‘Birdy’ to be brought to life in Portsmouth author’s next novel

WINNER Maggie Sawkins at her Southsea home. Inset, author Graham Hurley.  Picture: Malcolm Wells (120812-5322)
WINNER Maggie Sawkins at her Southsea home. Inset, author Graham Hurley. Picture: Malcolm Wells (120812-5322)

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SHE’S a drug user in her 30s who was once jailed for stabbing her boyfriend with a pair of scissors.

She lives in Somers Town and she’s known on the streets of Portsmouth and by the police simply as ‘Birdy’.

Graham Hurley

Graham Hurley

Grace Bird does not exist – yet. But she is about to be brought to life in a new novel by Graham Hurley.

Her creator is Maggie Sawkins, who has won The News competition for readers to dream up a character for the prolific author’s next book.

Maggie, of Chelsea Road, Southsea, is a poet and creative writing teacher, who is also a leading light in the Tongues and Grooves poetry and music club based in the city.

We asked readers to create, in 100 words, a character for one of Graham’s forthcoming novels. There were dozens of entries and Graham loved Maggie’s description of Birdy.

This is how she envisaged her: ‘Slightly built, mid-30s, blonde with intelligent blue eyes. She dresses with an artistic flair.

‘Still attractive, despite a long history of substance misuse and mental ill health – though it’s immediately visible she’s been round the block a few times.

‘She stays in a flat in Somers Town illegally sub-let to her by her drug dealer. She’s in a volatile relationship with a homeless Romanian who she met at a hostel.

‘Grace has a record for petty crime and was once imprisoned for stabbing a boyfriend in the arm with a pair of scissors.’

Maggie, 58, who teaches creative writing at South Downs College, wins a complete signed set of Graham’s 12 Portsmouth-based crime novels starring Inspector Joe Faraday.

She said: ‘I’m really pleased that my disenfranchised character will be given a voice and perhaps a better life in Graham’s new novel.’

Graham, who lived in Portsmouth for 30 years before leaving for Exmouth, Devon, is setting his next series of crime books in the west country. The main protagonist will be Det Sgt Jimmy Suttle, who, like his creator, has moved from Portsmouth to Devon.

Graham said of Maggie’s winning entry: ‘At first glance, I could see her, sense where she came from, and know with absolute certainty that she’d be excellent and fictionally fruitful company in the next book. Maybe Maggie should be doing this, rather than me...’