My Yorkshire: Streets of Darkness author AA Dhand on his favourite people and places

Author AA Dhand.
Author AA Dhand.
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Born and raised in Bradford, AA Dhand trained as a pharmacist. After living in London, he returned to write his critically acclaimed debut novel Streets of Darkness. He still works as a pharmacist and writes into the early hours.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory? Probably the old pubs of Bradford. My father was a member of the snooker and darts team of Crofts Social Club in Bradford, which has sadly now closed down. I used to accompany him sometimes on ‘away nights’ where they would play against other pub and club teans. Cigarette smoke, Yorkshire ale, space invader arcade games and observing the hustle and bustle of wheeler-dealers, folk winding down after a day’s graft or the subtle interactions of people on dates. It saddens me that some of the great heritage pubs in the city are no more and I’m not even a drinker.

Cartwright Hall in Lister Park, Bradford is one of AA Shand's favourite places. Picture Tony Johnson

Cartwright Hall in Lister Park, Bradford is one of AA Shand's favourite places. Picture Tony Johnson

What’s your favourite part of the county and why? Bradford of course, although I find myself constantly battling between love and frustration. These days I enjoy sitting in City Park by the water-fountains and ‘city-watching’. People’s interactions and at times lack of interactions fascinates me.

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend/day out in Yorkshire? Breakfast at Bettys tea rooms in Ilkley followed by a walk across the moors. Then lunch at the Cow and Calf pub, an exploration around the famous rocks and then dinner in Bradford at my favourite restaurant.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what or where would it be? Lister Park in Bradford is an incredible place. A boating lake, a children’s park and enough greenery to transport you to a scene from Narnia. The Mughal Gardens and water fountains are an extraordinary creation and really remind us of Bradford’s incredible heritage.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? God’s own magnificent county. We have everything and I mean everything to satisfy all tastes. The best tearooms, restaurants (from Michelin rated to the great local kebab house) and easily the best walking trails in the country. There is a friendliness to Yorkshire people you seldom experience elsewhere and any calamity can be sorted out by ‘putting the kettle on’, a trait which I love. There is also a deep sense of history, certainly within Bradford where gothic buildings from the wool era still command most streets and you are never far away from a satanic crumbling mill which adds a little edge.

Irna Qureshi and Syima Aslam who founded the Bradford Literature Festival which AA Dhand thinks has helped transform the city.

Irna Qureshi and Syima Aslam who founded the Bradford Literature Festival which AA Dhand thinks has helped transform the city.

Which Yorkshire person do you admire? I’m a huge fan of Mark Davis’s work, who is a photographer in Yorkshire and known for capturing images of the decaying relics within the city, from the Odeon cinema to the decaying wool mills, and preserving history through his photographs. Mark is an adrenaline junkie and has photographed Bradford from some seriously dangerous vantage points and will do anything for the perfect photo and I cannot recommend his work highly enough. For a location, Bradford Waterstones is easily the best bookshop in England set in the old Wool Exchange building. It’s an inspirational building for an inspirational art-form.

How do you immerse yourself in Yorkshire’s cultural heritage? I like to frequently visit historical ruins, walk around Bradford, often late at night to contrast the city with how it feels during the daytime. I’m a night-owl and I love how alive (and not always positively) a city can become once the sun has set. It is something I enjoy describing in my novels which certainly explore the darker side of human psyche and Bradford.

Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub? Surrounded by hundreds of Indian restaurants in Bradford, there is a lot of choice but my favourite is a small place which I have been going to since I was a boy. It is called Mughals on Leeds Road. Great food, great service, great price and it has the best “pink tea” in the city and if you have never had Asian pink tea, you have no idea what you are missing!

Do you ever find yourself ‘selling’ Yorkshire to others? All the time, especially to my friends in London. There is a calming ambience in Yorkshire, the cost of living is much lower than other parts of England and with everything you could ever need on your doorstep, this is the place to be. I think there are some really positive things now happening in Bradford from Sunbridge Wells underground markets to the Bradford Literature Festival founded by Irna Qureshi and Syima Aslam.

How has Yorkshire influenced your work? The changing landscape of Bradford is my work. People higher up the chain of command decimated the city-centre in 2001 and allowed Bradford to simply lie in ruins around a giant hole. The billion-pound regeneration never happened and it caused a lot of heartache. I go on that journey with my detective, Harry Virdee in Streets of Darkness and Girl Zero.

What are you working on at the moment? I am currently working on the script for the TV adaptation of Streets of Darkness. The rights were snapped up before the book’s publication and we’ve a lot of talented people working hard to bring the project to fruition. I’m also writing my third Harry Virdee thriller, called Sinner due for release this summer.