YOU'RE UP NORTH, AND IT'S GRIM
The phrase "it's grim up North" is an outdated stereotype these days. But we're not talking about the actual, current North. We're talking about Cookson's North, and it's as grim as can be. Dank, cobblestoned alleyways wherever you look? Sooty-faced urchins scrabbling in bushes for scraps to eat? Angry Geordie men giving each other a taste of their fists? You're definitely in Cookson-land. But at least the tea's nice.
YOUR DAD'S A WRONG 'UN
In Cookson, fathers are a mean and grumpy lot. And those are the good ones. Take the dad in The Round Tower. He may be a pompous, money-obsessed bore, but he's just a male Hyacinth Bucket compared to the furious father in The Wingless Bird, who has a tendency to smack people in the face with a shovel and/or fire his gun at whoever upsets him. And let's not even get into the roaringly awful dads in The Glass Virgin and The Cinder Path...
YOU'RE WOOED BY TWO MEN AT ONCE
Being courted by one chap is an ordinary romance. Being courted by two different chaps in an intensely messy love triangle - that's a Cookson romance. Especially if one of them is a Noble Hero and the other is a Horrible Crazy Villain (see: The Secret). Or if both of them are Noble Heroes in different ways (see: The Wingless Bird). Or if the Horrible Crazy Villain actually turns into a Noble Hero and wins out over the original Noble Hero, in a totally unexpected way. We won't say which story that is...
YOU HAVE/ARE AN "ILLEGITIMATE" CHILD
If having a child out of wedlock is about to ruin your reputation because the local townsfolk actually care about "legitimacy", you're in quintessentially Cookson territory.
That goes double if the baby is referred to as a "bairn". Bonus Cookson points if you're illegitimate yourself, and only found out when your angry dad (see above) told you the other day.
YOU GET INTO SCUFFLES
Scuffles, fisticuffs, fracas, punch-ups... call them what you will, but they have a way of suddenly happening in Cookson sagas. If you happen to be caught up in one yourself, do watch your step and try to avoid falling down and bashing your head on any rocks. People have a great tendency to fall down and bash their heads on rocks in Cookson, and it can really ruin their day.
YOUR SIBLINGS ARE CONSTANTLY IN TROUBLE
Brothers and sisters are really more hassle than they're worth in Cookson. If they're adults, they're usually falling in love with the wrong person, causing all kinds of angry griping and father-flair-ups home. And if they're kids - like in The Dwelling Place - then they need serious looking after, because they're bound to be exhausted after toiling in coal mines and mills all day. (A lack of child labour laws is another sign you're in Cookson-land by the way.)
YOU FALL FOR SOMEONE YOU GREW UP WITH
You might think it's ever so slightly icky, to fall in love with a surrogate sibling, or with that significantly older person who's known you since you were pint-sized. But really, there are a few better signs that you're in a Cookson saga. Just look at the relationships which blossom between Millie and Ben in The Rag Nymph, Annabella and Manuel in The Glass Virgin, Freddie and Belle in The Secret, Ned and Hannah in The Girl. No sense denying it - it's just the Cookson way.