Anne Bonny #BlogTour #BookReview and #QandA The Tin God by @ChrisNickson2 5* #HistoricalFiction #NewRelease @severnhouse #AnnabelleHarper #WomensRights #ThePoorLaw #Leeds Folk music, feminism and fire. . . .

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The Tin God by Chris Nickson
Tom Harper series
Synopsis:

When Superintendent Tom Harper’s wife is threatened during an election campaign, the hunt for the attacker turns personal.

Leeds, England. October, 1897. Superintendent Harper is proud of his wife Annabelle. She’s one of seven women selected to stand for election as a Poor Law Guardian. But even as the campaign begins, Annabelle and the other female candidates start to receive anonymous letters from someone who believes a woman’s place lies firmly in the home.

The threats escalate into outright violence when an explosion rips through the church hall where Annabelle is due to hold a meeting – with fatal consequences. The only piece of evidence Harper has is a scrap of paper left at the scene containing a fragment from an old folk song. But what is its significance?

As polling day approaches and the attacks increase in menace and intensity, Harper knows he’s in a race against time to uncover the culprit before more deaths follow. With the lives of his wife and daughter at risk, the political becomes cruelly personal …

My Review:

Folk music, feminism and fire!
A recipe for historical fiction, with a political spin.

1897 – Leeds, England. Is the era and the setting for the latest Tom Harper mystery. The series is of the crime fiction genre, with great historical accuracy. Annabelle Harper is a firm favourite of mine as a character. She is courageous, honest and a deep thinker. She knows exactly how she wants to change the world. If she can just get herself into a position where she can make a difference. Within this novel she sets her sights on being an elected poor law guardian. Only not everyone is happy about it.

‘Tories and the Liberals were deriding the women for trying to rise above their normal station’

In Leeds seven women are getting prepared to stand for election as poor law guardian’s. They face aggressive opposition from all side of the political spectrum. The opposition is backed heavily by the newspapers and they become well aware it will be no easy victory. But they cannot have foreseen it would turn deadly. . .

‘A woman’s place is in the home, tending to her family and being a graceful loving presence, it is not to shriek in the hustings like a harridan or to display herself in front of the public like a painted whore. . .’
– Letter sent to all seven women.

The women begin to receive anonymous and threatening letters. Local journalist Gerald Hotchkiss writes opinion pieces, lecturing women on their role in society. What we would call in 2018 ‘mansplaining’. He warns the women they should be guided by their husbands, live modestly and look solely to the welfare of their family. Gerald is condescending, using religious reasoning to attempt to control women.
But Annabelle Harper won’t be controlled by anyone!

The novel also has scenes with Harper’s old police partner Billy Reed. He has relocated to the northern coastal town of Whitby. Currently on the case of potential smugglers.
Harper provides police protection for the women and places undercover officers at the future meetings, within the crowd. However, before the police can reach the meeting at St Clements, there’s an explosion that leaves a man dead. Has the person sending the anonymous notes upped their game?

The political dominance and threats continue as the surrounding influences attempt to silence the women. Harper realises not only does he have a tough case on his hands with little clues, he also has a wealth of potential perpetrators. He calls upon the local barracks to provide assistance, in sweeping future meeting places for explosives. Will the bomber strike again?

Despite the terrifying threats Annabelle refuses to stand down.
‘I want to help the poor, not vilify them. They’re not outcasts. They haven’t sinned. They’re us. And that’s why I’d appreciate your vote, so I can do that. Thank you’

Vote Annabelle Harper for poor law guardian

Harper finds some notepaper at the scene of the explosion, some simple song lyrics scribbled down. But what does it mean? He requests the help of local music expert Frank Kidson, to decipher the lyrics and help with the creation of a profile, of sorts.

When one of the candidates is attacked by the railway and threatened with rape. Harper realises that it all just got a lot more sinister. What started has simple opposition has developed into political warfare. Harper has deep concerns for Annabelle’s safety. Across Leeds Annabelle continues to whoo the crowds, she has a determination like no other.

Annabelle speaks with conviction, she seeks to humanise the way the poor are treated. Offering a dignified, respectful future with better quality of life. What will her enemies make of her progressive ideas for the future of Leeds?

