I was born and brought up in Bradford, a large West Yorkshire city which was then the flourishing heart of the wool textile industry. My father was a Latin teacher and later headmaster of the prep department of the boys’ grammar school, and my mother, who had herself wanted to be a teacher, ended up as the home-maker. I grew up surrounded by books which I devoured voraciously from an early age. My abiding memory of childhood is escaping from two lively younger sisters with my latest read, and later telling and writing stories almost as soon as I could string the words together.

At eleven I went on to grammar school where, according to an old classmate I met again recently, I "was always the Bolshie one". I certainly developed an interest in politics and social affairs pretty early and by the age of about 13 had decided that I wanted to be a journalist. This didn’t go down too well with my teachers who thought it wasn’t a suitable job for a woman, certainly not a well-brought up young lady from a prestigious girls’ school. With a disinclination to listen to advice which survives intact, I talked my way onto the Yorkshire Post in Leeds when I was eighteen and was only persuaded reluctantly to take up a place to read English at Birmingham University a year later. Inevitably I spent as much time working on the student newspaper, which I eventually edited, as I did studying Shakespeare and the rest. But I never regretted Birmingham: I met my future husband there and the experience landed me a traineeship on the Guardian, still in Manchester then, and entry to the career I really wanted.

I moved to London when I married and worked for the Evening Standard, the BBC and then back to the Guardian where, under my own name, Maureen O’Connor, I launched, edited and wrote for the education section for sixteen years. Only after all that did I turn to freelance journalism and, for the first time since I was in my teens, decide to turn fact-writing skills to fiction. The Poison Pool was published in 1991 and there’s been a book a year since then, most of them featuring Michael Thackeray and Laura Ackroyd and set in my native Yorkshire. A couple of years ago I retired from journalism to devote myself full-time to fiction.

Although I now live on Morse territory in Oxford, I visit my native heath regularly to visit family, and keep a close eye on the changing scene. The fictional Bradfield is not quite my native Bradford — it’s smaller, more backward perhaps, but it certainly reflects the post-industrial, multi-cultural place much of West Yorkshire has become. I am enough of a political animal still to enjoy picking up contemporary issues in a rapidly changing urban area on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales where cultures and traditions often collide. More recently I've decided to turn my attention to 1960s London, where I was a young reporter, where life was certainly swinging but had a dark side too.

My family were pretty astonished when I turned to fiction: I’d told no one that the usual keyboard bashing wasn’t exactly journalism! But by now my husband and two grown up sons are amongst my greatest fans. I hope there are some others out there too.

Copyright © 2012 Patricia Hall

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