What John Steinbeck would make of St Helens

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A NOVELIST from St Helens says he can “guarantee” that local readers will identify with at least one character they recognise in his new book.

Inspired by his literary hero, John Steinbeck, Barrie Pennington, 56, also insists that his bitter-sweet tale of life in modern-day St Helens - Glass Alley - was not intended to be political, merely a “social comment”.

But the father-of-one’s first novel has mirrored Steinbeck’s classic Cannery Row in exploring the toughness and resolve of ordinary people in times of economic adversity.

Mr Pennington said: “I’m a great fan of John Steinbeck’s work. He wrote about people struggling through the depression of the 1930s and despised bankers and politicians - some things just don’t change! But he also wrote about ordinary people joining forces to get through tough times.

“I still believe that whatever change is set to occur following the recent financial meltdown is going to be as a result of the spirit of ordinary people, not because of politicians or the financial sector. It will the man and woman on the street who turns it around.

“I’ve written short stories before and had been thinking about writing this novel for the best part of 10 years. But the recession really focused my mind - it was a story that was begging to be told.”

Through the eyes of divorcee Doc, Glass Alley depicts St Helens as a town struggling with economic and social changes - which are largely out of its control.

Mr Pennington, who was born and raised in Thatto Heath and now lives in Crank with his wife Susan, added: “The reaction from people who have read it so far has been really positive.” Glass Alley is available to download now via Amazon Kindle e-books.