It’s not the most famous of towns, but people as far apart as the United States and Russia are reading about Littleborough without realising it.
Writer Denise Greenwood is inspired by the Lancashire town where she has lived for 20 years, and its sights and atmosphere are reflected in her incisive and sometimes dark stories based in her fictional town of Littlecross.
Denise, 50, who is married with a teenage son, worked in retail and operations until redundancy gave her the opportunity to write full time at her home in the Shore area of Littleborough.
Her first novel ‘Temptation’, about a priest’s struggle with his inner demons, was published as an e-book in December, and has been attracting favourable reactions on Denise’s blog site from readers in the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, India, China and Russia. She noted on her blog: “I am so curious about who in Russia is interested in my book but
equally curious about how the US interprets the humour.”
Denise’s follow-up ‘Star Keeper’, featuring some of the same characters and Littleborough-based locations, is now out on e-book, and she is currently working on a third, entitled ‘Crushed.’
She says: “In the US they’re calling ‘Temptation’ a dark but humorous psychological drama, whereas over here it’s just general fiction. I’d say it’s somewhere between the two.”
The story tells about the Rev Jacob Alecks, an idealistic and naive young priest desperate to communicate with people who won’t go to his church or worship out of habit, and the background stories about the people with whom he interacts. He only finds his true voice when he takes over at a comedy night from the star turn who has failed to appear.
The St Jude’s church of the story is based on St Barnabas’, at Shore. One of Denise’s regular walks from her home takes her on a short cut through the churchyard and down to the canal, which becomes a river in her stories. In ‘Temptation’ one of her characters collapses with a fatal stroke while walking through a churchyard.
Other local spots appear under different names, and a local oddity in Littleborough Park has inspired a character named Mephisto, a bizarre and mysterious presence in her second book. In the grounds of Harehill House in the park is a little grave with the name ‘Mephisto’ on it – the name of a dead monkey!
Denise says: “It’s the grave of a monkey that was a pet of the owners of Harehill House. I’ve lived in the town for 20 years and only heard about Mephisto a couple of years ago. I’ve heard several tales about how he died, but the one I like best is that he climbed up on the roof of Harehill House, fell and was killed.
“When I came back, I had this in mind and I needed name for this chap I knew I was going to write about, and I thought I’ll call him Mephisto because it’s such a wonderful name. There’s also a scene in the book where another character falls from a rooftop, so in a way I’m echoing what happened to Mephisto himself.”
A day out to Skipton Castle also inspired Denise. She said: “I was so taken by the courtyard that the next time I sat down to continue writing I thought I’d like to use that courtyard for the scene where the man falls from the roof.”
“I’ll often go for a walk, even if it’s raining, and I’ll get inspired. I’ve got to the point now where I can just take a walk down the road and I’m still thinking about my characters and what they might do in that particular location.
“Littleborough has changed so much since I first moved here, and I think it increasingly will do so, and I want to capture some of it as it used to be in my books.
“I suppose like the northern writers of old I’ve used the places I know best and brought them into it. It was only when I finished writing Temptation and began Star Keeper that I realised what I’d written might encourage a few people, other than the usual walking groups, to come and visit like they used to do. You used to see them milling around, buying postcards and so on, but you don’t see that so much anymore with it being more and more built up, so in a way I suppose I’ve done a small bit for where I live.”
Denise’s third novel ‘Crushed’ will feature one main character from ‘Star Keeper’ and the Rev Alecks appears briefly, but she reveals: “It’s gone a lot darker and a lot weirder.
“For the third novel I’ve travelled more Halifax way and I’ve spent quite a bit wandering about the centre of Halifax sitting in cafes and putting notes together and looking at places that I’ve used in ‘Crushed.’ It’s a really dark tale and it’s gone more on the crime side of things.”