The novel is very well researched, the era of politics and women’s rights really draws you into the story. Annabelle is such a great fictional ambassador for women. You can really get a sense for the real-life Annabelle Harper’s who would go on to inspire a generation of women. Which would ultimately fuel and evoke a passion in women, long into the future.

The novel raises many thought-provoking questions regarding women’s liberation and the political oppression the women faced. I think this novel would be ideal for book groups. But I could also see how it could assist the younger generation. The Tin God could create great debate in GCSE English lessons or history class. The emotions of the era are portrayed so well on the page.
A fabulous historical fiction crime read. 5*

Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you give us a little bit of background behind the inspiration for this novel?

A) It was sparked by a suggestion from a friend, a suffrage historian, who suggested Annabelle should run for office. With that, it all clicked into place. I love Annabelle, she’s the soul of the series, to the point where I honestly think of her as a real person, and I wanted to be able to bring her more into a book, but do it organically, so this was perfect. And the law changed in 1894 so that the working-classes, both men and women could vote in some local elections and run for office – essentially the first steps of the system we have now, and it was one person, one vote. So it all made perfect sense, and Tom and Annabelle’s story is largely the same tale in this. Interestingly, the historian who made the suggestion is curating an exhibition called The Vote Before The Vote which will run all May at Leeds Central Library, celebrating the Victorian Leeds women who battled for equality and the vote well before the Suffragettes. The ‘official’ launch for The Tin God is part of that exhibition, and we’re melding fact and fiction by giving Annabelle her own board as part of the exhibition. She’s become a Leeds Victorian icon, and I’m incredibly proud of that.

Q) Annabelle Harper, although a secondary character in this series. Is firmly one of my favourites, as is Lottie Armstrong. What drives you to write female characters that embody the feminism movement in the differing era’s?

A) I’m not sure anything specific drives me to that. I was raised by a strong woman, I’ve been in relationships with strong women. The world needs more of them! I write the characters that come to me, so I suppose those are the types I’m naturally drawn to describe, people I admire. Annabelle is quite daunting, really, she’s so able at everything she does. Lottie is different, quieter, but strong in her own way. They just feel right to me, that’s probably the best way I can describe it.

Q) To try and summarise this novel at the start of my review, I tried to think of three of the themes. I used Folk songs, feminism and fire. What words would you use to summarise this novel?

A) For me, justice and compassion are the important themes. Annabelle wants the poor to be treated fairly by a system that’s weighted against them. She wants justice – equality – for women. When the book takes place she’s been a suffrage speaker for four years, she’s been insulted and threatened. She stands up, not afraid to be counted.

Q) The poor law guardian’s, was a minor form of election in regard to women’s rights. But was a fundamental part of the journey. Can you expand further, why the moral dilemma of the poor would strike so deeply within Annabelle?

A) It was a huge part of it, women being able to run for some offices and vote for them was a massive leap forward. One of the first women elected as a Poor Law Guardian in Leeds in 1894 was a coal miner’s wife. That’s a huge slap at the establishment. For Annabelle, who grew up in an Irish immigrant family in the poorest part of Leeds and lives and works in a working-class area, poverty is everywhere. She’s known it all her life, she’s worked in a mill and as a servant. As a pub landlady, she has money and influence now, but she sees the effect of having no money and the spectre of the workhouse every day.

Q) In my review I mention the novel’s potential use within the education system. My own teenage daughter is very well read on the topic of women’s rights and the various, current political systems. With young adults becoming more and more invested in politics and their desire to re-write history in some respects. Do you see novels with these themes appealing to the YA readers?

A) Honestly, I’d never thought about that, and I’m flattered you think it might. I’d be very gratified if some political historical fiction did make classroom discussions. But right now, I think the older generation has more to learn from the young than the other way round. During the last election, when Corbyn spoke in Leeds, in a student area, he drew 3,000 people most of them young. They’re tired of a system that excludes them. The young people in Florida are a shining example. They’ve grown up always knowing school shootings and they’re saying enough to the old white men who run things. Change is rumbling, and hopefully the activist will remain more deeply-rooted than it did in the 1960s. My own generation has mostly failed, I admire the young and I hope they succeed.

