Anne Bonny Q&A with #Author of I Spy Bletchley Park George Stratford #ww2Fiction #HistoricalFiction #Indie

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I Spy Bletchley Park by George Stratford

Synopsis ~

BLETCHLEY PARK IN PERIL : Deeply embittered by the government’s seizure of her financially ruined father’s Buckinghamshire estate, Lady Margaret Pugh swears revenge on all those in Westminster. With World War II looming, Hermann Goering then makes her an irresistible offer if she will agree to spy for him. Before long, the many curious comings and goings at nearby Bletchley Park capture Margaret’s attention. And as she starts putting all of the pieces together, so Britain’s most vital war secret becomes increasingly in peril of a devastating bombing raid. In response to this suspected threat, a young working-class WAAF is thrust untrained into the world of counter-espionage. Thanks to a prodigious musical talent, Betty Hall is uniquely placed to infiltrate Margaret’s private life. But matters suddenly escalate, and the fate of Bletchley Park soon hangs entirely on Betty becoming ever more deeply and dangerously involved. With countless lives at stake, two most determined women find themselves fighting a very private war.

Q&A:

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

A) Some time ago I wrote a fictional tribute (BURIED PASTS) to my Canadian father who was a pilot with RAF Bomber Command. He was killed whilst on his 28th mission when I was just six weeks old. That proved to be very cathartic, so for my new novel I decided that I should pay the same kind of literary tribute to my mother, who served as a WAAF at Bletchley Park for two years during WWII. I SPY BLETCHLEY PARK is the result.
A great deal has been written and filmed about BP, but with a theme almost always centring on the codebreakers themselves. Given the priceless nature of their work, this is perfectly understandable. At the same time, there were huge numbers of less featured people (mostly female) providing priceless support to the ‘stars of the show’, especially the WAAFs and WRENs stationed there. Surely, I reasoned, it was time for a compelling story to be written featuring one of these in a heroic role.
Step forward Mum, or in this case, my fictional WAAF Betty Hall.

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

A) With my main protagonist already in place, the next thing I needed was of course someone to provide the opposition and conflict. In this case, a spy threatening to expose the secret of Bletchley Park to the enemy. That gave birth to Lady Margaret Pugh.
I’m very much a ‘pantster’ when it comes to writing novels, and in the process of creating Margaret, I soon found her taking over the vast majority of the opening chapters. “Hey, move aside. This is Betty’s novel,” I was tempted to shout on several occasions, but I allowed her to have her head anyway. And I’m so glad I did. There’s something uniquely fascinating about putting together a well fleshed out baddie. Especially when they are many long streets away from being all bad. In fact, as the story building process accelerated from a canter into a full-on gallop to the finishing post, I found that I had a far blacker villain in Richard Forest/Forst for readers to boo and hiss at.

As for research, following a visit to the current Bletchley Park site, I was fortunate enough to encounter John Bladen, one of the dedicated volunteers regularly working there. Via telephone conversations and emails, he then continued to supply me with a host of invaluable information and advice on numerous matters of detail. Every question I threw at him was answered in full, and nothing was ever too much trouble. I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

During the writing, I sent files of two or three chapters at a time to people I know to gauge their reaction. Their feedback proved highly useful, especially remarks concerning female psyche. Ruth Maxwell Greenwood was especially helpful in this area. With the novel finally completed, I then sent PDFs of the full story to people who I knew for certain would be brutally truthful in their opinion. No polishing of egos from these guys. Good reviews from those who just want to be kind, although well intentioned, would have been no help at all at this stage.

With a big thumbs-up from 95% of the selected ‘brutal ones’, I then jumped aboard the same old agent submission trail yet again. But this time bursting with confidence. This novel, I felt certain, had everything that these self-appointed gatekeepers to publishing’s Chosen Land could wish for. Indeed, one very major agency stated quite openly that I SPY BLETCHLEY PARK indeed ‘stood out’ from the many they receive. I take it they meant this in a favourable way. That said, no request for further reading was made. The same could be said for the dozen or so others I approached as well.

