Anne Bonny #Author Q&A with @monro_m276 Mary Monro #StrangerInMyHeart #NonFiction #NewRelease #WW2 #Biography #Extract

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Stranger In My Heart by Mary Monro
Review to follow
Synopsis:

John Monro MC never mentioned his Second World War experiences, leaving his daughter Mary with unresolved mysteries when he died in 1981. He fought at the Battle of Hong Kong, made a daring escape across Japanese-occupied China and became Assistant Military Attaché in Chongqing. Caught up in Far East war strategy, he proposed a bold plan to liberate the PoWs he’d left behind before fighting in Burma in 1944. But by the time Mary was born he’d become a Shropshire farmer, revealing nothing of his heroic past.

Thirty years after his death and prompted by hearing him described as a ‘20th Century great’, Mary began her quest to explore this stranger she’d called ‘Dad’. Stranger In My Heart skilfully weaves poignant memoir with action-packed biography and travels in modern China in a reflective journey that answers the question we all eventually ask ourselves: ‘Who am I?’

Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new book?

Biography
I have written numerous technical and academic articles and I am an experienced lecturer and presenter, but this is my first book. I live in Bath and practice as an osteopath treating humans of all ages as well as animals, mostly horses and dogs. I was formerly a marketing consultant and began my marketing career with Cadbury’s confectionery. I enjoy learning languages and studied Mandarin before retracing Dad’s escape route across China. I would say that I reached toddler level (some spoken language but unable to write), which was surprisingly useful.
I was born and raised at a farm on the edge of the south Shropshire hills, the youngest of four children. I spent much of my childhood on horseback, which left me with permanent damage to my right eye, a broken nose, broken knee-cap and broken coccyx. I have been bitten, kicked, rolled on, dragged, and have fallen off too many times to recall, but I still ride racehorses for fun.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

Well you’d better make a cup of tea and sit down – that was a long journey! Initially I was just exploring my father’s life and trying to process his loss. Then I became spellbound by China and decided to recreate my father’s escape route from Hong Kong to Chongqing. I was reluctant to go to a country where I don’t speak the language, so I spent a couple of years learning Mandarin. When I eventually arrived in China (5 years into the journey) I wrote a blog to keep everyone back home up to date with my travels. The trip raised as many questions as it answered and made me realise that my experience might resonate with a wider audience. People who’d lost their parent at a young age; people who want to understand how their personality was shaped by their forbears; or people who have a war hero undiscovered in their past. I delved further into the context of Dad’s story and decided to turn it into a book. Eventually I had a manuscript that I was happy with and tried to find a publisher, some hen’s teeth and a unicorn. Unbound generously picked me up when everyone else had rejected me and a year later, after a brilliant edit, here we are!

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

In no particular order these are some of my favourite books: The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, The Heart of the Hunter by Laurens van der Post, Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood, Perfect Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, West with the Night by Beryl Markham, The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson, The Web of Life by Fritjof Capra, A Pattern of Islands by Arthur Grimble, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

My reading was mostly pony related as a child (Ruby Ferguson, Anna Sewell) along with magical books such as AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Gerald Durrell’s The Talking Parcel and Kipling’s Just So Stories. I became a bit more adventurous as a teenager and was lucky to live in a home where interesting reads were left lying about as hand me downs from my parents or older siblings. I’ve always had a thing about justice and, looking back, a lot of my reading in my late teens was about justice for the underprivileged, minorities and the planet. I was also exploring epistemology (not that I knew what that meant at the time), seeking guidance on how to think and what to think about. I also read a ton of other books but in the ensuing 35 years I have forgotten most of them – these writers are some that have stood the test of memory: John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Alan Paton, John Irving, Robert Pirsig, Joseph Heller, AS Byatt, Margaret Atwood, Jan Morris, Fritjof Capra, Laurens van der Post, Nadine Gordimer, Franz Kafka, Voltaire, Albert Camus, George Orwell, Tom Wolfe, Maya Angelou.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

I am overwhelmed by the reviews I have received – knowledgeable book lovers who don’t know me writing lovely, insightful things about my book. It seems miraculous!

