Dan Matlock is out of jail. He’s got a choice. Stay or leave. Go back to where it all went wrong, or simply get out of the county. Disappear. Start again as someone else.
But it’s not as simple as that.
There’s the matter of the man he killed. It wasn’t murder, but even so. You tell that to the family. Especially when that family is the Mintons, who own half that’s profitable and two-thirds of what’s crooked between the Wolds and the coast. And who could have got to Matlock as easy as you like in prison, but who haven’t touched him. Not yet.
And like Matlock found out in prison, there’s no getting away from yourself, so what would the point be in not facing up to other people?
It’s time to go home.
East of England blends a rural take on the noir thriller with a fascination with the British industrialised countryside that lies east of the Wolds, between the Humber and the Wash. Unlit byways rather than the neon-bright and rain-slicked city. A world of caravan parks, slot machines, and low-rise battery farms.
The flatlands of the east coast; decaying market towns and run-down resorts, and the distant throb of offshore windfarms. Where the smell you’re trying to get out of your clothes is the cigarette taint of old phone boxes and bus shelters, and where redemption, like life, is either hard-earned or fought for, one way or another.
Dan Matlock stepped out into the real world again. Somewhere behind him, the guard who had opened the door shouted ‘See you soon,’ but Matlock was already walking away from jail.
There was no-one waiting for him.
He wasn’t expecting Joe to be there. Not really. But it might have been nice. Would have made things simpler.
Lindum County Hospital is opposite the city’s prison.
Matlock crossed the road without looking left or right. It was early. He’d have heard something if there was any traffic.
The car park on the far side of the road was a third full. Six-to-two workers, overnighting bedside vigilants, keen bean suits.
Scant remnants of a hedge led to a muddy incline down to the tarmac. Matlock scanned till he found the right kind of car. Something old, something uncomplicated.
A once-red hatchback, its paint faded to a blush. No-one around. Matlock put the bag with his belongings from the prison tight up to the driver’s side window. He punched through the bag to quell the noise and to not get cut.
The glass gave way like it wanted to.
Matlock chucked the bag onto the passenger front seat. He snapped the plastic trim away from under the steering column, and found the right wires. Some tricks you never unlearn. The car coughed into life. The radio lit up; local news chatter.
Okay. Deep breath. It had been two years since Matlock had sat behind the wheel of a motor. Last time he’d done so, he had killed the wrong man.
He swept away the worst of the glass into the passenger foot-well, then wound what was left of the window right down. It’d pass a glancing inspection.
Matlock pulled off towards the car park exit. An early morning smoker - IV stand and dressing gown – lurked far enough from the sliding main doors to deter a jobsworth coming out to grumble something about this being a smoke-free site. Matlock passed the patient, turned right towards the main road.
He slowed to give way at the car park exit, even though there was no road traffic coming in either direction.
He could turn right. Back to where it had all gone wrong.
Where it might be worse than ever, and waiting for him, fists balled.
Or he could turn left, make his way through Lindum city centre, and be out of the county within half an hour. Put the last two years and more behind him. Family, lost loves, the lot of it. Head west, as if chased by the racing sun. Make up a name. Fall into something or other somewhere else. Shed his old skin.
Was that ever really an option?
Matlock didn’t indicate. Turned right.
And if you like what you read and see about the book you can support it into life by pre-ordering here.
We're three weeks into the crowdfunding for East of England, and the stats show we're at the 19% mark, with just over 50 backers for the project. So, another huge thanks for the support you've shown for the book (and for me). In a day or so I'll be emailing back with a link to an audio file for the first part of the book as a small listening gift for you. This contains the first ten…
Ths is the first of a series of project updates I'll be posting online about my Lincolnshire-set noir-ish thriller novel East of England, which is crowdfunding now via Unbound. As the project has only been live a week, there's not a whole lot to report on, so this is just to first say a huge and heartfelt thanks to those who've pre-ordered the book by pledging towards its crowdfunding costs…
These people are helping to fund East of England.