Q) What is next for Tom and Annabelle Harper?

A) Well, I’m just revising the next Tom Harper book, which is quite different to this one, although Annabelle does play a part, albeit a much smaller one.
That’s probably as much as I should say about that…

CN
Chris Nickson
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#BlogTour #Review Q&A #TheYearOfTheGun by @ChrisNickson2 5* Genius #ww2Fiction #HistFic

*I received an Ebook arc in return for an honest review*

Cover Lottie
The Year Of The Gun by Chris Nickson
Synopsis:

1944: Twenty years after WPC Lottie Armstrong was dismissed from the Leeds police force, she’s back, now a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps.

Detective Chief Superintendent McMillan is now head of CID, trying to keep order with a depleted force as many of the male officers have enlisted. This hasn’t stopped the criminals, however, and as the Second World War rages around them, can they stop a blackout killer with a taste for murder?

My Review:

I am a huge fan of Lottie Armstrong and in-particular the way this author writes strong women in a historical era. Chris Nickson has proved time and time again to me that he can waive in and out the eras with exceptional depth and brilliance.

The novel open in February, Leeds 1944. Lottie has moved on quite some time since the original novel in the series. Leeds has changed, Britain is at war and there are Americans on the streets. Lottie has had 3 months back in uniform as a (WAPC) Women’s Auxiliary police corps. She has returned as Detective Chief Superintendent McMillan’s driver. It is there little secret that she assists on the cases. Leeds is dealing with a new crime wave, crime has changed and developed due to the war. Leeds now faces the black market, gangs, deserters and prostitution move than ever!
Also criminals now have easy access to guns…….

At Millgarth station Lottie is back into her new routine, finding a new way to deal with the loss of her husband recently. Geoff having past from a heart attack at the beginning of the war. Lottie is now alone in the world and it sadly shows….
When Lottie and McMillan are summoned to the scene of a murder, the novel takes a distinct turn towards the historical crime fiction genre, that I adore!

At Kirkstall Abbey the body of a young ATS private has been found. She has been shot and left in the isolated and remote location. McMillan hints that this will need to be hushed up, for fear of it creating bad morale to the public. The victim Kate Patterson was a kinthedolite operator, who liked the wilder side of life. Having lost her fiancé in North Africa, she has known the harshness of war. Local special constable George Chadwick mentions to local tramps Harry Giddins and Leslie Armistead.
They bear the scars of the Great war but may have witnessed something in the vicinity.

Lottie and McMillan continue to investigate, discovering fresh evidence at Woodmarsh House and a possible link to an American soldier. They begin to investigate these links further when a second body is found. A WAAF on leave is found in the woods, just ¼ a mile from the Kirkstall Abbey. Anne Goodman also bears the same MO, a gunshot wound and missing undergarments.
But what is the link between the victims?
Why does the killer remove their knickers?

When they learn of a missing consignment of American weapons that match the ballistics of the murder weapon. They begin to question if this is the work of an American troop. Through their investigations they meet Captain Clifford Ellison. Ellison agrees to work with the duo to track the weapons and resolve the case. He also becomes a potential love interest for Lottie, which leads to some awkward and moving encounters.

When a third body is discovered the case really heats up. What’s the connection? Is this killer targeting woman doing their duty for their country? The body of the third victim is later on, identified as the first victim in chronological order. So what is so special about Pamela Dixon, that the killer chose to kill her first? Being stationed at Portsmouth and originally from Birmingham, why was she even in Leeds?
The case throws up question, after question.

Lottie and McMillan begin to believe that the killer is pretending to be in the military to earn the women’s trust or romantic interest. Is this a real life killer Walter Mitty? when reports come in of a missing daughter, Lottie immediately begins to suspect their killer is working at rapid speed. They eventually have a prime suspect by the name of Terry Cruickshank. A local deserter, down on his luck. But when sends McMillan a note to say “I told the girl who works for you. I didn’t kill anyone. I would never kill a girl”. Their suspicions begin to wane. Also how do they know they can trust Ellison so blindly, when he has links to the US generals?

