A Lover of Books

Archive for the month “September, 2016”

Blog Blitz – ‘A Cornish Christmas’ by Lily Graham

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This is the cover of Lily Graham’s new book, ‘A Cornish Christmas’ which is out today, published by Bookouture.  Isn’t it gorgeous?  I have a little taster for all of you but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

Nestled in the Cornish village of Cloudsea, sits Sea Cottage – the perfect place for some Christmas magic …

At last Ivy is looking forward to Christmas. She and her husband Stuart have moved to their perfect little cottage by the sea – a haven alongside the rugged cliffs that look out to the Atlantic Ocean. She’s pregnant with their much-longed for first baby and for the first time, since the death of her beloved mother, Ivy feels like things are going to be alright.

But there is trouble ahead. It soon emerges that Stuart has been keeping secrets from Ivy, and suddenly she misses her mum more than ever.  When Ivy stumbles across a letter from her mother hidden in an old writing desk, secrets from the past come hurtling into the present. But could her mother’s words help Ivy in her time of need? Ivy is about to discover that the future is full of unexpected surprises and Christmas at Sea Cottage promises to be one to remember.

This Christmas warm your heart and escape to the Cornish coast for an uplifting story of love, secrets and new beginnings that you will remember for many Christmases to come.

 

Extract

CHAPTER ONE

The Writing Desk

 

Even now it seemed to wait.

Part of me, a small irrational part, needed it to stay exactly where it was, atop the faded Persian rug, bowing beneath the visceral pulse of her letters and the remembered whisper from the scratch of her pen. The rosewood chair, with its slim turned-out legs, suspended forevermore in hopeful expectation of her return. Like me, I wondered if it couldn’t help but wish that somehow she still could.

I hadn’t had the strength to clear it, nor the will. Neither had Dad and so it remained standing sentry, as it had throughout the years with Mum at the wheel, the heart, the hub of the living room.

If I closed my eyes, I could still hear her hum along to Tchaikovsky – her pre-Christmas music – as she wrapped up presents with strings, ribbons and clear cellophane, into which she’d scatter stardust and moonbeams, or at least so it seemed to my young eyes. Each gift, a gift within a gift.

One of my earliest memories is of me sitting before the fire, rolling a length of thick red yarn for Fat Arnold, our squashed-face Persian, who languished by the warmth, his fur pearly white in the glow. His one eye open while his paw twitched, as if to say he’d play, if only he could find the will. In the soft light Mum sat and laughed, the firelight casting lowlights in her long blonde hair. I shut my eyes and took a deep breath, away from the memory of her smile.

Dad wanted me to have it: her old writing desk. I couldn’t bear to think of the living room without it, but he insisted. He’d looked at me, above his round horn-rimmed glasses, perpetual tufts of coarse grey hair poking out mad-hatter style on either side of his head, and said with his faraway philosopher’s smile, ‘Ivy, it would have made her happy, knowing that you had it. . .’ And I knew I’d lost.

Still it had taken me two weeks to get up the nerve. Two weeks and Stuart’s gentle yet insistent prodding. He’d offered to help, to at least clear it for me, and bring it through to our new home so that I wouldn’t have to face it. Wouldn’t have to reopen a scar that was trying its best to heal. He’d meant well. I knew that he would’ve treated her things reverently; he would’ve stacked all her letters, tied them up with string, his long fingers slowly rolling up the lengths of old ribbon and carefully putting them away into a someday box that I could open when I was ready. It was his way, his sweet, considerate Stuart way. But I knew I had to be the one who did it. Like a bittersweet rite of passage, some sad things only you can do yourself. So I gathered up my will, along with the box at my feet and began.

It was both harder and easier than I expected. Seeing her things as she left them should have made the lump in my throat unbearable, it should have been intolerable, but it wasn’t somehow.

I began with the drawer, emptying it of its collection of creamy, loose-leafed paper; fine ribbons; and assorted string, working my way to the heart of the Victorian desk, with its warren of pigeon holes, packed with old letters, patterned envelopes, stamps, watercolour brushes, and tubes of half-finished paint.

But it was the half-finished tasks that made the breath catch in my throat. A hand-painted Christmas card, with Santa’s sleigh and reindeer flying over the chimney tops, poor Rudolph eternally in wait for his little watercolour nose. Mum had always made her own, more magical and whimsical than any you could buy. My fingers shook as I held the card in my hand, my throat tight. Seeing this, it’s little wonder I became a children’s book illustrator. I put it on top of the pile, so that later I could paint in Santa’s missing guiding light.

It was only when I made to close the desk that I saw it: a paper triangle peeking out from the metal hinge. It was tightly wedged but, after some wiggling, I pried it loose, only – in a way – to wish I hadn’t.

It was a beautiful, vintage French postcard, like the ones we’d bought when we holidayed there, when I was fifteen and fell in love with everything en français. It had a faded sepia print of the Jardin des Tuileries on the cover, and in elegant Century print it read ‘[Century font writing] Carte Postale’ on the back.