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

My husband Julian Caldecott, who is a brilliant writer himself, has been endlessly supportive and encouraging and didn’t even mind when I took off to China without him! I also have to give a special mention to my fellow authors at the Unbound Social Club (our Facebook Group) who happily support, advise, listen, share and inspire in equal measure. They are the best bunch of mates I’ve never met and I doubt I’d have survived the process without them. Being an author is a lonely business and I have author friends, with traditional publishers, who have been rightly envious of the Unbound community.

*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.

Extract from Stranger In My Heart (final chapter):

And who am I? Apart from being immensely proud of my father and even more upset than before that he’s not here to talk to, I have an expanded sense of self. Since completing my journeys to China and writing this book, I have become more confident of my place in the world. I am doing more writing and teaching, speaking up. I have something to say and the confidence to say it. It seems that reliving my father’s experiences has added a perceptible strength to my being. As though the flow of courage from parent to child was interrupted in its flight but has now landed. At last I understand and can internalise the Monro family motto – alis et animo – wings and courage, indeed.

So many of us share this experience – the loss of a parent or grandparent without knowing them as a person rather than just as a role. We often don’t realise that their life contributes to ours in diverse and subtle ways; that if we had had the opportunity to really talk with them, they could have taught us so much about ourselves . The generation who saw the Second World War are steadily leaving us and they have a tendency to remain silent about their experiences. This reserve seems to me to be modest and protective, preserving their own sanity and hiding horror from us like a clutch of deadly eggs under a serene and soft-feathered facade.

The modern habit of sharing every thought and feeling is alien to them at the least, offensive at worst. But this is an enormous loss to us, even if we don’t fully appreciate it. Those who were non-combatants have just as much to teach us about resilience in adversity and how to live well in difficult times. The two-minute silence on Remembrance Sunday helps to make many people pause and reflect, and maybe, now that research is so much easier to do, it will also encourage more people to enrich their lives by delving further into their family history. Bereavement is never easy, but it has been truly joyful getting to know Dad and feeling the full force of his personality. It’s been like falling in love.

MM
Mary Monro
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Anne Bonny #BlogTour Q&A with @anne_obrien #Author of, Queen Of The North #HistoricalFiction #Medieval England 1399 @HQstories #AuthorTalks ‘This is one woman’s quest to turn history on its head’

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Queen Of The North by Anne O’Brien
Review to follow
Synopsis:

To those around her she was a loyal subject.

In her heart she was a traitor.

1399: England’s crown is under threat. King Richard II holds onto his power by an ever-weakening thread, with exiled Henry of Lancaster back to reclaim his place on the throne.

For Elizabeth Mortimer, there is only one rightful King – her eight-year-old nephew, Edmund. Only he can guarantee her fortunes, and protect her family’s rule over the precious Northern lands bordering Scotland.

But many, including Elizabeth’s husband, do not want another child-King. Elizabeth must hide her true ambitions in Court, and go against her husband’s wishes to help build a rebel army.

To question her loyalty to the King places Elizabeth in the shadow of the axe.
To concede would curdle her Plantagenet blood.

This is one woman’s quest to turn history on its head.

#BlogTour Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel? Biography

A) Although I now live in the Welsh Marches, in Herefordshire, I am a Yorkshire girl by birth in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, I lived in East Yorkshire for many years where I taught history. Writing was not something I ever thought of doing.
That was in a past life.
Moving to Herefordshire, I gave up teaching and began writing historical novels. It has brought me much enjoyment and a new career. Now I live with my husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage with a large garden, where I write about the forgotten women of medieval history. It is a marvellous area for giving me inspiration, full of castles and churches and battlefields.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