This novel has a very clever twisted plot, that keeps you guessing till the end! As stated above the author has a unique flair for writing female characters exceptionally well! This is one ww2 fiction novel, not to be missed!
5* Genius

Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you give a summary of yourself and your various novels in historical eras?

A) There are…well, quite a few novels, most of them set in Leeds. I started out writing about Richard Nottingham, the Constable of Leeds in the 1730s, an era few writers seem to cover – and Leeds because it’s my hometown, the one I know in my bones. I’ve just returned to Richard after a break of over four years. Then there’s the 1890s, a series with Detective Inspector (now Superintendent) Tom Harper and his wife, Annabelle. Add to that a couple of book with Dan Markham, an enquiry agent in the 1950s. And then there’s Lottie, first as a policewoman in the 1920s in Modern Crimes, and now back again in World War II. Finally, a series set in Chesterfield in the 1360s, and finally two books set in the Seattle music scene of the 1980s/90s. I’ve lived in all the places I write about; to me, you have to do that, to feel them.

Q) The novel and creation of Lottie Armstrong, must have some form of inspiration. I am dying to know what inspired you to write Lottie’s story?

A) Lottie first came to me after reading that the first two policewomen in Leeds both resigned within months of each other. In the official history of Leeds Police, no reason was given, and that intrigued me. Lottie’s story was supposed to be a one-off, but after I’d finished Modern Crimes I just felt I wasn’t done with her yet. She still had more she wanted to say. The problem was how to bring her back, given the resolution of that book. Twenty years later as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps (WAPC) seemed like the answer.

Q) The locations in the novel such as, Kirkstall Abbey, Woodmarsh house, The Queen hotel, and the Castle grove area HQ. Are they real locations or inspired by real locations?

A) They’re all real locations. Every location is real. Even Lottie’s house is the one where I grew up. Those make it far more real and tangible to me – and, I hope, to the reader, and add to the feel of place. I’ve been told that Leeds is a character in my books. If people get that impression, I’m very grateful.

KA KA2

Q) The novel has so many twists/turns and various character’s. How do you keep track of the plot in the planning/writing?

A) I don’t plot out a book, I simply go where the characters take me, and trust they’re right. Sometime I have to backtrack and change things, but mostly I’m discovering as I write, which makes it much more fun and gives the characters their head so much more.

Q) I love ww2 fiction, as you and everyone knows! I like to feel immersed in the era and as though I am watching it all take place. Do you adapt this to your writing, do you listen to the music of the era or watch the movies?

A) I was born nine years after the war ended, but it was still so tangible that it might have ended yesterday. So that sense of it pervaded my childhood. We actually had an air raid shelter at the bottom of the garden. My dad fought in the war; it was all very real. But yes, I listened to plenty of the music, although I knew much of it already. I’d seen so many of the movies when I was young.

Q) What is your research process and what was it like to research The Year Of The Gun?

A) My research process tends to be read, read, read, and I there was plenty of that. Finding out about life during wartime, especially for women. And on top of that, what Leeds was like during that period. But I love research, it’s this constant voyage of discovery that fascinates me. And finding out more about Leeds in different periods is a constant joy. I have shelves of books about Leeds history.

Q) I was really surprised you never used the term ‘Walter Mitty’ but then I am unsure if the term was coined post ww2. Were you inspired by any real-life Walter Mitty’s?

A) No, I wasn’t. My characters just seemed to exist within the story, except for Lottie, who’s bigger than that. If I could figure out some way to reasonably continue her take, I would at some point. She’s one of the characters I simply love, that seem to stride off the page, even to me.

Q) I have said previously and Lottie is one of the perfect examples, that you write female characters exceptionally well. Is this tough as a male author? Do you refer to the females in your personal life? Or do you write from the heart?

A) I’ve known, and I do know, plenty of strong women. But even more, I think the North is full of them; they’ve had to be strong to survive. I suppose, though, that I’m really writing from the heart. Annabelle Harper, for instance, is incredibly strong, but she’s almost superhuman. Lottie is extraordinary simply because she’s so ordinary. Women are stronger than me. I’ve always believed that, and it seems to come out in quite a few of my books. I hope it does, anyway.