It was blank. Except for two words, two wretchedly perfect little words that caused the tears that had threatened all morning to finally erupt.

Darling Ivy

It was addressed to me. I didn’t know which was worse: the unexpected blow of being called ‘Darling Ivy’ one last time, finding out she’d had this last unexpected gift waiting for me all along, or that she’d never finish it. I suppose it was a combination of all three.

Three velvet-tipped daggers that impaled my heart.

I placed it in the box together with the unfinished Christmas card and sobbed, as I hadn’t allowed myself to for years.

Five years ago, when she passed, I believed that I’d never stop. A friend had told me that ‘time heals all wounds’ and it had taken every ounce of strength not to give her a wound that time would never heal, even though I knew she’d meant well. Time, I knew, couldn’t heal this type of wound. Death is not something you get over. It’s the rip that exposes life in a before and after chasm and all you can do is try to exist as best you can in the after. Time could only really offer a moment when the urge to scream would become a little less.

Another friend of mine, who’d lost his leg and his father in the same day, explained it better. He’d said that it was a loss that every day you manage and some days are better than others. That seemed fair. He’d said that death for him was like the loss of the limb, as even on those good days you were living in the shadow of what you had lost. It wasn’t something you recovered from completely, no matter how many people, yourself included, pretended otherwise. Somehow that helped, and I’d gotten used to living with it, which I suppose was what he meant.

The desk wasn’t heavy. Such a substantial part of my childhood, it felt like it should weigh more than it did, but it didn’t and I managed it easily alone. I picked it up and crossed the living room, through the blue-carpeted passage, pausing only to shift it slightly as I exited the back door towards my car, a mint green Mini Cooper.

Setting the desk down on the cobbled path, I opened up my boot, releasing the back seats so they folded over before setting the desk on top, with a little bit of careful manoeuvring. It felt strange to see it there, smaller than I remembered. I shut the boot and went back inside for the chair and the box where I’d placed all her things; there was never any question of leaving it behind. On my way back, I locked up Dad’s house, a small smile unfurling as I noticed the little wreath he’d placed on the door, like a green shoot through the snow after the longest winter. It hadn’t been Christmas here for many years.

Back to my car, I squeezed the chair in next to the desk and placed the box on the passenger seat before I climbed in and started the engine. As the car warmed, I looked at my reflection in the side mirror and laughed, a sad groaning laugh.

My eyeliner had made tracks all down my face, leaving a thick trail into my ears, and black blobs on either side of my lobes so that I looked like I’d participated in some African ritual, or had survived the mosh pit at some death metal goth fest. With my long dark blonde curls, coral knitted cap and blue eyes, it made me look a little zombiefied.

I wiped my face and ears and grinned despite myself. ‘God, Mum, thanks for that!’ I put the car in gear and backed out of the winding drive, towards the coastal road.

Cornwall.

It was hard to believe I was back, after all these years.

London had been exciting, tiring, and trying. And grey, so very grey. Down here, it seemed, was where they keep the light; my senses felt as if they’d been turned up.

For a while, London had been good though, especially after Mum. For what it lacked in hued lustre, it made up for by being alive with people, ideas, and the hustling bustle. It was a different kind of pace. A constant rush. Yet, lately I’d craved the stillness and the quiet. So when The Fudge Files, a children’s fiction series that I co-wrote and illustrated with my best friend Catherine Talty, about a talking English bulldog from Cornwall who solves crimes, became a bestseller, we were finally able to escape to the country.

In his own way, Stuart had wanted the move more than I did; he was one of those strange creatures who’d actually grown up in London, and said that this meant it was high time that he tried something else.

In typical Stuart fashion, he had these rather grand ideas about becoming a self-sustaining farmer – something akin to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – and setting up a smallholding similar to Hugh’s River Cottage. The simple fact of it being Cornwall, not Dorset, was considered inconsequential. Which perhaps it was. I had to smile. Our River Cottage was called Sea Cottage (very original that), yet was every bit as exquisite as its namesake, with a rambling half acre of countryside, alongside rugged cliffs that overlooked the aquamarine waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the gorgeous village of Cloudsea with its mile-long meandering ribbon of whitewashed cottages with window frames and doors in every shade of blue imaginable, perched amid the wild, untamed landscape, seemingly amongst the clouds, tumbling down to the sea. It was the place I always dreamt about when someone asked me where I would choose to live if I could magically supplant myself with a snap of my fingers or be granted a single genie’s wish. Cloudsea. And now. . . now we lived here. It was still hard to believe.

So far our ‘livestock’ consisted of four laying hens, two grey cats named Pepper and Pots, and an English bulldog named Muppet – the living, slobbering and singular inspiration behind Detective Sergeant Fudge (Terrier Division) of The Fudge Files, as created by Catherine, Muppet’s official godmother.

