It’s Friday, and that means another edition of Northern Reads! Today on the blog we welcome Rob Campbell from Manchester with his YA mystery novel Monkey Arkwright.
Welcome, Rob! Please tell us about Monkey Arkwright.
Monkey Arkwright is the first part in my “Wardens of the Black Heart” YA mystery trilogy. The second part – Black Hearts Rising – is also available, and the final part – The Well of Tears – will be published in February 2020.
Monkey Arkwright tells the story of budding teenage writer, Lorna Bryson, who is mourning the recent loss of her father. She has a chance meeting with Monkey Arkwright, the boy who loves to climb, and through Monkey’s adventurous exploits amongst the churches, woodlands and abandoned places in and around their home town, the two teenagers soon become embroiled in a mystery that has serious implications for the town and some of its inhabitants. Across the three books, a tale of dark secrets, hidden messages, sinister organisations and treacherous betrayal unfolds. Whilst it’s billed as a YA novel, the story has sufficient depth such that older readers can immerse themselves in the labyrinthine mystery at the heart of the story. When I see the success of books like the His Dark Materials series and Netflix’s Stranger Things, I know there’s an audience for this kind of intrigue, and I hope that my books will appeal to fans of this type of unusual story.
Monkey Arkwright is set in a fictional town in England, but I’ve been careful not to specify an exact geographical location. So, whilst it’s not necessarily set in the North, it’s written with an imagination that was well and truly cultivated there. There are several scenes in the book that are influenced by the places that I knew whilst growing up. The scenes where Lorna and Monkey spend the last days of summer in the woods are based on my memories of Alkrington Woods, in Middleton, north Manchester. When you are a child, these places seem so vast and make for a world of adventure, but can also be both intriguing and frightening, depending on the time of day or the weather. There’s also a scene where my protagonists get to climb an abandoned school building. This scene is based on my old high school, St Dominic Savio, which shut its doors for good several years after I left. The school building consisted of a wonderful assortment of oddball-shaped wings, with no two adjacent parts seeming to be the same height. I can still remember that some of the braver kids (not me!) would shin up a series of drainpipes, moving from one building to the next until they stood on top of the gymnasium roof, which towered above the playground. There’s definitely some of Monkey’s character in these kids that I remember from my youth. I could see this huge gymnasium wall from my house, which was just a one-minute walk away. It’s sad that the building was demolished to make way for a housing estate – another part of my history gone forever – a sense of loss echoed in the story through Lorna’s memories of her school.
It’s probably also worth mentioning that the scenes at the reservoir are based on real-life settings in the hills above Oldham.
Of course, I wouldn’t be a true Mancunian if I didn’t mention the weather! Manchester is famous for its incessant rain, and the elements are another major influence on my writing. I’m probably in the minority here, but I wouldn’t swap Manchester’s weather for any other climate. We get scorching sun in the summer, a bit of snow in the winter (although not as much these days) and the colours of the trees are glorious to behold come the autumn. If you get bored of the weather around here, then just hang on for a few days because it’ll change before you know it. All these rich colours, biting winds, drizzly rain and foggy mornings act as a wonderful fuel for the imagination, and although I’ve said that my books are not necessarily set here, there’s plenty of the local weather in my writing.
So, between the weather, the memories of places I knew growing up, and the fact that I still call Manchester home, I’d say that my books are Northern at heart. Hopefully, readers will feel all of this rich atmosphere seeping off the pages when they read my books, and maybe it will remind them of their own home town, wherever that may be.
About Monkey Arkwright
Budding writer Lorna Bryson is struggling to come to terms with the recent death of her father when she meets Monkey Arkwright, the boy who loves to climb. The two strike up an immediate rapport, and Monkey challenges her to write about him, claiming that he can show her things that are worth writing about.
True to his word, Lorna is catapulted into Monkey’s world of climbing and other adventures in the churches, woodlands and abandoned places in and around their home town of Culverton Beck.
When the two teenagers find an ancient coin in the woods, claims from potential owners soon flood in, including the mysterious Charles Gooch, who is adamant that the coin is his. But this is only the opening act in a much larger mystery that has its roots in some dark deeds that took place more than a century earlier.
Combining their talents, Lorna and Monkey set about fitting the pieces together in a tale of budding friendship, train-obsessed simpletons, the shadow of Napoleon and falling pianos.
To Purchase Rob Campbell’s books:
- Monkey Arkwright – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Monkey-Arkwright-Wardens-Black-Heart-ebook/dp/B077L29WJJ
- Black Hearts Rising – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07M7PPCCX
About Rob Campbell
Rob Campbell was born in the blue half of Manchester.
He studied Electrical & Electronic Engineering at Manchester Polytechnic, gaining an honours degree, but the fact that he got a U in his Chemistry O-Level helps to keep him grounded.
Having had a belly full of capacitors and banana plugs, on graduation he transferred his skills to software engineering. He still writes code by day, but now he writes novels by night. Listing his pastimes in no particular order, he loves music, reading and holidays, but he is partial to the words and music of Bruce Springsteen.
His favourite authors are David Morrell, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch & Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
He lives in Manchester with his wife and two daughters.
Social media links for Rob Campbell
Thanks so much for joining us, Rob! Lorna sounds like a girl I want to read about!
Come back next week for another edition of Northern Reads featuring Patricia Osborne.