Tameside lies between Manchester, Cheshire, and Derbyshire and can only be defined by what it is not. It is not a suburb of Manchester, although it is in Greater Manchester. Nor is it part of Cheshire, despite what some residents might tell you. Tameside is a limbo. A nebulous place that links Manchester, Oldham, and Glossop. If all these place names mean nothing to you, don’t worry. It’s typical of a place that is curiously difficult to describe.
Tameside’s patchwork of communities radiates out from Ashton-under-Lyne. Once alive with a thriving market, cafes and nightclubs, Ashton looks a little threadbare nowadays – the clubs have closed down due to violence, and an out-of-town multiplex replaced the glorious Metro cinema. Yet Tameside has a proud past. You can see it in its many churches, war memorials and the annual brass band contest that parades through the streets once a year.
Toward Ashton many of the other communities verge on the poorer areas of Manchester, with row after row of terraced houses. Yet further out the land becomes semi-rural, with narrow streets and fewer houses. In fact, this area was the backdrop for the surreal, somewhat nightmarish comedy series “The League of Gentlemen”.
Stalybridge is my favourite place in Tameside. There’s something comforting about its cobbled shopping precinct, terraced streets and mansion-sized mill houses, a testimony to its 19th century industrial past. Mysterious backstreets feature limestone stairways that lead to nowhere, twisting alleyways, and ruined mills. The railway station bar featured in the werewolf story “Immortal” by Mark Morris. It’s also where I set my own short story “City of the Damned” (from my collection “Nightscape”) in which a commuter gets on the wrong train and finds himself in a nightmarish suburb that has been taken over by worshippers of a certain Lovecraftian Old One.
Tameside also has its share of real-life horrors. In the sprawling council estate of Hattersley notorious serial killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, known as the Moors Murderers, lured several child victims to their deaths in the 1960s, shocking the British public. More recently, the UK’s most prolific serial killer ever was discovered in Hyde – local GP Harold Shipman, a doctor who poisoned hundreds of his own patients until being caught by police. Despite this, most people here display a real old-fashioned Northern sense of hospitality.
From all of this, it may become apparent that Tameside is effectively Northern England in a microcosm. So it was here that I set my horror novel, “The Autumn Man”. Coincidentally, another werewolf story…
In “The Autumn Man” an immortal wanderer named Amon arrives in a small, Northern England town and seeks lodgings with Megan, a schoolteacher who has recently lost her foster-brother Tom in a freak motorcycling accident. Still grieving, Megan falls in love with the enigmatic loner. But Amon is not alone. The lustful, murderous Von Daniken has pursued him here. Von Daniken sets about literally charming the townsfolk and turning them into allies. Because Von Daniken and Amon are werewolves.
It turns out that these two immortals have battled throughout the centuries, seeking the mysterious cure for their affliction – an ancient relic that Amon believes lies buried nearby. While the town’s inhabitants gradually become something more than beast and less than human, Megan leans to her horror that the death of her brother was no accident…
The novel distils everything I know about werewolf lore. Imagine Clive Barker’s apocalyptic vision by way of Anne Rice’s vampire novels with a healthy dose of “The Company of Wolves”, and you won’t go far wrong.
While re-writing the book I renamed the places and streets. Although the novel is set in the fictitious town of Milton, you can see several features of Stalybridge in there, including the canal, the Morrison’s supermarket, Stalybridge library, several local housing estates and the local park. I even have a hand-drawn map I used to plan the journeys taken in the novel, if anyone is interested…
Stalybridge is worth a look if you want to see a proper Northern mill town before they vanish completely, even if it’s only to have a pint in the “Q” bar and to say you’ve been in the pub with the shortest name in the country!
The Autumn Man on Amazon: http://a-fwd.com/asin-uk=B06XXF24VP
Nightscape on Amazon: http://a-fwd.com/asin-uk=B0773VLM6D
Eric Ian Steele is a screenwriter and novelist. He has written the sci-fi feature film “Clonehunter” (2012) and the horror/thriller feature film “The Student” (2017). His horror novels “The Autumn Man” and “Experiment Nine” are published by Solstice Publishing, and his collection of short stories “Nightscape” was published by Parallel Universe Publications. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and zines.