Despite Stuart’s noble intentions, he was finding it difficult to come to terms with the idea of keeping animals as anything besides pets. Personally, I was a little grateful for that. We assuaged our consciences though by ensuring that we supported local organic farms, where we were sure that all the animals were humanely treated.

But what we lacked in livestock, Stuart made up for in vegetation. His potager was his pride and joy and even now, in the heart of winter, he kept a polytunnel greenhouse that kept us in fresh vegetables throughout the year. Or at least that was the plan; we’d only been here since late summer. I couldn’t imagine his excitement come spring.

For me Cornwall was both a fresh start and a homecoming. For the first time ever I had my own art studio up in the attic, with dove grey walls, white wooden floors, and a wall full of shelves brimming with all my art supplies; from fine watercolour paper to piles of brushes and paint in every texture and medium that my art-shop-loving heart could afford. The studio, dominated by the mammoth table, with its slim Queen Anne legs, alongside the twin windows, made it a haven, with its view of the rugged countryside and sea. One where I planned to finish writing and illustrating my first solo children’s book.

Now, with our new home and the news that we’d been waiting seven years to hear, it would all be a new start for us.

I was finally, finally pregnant.

Seven rounds of in vitro fertilisation, which had included 2,553 days, 152 pointless fights, five serious, two mortgages, countless stolen tears in the dead of the night in the downstairs bathroom in our old London flat, my fist wedged in my mouth to stem the sound, and infinite days spent wavering between hope and despair, wondering if we should just give up and stop trying. That day, thankfully, hadn’t come.

And now I was twelve weeks pregnant. I still couldn’t believe it. We hadn’t told Dad yet; I didn’t want to get his hopes up, or tempt fate; we’d played that black card before.

Our hopes. . . well, they’d already soared above the stars.

It was why I so desperately wished Mum were here now. It would have made all of this more bearable. She had a way of making sense of the insensible, of offering hope at the darkest times, when all I wanted to do was run away. I missed how we used to sit up late at night by the fire in the living room, a pot of tea on the floor, while Fat Arnold dozed at our feet and she soothed my troubled fears and worries – the most patient of listeners, the staunchest of friends. Now, with so many failed pregnancies, including two miscarriages, the memory of which was like shrapnel embedded in our hearts, so that our lives had been laced with an expectant tinge of despair, primed for the nightmare to unfold, never daring to hope for the alternative; we were encouraged to hope. It was different, everyone said so, and I needed to trust that this time it would finally happen, that we’d finally have a baby, like the doctors seemed to think we would. Stuart had been wonderful, as had Catherine, but I needed Mum really, and her unshakeable, unbreakable faith.

There are a few times in a woman’s life when she needs her mother. For me, my wedding was one and I was lucky to have her there, if luck was what it was, because it seemed to be sheer and utter determination on her part. It had been so important to her to be there, even though all her doctors had told us to say our goodbyes. I will never know what it cost her to hold on the way she did, but she did and she stayed a further two years after that. In the end, it was perhaps the cruellest part, because when she did go, I’d convinced myself that somehow she’d be able to stay.

But this, this was different. I needed her now, more than ever. As I drove, the unstoppable flow of tears pooling in the hollow of my throat, I wished that we could have banked those two years, those two precious years that she had fought so hard and hung on for, so that she could be here with me now when I needed her the most.

 

About Lily Graham

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Lily has been telling stories since she was a child, starting with her imaginary rabbit, Stephanus, and their adventures in the enchanted peach tree in her garden, which she envisioned as a magical portal to Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree. She’s never really got out of the habit of making things up, and still thinks of Stephanus rather fondly.

She lives with her husband and her English bulldog, Fudge, and brings her love for the sea and country-living to her fiction.

 

I really hope you enjoyed reading the extract.  If you did then you might want to buy yourselves a copy.  Here are the links for Amazon:-

UK: http://amzn.to/2atWI7G

US: http://amzn.to/2azduwO

 

Links

Facebook – www.facebook.com/LilyRoseGrahamAuthor

Twitter – www.twitter.com/Lilywritesbooks

Website – https://lilygraham.net/

 

 

Interview with Justin Sheedy

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I would like to introduce you all to Justin Sheedy.  For a while now my husband has been following him on social media and has expressed an interest in reading his books and I must admit that I am rather tempted by them too.  I wanted to interview Justin and was really pleased when he agreed to one.

 

Firstly, can you tell me a bit about the types of books you write please?

I write in two distinct styles: Firstly my make-you-laugh-and-cry portraits of childhood, teenage & growing up in 1970s & 80s Australia, “Goodbye Crackernight” & “Memoirs of a Go-Go Dancer”. (Yes, my first job out of school.) These two books have been warmly received by readers as they’re not just My story but OUR story, a mirror to US.

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Secondly, my more serious World War Two historical fictions, “Nor the Years Condemn”, “Ghosts of the Empire”, and my just-published “No Greater Love”. Bringing to life the stunning true saga of Australian, British and Commonwealth pilots and aircrew in World War Two, though hyper-accurate to the true history, I’ve written them as historical fictions so as to engage readers with the shining young characters who made the true history, the loss of such shining young characters rendering my stories the true anti-war portraits I intended them to be.

