the ingredients of a great setting for crime fiction.

Folk think of Bradford as being all sandstone and mills or the home of not one, but two race riots or home to the Yorkshire Ripper and the Crossbow Cannibal. All of this is true … Bradford does have a dark underbelly, but what big city doesn’t? However, it also has a wealth of beauty, creativity and arts that are often ignored.

I once was told by a publisher that Bradford just wasn’t sexy enough as a setting for a crime novel. Well, I’m here to let you all know that Bradford is, indeed, sexy enough!

My novels are definitely gritty, but my aim is to also portray a Bradford that is welcoming, beautiful and full of Northern promise. It’s often said that in any large city you are never more than a few metres away from a rat (presumably the four-legged type) … in Bradford you’re never more than ten minutes from either the countryside, woods on the outskirts of the inner city or green park space.

Haworth, home of the Brontës, the smouldering Heathcliff and the moors is in Bradford. I often wonder if the Bronte sisters are in part responsible for my fascination with the darker side of life because I devoured their books as a young adult. I mean, when you think of mad wives being kept in the attic and a brooding, spurned lover … well really, it’s hardly surprising us (honorary) Bradfordians have a dark side, is it?

Bradford has its own World Heritage site in Saltaire. Sir Titus Salt, a philanthropic mill owner built this Victorian village in the mid 1800’s to house his employees. He provided them with schools, medical care and decent wages and houses. His legacy is still upheld in Saltaire which is a bustling beautiful village.

Ten minutes’ walk from my home (and co-incidentally 5 minutes’ walk from The Yorkshire Ripper’s home) I am spoiled for choice. Do I head down for a stroll in the lush and wildlife filled Heaton Woods, or do I visit Cartwright Hall Art Gallery which is situated in the wonderful Lister Park? Bradford is home to not one, but two literature festivals. The fantastic Bradford Literature Festival which happens in July every year and is based in Bradford city centre and the highly acclaimed Ilkley Literature Festival which occurs in Sept/Oct every year. Both festivals bring a varied and wonderful array of creativity to the district.

So, I suppose what I’m saying is that when you read my books, I hope they take you not only into the dark and gritty world of serial killers and evil, but also give you a little bit of a taste for the good things that are ‘Bradford’. In this short piece, I’ve only been able to give you a snippet of what’s on offer in Bradford, believe me, I could wax lyrical for hours. Hopefully over the course of my D.I. Gus McGuire and my new D.S. Nikita Parekh series, I’ll be able to introduce you to more of the delights of Bradford.

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