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Frank Was Here

Frank is still here.

People ask me where I got the idea for Frank, one of the lead characters in The Last Director of Shoreditch.

Are his enlarged cojones a metaphor for some deep, insightful truth? 

Browsing in a bookshop, I came across The Shoreditch Tales, a trove of local history written by Carolyn Clark and Linda Wilkinson. It contains a brief reference to a man in the 1950s who had outsized balls.

A review of the local history book in the Hackney Gazette newspaper in 2009 also mentions him

"Mark Brooks, the florist, recalls the regulars at the King’s Arms pub, which his grandfather owned: ‘one chap I remember had elephantiasis bollocks and he had to wear a skirt. Couldn’t get trousers over them, no way poor sod.’"  

Of course, apart from the big balls, any resemblance between what this real person did during his life and the fictional Frank in The Last Director of Shoreditch ends there.

It is an illustration of how writers are magpies, taking bits of real life as inspiration, a launch pad to a make believe world on the page.

Frank certainly has a mind of his own.

I originally opened the novel with Nick Carter musing about his life over a latte in a café on Shoreditch high street. It then moved to a barge laden with bones and wood, making its way in the dead of a winter's night to a wharf, where Frank is waiting.

But Frank had his own ideas.

An image of him in my mind's eye leaning out of the wharf simply would not budge until I switched round the first two chapters.

He appears in other places, too.

On my street there is a section of pavement to hold in place a bollard - or postie as tenants of the former Old Nichol slum nearby would have called it.

The Old Nichol features in the novel, and the site is now home to Britain's first social housing estate, a collection of orange brick buildings that are now protected.

Into the section of that pavement, someone etched 'Frank was here'. I'd like to think it's the spirit of our Frank, who simply won't be forgotten.

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Listen to a podcast I did with the amazing which casts a spotlight on London, its people and history. I spoke about how my neighbourhood inspired me to write The Last Director of


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