In a slightly ironic twist, my mother used to type all of the manuscripts for prolific best-selling author John Creasy way back in the 1950s and 60s. Mr Creasy collected an acknowledged world record of 743 rejection slips before going on to publish nearly 600 books under 25 pseudonyms and achieve worldwide sales in excess of 80 million. Oh yes, and he also founded the renowned British Crime Writers Association. That’s true inspiration! That’s why, even at 75 years old and after literally decades of agent rejections, it’s still my mission in life to keep battering away in an attempt to break down those traditional publishing walls. Meanwhile, my current books can continue doing the talking for me as KDP releases. Whatever else you may think of Amazon and their self-published titles, at least they have provided readers with the opportunity to judge each work put out there for themselves and comment publicly on it.

One thing is for certain. Seeing those five-star reviews against your novel and knowing that those readers have thoroughly enjoyed it is by far the most rewarding feeling of all. Even if the lit agents don’t agree with them.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) There are many authors I’ve enjoyed spending some time with, but Ken Follett and Stephen King are the two that I currently look forward to sitting down with most of all. Thank goodness they are both prolific.

Ken Follet’s historical novels, be they set during WWII or way back in the Middle Ages, are always a great read. And so well researched as well. The Kingsbridge series starting with PILLARS OF THE EARTH is a fine example of the latter, while THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE is WWII fiction at its very best. In a more modern era, THE HAMMER OF EDEN is one of my favourites. If my own writing style has subconsciously been influenced by anyone, it is most probably Mr Follett.

As for Stephen King, my opinion that he was largely a writer of supernatural and horror stories was absolutely blown away when I first read his 2012 work, MR MERCEDES. Although still written in his own easily identifiable style, this is pure crime and detective fiction. So too is the second book in the trilogy featuring retired detective Bill Hodges, FINDERS KEEPERS. Only in the concluding novel, END OF WATCH, does the theme stray back slightly into Mr King’s previously established ground. And even then, it seems to fit in seamlessly.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) After moving on from the usual comics of the time such as the Eagle and the Hotspur, I soon became an enormous fan of the JUST WILLIAM books. For me, Richmal Crompton captured perfectly the essence of a spirited 11 year-old boy of the time. No real electronic gadgets for William or the other kids of that era; entertainment was nearly all in the imagination. Master Brown could quite easily manufacture an invisibility cloak out of an old sheet, or perhaps a futuristic ray gun that turned people into blancmange from a stick and a couple of empty tin cans.

I was at first absolutely astonished when I discovered that the author was in fact a woman. How could Miss Crompton possibly have such a deep understanding of what made William tick? I wondered. How was she able to make him so utterly believable? Only later did I fully realise that, apart from a huge dollop of writing talent, the answer almost certainly lay in an ever-alert eye and ear whenever in the company of young ones. Or to give it another name, plain old-fashioned research.

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

A) My first published novel was a paperback titled IN THE LONG RUN. It was released by Citron Press in 2000, when I was working as a copywriter at Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising in Charlotte Street, London.

The International Chairman of Saatchi at that time, Alan Bishop, so enjoyed the novel that he arranged a launch party for me at the company’s in-house pub, the Pregnant Man. Former world record holder for the mile and current BBC athletics presenter, Steve Cram, was sent an advance copy and he too was enthusiastic. So much so, he offered to write a foreword for the book, and agreed to be guest of honour at the official launch.
It was a truly magical evening, packed to the rafters and with many old friends from my days back in Bournemouth coming up to attend. The novel very quickly went on to sell like those often-cited hot cakes. It was sitting solidly at number one in Citron’s best-selling list, and I was able to walk in and see it sitting on the shelves of Europe’s largest book store, Waterstones in Piccadilly. I was indeed living in my own little dream world for a short time.

The news that Citron Press had gone into liquidation burst my bubble big-time. Worse still, after the main creditors had been paid, there would be no royalties for any of the company’s authors.

Yup! What goes up certainly does come crashing back down again. But nobody can take away from me that magical evening in the Pregnant Man. It will live with me for the rest of my life. I can never thank Alan Bishop enough for that. You are a true gentleman, sir.

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

A) No one individual had been with me throughout. A good number of years ago when I was still trying to get IN THE LONG RUN published, I did meet up with Frederick E Smith (author of the 633 SQUADRON novels) two or three times at his house. He was extremely kind and helpful, especially as I had just knocked on his door out of the blue like a cold calling salesman on the first visit. He even provided me with tea and biscuits.
Another fine gentleman, to be sure.