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What made you decide to write about World War Two?

Well, imagine your grandfather, when he was 21, was a real-life young superman loved & respected by all around him. Then he volunteered to fight against the worst evil imaginable, crossed the earth to do it, fought against it in the most exciting way possible and WON, only to end up an old man surrounded by the forever 21-year-old ghosts of all his friends. And it’s all true. How could one NOT want to write a story about that?

 

Did you have to do much research?

A massive amount. Reading, documentaries, online research, emailing museums & local councils particularly in the UK as that’s where my war stories are chiefly set. And people can be so enthusiastically helpful. Just for example, for “Nor the Years Condemn”, book 1 in my trilogy, the local council of Callander in Scotland emailed me mile-by-mile maps of the area between Loch Leven and Loch Lubnaig so my Australian pilot’s first (training) flight in a Spitfire would be as accurate as possible, tearing around the summit of Ben Ledi then super low up Loch Lubnaig though the forest of Strathyre. Their final note, “The RAF jets do it to this day!” was just one of those wonderful conincidences. I also interviewed about 5 Australian WWII veterans, pilots & aircrew who at 90+ looked 70+ as they were basically Olympian/Formula 1 calibre young men back in the day. And so modest! One flew a Kittyhawk fighter and apologised to me that he had not been in an actual dog-fight, only in ground attack. I almost fell off my chair.

 

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Well, one gets more efficient with each book one writes but my most recent, “No Greater Love”, a 360+ page novel, took me a year and a half.

 

What are you working on now?

A novella entitled “Other People’s Wars” which will be a free ebook as a promotional tool for my war trilogy. For release at the end of this year, it will feature starring characters and key themes from my trilogy. Importantly though, each book in the trilogy stands on its own, written to be read in any order; parallel adventures in the same mighty saga.

 

Do you have a favourite place where you go to write?

I’m ALWAYS writing in my head. Can’t help it. No matter where I am.

 

Would you like to see any of your books made into a film and if so, which actors/actresses would you like to play the parts?

It’s my dream & holy grail. If I had a dime for every time people have vowed my books should be movies, I’d be rich.  And the question of which actors/actresses might play the parts has long fascinated me. The tricky thing is that, if cast accurately re age, they’d all have to be 21 as that was the average age of fighter pilots in World War II. (The ‘old man’ of the squadron was 25!) It’s key to my war stories: they’re heroic, tragic portraits of shining Youth. Though I assume in this cinema day & age they’d have “star” 30-somethings playing the roles not 21-year-old newcomers. For my latest book, “No Greater Love”, for its main character, Spitfire pilot rough-diamond Aussie Colin Stone (“Stoney”), when writing I always thought of a young Bryan Brown, a beloved Australian actor, as he was in the 1979 classic, “Breaker Morant”.

 

How important is social media to you?

Oh it’s essential. For ongoing publicity for my books, book-signing events and reviews. It is, in fact, the very reason I have the privilege of taking part in this interview as you & I got in contact through Facebook.

 

What’s your advice for anyone wanting to write their first book?

Come up with a brilliant idea then re-write it 20 times until your book ends up the book it Deserves to be.

 

Do you think you’ll ever come to the UK to do book signings?

I would very, very dearly love to. Before I can, however, my books must be able to be stocked on the shelves of the Waterstones bookstore chain. This is being wrangled by my Australian book distribution company as I write this. (At the moment my books are only available as print-on-demand paperbacks from Waterstones online which is wonderful but my goal is to be signing books in Waterstones Piccadilly.)

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love reading, classic TV & movies, comedy, music, pop culture & aviation, also historical documentaries, Mediterranean cooking, white wine, skiing, mountains and snow.

 

Who are your favourite authors?

So many but in the context of my ‘growing up’ stories, Clive James, Roald Dahl, Bill Bryson, for my war stories, Ken Follett & Roald Dahl once again (“Going Solo” possibly my favourite book of all time), Kate Grenville, Tim Winton & Peter Carey for their emotive Australian historical fictions.

 

About Justin Sheedy

Justin Sheedy had his first book, “Goodbye Crackernight”, published in 2009, a comic memoir of growing up in 1970s Australia, back in a long-lost era when a child’s proudest possession was not a Playstation but a second-hand bike. “Goodbye Crackernight” was so warmly received by Australian readers that it secured Justin a place on the program of the prestigious Byron Bay Writers’ Festival 2010.

In 2012 Justin released “Nor the Years Condemn”, an historical fiction based on the stunning true story of the young Australian fighter pilots of World War Two. A tale as exhilaratingly heroic as it is tragic, “Nor the Years Condemn” is a portrait of shining young men destined never to grow old, and of those who do: the survivors ‘condemned by the years’, and to their memory of friends who remain forever young.