A) – Firstly I have to select a medieval woman as the central character. She must be well connected and involved in the politics of the day. There must be an element of notoriety, scandal, or interest about her life to make her a worthwhile candidate to tell the story.
– A timeline is essential to put the woman and her family into historical perspective with other characters and historical events.
– After many weeks of historical research to put all the relevant facts into place, I start writing. Accuracy is essential.
– A year later, after four separate drafts, additions of events and characters who often take me by surprise, much editing and reviewing and it is complete to be sent off to my agent and my editor
– With my editor’s keen eye, there follows some polishing, usually with regard to length. I tend to write too much.
– And hopefully, sixteen months after I began, the novel is finished.
It is not always as seamless as this of course. Real life tends to break in to my writing schedule with such mundane occupations as dusting and shopping and cooking a meal or two, but I try to write something every morning. It also takes perseverance, patience, and compassion with my characters and what they wish to say. All of it though is highly enjoyable.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) If I wish to read historical fiction, it has to be Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, six novels that carry her hero through sixteenth century France, Scotland with visits to Russia and the Levant, all magnificently constructed to combine fact and fiction.
If I feel a need for some atmospheric crime, then what better than Anne Cleves’ Shetland series, now a superb TV adaptation in the bleak but beautiful islands off northern Scotland.
An excellent blend of folklore, myth, crime, and rural creepiness makes compulsive reading with the novels of Phil Rickman’s series with Merrily Watkins the priest in the depths of Hereford, starting with Wine of Angels.
If I want a novel of family or the relationships and interaction between people, then there can be no better than Anne Tyler. I first discovered her years ago with Breathing Lessons, and continue to read her novels.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) They tended to be historical. My interests have not changed.
A loved the novels of Mary Renault, particularly those which brought the Greek myths to life. I think the first I read were The King Must Die and Bull from the Sea. The novels of Alexander the Great also make great reading in my teenage years, starting with Fire From Heaven. I have re-read them more recently and find they have stood the test of time.
The Passionate Brood was the first historical novel by Margaret Campbell Barnes that I recall reading. It tells the tale of the children of King Henry II and Robin Hood. It showed me what could be done with history to make it a page turning experience for the reader.
Mary Stewart’s novels of King Arthur and Merlin, beginning with The Crystal Cave , captivated me, and still do. I still have a soft spot for King Arthur novels.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) It has to be, every time, holding the completed novel in my hands. All is done and it can no longer be changed and edited. It is complete in its cover. It is proof that I have produced something tangible over the past year that has come together in readable form. It is proof that not only have I enjoyed writing it, but my editor and my agent have also enjoyed reading it. It is also a time of some trepidation of course. Now the novel is out of my hands and available to the vast the reading public. I always hope that they enjoy it too.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) For me writing is a very private matter. No one reads my novel, not even sections of it, until it is finished when it is sent off to my agent and editor. Even so the support of those around me is invaluable. My husband who I often dragged into my discussions of historical motivation and logic. His interest in 19th Century history but he is fast becoming well educated in the politics of medieval England. My agent who I know will give me all her support if I get into difficulties or simply need some encouragement. My editor who has the final sweeping view of the novel and gives me advice. I trust her expertise implicitly.
I am blessed to have such support in what can be a very lonely world between me, my PC, and people who have been dead for at least six hundred years.

AOB
Anne O’Brien
Website
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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Author Q&A with @RebeccaLFleet – The House Swap #Psychological #Thriller #NewRelease #TheHouseSwap #AuthorTalks @TransworldBooks Be careful who you let in. . .

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The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet
Review to follow
Synopsis:

‘No one lives this way unless they want to hide something.’

When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap, they jump at the chance for a week away from home. After the difficulties of the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild their marriage for their son’s sake; now they want to reconnect as a couple.

On arrival, they find a house that is stark and sinister in its emptiness – it’s hard to imagine what kind of person lives here. Then, gradually, Caroline begins to uncover some signs of life – signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music in the CD player might seem innocent to her husband but to her they are anything but. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone she used to know; someone she’s desperate to leave in her past.

But that person is now in her home – and they want to make sure she’ll never forget . . .

Q&A:

Q) For the readers can you tell us a bit about yourself and your new novel, The House Swap?

A) Hello! I’m 38, live in London, and in my day job I work as a brand strategy consultant. I’ve always written, but The House Swap is my first foray into psychological thriller/suspense. It tells the story of a married couple struggling to get their relationship back on track after a difficult few years. To this end, they decide to enter into a house swap and have a break away from home, but when they reach the new house it isn’t long before the wife, Caroline, begins to feel that their surroundings are loaded, carrying memories of a traumatic period of her life that she has worked hard to forget. She starts to wonder if it can be a coincidence – and if not, who she has just let into her own home.

Q) The novel has the unique theme of being centred around a house swap, what was the inspiration behind this idea?