Other than that, I think I should refer you back to the second question here. Although we never actually met, John Creasy and his sheer determination to fulfil his dream of becoming a best-selling author is still a constant source of encouragement. Mum spoke of him quite often, and I feel like I almost knew him well. In a final strange twist, Mr Creasy died on June the 9th – the same date as my birthday.

Me kindle scout pic
George Stratford
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Anne Bonny #BookReview Only Killers And Thieves by @paulhowarth_ 4* #NewRelease #Western #Australia #HistoricalFiction #HistFic @PushkinPress

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Only Killers And Thieves by Paul Howarth
Review Copy

Synopsis ~

A story of two brothers on a trail of revenge

Queensland, 1885. It is a scorching day in Australia’s deserted outback when Tommy McBride and his brother, Billy, return home to discover a devastating tragedy.

Distraught and eager for revenge, the young men set out in search of the perpetrators. They are soon forced to seek help from their ruthless neighbour John Sullivan, and the Queensland Native Police an armed militia infamous for hunting down Indigenous Australians. The retribution that follows will embroil the brothers in a heart-breaking injustice, uniting them in a battle for survival, and forever tearing them apart.

My Review ~

Only Killers And Thieves is set in 1885 Queensland, Australia. I will confess that I don’t read many westerns despite being a big fan of historical fiction. So, I most definitely found this title to be very unique in its themes and characters.
I never thought I’d enjoy a western!

The title opens with the McBride brother’s Tommy (14yrs) and Billy (16yrs) hunting in a drought. The boys trespass on John Sullivan’s land leading to a dressing down from the native mounted police, Inspector Edmund Noone. Where they also witness two mutilated and burned bodies Noone has hung from a tree. The two victims are black men and this causes tension when the boys relay the story to their father…

‘Using black to hunt other blacks. It’s disgraceful’

We become aware of the racial tensions that exist in the historical era. The brother’s entitlement to their land, despite being of Scottish/English/Irish descent.
Their father is disgusted at the crimes, which causes Joseph to leave his employment and seek to move on. However, he fears a war developing with John Sullivan. So, he is willing to over look the murders to keep the peace.
That is until he receives a note from Sullivan…

‘I’m waiting Ned’

The McBride brothers return one day, to find their father dead. Their mother assaulted and killed and their sister barely killing to life. The brothers instantly blame Joseph, who recently left their employment, as they rush to pin the blame on someone. The brother’s seek help from John Sullivan, with Billy embellishing their story stating he saw Joseph present at the scene. But can the boys trust John Sullivan?
Why are they so quick to turn their backs on Joseph?

‘Being a wage slave ain’t much better than being a black fella’

The racial prejudices of John Sullivan and the era in general may shock the reader. But they are historically accurate for the colonial history. Sometimes I think the harsh reality of this era, has almost been completely whitewashed from history.

With Billy swept up in the horrors of violent racism. Has he sold his soul to the devil?
The brother’s pick different sides, will this be their downfall?

Prejudice, anger, violence and revenge. 4*

PH
Paul Howarth
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Book List inspired by Black History Month!

This is NOT a black history month book list; this IS a book list inspired by black history month. Let me explain, I read a huge amount of books that would fall into this category. But in my opinion black history is history and everyone should be reading & learning it all year not just in the month of February!
I saw a promo post yesterday with only 3 choices & I knew that if I wrote such a list, my list would be enormous and would feature female/male writers, fiction & non-fiction, old skool reads & new releases. Something for everybody. I mentioned this in passing to my husband who quickly pointed out ‘isn’t that what your blog is for’ so here goes!

To make this list the best it fully can be, I have scoured my book journals, tbr pile & wish list. I will identify this throughout the list. I can’t include reviews for all the ones I have read but will include my star rating & a brief summary. They are in no particular order.

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all-involved-coveryou-dont-know-me-coverthe-memory-of-love-cover

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the-book-of-night-women-coverthe-blood-of-emmett-till-coverdarktown-cover

the-speech-coverafrica-coverthe-sell-out-cover

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easy-rawlins-coverdevils-peak-covernatchez-burning-cover

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Fiction:

  • IQ by Joe Ide – 5* Genius – New release IQ is a new release, set in modern day LA. I described IQ as a ghetto Sherlock Holmes in my review, this novel is clever, edgy and unique!
  • Heartman by M.P Wright (JT Ellington series) – 5* Genius JT is a Bajan cop turned private eye, when he arrives in Bristol UK from Barbados. Set in the 1960’s the novel gives a full & well written description of the era & attitudes at that time. JT is one my favourite characters ever!
  • Noughts & crosses by Malorie Blackman – TBR pile I had this YA book recommendation from my little brother. It was his favourite book in his teens. It is due to be adapted to a TV series on the BBC.
  • An Untamed State by Roxane gay – 5* This tells the story of Mirieille Duval Jameson, her life in Haiti as daughter of one of the wealthiest families. It details her subsequent captivity & ordeal. But also draws on the backdrop of poverty, inequality, corrupt governments and growing anger. A dark, brutal read but extremely noteworthy.
  • Devils Peak by Deon Meyer – Wish list I added this to my wish list due to its location & themes. Set in south Africa this novel tells the story of returning freedom fighter Thobela Mpayipheli
  • Natchez Burning trilogy by Greg Iles – 5* Genius This trilogy is majorly intense. It also has reflective chapters jumping between modern times and the 1960’s. Set in the deep south of the USA, it explores the inner workings or the KKK and the effect they have on everyone they touch.
  • The calling by Neil Cross (John Luther series) – 5* This is the novel featuring John Luther from the much loved series with Idris Elba. Set in modern times with John Luther the protagonist cop, we all know & love.
  • Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye – 5* Set in the Florida keys in the 1930’s this novel covers the black soldiers who returned from WW1 and the trying times they face. When a white woman is found murdered, suspicions quickly fall to the veterans.
  • Small Great things by Jodi Picoult – 5* This was a heavily anticipated novel as the author is so well known. It centres around one woman’s struggle to clear her name and the bigotry she faces. The novel has a thought-provoking & clever twist.
  • The Wrath of Moses by John sturgeon – 4* Centred around cop Moses in the crime plagued Levee District. This is a heavily layered crime novel of exceptional depth. Aside from the usual dramas Moses is Moses’s biggest enemy.
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – 5* Genius One of my favourites of 2016. I can’t even begin to explain how significant this novel is. Set in the era of slavery, this novel focuses on the story of Cora & her escape via the underground railroad. Incredibly moving!
  • Colour Bar by Susan William –TBR pile Added due to my wish list due to its unique & inspiring love story. The true story of a 1947 multi-racial romance between an heir to Africa and a white British woman. Currently screening as a movie in the UK
  • The Speech by Andrew Smith – 5* Another of my favourites from 2016. Set in 1968 & covering Enoch Powell’s rivers of blood speech. This novel merges fact & fiction and is an educational & moving read. Essentially about racial politics in the UK but written in such a well detailed way!
  • Gloria by Kerry Young –TBR pile Set in 1938 Jamaica covering political change & social justice from a female perspective. This was an obvious choice for my wish list.
  • Lies We All Tell ourselves by Robin Talley – TBR pile Another YA pick, This one set in the backdrop of the civil rights era yet also features an LGBTQ theme. Unique pick.
  • You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood – 5* Genius – New Release This is a courtroom legal drama, where the reader becomes a jury member. The beauty of it is, it forces you to think like someone who may not live like you or look like you. Puts you solely in their perspective.
  • Easy Rawlins series by Walter Mosley – 5* Genius The series starts out with an old skool edge to it and Easy is by far one of thee most coolest book characters to date! The novels each have unique themes and I am still working my way through the series myself.
  • Black Girl Lost by Donald Goines – 5* If you ever want to fully understand the term ‘white privilege’ this is the novel for you! The story of two youngsters who never stood a chance due to circumstances outside of their control.
  • Axeman’s Jazz & Dead Man’s Blues by Ray Celestin – 5* Genius The series begins in New Orleans and is a fictionalised portrayal of the real Axeman killer. Heavy on detail and depth, this series is amazing!
  • Darktown by Thomas Mullens- 5* Genius Atlanta 1948 this novels covers the first ever black cops in the USA. Boggs & smith are the two main cops; they are written very well. Soon to be a major TV series in the USA.
  • The Book of Night Women by Marlon James – 5* Genius Written by Manbooker winner Marlon James, this is probably the most brutal & deep novel I have ever read about slavery. The dialogue is intense, yet it makes the reader slow down and appreciate & saviour every single word.
  • All Involved by Ryan Gattis – 5* Set in the 1990’s this novel covers crime/gang culture and the LA riots.
  • The Memory Of Love by Aminatta Forna – 5* I met my husband the day of his return from Sierra Leone with the UK military. So this novel instantly intrigued me. Set in the late 1990’s it tells the story of ordinary people living through great loss & hardships. Extraordinarily moving!
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty – 5* Recent winner of the Manbooker Paul Beatty debates race & culture with an unusual approach. I get the distinct opinion Paul doe’s seek validation in the form or reviews & awards. But it definitely deserving! Hilarious & controversial!
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison – 4* No list would be complete without the mention of this novel. It is eerie, harrowing & fierce.
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin –TBR pile Published in 1852, this a well-known & famous anti-slavery novel. I must make some time for it soon!
  • Difficult Women by Roxane Gay – Wish list I am a difficult woman, so I feel I shall be gripped by this!