In 2013 he released “Ghosts of the Empire”, Book 2 in his “Nor the Years Condemn” series, and to Rave Reviews.

In 2014 he released “Memoirs of a Go-Go Dancer”, his long-awaited sequel to “Goodbye Crackernight”. “Memoirs of a Go-Go Dancer” is Justin’s rock & roll portrait of teenage in the 1980s under the threat of nuclear annihilation before he ever kissed a girl. Rave Reviews have once again flooded in.

Justin has just released his 5th book, “No Greater Love”, Part 3 in his “Nor the Years Condemn” trilogy. After a sell-out book-launch at Australia’s premier bookstore, the iconic Dymocks George Street Sydney, rave reviews for “No Greater Love” have already been received – see at the book’s Amazon listing along with Amazon 5-Star ratings.

Justin’s books are available in Kindle & paperback at Amazon, Dymocks bookstores, Waterstones & Barnes and Noble Online, The Book Depository and via ALL bookstores. Justin relishes signing copies of his books at regular bookstore events and would love to hear from you at his Facebook pages, on Twitter or at his blog, Crackernight.com. He lives in Sydney, Australia.

 

Book Links

Amazon / Amazon UK / Waterstones online / Barnes & Noble online / The Book Depository / Dymocks bookstores across Australia.

 

Blog Tour – ‘Strangers’ by Paul Finch

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Having absolutely loved Paul Finch’s last book, I was thrilled to be asked if I would like to take part in this blog tour as well.  ‘Strangers’ was published on the 22nd September 2016 by Avon.   I have still to read this book but I am almost 100 per cent sure that I will enjoy it just as much if not more.

Paul Finch has written a guest post for me to host, but first here’s what ‘Strangers’ is all about.

 

Book Blurb

Unknown, alone, and fearing for your life.

As PC Lucy Clayburn is about to find out, going undercover is the most dangerous work there is.

But, on the trail of a prolific female serial killer, there’s no other option – and these murders are as brutal as they come.

Lucy must step into the line of fire – a stranger in a criminal underworld that butchers anyone who crosses the line.

