Staying in with Michael Shusko

Evil Winds

As I adore Africa, I’m a little bit beside myself here on Linda’s Book Bag as I have invited Michael Shusko, author of the Tradecraft Series, to stay in with me this evening to tell me all about one of his books.

Staying in with Michael Shusko

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Michael. Thank you so much for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?


I brought the third book in my Tradecraft Series: Evil Winds.  I chose it because it deals with a number of important contemporary topics: terrorism, genocide and human trafficking and how the strength of the human condition prevails even under the most unimaginable, horrid conditions.

(Gosh. That sounds like powerful stuff Michael.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Evil Winds?

The Tradecraft Series explores international terrorism amid various backstories. Funding, organization, missions and motivation of these shadowy groups are revealed throughout the series. Evil Winds gets the reader into the mind of the terrorist. What makes him or her tick. What is the motivation and rationale for the violence. All of this occurring in exotic but real locations, including Sub Saharan Africa, that brings together the best and worst of humanity: aid-workers and humanitarians dedicating their lives to healing and protecting victims of the war in Darfur as they try to survive the harsh desert filled with Janjaweed marauders.

(I think this series, and Evil Winds in particular, sounds brilliant.)

Evil Winds follows Angie Bryant, a young report who goes to Africa to report on the atrocities in the Darfur. There, she meets doctor Jason Russo working in one of the refugee camps. Together, the two brave the harsh Sahara Desert to find the hidden truth about what is really going after villages are razed and children go missing while various warlords, terrorists and underground organizations battle for control of Sub Saharan Africa.

(I find sub Saharan Africa fascinating Michael, I’ve been to Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda and passed though Ethiopia and Kenya so I think Evil Winds will really appeal to me as a reader.)

What else have you brought along and why?


I brought along some pictures I took in Sub Saharan Africa to give you an idea of the landscape that was part of the inspiration for Evil Winds.  I took these photos during my time in the region where the book is set.  They’ll give you some perspective about the geography of the area, as well as what a typical village is like.


Seeing some of the hardships that the people there endure is what motivated me to write it – but, to be clear, the book isn’t just about the Darfur. There are a number of important issues highlighted in the book that I feel need to be addressed. Child slavery, human trafficking, terrorism, genocide. These atrocities occur throughout the world and affect millions.


You’re absolutely right; these issues cannot be ignored and fiction is a great way of bringing them to the world’s attention. Your photos are such evocative images of the region Michael. I’m thrilled you agreed to stay in with me this evening to tell us about Evil Winds. Thank you so much for being here.

Evil Winds

Evil Winds

Up-and-coming news reporter Angie Bryant is determined to get the scoop on what’s really happening in Darfur, no matter the risk. After all, it’s the kind of story that will catapult her career to the next level.

Jason Russo is a disillusioned NGO doctor stationed at a refugee camp in eastern Chad. While he tries to help where he can, Jason finds it difficult to get the support he needs to make a difference.

But when the pair witnesses Janjaweed soldiers gun down a dozen Darfurian refugees in cold blood, everything changes. Suddenly, the only assignment that matters is telling the world about the current conditions in western Sudan — at all costs.

Angie and Jason find themselves racing against time as they work to uncover a sinister secret hidden deep in the Sahara. Their efforts put them directly in the path of a lethal Janjaweed commander. If they want to share their shocking discoveries with the global community, they’ll have to get past him first.

Evil Winds is available for purchase here.

About Michael Shusko


Michael Shusko, author of Evil Winds, is a medical doctor and decorated Marine and Naval officer who has worked on intelligence and medical missions across the globe. Fluent in Arabic, he holds a Bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern studies from Rutgers University.

After transferring from the Marines to the Navy Medical Corps, he attended medical school at Wake Forest University, obtaining his degree in 2002. He also studied at Harvard University, earning a Master’s of Public Health degree in 2013.

Dr. Shusko has been awarded the Bronze Star twice for service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has traveled extensively in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia.

In addition to Evil Winds, Mike Shusko is the author of Vector and Shifting Sands, the first two novels in his Tradecraft book series.

You can find out more by visiting Michael’s website. You’ll also find him on Facebook.

Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce

Dear Mrs Bird

My enormous thanks to the publishers for inviting me to read Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce through Netgalley. I actually broke my own rule of not using Netgalley because I find e-books so tricky with my poor sight but I had heard so much about Dear Mrs Bird. I’m glad I did!

Published by Pan Macmillan imprint Picador, Dear Mrs Bird is available for purchase through the links here.

Dear Mrs Bird

Dear Mrs Bird

London, 1941. Amid the falling bombs Emmeline Lake dreams of becoming a fearless Lady War Correspondent. Unfortunately, Emmy instead finds herself employed as a typist for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt at Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs Bird refuses to read, let alone answer, letters containing any form of Unpleasantness, and definitely not those from the lovelorn, grief-stricken or morally conflicted.

