My third novel (published later in 2015) is set partly in Middlesbrough, England, a town that underwent massive growth in the nineteenth century thanks to the discovery of iron ore in the nearby Cleveland Hills and the rapid spread of iron foundries and steel rolling mills on the banks of the River Tees.
‘In the town and at home there’s no escaping it. The dust gets everywhere. On every surface. Inside your clothes. Up your nose. Ingrained in your skin. In your eyes and your food. Inside you. Penetrating you. Possessing you. The machinery throbbing away till you think your brain is going to burst with the sound of it, the clanging of the trucks shifting the pig iron, the stink of the sulphur and the smoke from the coke ovens. Smoke and dust burning your throat.’
She looked back at the town which was under a pall of smoke. ‘It’s like living inside hell. The furnaces never go out. Just keep on burning, day after day, night after night, week after week. For ever. Burning away. Melting iron ore into money. Money that stays in the pockets of the rich men in their big fancy houses while the rest go hungry, get sick, work till they’re so tired they drop. Then all that’s left is to die.’