And, unknown to Lucy, she’s already treading it…

Always gripping. Always gruesome. Paul Finch will leave fans of Rachel Abbott and MJ Arlidge gasping for more

~~~~~

How dark can detective fiction go?

Before we can answer this question, we need to remember that detective fiction is a pretty broad church, ranging from the pastoral-flavoured subgenre of the village green murder mystery to the ultra-violent world of inner city cops and the heinous criminals they pursue.

But by the nature of the beast, I think we must expect that it will always have the potential to get pretty dark. The bedrock of modern detective fiction for me is still the Hardboiled genre, as pioneered by the likes of Hammett and Chandler, and in which cynical antiheroes walk tightropes through worlds of crime and corruption.

Even back then in the more censorious 20s, 30s and 40s, our fictional investigators found themselves confronting the dregs of humanity, encountering contract killers, incest, rape, drug addiction, child abuse, sex slavery, domestic brutality – the whole gamut of social ills that still make us shudder when we’re watching the newsreels today.

It’s one of those difficult areas, I guess. In most cases, people read as a form of recreation, and therefore we authors write as a form of entertainment. But can it ever be morally acceptable to dredge through the most miserable of human experiences so that others can have fun?

The answer to that must be that we all live in the real world, and that we writers would be short-changing our readers if we tried to pretend that this wasn’t the case. It would be like telling a war story without the violence, or writing about the Third World as if there was no poverty or disease.

But the question still stands. How dark can you go?

Well … I’ve seen it done superbly well at the extreme limits of the spectrum. If you look at the world of horror novels rather than thrillers, some amazing examples stand out: THE WOLFEN (1978) by Whitley Strieber, in which two New York detectives hunt for an apparent cannibal killer and gradually come to realise they are tracking a werewolf pack; and LEGION (1983) by William Peter Blatty, in which a time-served cop investigates a series of appalling torture murders in Georgetown, only to find that he’s dealing with Satanic ritual. Neither of these books stint on the horror, but such is the skill and intensity with which they are told, that they are basically unputdownable.

In these cases, of course, the supernatural element is likely to alleviate any concerns one might have about excessive gruesomeness and depravity, because that earmarks these works as fantasy, which means that not only is it not real, but that it’s not supposed to be real.

We authors are on slightly dodgier ground when we are purporting to tell stories that could easily be true.

For example, when I sat down to write STALKERS, my first DS Heckenburg novel, in 2012, I wondered if the idea of the Nice Guys Club, a crime syndicate who for big money would provide clients with rape victims of their choice, belonged more in a horror novel than a crime thriller. It seemed a very extreme notion. However, at the time, and despite my prior police experience, I truly had no idea how much sex trafficking there is in the world, how much torture-for-fun, how many Snuf movies are made. It soon transpired that I had no need to worry about my risky concept, because it was only representing one harrowing aspect of real life.

I think that’s why I’ve tackled my latest novel, STRANGERS – another potentially controversial one – in full-on fashion. This one is a no-holds-barred tale of the hunt by undercover policewomen for a female killer known to the press as Jill the Ripper, who preys on her johns and sexually mutilates them.

We’ve all seen TV dramas in which female detectives go under cover as prostitutes, and it’s often treated lightly, as if all the heroine needs to do is don a short skirt and stand sexily on the nearest street-corner. However, I’ve seen enough of it in real life to know that this is far more difficult and dangerous work than that. And after extensive discussions with fellow author and good friend of mine, Ash Cameron, who as a long-serving policewoman in the Met, performed this duty many times, I felt I had a duty to paint as realistic a picture as possible of this grim business.

So … I make no apologies for the grimy subways or dingy toilet blocks, for the vomit in the gutters, the needles in the back-streets, the abuse the girls suffer from their punters, the violence from the pimps and dealers, the thrown excrement, and so forth.

Yes, I suspect STRANGERS is the darkest crime novel I’ve ever written, but no – because of the desperate state of some of our real lives – I don’t think I, or any other crime writer of my acquaintance, has even come close to pushing the boundaries towards unacceptability thus far.

You think crime writing’s gone dark? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

 

You can buy ‘Strangers’ from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Strangers-Paul-Finch-ebook/dp/B01ARS4LRM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474806100&sr=1-1&keywords=strangers

 

Cover Reveal – ‘If Ever I Fall’ by S.D. Robertson

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This is the cover of S.D. Robertson’s new book, ‘If Ever I Fall’ which is being published in both eBook and paperback by Avon on the 9th February 2017.

 

Book Blurb

Is holding on harder than letting go?

Dan’s life has fallen apart at the seams. He’s lost his house, his job, and now he’s going to lose his family too. All he’s ever wanted is to keep them together, but is everything beyond repair?

Maria is drowning in grief. She spends her days writing letters that will never be answered. Nights are spent trying to hold terrible memories at bay, to escape the pain that threatens to engulf her.

Jack wakes up confused and alone. He doesn’t know who he is, how he got there, or why he finds himself on a deserted clifftop, but will piecing together the past leave him a broken man?

In the face of real tragedy, can these three people find a way to reconcile their past with a new future? And is love enough to carry them through?

 

‘If Ever I Fall’ can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/If-Ever-Fall-S-D-Robertson-ebook/dp/B01KEPJJPM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474804797&sr=1-1&keywords=if+ever+i+fall

 

Guest Post by Gillian Mawson

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I am delighted to have the lovely Gillian Mawson on my blog today.  Gillian has written a truly fascinating guest post which I hope you all enjoy reading as much as I did.

 

“I WON’T HAVE ANY EVACUEES!” – THE  BRITISH FAMILIES WHO REFUSED TO TAKE IN EVACUEES DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR

Since 2008 I have interviewed over 500 people, who were evacuated as children or as adults, from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Gibraltar and the Channel Islands. Families have also given me access to the testimony and documents of those who have passed away. During the Second World War it was viewed as an important part of the British war effort for householders to take evacuees into their homes. Letters from local councils and wartime posters appeared everywhere, entreating housewives with the words, “When you take in an evacuee you will be doing a splendid service for the nation” and “Caring for Evacuees is a National Service.”