But the thought of these desperate women waiting for an answer at this most desperate of times becomes impossible for Emmy to ignore. She decides she simply must help and secretly starts to write back – after all, what harm could that possibly do?

My Review of Dear Mrs Bird

Emmy Lake has just got a new job. Unfortunately, it’s not the one she thought she’d applied for.

I really enjoyed Dear Mrs Bird. I’m sure its tone and style won’t appeal to all but for me it was a breath of fresh air (of the type Henrietta Bird might prescribe in one of her responses to a reader’s letter). In fact, frequently A J Pearce made me rejoice that we finally have a creditable female equivalent of P. G. Wodehouse but with far less silliness and much more depth. The humour appealed to me and I frequently laughed aloud, especially at the Capitalized Comments. I could so easily hear Emmy’s narrative voice in my head.

All of that said, and emphasising my enjoyment of the humour in Dear Mrs Bird, none of this would have been so effective had it not been for the wonderful balance of the reality of the Blitz in contrast. AJ Pearce understands exactly how to use light and shade in her writing for maximum impact. I laughed aloud on so many occasions but I shed tears too. There’s love, fear, grief and true friendship alongside the themes of maintaining a stiff upper lip, loyalty and relationships with a touch of feminism thrown in that make this an absolutely wonderful read.

Emmy is a complete star. Certainly she epitomises what is expected of the plucky, upper middle class girls of the era, which some might find stereotypical, but equally she’s foolhardy and rash and quite often blinkered to the consequences of her actions and I loved her for every one of her flaws. She experiences the full range of emotions and I felt them with her. Reading Dear Mrs Bird felt more like hearing my friend Emmy telling me about her exploits and I was invested in each of them.

The plot of Dear Mrs Bird is relatively simple which is where the book succeeds so well because I think it reflects the day to day grind of routines punctuated with terrifying moments endured by so many during WW2 in London. There’s a human quality of understanding and poignancy from AJ Pearce that I thoroughly enjoyed and found very touching.

I think Dear Mrs Bird is a book that might initially appear quite superficial but that surprises and rewards the reader in an emotional and thought provoking way. Reading it has made me wonder just what I would have been like as Emmy. The more I read of Dear Mrs Bird, the more I loved it. I really recommend it.

About A J Pearce

AJ Pearce

AJ Pearce grew up in Hampshire and studied at the University of Sussex. A chance discovery of a 1939 woman’s magazine became the inspiration for her ever-growing collection and her first novel Dear Mrs Bird. She now lives in the south of England.

Ypu can follow A J Pearce on Twitter @ajpearcewrites and visit her website for more details. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

Staying in with Richard Williams

Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave_Cover

I’ve a confession. I’ve never been to a rave! So when I was asked if I would like to be part of the launch celebrations for Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave by Richard Williams I simply couldn’t say no. My thanks to Julia Forster at Ruth Killick Publicity for inviting me. I’m delighted that Richard has agreed to stay in with me this evening.

Staying in with Richard Williams

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Richard. Thanks so much for staying in with me. I have a pretty good idea, but tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?


Hi Linda!  I’ve brought along Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave, published by Graffeg. It’s my debut novel.

(Oh, how brilliant. Congratulations.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave?

In a nutshell, the reader can expect a charming and gentle introduction into the world of rural Pembrokeshire and its characters, which then quickly escalates into an exciting plot and troubling sub-plots that seek to disrupt the adventure. The title may give the impression of a simplistic storyline; but there are a few surprises en route to the rave –suicide, murders and a good dose of old-world village humour.

(I love the sound of this. I must add Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave to my TBR!)

The stories in the book span generations and unlikely friendships are made between the village folk of Little Emlyn, who pull together to overcome adversity. Mostyn, a sixty-four year old debt-laden farmer is the main protagonist along with Jethro, a suicidal nineteen year-old rave DJ. They meet under precarious circumstances and hatch a plan to hold a rave on Mostyn’s secluded land to help pay off his debts. But dark events prevail en-route to the rave with the involvement of Weird Head, the loan shark to whom Mostyn is indebted.

A disparate cast of village waifs and strays are at hand to help: John the Ghost – an elusive farm worker who disappears each winter to probably work as a hitman; Chicken George –the local painter and decorator/village idiot; Boutros – a retired UN diplomat; Daisy – a surfing goddess with balls of steel,and Biscuits – Jethro’s troubled best friend.

(So a cast of quite ‘normal’ folk then!)

