There were many who said that Riley appeared older than his years. He finished school at an early age, leaving a harsh childhood behind him, full of optimism and secure in the knowledge that his teacher, Fred Beardsley, had faith in him. Neither of them could have envisaged at the time how their lives would be intertwined. Over the subsequent years, Fred observed with amazement Riley's rise to fame and fortune. As for his relationship with Nyrene, the leading lady at The Little Palace Theater in Fellburn, that did indeed change although not in the way that Riley had envisaged.
Catherine Cookson was born in Tyne Dock, the illegitimate daughter of a poverty-stricken woman, Kate, whom she believed to be her older sister. She began work in service but eventually moved south to Hastings, where she met and married Tom Cookson, a local grammar-school master. Although she was originally acclaimed as a regional writer - her novel The Round Tower won the Winifred Holtby Award for the best regional novel of 1968 - her readership quickly spread throughout the world, and her many best-selling novels established her as one of the most popular of contemporary women novelists. After receiving an OBE in 1985, Catherine Cookson was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1993. She was appointed an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford, in 1997. For many years she lived near Newcastle upon Tyne. She died shortly before her ninety-second birthday, in June 1998.