I think I need to own up to more than a bit of a fangirl fascination with David Nolan (not in a crazy, stalker-ish way, you understand!). Once I’d stayed up reading Black Moss (in one sitting – it’s really that good), I wanted to find out a bit more about who wrote it. I discovered that this was by no means Nolan’s first book, but it was his first novel. He’s somewhat of a pop-culture guru, having written the biographies of some of the world’s top music icons, including two of my favourites, George Michael and Ed Sheeran (two books about Ed, in fact!).
Nolan even went about trying to disprove the myth of that epic 1976 Sex Pistols concert in Manchester – the one that thousands of people claimed to have attended. He actually tracked down each and every audience member who was actually there that day. That concert changed the face of the music scene forever, and Nolan has done the work to show who played the leading roles!
His first venture into the field of police work was with his book Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, the inside story of the biggest historic sex abuse case ever mounted by Greater Manchester Police – the investigation into the systematic abuse of boys at St Ambrose College in Hale Barns by chemistry teacher and church deacon Alan Morris. Nolan himself was one of Morris’s victims and was given unprecedented access to detectives investigating the case. These same people have assisted with research for Black Moss, especially in how missing child cases are handled today.
To me, it sounds like the main protagonist in Black Moss, Danny Johnston, might just have a little bit of his creator in him, because Danny also isn’t able to leave something alone until he’s discovered each and every fact that will lead him to the truth. The story opens in April 1990 when Danny, an inexperienced radio journalist with a Manchester radio station, is sent to report on a body that’s allegedly been discovered in a remote area on the border between Manchester and Yorkshire. It turns out to be the body of a child.
Over the duration of the investigation, it becomes clear that there isn’t a lot of interest in the case; not from journalists and not from the police. Why? Because making daily headlines at the time are the riots at nearby Strangeways Prison, another topic that David Nolan has clearly familiarised himself with and has in-depth knowledge of and he cleverly intertwines these factual events with his fictionalised story.
The chapters alternate between 1990 and the events of the time and Danny’s life in 2016 when he’s clearly moved on from those days as the underdog, has risen up among the ranks, only to fall from grace (as so many do). It’s while he’s on a ‘time-out’ that he now has time to return to that case that he can’t seem to forget and hopefully get the answers he’s looking for.
The story unfolds with chilling evidence coming to light about children in the care system and how they’re treated by the very ones who are meant to be looking out for them. This is not reading for the faint-hearted.
I’d say this ranks up there in my Top Five of the year. With fascinating insight into police procedures of the time, as well as a good look into what media and reporting were like back then before the World Wide Web, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and instant everything … before absolutely everyone and anyone could be a ‘reporter on the scene’!
Black Moss is so well written, and Nolan’s characters are so very genuine and meticulously depicted. His choice of where he wants to lead his readers, and how he wants to do it, is very evident. He knows where he wants readers to focus, and how to get them to do exactly that, so whereas Danny and his sister’s past does play a key role, it’s not the primary emphasis, so we’re given just enough information, but no more – and it’s plenty to go on.
I loved Danny. He’s real: flawed but doing his best – like most of us. I really hope that David Nolan will consider a sequel so we can continue on his journey with him … and with Kate. I give this one 5 huge, enormous glittery stars!! Go and buy it!!
David is a multi-award-winning author, television producer and crime reporter. He has written a dozen books including Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, the true story of the largest historic abuse case ever mounted by Greater Manchester Police. He presented a BBC Radio 4 documentary based on the book called ‘The Abuse Trial’. It won both the Rose D’Or and the New York International radio awards in 2016. Officers involved in the case helped David with the police procedures featured in Black Moss, particularly the way the system deals with missing children.
Enormous thanks to the fabulous Kelly Lacey of Love Books Tour Group for inviting me along on the Blog Tour, and to publishers Fahrenheit Press for making the book available for review. Follow along on the blog tour and see what others are saying …
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