WHEN SECRETS RESURFACE THE PAST REACHES OUT…
– Under the Bridge
Today it is a pleasure to introduce you all to Jack Byrne, author of Under the Bridge, book 1 in The Liverpool Mysteries. Under the Bridge has just been published (February 18th) with Northodox Press who are a new publisher catering to readers of crime fiction with the authentic voice of Northern England. Although born and bred in Liverpool, Jack Byrne has a very strong connection to his Irish roots and through his writing he wanted to explore the little known Liverpool- Irish identity crisis.
“Under The Bridge is a love letter to my father and the men and women of his generation
that were truly English, Irish, and Scouse.”
[ About the Book ]
The discovery of a body in the Liverpool docklands unearths long forgotten secrets. Reporter Anne McCarthy is keen to prove herself and dives into the case with abandon. There she finds Michael, an old Irish caretaker who knows far more than he’s letting on and may have
a connection to the body.
Vinny Connolly is starting a postgrad degree, researching Liverpool’s migrant history and a burgeoning Scouse identity. But Vinny has been neglecting his own family history and stranger Michael might know about
his father’s disappearance in the 70s.
Escaping poverty in Ireland and fresh off the boat, Michael falls in with Wicklow boys Jack Power and Paddy Connolly, who smuggle contraband through the docks, putting them at odds with the unions. While organisers rally the dockworkers against the strikebreakers and rackets. A story of corruption, secret police, and sectarianism slowly unravels.
But will the truth out?
As the conflict heightens, Michael questions the life sprawling out ahead of him, while in the present, Anne races to solve the mystery, but is she prepared for what she’ll find?
The Inspiration for Under the Bridge & The Liverpool Mysteries
In the UK the issue of Irish identity in first and second generation children continues to have an impact; separate Catholic and Protestant schools are relics of a sectarian past that reaches into the present.
“In writing Under The Bridge I realised what many have always understood, that the present can not be divorced from the past. One book has turned into a series of four that cover the century from 1920 to 2020. The next couple of years will see the celebration and commemoration of many centenaries, from the War of Independence, the civil war, to the division of the island and the establishment of the republic. 100 years on, the questions of class, nationality and identity that brought about Brexit are once again coming to the fore on both sides of the Irish sea.”
– Jack Byrnes
Under the Bridge is the first in a four-part series, The Liverpool Mysteries, which follows reporter Anne and student Vinny, as they become involved in a story of unions, crime and police corruption after human remains are discovered at a construction site. It’s also an important commentary on British (through Liverpool) and Irish relations, with early readers calling it a “sweeping journey of discovery… we are shifted back through Liverpool’s history to a time when working conditions were dire, and life had to cope with harsh realities, framed within the shadow of a huge influx of Irish immigrants and the IRA conflict.”
Liverpool is known as the ‘capital of Ireland’ with three quarters of the city’s population having Irish descent, and this migration wave is often attributed to the famine, but Jack Byrne, who grew up in the Garston/Speke area, found through his family experience and research that the 50s and 60s saw significant additional inflows of Irish labour. For the children of these migrants, schools privileged Catholicism over Irish culture or nationality, a trend followed internationally as the struggle in the North of Ireland became more militarised.
“Growing up in Liverpool, despite the huge size of communities of Irish descent, there were no St Patrick’s day parades, or public celebrations of Irish independence.”
The most common reference to ‘Irish’ were the jokes told by comedians on Saturday night TV. Throughout the 70s and 80s ‘The Troubles’ and Prevention of Terrorism Act, created what might be recognised today as a ‘hostile environment’. So there was a real hunger for identity outside of religious confines. This partly explains the vibrancy of adherence to Liverpool/Scouse culture. A common phrase and a banner seen at football grounds is Scouse not English. The struggle for identity today is not isolated to the descendants of Irish people, the division around Brexit is evidence of that.
The generation of Irish emigres post WW2 who built motorways, worked in the docks and factories, also made homes and families. They had a huge impact on all aspects of society from sport to politics, and of course music, they gave us Johnny Rotten, Dexy’s, Oasis, and earlier Lennon and McCartney.
For Byrne himself the four part series ‘explores issues of class and identity at heart of the UK’s current political crisis.’
“For Northodox Press’ first novel publication we wanted something where the north of England wasn’t just a location, but something integral to the plot.Under the Bridge almost portrays Liverpool as a character with vivid descriptions of murky docklands and the real locales that help drive the story. It also helps that this is a really absorbing page-turner of a mystery!”
Northodox commissioning editor Ted O’Connor –
Extract – Chapter One
The bone poked out of the mud and into Michael’s life.
‘Whoa, stop, stop!’ Michael, the site caretaker, waved his hands above his head and shouted over the grinding diesel engine.
The digger emptied its load on a growing mound of damp earth, a strip of blue tarpaulin hanging from its scoop. The bone disappeared, reburied immediately. But Michael knew he had seen it and started digging through the soil, his fingernails becoming clogged and his hands cold as he dug deeper.
‘What’s up?’ The driver killed the engine and climbed down from the cab.
‘I saw a bone.’ Michael was determined to find it now.
The drizzle came in waves, sweeping in from the Mersey and across the building site, leaving dew drops on everything it touched.
The foreman shouted, ‘Why you stop?’
‘Paddy ‘ere reckons he saw summat,’ said the JCB driver.
‘Michael, what you see? Why you stopping job?’ Istvan turned to the driver. ‘Get back on machine.’
Michael’s fingers dug through the congealing mud to reveal a hard, brown shape. ‘Here it is.’
‘Fucking dog bone. Get back to work.’
Michael ignored him and pulled the earth aside to reveal a long shaft. ‘This is no dog bone—this is a man’s.’ He looked round as other workers gathered. ‘Check the trench to see what else we got down there,’ he said.
‘Who you think you are, CSI? You are caretaker—get back in shed.’
The driver joined Michael. He grabbed a shovel and jumped down into the shallow trench. ‘Here, this is where it come from.’
He scraped away the soil as a growing band of workers watched.
Istvan was losing control of the situation. Flashes of blue appeared in the ground, and the driver bent and tugged at the plastic sheeting. Another worker joined him, and they began to prise free the plastic, pulling and tearing it.
‘Careful there.’ Istvan leaned forward, now as intent as everyone else.
The site was quiet as work stopped, and people gathered around. There was something there, wrapped in plastic sheeting. ‘That’s enough, back to work, everyone,’ Istvan ordered in vain.
‘Go on, lads,’ Michael urged.
He wanted to see what was there. If it was human, Christ. This was Raglan Street—he knew this street. This is where the builders’ yard was back in the day.
The two men in the trench climbed out. Leaning back in, they wiped away the loose soil and got a grip of the tarpaulin from each side and heaved. There was a ripping sound, and both men fell backwards as a cloud of soil exploded into the air, a mud-covered skull in its midst.
‘Bingo,’ shouted Michael.
Purchase Link ~ Under the Bridge
[ Bio ]
Jack Byrne was born and raised in Speke, Liverpool to an Irish immigrant father and grandparents. Under the Bridge is his debut novel and follows reporter Anne and student Vinny around Merseyside, as they become involved in a story of unions, crime, and police corruption after human remains are discovered at a construction site.
Twitter ~ @Jackbyrnewriter
Website ~ The Liverpool Mysteries