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However, a study of wartime newspapers shows that, for various reasons, some householders emphatically refused to provide accommodation to evacuees. A Staffordshire newspaper revealed that housewives had slammed the door in the faces of the Women’s Voluntary Service when they called to ask how many evacuees could be accommodated at that house,  ‘There were occasions when householders slammed the door in the faces of  the WVS ladies! That, to say the very least, was adding insult to injury.’  James Roffey still recalls the day in early September 1939 when he and his sister were taken to a cottage in Pulborough, West Sussex:

The young man who had brought us there knocked loudly on the door. No one appeared and the door remained tightly closed, so he knocked again, much louder this time. Suddenly the door opened and a very cross-looking woman appeared and shouted, ‘Who are you and what do you want?’ The young man, who was obviously taken aback, replied, ‘I have been sent by the Billeting Officer to bring these two evacuees.’ She immediately answered, ‘Well you can take them away again. I won’t have any bloody evacuees!’ and slammed the door shut. He knocked on the door again and the woman immediately opened it and again started shouting at him, but this time he put his foot in the doorway to stop her shutting it. Then he pushed us inside, saying, ‘You’ve got to take them by law; if you don’t I’ll call the police.’

Few households were willing to provide a home to evacuated mothers with a child and the Rochdale Observer stated, ‘The accommodating of mothers and children presented great difficulties and in the final stages, compulsory powers had to be exercised. ‘ Alfred Goble will never forget his arrival in Somerset, with his mother and sister, ‘They gave us a bun and a cup of tea and put us into this hall for the night. No one wanted to offer us a home. The next day we had to go to Wells and the same again there – no one wanted the three of us. I remember standing by the Cathedral and Town Hall, weeping with Mum as we were kept waiting.’

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Some families initially took evacuees into their homes, then quickly tried to get rid of them.  One Cheshire housewife asked her local Billeting officer, ‘Can you find another home for the girl? I simply don’t have the time to look after another child as I already have two of my own.’   Newspapers described court cases involving families, who, for various reasons, refused to keep evacuees. The Stockport Advertiser stated, ‘Mr and Mrs Jones of Offerton were charged with refusing to accept an evacuee. The clerk pointed out to the couple that it was unpatriotic of them and they were fined.’ The Leek Post stated, ‘For failing to accept two evacuees Mr. William Wardles Sales of Leek was fined two pounds and ten shillings costs at Leek police court on Wednesday. This was the first case of its kind to be heard in a local court.’[i]  Later on in the war, more cases appeared in the Leek press when hundreds of London evacuees arrived in the town, fleeing the flying bombs:

Three people were each charged with failing to comply with a billeting notice and total fees and costs amounted to over £40 were imposed. The defence in each case constituted a plea of poor health and in 2 of the cases lack of domestic help also. Mr Horace Bowcock was charged with failing to comply with a billeting notice on the 25th of July, and with a similar offence on the 27th of July. The Clerk read a letter from Mr Bowcock stating he was unable to comply with the notices during the past 5 years. His wife has been in poor health and has constantly been receiving medical attention. At the time of the billeting notice they were expecting his wife’s unmarried sister who was ill to come from Macclesfield on a visit. They had only 2 bedrooms and a small room which was used as a study.[ii]

A Gloucestershire newspaper shared the tragic case of a couple who had become depressed because evacuees were billeted with them. As a result, Sir William Reid had gone into Burford Woods, killed his wife then shot himself:

Sir William’s brother stated in court, ‘Soon after the evacuees arrived, Sir William asked me to go over with him on his wife’s behalf to try and get the evacuees taken from the house. Afterwards he got very dissatisfied because I know he got rather short shrift.’ The coroner replied, ‘Did having to take in evacuees depress him?’ The brother replied, ‘Yes, it was owing to his intense fondness for his wife that he attempted to get rid of the evacuee children billeted with them. He told me that he was quite sure that his wife could not carry on.’ The jury returned a verdict that Sir William murdered his wife and then himself whilst not of sound mind.

My third book, ‘Evacuation in the Second World War told through Newspaper reports, Official documents and the Accounts of those who were there’ will be published on 30 November 2016 by Frontline Books. It contains testimony, wartime photographs and documents from hundreds of evacuees – children and adults – who spent the war years in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It also includes testimony from Channel Island and Gibraltar evacuees. For more information, see:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gillian-Mawson/e/B008MWQ0IE/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_

My British evacuation blog can be found at:

https://evacueesofworldwartwo.wordpress.com/

 

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[i]      Leek Post and Times, 18 January 1941, p.1. The Argument was his wife’s bad health – they would like children but could not manage them.

[ii]     Leek Post and Times, 11 August 1944, p.1.

 

Blog Blitz – ‘Christmas at the Little Village Bakery’ by Tilly Tennant

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Congratulations to Tilly Tennant whose book, ‘Christmas at the Little Village Bakery’ is out today.  With it’s lovely cover you are bound to start feeling that little bit Christmassy.  To celebrate, Bookouture thought it would be great if there was a blog blitz and I’m really happy to be a part of it.  I asked Tilly some questions.  I hope you enjoy my interview with her.

 

Can you tell me a bit about ‘Christmas at the Little Village Bakery’ please?

Christmas at the Little Village Bakery takes us back to the village of Honeybourne to catch up with the characters of The Little Village Bakery. It’s Christmas, so Honeybourne is sparkling with newly fallen snow and buzzing with anticipation for the festivities. But as usual, the holiday season is not plain sailing for everyone. This book centres around Dylan’s friend, Spencer, and a new arrival at the bakery, Darcie, who is Millie’s cousin. Everyone is keeping secrets and everyone seems to be having some battle or another – whether it is against forbidden love or warring parents, and peace and goodwill to all men seems a long way off!

 

When did you start working on this book?