NON- Fiction books:

  • Roots by Alex Haley – 5* The incredible story of Kunta Kinte. One I am certain I will never forget. Should be studied in schools.
  • Africa by Richard Dowden – 5* A comprehensive look at the history of Africa the problems is faces and the huge cultural gifts it has to offer. Made me want to visit Africa asap.
  • The autobiographies of Nelson mandela 5*, Martin Luther King 5* & Malcolm X 5* genius. I do not read autobiographies usually but my dad wanted me to read Nelson Mandela’s and I ended up reading these 3 back to back! Inspiring stuff!
  • We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Phillip Gourevitch – 5* I wanted to educate myself on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It alarms be how this is kept from mainstream education.
  • The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B Tyson – 5* This is an in-depth look into the torture murder of Emmett Till and those who allowed it to happen. It also references modern day crimes against children such as Trayvon Martin.
  • Shake Hands With The Devil by Romeo Dallaite – TBR pile This non-fiction title covers the role of the British military & the UN during the Genocide of Rwanda.
  • Cut by HiboWardere – TBR pile Centred around FGM and the writers own experiences. The author has kindly agreed to feature in a Q&A when I read & review this book.
  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali – TBR pile Focused around the roles of women in Islam and the writers experiences as a Muslim.
  • They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery – Wish list The main theme is the foundations of the black lives matter movement. Also chapters focused on individual cases of police brutality and subsequent murder of back citizens in the USA.

I hope there is something that may interest you on my list. Also please feel free to contact/message/comment me with further recommendations!

Abby

 

Violette Szabo theme book 2: If This Is A Woman by Sarah Helm.

Today marks day 2 of the Violetter Szabo theme and I have chosen this non-fiction book due to it being focused on Ravensbruck Concentreation camp & in particular the treatment of the women.

If This Is A Woman: Inside Ravensbruck: Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women by [Helm, Sarah]

If This Is A Woman by Sarah Helm

The blurb:

On a sunny morning in May 1939 a phalanx of 800 women – housewives, doctors, opera singers, politicians, prostitutes – were marched through the woods fifty miles north of Berlin, driven on past a shining lake, then herded through giant gates. Whipping and kicking them were scores of German women guards.

“Consider if this is a woman, without hair and without no name, with no more strength to remember, her eyes empty and her womb cold like a frog in winter. meditate that this came about: I commend these words to you.”

Primo Levi, if ‘This is a Man’

My review:

This is  non-fiction read of some very dark & serious subject matter. The holocaust is never ever going to be easy reading. Yet it is such an important part of history. One that should never be forgotten. This book focuses on the women but it does separate them by reason for being at Ravensbruck such as criminals, resistance, Jehovah Witnesses etc. By doing this we learn how each groups were treated and how they found strength. This was one of the first WW2 & holocaust non-fiction books that gave attention to the Jehovah witnesses. I had deep admiration for the women & despite their harsh & inhumane treatment their refusal to contribute to the war effort due to their beliefs. I was staggered by the amount of the JW women who were killed within the camps. This has always struck a chord with me since I read this book.

The book is informative without being a series of facts & figures. It almost written in a story format, which makes it much easier to read but also more disturbing that this happened and you are reading real peoples stories. The book does detail the commandants & guards. Irma Grese is mentioned for her time at ravensbruck prior to her move to Belsen camp. There are also some people’s stories that are shocking and you almost wish they were a character in a book (re: Clap-wanda page 400-1). This book at 848 pages builds a broad scope of what women really faced in Ravensbruck. It is moving, educational and thought provoking. 5*