Staying in with Alan Jones

All kinds of books are brought to my attention and it grieves me that I simply cannot read them all. This is exactly what has happened with Alan Jones’s latest novel as I’ve been hearing fantastic things about it from my fellow bloggers. As a result I simply had to ask Alan to stay in with me to chat about the book and I’m thrilled to have it on my TBR. Let’s hope it’s not too long until I can read it. Here’s what happened when Alan dropped by:

Staying in with Alan Jones

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Alan and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thanks a million for having me over, Linda.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve chosen to bring along The Gathering Storm, the first book in The Sturmtaucher Trilogy published on the 19th of August 2021 as an eBook, with a paperback to follow early in 2022. It is a Holocaust story based in the naval city of Kiel in Northern Germany.

Why have I chosen it? It’s a completely new genre for me and is the first part of a story that has been five years in the making, and by far the most heavily researched of the books I have written so far.

I’ve been fascinated and horrified in equal measure by the Holocaust since reading ‘Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank as a ten or eleven year old and, although I’ve read extensively about this most terrible period in history, the deeper I researched, the more I realised I didn’t know.

Oh I understand that completely Alan. The era fascinated and horrifies me in equal measure. It was Anne Frank’s writing and visiting her hiding place in Amsterdam that hooked me too.

I’d also wanted to write a book that involved sailing, and the sea, and the germ of an idea came to me when I searched for locations for the story and found that, not only was Kiel the biggest German Naval base, but it was also the centre for German sailing, and would host the Olympic sailing events in 1936.

Five years later, and a lot of things have happened during that time; I retired after 38 years as a mixed-practice vet, I acquired four beautiful grandchildren, I became an RNLI lifeboat coxswain, and I have written a trilogy that I am very proud of, no matter how successful it is.

Goodness me. You don’t hang about do you? How fabulous to include sailing in your writing when it’s part of your new life.

What can we expect from an evening in with The Gathering Storm?

It will be a sombre evening; the slow erosion of the rights of Germany’s Jews and the cruel indifference of their fellow citizens can make for uncomfortable reading, but you will get to know two German families intimately, affected by the National Socialists’ abhorrent policies in very different ways – The Kästners, a successful military family who prosper under Nazi military expansion and economic prosperity, and the Nussbaums, a Jewish family who work for them as domestic servants, who find life increasingly strained.

Actually, Alan. I think The Gathering Storm illustrates just how little we have learnt from history. Events in recent history seem to me to bear an uncanny and uncomfortable similarity.

You can expect a bit of sailing – it is what the Kästner family do in their free time, and also a smattering of German well-to-do society, of ladies who lunch and host charitable events to help the poor, of lakeside houses and grasping, self-serving politicians. There’s fascism, and hate, and a nation consumed by its place in the world but also Jewish communities, who try and stick together and help each other.

This sounds utterly fascinating. I love social history and I know I’ll be totally engaged by The Gathering Storm when I finally get round to reading it.

And there are one or two individuals who see the wrong in what is happening, and stand up for the dispossessed, no matter the danger to them or their families.

I always wonder what I might do in a similar situation. I fear I might not be as brave…

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I’ve brought some Bratwurst, Bratkartoffeln and Sauerkraut, a hearty German dish of sausages and fried potatoes with pickled cabbage, some Rugelach for dessert, and a few bottles of German beer and a bottle of Schnapps to wash it down, and a large black folio containing just some of the maps, charts, and documents that I used so extensively during the writing of the book.

Hmm. I think I might need that beer as I’m not very keen on Sauerkraut…

Once we’ve eaten, I’ll apologise for being a map nerd, obsessed with documents and old newspapers, then I’ll open the folio and I’d lay out in front of you the beautiful wartime maps and 1930’s charts, and some of the key documents that starkly illustrate the descent into horror that brought Europe to its knees in the decade the National Socialists were in power.

Oh, no need to apologise (except for the sauerkraut) as I love all this kind of history.

I’ll show you the telegram sent to police forces around Germany about Kristallnacht, the minutes of the Wannsee conference where Himmler, Heydrich and Eichmann revealed their ‘Final Solution’, and a wall chart showing the various permutations of Jewishness as prescribed by the Nuremberg Race Laws.

Isn’t it sobering to see ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ so vividly?

The maps will be equally sobering, despite the Schnapps. The street plan of Kiel, showing Gestapo headquarters, the town hall and square, bedecked by Nazi flags, and the shipyards that produced warships and U-boats in incredible number for the Third Reich. There’s the war maps, the maps of the Greater Germany showing the German Reich rapidly taking grip of most of Europe.

In contrast, the sea charts reveal the Kästner’s yachting playgrounds, of trips to Danish ports and the Frisian islands in the North Sea, where the happenings at home can almost be forgotten.

I’ll show you the newspapers, German and British, a narrative of newsprint that documents the war years, and those leading up to it.

And when we’ve finished, we’ll pray that nothing like it ever happens again.

We will indeed Alan although sadly I don’t think those prayers are being answered. Thank you SO much for staying in with me to chat all about The Gathering Storm. I think it sounds fabulous and cannot wait to read it. Now, you pour the Schnapps, open your folder, and I’ll give blog visitors a few more details about The Gathering Storm:

The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm: Book 1 in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy, a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.

Kiel, Northern Germany, 1933. A naval city, the base for the German Baltic fleet, and the centre for German sailing, the venue for the upcoming Olympic regatta in 1936.

The Kästners, a prominent Military family, are part of the fabric of the city, and its social, naval and yachting circles. The Nussbaums are the second generation of their family to be in service with the Kästners as domestic staff, but the two households have a closer bond than most.

As Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party claw their way to power in 1933, life has never looked better for families like the Kästners. There is only one problem.

The Nussbaums are Jews.

The Sturmtaucher Trilogy documents the devastating effect on both families of the Nazis’ hateful ideology and the insidious erosion of the rights of Germany’s Jews.

When Germany descends ever deeper into dictatorship, General Erich Kästner tries desperately to protect his employees, and to spirit them to safety.

As the country tears itself apart, the darkness which envelops a nation threatens not only to destroy two families, but to plunge an entire continent into war.’

Published on 19th August 2021, The Gathering Storm is available for purchase here.

About Alan Jones

Alan Jones is a Scottish author with three gritty crime stories to his name, the first two set in Glasgow, the third one based in London. He has now switched genres, and his WW2 trilogy will be published from August to December 2021. It is a Holocaust story set in Northern Germany.

He is married with four grown up children and four wonderful grandchildren.

He has recently retired as a mixed-practice vet in a small Scottish coastal town in Ayrshire and is one of the coxswains on the local RNLI lifeboat. He makes furniture in his spare time, and maintains and sails a 45-year-old yacht, cruising in the Irish Sea and on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. He loves reading, watching films and cooking. He still plays football despite being just the wrong side of sixty.

His crime novels are not for the faint-hearted, with some strong language, violence, and various degrees of sexual content. The first two books also contain a fair smattering of Glasgow slang.

He is one of the few self-published authors to be given a panel at the Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival in Stirling and has done two pop-up book launches at previous festivals.

He has spent the last five years researching and writing the Sturmtaucher Trilogy.

To find out more, visit Alan’s website, follow him on Instagram and Twitter @alanjonesbooks, or find him on Facebook.

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