A) I had noticed the growing popularity of house swaps through sites such as Airbnb and not been remotely tempted to try it myself, as I always found it a rather worrying concept – our homes are such personal and private spaces, and allowing a stranger into them without being there ourselves requires a high degree of trust. I started thinking about what could go wrong, and how it would feel if you became aware that you had opened up your own home to someone who might not be a complete stranger after all, and who had their own dark motivations for being there.

Q) The novel focuses on a couple trying to get their marriage back on track. Does this add extra depth to their characters and backgrounds?

A) I hope so! I always saw the book as a relationship drama as much as a thriller. These days, psychological thriller is a pretty broad term. For me, the tension in the book springs largely from the dynamics between the key characters, their relationships to one another and the ways in which they might undermine each other and threaten the fabric of their lives through their own behaviour. The couple in the book, Caroline and Francis, aren’t intended to be wholly likeable; the whole point for me was to show them as real and very flawed people who are trying to do the best they can in difficult circumstances – sometimes misguidedly.

Q) The novel also has a theme of past relationships and those we’d rather leave in the past. With social media and sites such as friends reunited, this has become much more difficult. Did this inspire the novel in any way?

A) I think that our attitudes to past relationship in general are very different in today’s society. The temptation to “keep tabs” on people in a virtual sense even when they have disappeared from our day-to-day lives is a strong one, and it’s almost become socially acceptable, even if we don’t like to admit it. So although this might not have inspired the plot of the novel consciously, I do think that I was aware that these days, trying to leave a relationship in the past as Caroline is doing in the book requires a lot of discipline and dedication. It’s so easy to slip back into wanting to know what that person is up to, and it’s a short step from that to still caring about them.

Q) With the psychological/thriller genre being massively competitive, does this encourage authors to think outside the box and develop new ideas and themes?

A) It’s fair to say that there is quite a bit of repetition when it comes to psychological thriller plots, which I think is pretty inevitable – there are only so many themes and ideas to go round! But yes, I do think it has become more important to try and push the boundaries of those and put a new spin on them. The funny thing is that often new trends emerge which perhaps you find yourself part of without having known or planned it; recently in the Evening Standard, The House Swap was included as an example of the new “criblit” trend (psychological suspense/thrillers with houses at their heart). At the time of writing the book, I don’t think this was a “thing”, but I suppose that sometimes there is just something in the water…

Q) House Swap is a debut novel, what was your feeling upon seeing the finished cover and promotional materials?

A) I have actually had a couple of literary novels published under a different name in a past life (!), but the experience was quite different this time. The psychological thriller genre is one that lends itself brilliantly to strong covers and promotion, and Transworld have done a great job on that. I immediately loved the cover concept of the two monochrome doors – I think it stands out nicely on the shelf and sets the right tone. And then there have been the posters, the book trailer… it is more than I had hoped for and very exciting to see it all coming together.

Q) How will you be celebrating your books launch/release?

A) I had my launch party on 3rd May, which was a great occasion! We held it in a bookshop in Notting Hill and it was the perfect chance for family and friends to come together along with people from Transworld and my agent to celebrate the book’s release. It was very much like a wedding in the sense that in retrospect I can’t actually remember much of what I said to people or even who I talked to, but I was left with the sense of having enjoyed it a lot, which is what you want really…

Q) Finally, what is next in store do you have a next novel planned and are we allowed any details?

A) Yes, I am currently working on my next book, which is in the same genre but not directly connected to The House Swap. In brief, it concerns a man who discovers that his wife is in the witness protection programme as a result of a crime involving her sister eighteen years earlier, and the action shifts back and forth between the present day and the time at which the crime took place. I won’t say too much more about it now, but hopefully it will appeal to the same sort of readers who enjoy The House Swap!

RF1
Rebecca Fleet
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Anne Bonny #BlogTour Q&A – Let Me Be Like Water by @_sarah_perry #Literary #NewRelease @melvillehouse #LetMeBeLikeWater #AuthorTalks

LMBLW mech.indd
Let Me Be Like Water S.K Perry
Synopsis:

Holly moved to Brighton to escape. But now she’s here, sitting on a bench, listening to the sea sway… what is she supposed to do next? How is she supposed to fill the void Sam left when he died? She had thought she’d want to be on her own. Wrecked. Stranded. But after she meets Frank, the tide begins to shift. Frank, a retired magician who has experienced his own loss but manages to be there for everyone else. Gradually, as he introduces Holly to a circle of new friends, young and old, all with their own stories of love and grief to share, she begins to learn to live again.

Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

A) Let Me Be Like Water tells the story of the narrator – Holly – who loses Sam, her partner of five years when she’s in her early twenties. The novel takes place in the first year after his death, as she begins to process her grief. She moves from their shared flat in London to Brighton and – sat by the sea one day – she meets Frank, a retired magician. He introduces her to a Book Club he runs, teaches her to bake, and helps her find her feet. She takes up running and spends her time navigating the chaos of loss as best she can, getting to know herself again and reimagining the rest of her life without Sam. It’s sad, but also (I hope) funny, and really it’s about what it is to heal.
In terms of my background, after graduating uni in 2012, I worked in a call centre for a bit, during which time I co-founded the Great Men project, an initiative working with men and boys to discuss and affirm healthy masculinities, challenging behaviours linked to violence, sexual violence and disproportionately high suicide, addiction, and imprisonment rates in men and boys, and promoting mental health awareness and gender equalities. I then studied for an MA in Creative Writing and Education, and spent a year working in school using creative writing to promote emotional literacy and wellbeing. I spent a year as the Global Campaign Manager at PEN International, and have acted in gender consultancy and training roles for businesses and NGOs. As a writer, I was longlisted for the inaugural London’s Young Poet Laureate and was Cityread Young Writer in Residence in Soho, from which my poetry book Curious Hands was commissioned.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

A) In some ways the book was vey accidental, which I think maybe lots of first novels are. I was working in a call centre (meaning lots of time to write), and then a family death and a life-changing trauma left me feeling completely adrift. I have a grandad I never met, who’s also a bit of a family legend, and I guess he became the starting point for the character Frank. I find the sea therapeutic and if I sit by it, or swim in it, I often find my mental health bolstered, so it made sense for Brighton to be the setting of my story, the place where the narrator Holly struggles to heal as she grieves the loss of her partner. As a woman in my early twenties I was yearning for narratives of female friendship; accounts of sexual experiences located in the female body; depictions of womanhood just started. I wrote about running because I think trauma is often processed by our bodies, whether we push them too hard or neglect them entirely. I wrote about food because I love to read novels that make you hungry. I wrote about sadness because I wanted to find a way to hold what I was feeling, a story other people could be held in too. It was a jumble of thoughts and feelings that felt like the beginning of a book so to motivate myself to finish it, I entered it into the Mslexia Novel competition. When it was longlisted I had to finish it (fast! I wrote 30 000 words in a fortnight), and then when it was shortlisted, I had time to edit it before pitching to agents at an event run by the competition. My agent, Laura West at David Higham, edited it with me for around eighteen months before it was sent out to publishers, and then last year Nikki Griffiths at Melville House said they were going to buy it. I was working on a project in Tegucigalpa, Honduras when my contract first came through, sat on a rooftop and eating with my colleagues; it was really surreal!

