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Grimsby, Cleethorpes and District in Literature

The Grimsby area has made some rare appearances in literature.

Wilkie Collins

"The Woman in White" by Wilkie Collins ; 1868

The Third Epoch: Chapter VI

"Anne (Catherick)'s terror of being discovered in London or its neighbourhood, whenever they ventured to walk out, had gradually communicated itself to Mrs. Clements, and she had determined on removing to one of the most out-of-the-way places in England - to the town of Grimsby in Lincolnshire, where her deceased husband had passed all his early life."

"They remained at Grimsby during the first half of the New Year, and there they might possibly have stayed much longer, but for the sudden resolution which Anne took at this time to venture back to Hampshire."

get carter

"Get Carter" by Ted Lewis; 1970

Unlike the film, Ted Lewis' novel (originally published as "Jack's Return Home") is set in an un-named town which could be Scunthorpe. Although born in Scunthorpe, Lewis spent much of his early life in Barton and the climax appears to be out at the old brickworks by the side of the Humber near Barton. Although the central location remains un-named, Cleethorpes is referenced as one of the spots where Cliff Brumby keeps his slot machines.

Towards the end, Carter needs some "white stuff" as part of his revenge, and is told the only place to get it is, "Grimsby Man called Storey. You'd find him upstairs at a coffee bar that calls itself a club 'The Matador' would you believe?"

"I walked along the cobbled street to where I'd left the car. There was the misty smoky taste of river in the air. The rain had eased off and the wind wasn't so strong and the sounds of the docks swished and clanked across the night."


"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" by John Le Carre; 1974

In Chapter 3, while still languishing in retirement, George Smiley receives a letter from his bank, "regarding a local cashing facility in favour of the Lady Ann Smiley at a branch of the Midland Bank in Immingham.

Smiley asks, "Who ever had a love affair in Immingham, for goodness' sake? Where was Immingham?". Later on, Smiley is informed by ex-Inspector Mendel that, "Immingham railway station's'll have to get out at Grimsby and hoof it, or take a bus."

Towards the end of the book, George Smiley makes the train journey to Grimsby, and gets off at the station, waiting for a lift to Immingham; "It was bitterly cold; he hoped very much that her wretched lover had found her somewhere warm to live."

Being Le Carre, several questions are left lingering. What was his wife doing in Immingham? Why chose a bank in Immingham to cash cheques? Immingham was still a passenger destination for the Tor Line ferries at the time. Earlier on there is a reference to the train traveling over the "East Anglian landscape". Had Le Carre originally intended another port like Harwich and then discovered the name Immingham? Or did he have some secret knowledge?


"The Kingdom by the Sea" by Paul Theroux; Penguin 1983

After eleven years living as an American in London, Theroux set out to travel clockwise round the was 1982, the summer of the Falklands War and the Royal Baby..

"At Grimsby I bought a London paper with the headline Rail-Stricken Britain Rolls On. But nothing was rolling in Grimsby, not even a train for the three miles to Cleethorpes."

"Was Cleethorpes a pillar or a post? It looked a terrible place. I wanted to go away. But how? The only way I could have left was on foot, in the rain, sinking in the mud of the Humber Bank. So I stayed the night in Cleethorpes and watched filthy children playing 'Tiggy'."

After a night in the Dolphin Hotel...he walks back to Grimsby.

"There had been stock car racing and wrestling and Bingo in Cleethorpes, but just next door in Grimsby there was the Caxton theatre and the fish docks and a sense that this had once been a bustling place and had only recently collapsed. The buildings and high-rise parking lots still stood; but they were empty. A sign at a shop selling leathers and furs said, "Coneys". I had never seen this old word for rabbits in an advertisement before- and it was also a famous word for suckers."

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