When I first heard about Dark London, an anthology for charity of dark stories set in or about London it felt like a perfect match, I was thrilled when my short story got accepted to be in it.
I was at the end of a year and a half of writing my last novel The Tower which is set in the East End of London with some meanderings into the City and I felt like my mind was saturated with the dark side of the London I had left behind when I moved out to the coast. Ghosts and murder were all I had thought about for a long time while writing, and that shows no sign of slowing.
I miss London a lot, I dream about being there almost every night, it haunts me daily and follows at my heels. I am happy being haunted by it though.
As I still felt so immersed in the city it was easy for me to cast the nets in my head for another little dark tale to share, and I settled on the name of it before I even knew where the story would go.
I had an image in my head of London Fields late at night, a scene from The Tower that had some roots in reality, and I thought of terrible things that had happened in London parks in real life and my earliest awareness of how a park could be unsafe even in the middle of the day was the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common in 1992. I have always been haunted by the thought of a person, murdered and abandoned somewhere to be found by unsuspecting dog walkers. And the title of the story was there – ‘The Place Where She Stopped Living.’
And so somehow my nameless protagonist was born, a non descript woman in her 40’s who likes to go for walks during the night and chat to whatever ghosts she encounters on her wanderings, often helping them to relax into their afterlife or just be there to talk to. In this short window into her life she comes across the titular ‘She’ shortly after someone ended her young life.
She is a gentle person, her ordinariness making her almost invisible in the surge of the city streets and her softness seems at odds with the dark side of London, but she knows the streets of Whitechapel and Bethnal Green better than most.
Commercial Road and Whitechapel High Street – an area I first learned about quite young when I stumbled across my dad’s Jack the Ripper books, also somewhere I frequented at night for a while.
Brick Lane – one of my favourite places, full of great food smells, fabulous shops and markets and by night a great place to drink and buy bagels.
Hackney Road – anyone who has read The Tower knows this place is special to me and one of the locations sits on the junction of the fabulously named Allgood Street.
Shoreditch and Spitalfields – the church of St Leonards sits on the Junction of Hackney Road and Shoreditch High Street and I used to pass it on my commute every day – fans of the TV series Rev would know it well. Also Christchurch beside Spitalfields Market the market is a familiar sight.
Dark London is being released to raise money for The London Community Project and Centrepoint. Please do treat yourself to a bunch of amazing stories from some wonderful writers and help support some of the most disadvantaged people in London.
Paperback editions will be released on 25 June and 2 July.