Q) Finally, What is next for you, in terms of novel releases? What are you currently working on and are we allowed any snippets of information?

A) Next month sees the publication of Free From All Danger, the seventh Richard Nottingham book, and the first in the series in over four years. It’s been interesting going back to him and seeing how he’s changed. He retired as Constable – for now, anyway – and he’s a little older and wiser, I hope.

May of next year will bring The Tin God, the next Tom Harper book. That sees Annabelle among a number of women running to be Poor Law Guardians in Leeds, even as a man is determined to keep women out of politics by any means necessary. Women could run for some local offices then, and even vote in some local elections. The book just felt like a gift; it seemed to write itself. The launch will be folded into an exhibition called The Vote Before the Vote at Leeds Central Library, curated by the woman who gave me the idea for the novel. Apt timing, as it’s the centenary of some women getting the vote.

Later in 2018, The Dead On Leave will appear, set in 1936. It’s another Leeds crime novel, about the fight against creeping fascism. More apt timing, perhaps!

CN
Chris Nickson
Authors Links:
Web site: https://chrisnickson.co.uk/
Twitter: @ChrisNickson2
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12044.Chris_Nickson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chrisnicksonwriter/

Author Bio:

Chris Nickson has written since he was a boy growing up in Leeds, starting with a three-paragraph school essay telling a tale of bomb disposal when he was 11. That brought the revelation that he enjoyed telling stories, and then more stories, teenage poetry, and music, as both a bassist and then a singer-songwriter-guitarist.

Chris spent 30 years living in the US, playing in bands and writing. He’s made a living as a writer since 1994. Much of his work has been music journalism, combining the twin passions of music and writing, specialising in world and roots music. His reviews and features are published in print and online, notably with fRoots, Sing Out!, emusic.com, and allmusic.com. He’s also the author of The NPR Casual Listener’s Guide to World Music.

Chris has also published 28 other non-fiction books, most of them quickie biographies, and has had a pair of one act plays staged in Seattle. His short fiction has appeared in several small magazines, and in the anthology Criminal Tendencies. A collection of his short Leeds fiction appeared under the title, Leeds, The Biography.

He moved back to the UK in 2005. The Broken Token was published by Creme de la Crime in 2010. The second of the Leeds novels featuring Richard Nottingham appeared in hardback in May 2011 with the third and fourth (The Constant Lovers and Come the Fear) appearing in 2012. The fifth and six in the series (At the Dying of the Year and Fair and Tender Ladies) arrived in 2013. The seventh novel, Free From All Danger, will appear in October 2017, Cold Cruel Winter was named one of the Best Mysteries of the Year in 2011 by Library Journal, and the audio book of The Broken Token was one of the Independent on Sunday’s Audiobooks of 2012.

Emerald City and West City Blues, two books featuring Seattle music journalist Laura Benton, are available on ebook and audiobook.

The Crooked Spire is set in Chesterfield in 1361 and can be found in paperback and ebook, as can the sequel, The Saltergate Psalter. The final volume in the trilogy, The Holywell Dead, will appear in 2017.

A series set in Leeds in the 1890s features Detective Inspector Tom Harper. Gods of Gold is the first volume, followed by Two Bronze Pennies, Skin Like Silver, The Iron Water, and On Copper Street. The Tin God is scheduled for publication in May 2017.

Dark Briggate Blues is a 1950s noir, with enquiry agent Dan Markham and also taking place in Leeds, as does The New Eastgate Swing, the second volume to feature Markham.

Lottie Armstrong, one of the first policewomen in Leeds, was the heroine of Modern Crimes, set in 1924. She reappears 20 years later in The Year of the Gun.

Chris is also the author of Solid Air – The Life of John Martyn. This appeared as an ebook and print on demand in June 2011, along with John’s posthumous album and a tribute CD that features many major names.

 *Huge thanks to the author Chris Nickson for agreeing to be part of a Q&A on my blog. I wish you every success with the release of your new novel.