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) I’m so fickle; anything I have just read and loved becomes my favourite! I’m currently reading Sharlene Teo’s Ponti, which is great. Most recently I loved The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. Some of my other favourites are: everything written by Zadie Smith; The First Bad Man by Miranda July; All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche; and All The Birds Singing by Evie Wylde. I love memoir and poetry too. When I Hit You: Or, a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy is phenomenal, as is Small White Monkeys by Sophie Collins. Poets I love include Belinda Zhawi, Mary Jean Chan, Miriam Nash, and Ella Frears. I also love and respect poets like Victoria Adukwei Bulley and Toni Stuart who are working across mediums, using film or documentary or dance for example, to do other interesting things in their work. Victoria produced the Mother Tongues films, which were some of my favourite pieces of literature I engaged with last year.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) As a child, I was wildly obsessed with Anne of Green Gables; my first true love was Gilbert who she ends up marrying and although I was happy for them, this really broke my heart. I think I was maybe a bit in love with Anne too, which made it even harder to swallow. Also I loved a book about a group of kids who founded a theatre: The Swish of the Curtain. I grew up in a wonderful time; we had the anticipation of each new Harry Potter book (I still fall asleep listening to those audiobooks again and again) and the Noughts and Crosses series, which were brilliant stories in themselves obviously, but also the first time the structures of whiteness were made visible to me as an eleven year old white girl. I wanted to be an actor, so as a teenager I read plays devoutly; I loved Shakespeare’s comedies, as well as Tennessee Williams. I was obsessed with Sylvia Plath for a while, and we read The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Saturday by Ian McEwan at school for A level English. I had great teaches and loved both these books so I think they were both quite foundational novels for me too.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) Answering these questions the book isn’t actually out yet so I will have to wait and see! My favourite thing about writing is teaching though; I love working with other writers and creating ways they can tease out what they want to say and the best way of saying it for them. It makes me a better writer too, and it’s always a thrill to be present in someone else’s creativity.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) I’m so blessed in this regard. I am surrounded by other writers and creatives who are very supportive, including my partner and some of my closest friends. My housemates are some of the best people in the world, and my family are really supportive and wonderful too. My agent is the person who has pushed me hardest and really nurtured me too; I’m so grateful for her support with this book. Being published by an independent is also very humbling; they take big risks on the books they put out because they’re smaller in terms of resources. I’ll be forever grateful to Nikki Griffiths at Melville House for taking the plunge with this book; putting it out there is a real show of support and I feel very lucky to have had that from her.

*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.

SK Perry © Naomi Woddis copy
S.K. Perry
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Anne Bonny #BlogTour Death Of An Actress Q&A with #Author Antony M Brown @ccjury & #Extract #TrueCrime #NewRelease #NonFiction @TheMirrorBooks #DeathOfAnActress Sex, lies & Murder on the high seas. . .

DEATH OF AN ACTRESS FC
Death Of An Actress by Antony M Brown
Synopsis:

Published in time for the 70th anniversary of one of the most dramatic trials in British criminal history.
DEATH OF AN ACTRESS is the second in the Cold Case Jury Collection, a unique series of true crime titles. Each case study tells the story of an unsolved crime, or one in which the verdict is open to doubt. Fresh evidence is presented and the reader is invited to deliver their own verdict.

October 1947. A luxury liner steams over the equator off the coast of West Africa and a beautiful actress disappears from her cabin. Suspicion falls on a dashing deck steward with a reputation for entering the cabins of female passengers. When the liner docks at Southampton, the steward is questioned by police. Protesting his innocence, he makes an astonishing admission that shocks everyone, and is charged with murder. His trial at the historic Great Hall in Winchester draws the world’s media. He is found guilty and sentenced to hang.

But was the verdict sound?

Many believe not.

Now for the first time, Antony M. Brown has secured unprecedented access to the police file, enabling the definitive story to be told. Included in the file are original court exhibits, including a hairbrush with strands of the actress’s red hair. Could a personal effect left behind in her cabin provide clues to how she might have died? Take your seat on the Cold Case Jury…

Q&A:

Q) What’s different about the Cold Case Jury true crime collection?

A) It is a series of cold murder cases, normally from the first half of last century, which combine history with a mystery. I have three goals. First, to engage the reader directly. Rather than passively describing events, I use dramatic reconstruction to show what happened and what might have happened. Second, to present key evidence in a special section. Where possible, I introduce new evidence, too. In Death of an Actress, I am the first author to have seen the police file, and new evidence and photographs are published for the first time. Third, to invite readers to deliver their verdicts online on what they think happened. Hence the reader becomes part of the case, helping to bring it to some closure.

Q) What is Death of an Actress about?

A) The second book in the series is about the tragic death of 21-year-old Gay Gibson in 1947. She disappeared from the passenger liner Durban Castle as it sailed from Cape Town to Southampton. A deck steward, James Camb, was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to hang, although many believe there was insufficient evidence to convict. Others believe he was innocent.

Q) Why is it an interesting case?

A) First, it is a murder on the high seas, which is rare. Second, there was no body – it was dumped into the sea. Again, this is unusual in a murder case because the body reveals the cause of death, and without one, the evidence is circumstantial. Third, there was no body because the only suspect confessed to disposing of it while protesting his innocence at the same time. Lastly, the case is from 1947, a different era from today in terms of travel, moral values and medicine. All these factors play a part in this fascinating case.

Q) Why did you select the excerpt below?

