Didsbury writer Cath Staincliffe to launch her new novel Witness

PUBLISHED: 12:33 05 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:08 20 February 2013

Cath Staincliffe photo © Paul Herrmann

Cath Staincliffe photo © Paul Herrmann

Didsbury writer Cath Staincliffe has looked at dark deeds from a new angle in her latest blockbuster thriller

Cath Staincliffe's famous Blue Murder series on ITV may have ended but the Didsbury-based author is giving her fans even more to think about in her new novel, Witness.

It depicts a brutal murder then shows how those who witness it get caught up in the criminal justice system and it all, she says, stemmed from a real-life incident in her own life.

'I was driving down the motorway, with two of my children in the car and somebody came out in front of me as though they were going to leave the motorway on the slip road but then seemed to change their mind and nearly forced me off the road. It was madness and I was absolutely shaken to the core. I screamed to my eldest child to write down the registration number which he did and then I went to phone the police. I was aware of being actually quite frightened about the consequences, if I came face-to-face with this person in court but I did report it anyway. The police took all the details but then I got a telephone call from them saying they weren't going to pursue the complaint. The person responsible was being investigated on much more serious matters!'

It was after this incident that Cath began to imagine just might what would happen to people who were unlucky enough to be bystanders to a particularly violent crime. The result is Witness, which she'll be launching on April 28th at Waterstone's Deansgate

The plot takes four people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. They witness a shocking shooting of a teenage boy and it's a moment where their lives change forever. Fiona, a midwife, is plagued by panic attacks and unable to work, the question is, has she the strength to testify? Mike, a delivery driver and family man, faces an impossible decision when his frightened wife forces him to choose - his family, or the court case.

Cheryl, a single-mother, doesn't want her child to grow up in the same climate of fear. Dare she speak out and risk her own life? Zak, a homeless man, offers to talk in exchange for witness protection and the chance of a new start. It's a tale of ordinary people in an extraordinary situation which makes it even more scary. Let's face it, it could happen to any of us.

Close to home too is the location of her books. Manchester is the one constant in Cath's novels. She moved to the city from Bradford in 1979, living firstly in Withington and then in Didsbury and the sense of the place inhabits all her work.

Of course, she uses recognisable locations in the city, though tends to give them fictional names in case she upsets anyone, especially if she says the place is boring, or rough, like pub frequented by Sal Kilkenny from her popular detective series of novels, which she revealed was the Cotton Tree - now no more, although landmarks such as Didsbury Health Food shop and the local hospitals do get a mention.

In fact she says that the books give her the opportunity to comment on how the city has changed, what's been knocked down or undergone a glamorous makeover.

'I don't tend to go out in Manchester as much as I used to - I'm at that age where I don't go clubbing anymore,' she says with a laugh.

'But I do have favourites in Didsbury like Jem & I and a new one, Alberts on Barlow Moor Road. I drink at the Parrs Wood Hotel pub, opposite the Capitol building where the BBC used to be. I did recently go to Manchester. I went on a night out to the revamped Band on the Wall to see a band and had a great night out.'

Of course, it was a real treat to see her script for Blue Murder come to life on her home patch - it was filmed down the road from her East Didsbury home, with Caroline Quentin in the role of Janine Lewis. Cath trained in acting as a student and even got to appear in the series.

'I did a couple of walk ons in the first series - then realised why I never made it as an actress. I did have my Hitchcock moment but I didn't shine. It was just a bit of fun really, although I did get a scene with Caroline and Ian Kelsey - I was in the background when they were in a hotel on Portland Street.'

A new three book deal with Allison and Busby means fans will have to wait for another Sal Kilkenny adventure to appear, although she reveals one is already written and awaiting a publisher, meanwhile she is currently writing for Radio Four.

'I love working for the radio,' she reveals.
'It means no budgetary constrictions, unlike TV and film, so I can write about anything.'

Cath will be launching her new book Witness at Waterstone's, Deansgate on April 28th from 6.30pm

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