I grew up in a semi-detached police house with Leonora, my police mum and Grenville, my police dad. They met while working together at Warrington police station. I had visions of them courting while doing a ton along the A49 in a panda car, chasing down crooks. By all accounts it was much more placid than that. Next door in the other half of the police house lived an ex-sergeant, Leonard. Gren and Len would often mutter darkly of crime in the county over the back fence. In his wardrobe, Dad stored handcuffs, a couple of police helmets, a couple of truncheons, a police whistle. He subscribed to Cordon, the magazine of the Cheshire constabulary. Being a policeman was almost a lifestyle choice for him. And he played by the book. Once he observed Mr Littlefair, a woodwork teacher, tossing a match out of his car window as he drove away. ‘You can tell him from me,’ my dad said, bristling, ‘that he has committed an offence.’ Another time he took me to a football match at Anfield but when went to raise my Liverpool FC scarf above my head he stayed my hand because scarf waving was the kind of thing a troublemaker did.
I was never allowed out after school to play with my mates in the parks or on the fields. Friends always came round to our house, which at least was blessed with a big garden. I never queried this; it was just the way it was. I wonder now what kind of day my dad sometimes had, what grim visions he brought home with him. Because that was what underpinned my ‘house arrest’. He and my mum had seen some bad stuff, as all police constables do. I caught snatches of troubled conversation. They found the body on waste land just up Salisbury Street… Two kids killed under a collapsed wall… He snatched her right outside the school… Conrad’s school. Just imagine… What if…
Despite this, I had a happy upbringing but I was a bit of a wuss, very shy, scared of bullies (which was ironic, given that no bully would go anywhere near this kid because of his copper dad), which possibly explains the cossetting of my own children, although I’d like to think I’m not quite so strict. Immersing myself in crime and horror hardly helps, but I think in some way it’s my way of rebelling. My mum often asks me why it is that I don’t write ‘nice things’ and I’m sometimes tempted to tell her that I write what I write because of the censorship of my youth. I now cannot look away from the horror. I need to see how dreadful things can really get even though the child in me is trying to get me to turn my back. Through fiction I’m glimpsing the badlands I was never allowed to witness when I was little.