From his opulent office on Manchester Town Hall’s top floor, Councillor Andy King pulls the levers that run the city. The consummate politician for the 21st Century, he always knows exactly what to say. But the public face hides a ruthless streak – he’s waiting for the right opportunity.
OSPREY – the Overhead System Producing Renewable Energy is an audacious scheme to harness high-altitude wind power. Is it a breakthrough in clean energy or a far-fetched fantasy designed to extort millions?
Set in recession-hit Manchester, OSPREY is a brilliantly satirical novel that lifts a lid on everything from phone hacking to climate change hysteria. Topical, controversial and worryingly believable, it is a tale of panic, greed and people on the make.
Read some of OSPREY here:
The bomb, when it was dropped, fell out of a clear blue sky and landed on a Friday lunchtime when the postman finally arrived with the day’s mail. At first it seemed innocent enough, hidden inside an innocuous A4 envelope bearing the Manchester coat of arms, the motto, concilo et labore – by wisdom and effort – franked in the corner. It was so well disguised that Martin didn’t even open it straight away. He assumed it was just another sheaf of administrative papers that he was legally obliged to receive, leaving it in his briefcase while he finished up in the office. It could wait. For a while it lay undiscovered, smouldering quietly away. But the words it contained were dynamite. When they eventually detonated, nothing would ever be the same again.
It had been a dark and rainy start to the day but by eleven o’clock the clouds had passed and the sun made a welcome return. After an hour it had dried all traces of the morning’s downpour and it looked like the afternoon would turn out pretty well after all. By two, Martin had had enough. Anyone who needed it had his mobile number, so he told the staff he was heading home to work. As soon as they had finished they should disappear too. It was a good way to work. He knew he was able to rely on Jon, his second-in-command, to look after the office in his absence. The young man didn’t share his persuasive talent, his out and out, force of nature salesmanship but he was utterly dependable and had a fine business brain. The two of them would often sit and work through difficulties over a beer after work. There was no fancy job title on a business card but he was handsomely rewarded for his efforts; they complemented each other almost perfectly. The two girls handled the administrative side and looked after the clients. Times had been hard but they’d all pulled together. It was a happy little team in a happy little office.
Jogging down the steps, Martin pushed a button on his key fob to remotely lower the convertible top; it was a trick he never grew tired of. Stowing his briefcase safely in the passenger footwell, he roared off along the green. The office was located in a row of converted regency terraces facing the pleasant, largely unknown little oasis of Ardwick Green. Surprisingly, Isherwood Estates actually leased the premises, a mile or so to the east of the city centre. The company had moved out here after Martin finally admitted defeat in the war against the council’s Traffic Roads and Parking Department. How anyone managed to commute into town by car was beyond him. Barely a week passed by without some change to the parking regulations or traffic priorities, always accompanied by a marauding army of hi-visibility clad bastards descending onto the streets, mercilessly hunting transgressors. Quickly skirting the southern edge of the city he joined the Kingsway dual carriageway for the short run home. The radio was full of economic gloom again but he wasn’t in the mood and turned to a music station. Feeling a bit like a king himself, he relished the car’s power, accelerating past a line of slower traffic and settling in for the drive, music blaring and a warm wind whipping around the cabin. Half an hour later he turned into his driveway, crunched across the gravel and killed the engine.
As he walked to the house he caught sight of a neighbour and waved. The man waved back. He was an insurance broker who had also taken advantage of his status in life and finished early for the day. Dressed in shorts and a tee shirt, an open bottle of beer in his hand, he was staring, nonplussed, at the engine of a ride-on lawnmower. Martin took in the sight of his home, his neighbour and his sleek black car sitting in the sunlight. He was happy in the knowledge that despite the radio news, things weren’t so bad after all.
The house was cool and dark after the bright sunlight. There was nobody home. Hanging his jacket over the back of a kitchen chair, he opened the oversized, American fridge his family insisted they needed. Seeing his neighbour had put him in the mood for a beer himself, but one would lead to two and there was work to be done. Reluctantly, he ignored the Peronis and reached instead for a can of Pepsi. Popping it with one hand he took a knife from the sink and slit the edge of the envelope from the council; they always seemed to weld the damn things shut. From somewhere outside, an engine coughed and barked into life before settling to a high-pitched, fast tickover – the neighbour had managed to start the mower. Holding the envelope upside down, he allowed its contents to tumble into his hand. And then he read.
At first, the sentences seemed to writhe on the page. Martin blinked and struggled to keep focus. He put the can down and gripped the letter with both hands to keep it from shaking. Slowly, he read it again. Surely this was wrong, surely he’d misunderstood. Either that or the terse, stark words on the page were lying to him.