A) The extract dramatically reconstructs the first encounter between Gay Gibson and James Camb on board the Durban Castle. It is based solely on James Camb’s account, of course, but many details were gleaned from other evidence and witness testimony. We know from the statements of her friends – unheard at the trial and published for the first time in the book – that Gay talked intimately to strangers. Did this conversation spark attraction between her and the steward? Or was everything distorted in the mind of the man who would later be charged with her murder? Whatever you believe, it is no exaggeration to say that this encounter started a chain reaction that lead to the death of an actress.

EXTRACT:
Camb returned, holding a tray aloft with the palm of his right hand, his left tidily tucked behind his back. As he placed the cocktail glass carefully onto the drink mat in front of her, he observed the spark in her beautiful brown eyes.

“A John Collins, madam. Enjoy,” he said, bowing theatrically. Gay giggled and took a sip. “That’s perfect. Thank you.” She replaced the glass on the table, which gently moved up and down with the swell, as if the ship were breathing.

“So, you’re returning from holiday?” Camb asked, eager to restart the conversation. “No, I’ve just finished performing in a play in Johannesburg – Golden Boy. Have you heard of it?” Camb shook his head. “Well, my leading man was Eric Boon. I bet you’ve heard of him.” “Yes, of course, the Thunderbolt. He’s a good boxer.”

“He’s also an actor, you know. He’s already been in a film, Champagne Charlie.” The steward looked blankly. “With Tommy Trinder and Stanley Holloway?” Gay could see he was still none the wiser. “Well, I guess he brought some star quality to the production, being famous ’n’ all.”

“Is the play coming to London? I could come and see it when I get some leave.” “No, it finished early. It received good reviews and everything, but they closed the theatre.” “Sounds like tough luck. What will you do now?” “I’ve got some introductions to theatres back home.” She took another sip of her cocktail. “And your boyfriend’s joining you later?” Camb asked cheekily, although his only interest in the answer was to assess her likely availability.

“Charles has to run his business, so he couldn’t come with me, but I can’t stop thinking about him.” She placed both her hands across her breast. “We’ve been going steady for only a month, but I’m already crazy about him. He’s taken me to all the best restaurants and clubs in Johannesburg, you know.”

Camb was not deterred by her proclaimed affection, but her answer seemed a little odd. “Why not stay and act in South Africa, then?” he asked. “Well…” Gay hesitated, glancing down to the table. She took another sip of her drink. “Things are a little delicate right now.” “You mean he doesn’t feel the same way?” “No, he’s crazy about me, too. I just know he is,” she gushed. “Well, if you were my girl, I wouldn’t let you go,” he joked. Camb expected a giggle in response but instead Gay suddenly looked pensive. “It’s just…” she started, taking a puff of her cigarette. “Well, let’s just say, things may have become a little… complicated.” Camb asked jocularly, “You don’t mean to tell me you’re having a baby?”

Gay didn’t take offence at Camb’s familiarity. “Well, it’s rather too soon to know,” she replied cautiously. “If that’s the position, why don’t you marry the man?” There was a long pause. “It’s not quite as easy as that.” “The longer you leave it…” “He’s already married,” she cut in.

Camb said nothing, as he surmised the probable purpose of her trip to England. Gay changed the subject, her mood brightening a little as she spoke. “I’m going to have a rest after lunch. I always feel a little sleepy then. Would you mind bringing me a tray of afternoon tea in my cabin? At about four o’clock?” “I cannot leave the Promenade Deck, especially at that time,” Camb explained. “I’m busy with the tea service. When you want afternoon tea, summon the cabin steward and tell him what you want. I’ll prepare your tray and he will bring it to your cabin.” Gay nodded as a male voice called out, “Steward, is it possible for someone else to get served here?” “You’d better go,” she smiled.

Camb slid a printed Manila slip and a stubby pencil across the table. “Could you sign and date it. You settle your account at the end of each week.” Gay filled out the docket. “And your cabin number, please.” He took the slip and circled five pence in the top corner, although he was more interested in knowing the cabin number. He said goodbye, and promptly left. The next time he looked into the Long Gallery there was only an empty, lipstick marked cocktail glass on the corner table.

Image from the inside the book:
Image for GP2

Antony M. Brown
Antony M Brown
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