I started it in February of this year, suffering from post-Christmas blues and wishing we could have it back!

 

Where did you get the idea for this novel from?

Really it was just a natural progression of where we had left the story at the end of The Little Village Bakery. People wanted to know what had happened to certain characters and I was only too happy to find out along with them!

 

What’s it like writing a Christmas book at a different time of the year?

Because this one was written only just after Christmas it didn’t seem too weird. But last year I was writing a Christmas book in July and that was very weird. It’s hard to get in the zone when it’s thirty degrees outside your window and everyone is eating ice-cream!

 

What do you hope readers get from your book?

If they get a few hours of a new world to escape to and a nice feeling at the end, I will be happy I’ve done my job well.

 

Do you have a village bakery near you?

One or two fantastic ones, although they’re more city bakeries as I don’t live in a village. They do make good cakes, though.

 

Have you ever wanted to start your own bakery business?

God no, I’d be hopeless! Much easier to write about a business than run one!

 

What’s your favourite cake?

Cake. Basically I love nearly all cake!

 

When will your next book be out?

Christmas at the Little Village Bakery is out today. I’m currently working on a new series set in Rome and the first one of that is due out in the spring of next year.

 

What’s your advice for anyone wanting to write their first novel?

Stop worrying about whether it will be good or bad and just write it! So many people tell me they would love to write a book but the fear of it being rubbish stops them.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love getting out and about with my teenage daughters. I do like baking but I’m not very good at it. I like going for walks and seeing new places. If I could afford to be on holiday every week I would!

 

Finally, what will you be doing this Christmas?

Collapsing after the mental year 2016 has been! In all seriousness, it will probably just be a quiet family Christmas, but sometimes they are the nicest ones, aren’t they? I’ll be enjoying the break and getting fired up for 2017.

 

About Tilly Tennant

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From a young age, Tilly Tennant was convinced that she was destined for the stage.  Once she realised she wasn’t actually very good at anything that would put her on the stage, she started to write stories instead. There were lots of terrible ones, like The Pet Rescue Gang (aged eight), which definitely should not see the light of day ever again. Thankfully, her debut novel, Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn was not one of those, and since it hit the Amazon best seller lists she hasn’t looked back. Born in Dorset, she currently lives in Staffordshire with her husband, two daughters, three guitars, four ukuleles, two violins and a kazoo.

 

Links

‘Christmas at the Little Village Bakery’ is available to buy from:-

UK: http://amzn.to/29glVkf

US: http://amzn.to/295yTw0

Tilly Tennant’s Website – www.tillytennant.com

 

‘The Constant Soldier’ by William Ryan

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‘The Constant Soldier’ was published on the 25th August 2016 by Mantle, an imprint of Pan Macmillan.  I was interested in reading this book and got my proof copy from NetGalley.

It is 1944 and Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army returns home badly wounded from the Eastern front.  The village has changed a lot and certainly not for the better either.  A SS rest hut has been set up as a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps.  It is run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who against all odds have so far survived the war.

Just by chance Brandt catches sight of one of the prisoners and he knows instantly that he must somehow gain access to the rest hut whatever it takes.  Inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years ago and he feels he must do what he can to protect her.

As the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of the SS rest hut and its inhabitants are numbered.  While there is hope there is also impending danger.  Will Brandt and the female prisoners survive?

Over the last few months there has been a lot of talk about ‘The Constant Soldier’.  Having now read this book for myself I can see exactly why.  The writing is absolutely superb and of the highest quality.  From the very first chapter I was drawn into the story.  So clear were the descriptions that I could actually picture some of the scenes in my head.

There were a lot of characters in this book, Paul Brandt being my favourite.  I thought he was really brave.  I felt sorry for the female prisoners.  The way they were treated at times was abominable.  And those poor refugees!

It’s easy to forget sometimes just how much work goes into writing a book.  An author can spend years slaving over their next title.  With ‘The Constant Soldier’ it was obvious that a lot of research had been done.  This is confirmed by the lovely author’s note at the end.

‘The Constant Solider’ is a must read.  It is a powerful, emotional and thought provoking story about war, guilt, loss and survival.  This book will stay with me for a long time and it is definitely going on my list of favourites for 2016.  Thank you for a wonderful read.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

Cover Reveal – ‘The Seven Trials of Cameron-Strange’ by James Calum Campbell

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I’m back at last from my blogging break and I have lots of exciting things to come.  Today though I am pleased to be revealing the cover of James Calum Campbell’s new book, ‘The Seven Trials of Cameron Strange’, due to be published by Impress Books on the 1st November.  There will be a blog tour for which I will be writing a review.  For now though here’s what this book is about.

 

Book Blurb

Fox stepped swiftly through the door.  There was an audible click.  And there came the sound of a bolt sliding into place.

What follows is the stuff of nightmares…

Just when the bereaved and troubled Dr Alastair Cameron-Strange rediscovers his life on the other side of the world, the British authorities track him down. They recruit him on a mission which takes him to the farthest reaches of New Zealand, to Xanadu with all its grotesque gargoyles, chief among them Phineas Fox, the American business tycoon whose baleful eye is on the White House.  There’s something not quite right about Mr Fox, and Cameron-Strange, with the help of the beautiful Nikki, is determined to find out what it is.  He survives six ordeals, but will he survive a seventh?

 

About James Calum Campbell

James Calum Campbell is a doctor-turned-author who divides his time between Scotland and New Zealand. He won the Impress Prize for New Writers 2014 with his debut novel Click, Double-Click. He was born in Glasgow, read Medicine at Edinburgh, and practised in Papua New Guinea, Queensland, and Auckland, where he was Clinical Head of the busiest emergency department in Australasia.

 

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