The novel probably falls into the crime thriller genre, with some funny moments (I hope). The key topics being the farming and rural community crisis of the early 1990s intertwined with rave culture, and the paradox these unlikely bedfellows produced.

(I think Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave sounds utterly brilliant Richard.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

Since we’re having a stay-at-home-rave tonight (we’re no spring chickens any more), I’ve brought my record bag – filled with vinyl from the early rave days. Before I fire up the turntables we’ll crack open a few cans of Red Stripe, the beer of choice of the rave generation out west. Those that want to smoke can go outside.

(Those that want to smoke can go outside and at least half a mile away thank you!)

Our special guest for the evening is DJ Sasha, the man who inspired a generation with his inimitable style of pioneering house music that transformed the UK electronic music scene between 1992-1994, when he was dubbed “Son of God?” on the cover of Mixmag magazine, the raver’s bible.

Mix mag

I’ve put a few copies of Farmer’s Weekly magazine from 1994 in the WC in the hope my guests will peruse and learn a little about the significant issues faced by rural farming communities back then, and the impact those issues had on real people and families.

(I wondered why there was such a queue outside the downstairs loo!)

But mostly, tonight is about celebrating life out west in wild and woolly Pembrokeshire. We will discuss the virtues of community life there, how it has changed and how there is still hope for future generations through institutions such as the Young Farmer’s Clubs.

(Actually, to be serious a moment, it is really important to keep rural communities alive I think Richard.)


Here is the playlist for the evening. Since we’re at home it’s more of a post-club ‘after-party’ compilation of carefully selected tracks from the heady days when the novel is set. These tunes should wind us down and help us float on into the sunrise. Sit back, close your eyes, and enjoy!

The Orb – Little Fluffy Clouds (Album Version)

Belfast – Orbital

Papua New Guinea (7” original) – The Future of Sound London

Smokebelch II (David Holmes remix) – The Sabres of Paradise

Gat Décor – Passion (Original Mix)

Jumbo – Underworld

Cowgirl (remastered) – Underworld

Shades of Rhythm – Sound of Eden (Original Mix)

Massive Attack Ft. Horace Andy – Hymn of the Big Wheel

(That should keep us going a while Richard…)

Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave Richard. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our evening in. Now, let’s get that music on!

Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave

Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave_Cover

When Mostyn, an ageing Pembrokeshire farmer on the brink of bankruptcy, runs into Jethro, a young raver, his fortunes appear to take a positive turn.

The pair secretly mobilise the locals of the village pub to help put on the greatest money-spinning event in the history of Little Emlyn: Lewistock.

The tension ramps up as the clock ticks down to the August bank holiday rave and young revellers begin to pour in from all corners of the county.

But things do not go to plan; moneylenders, drug dealers, the county council and the bank all set a collision course with Mostyn and Jethro.

It’s not clear who will get out alive…

Published by Graffeg on 8th November 2018, Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave is available for purchase here.

About Richard Williams


Richard Williams was raised on a dairy farm in north Pembrokeshire and was an active member of the rural rave scene in the 1990s. After studying development studies Richard worked as a technical writer at the newly-created Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. He later set up a chain of successful casual dining restaurants in Switzerland, where he now lives. Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave is his first novel.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

The Big Rave tour poster


Staying in with Steve Hutton


Now, you know I love a bit of history with my reading but I don’t often venture into the fantasy genre. When Steve Hutton told me about his book I had to ask him onto Linda’s Book Bag to explain a bit more. He may just have come up with the perfect solution!

Staying in with Steve Hutton

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Steve.Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

The pleasure’s all mine – a book without a reader is only half a book (-:

(And to my mind every book is a different one for every reader!)

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


Tonight’s offering Linda is my first novel, Raven’s Wand. It will always be special to me because after nine months of solid work, when I typed the last line I felt something I’d never felt before. That last line was like completing a circuit and watching the story become a free-living entity of its own.

(That must have felt amazing, Steve.)

Raven’s Wand is both a book for readers and for myself the writer. I’d long grown tired of fantasy novels that felt made up, and so I set my book against a backdrop of Victorian Britain, where the old ways of the Wildwood clash with ever-increasing industrialisation. I populated the pages with characters as real as I could craft, and imbued them with feelings we all have. I strove to avoid pantomime villains and saintly heroes, and instead make fantasy believable; in Raven’s Wand the villains are redeemable and scared, and the heroes are reluctant and flawed, and characters comes first and make-believe is the supporting act.

(Now you’re talking! This sounds so much more my kind of fantasy genre. I’m intrigued.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Raven’s Wand?

Readers can expect surprises and the unconventional – Raven’s Wand is a fantasy without the usual ‘hero quest’. I pushed my imagination to the limits to create creatures, characters and situations that broke as many moulds as possible, then glued them back together and broke them again. My ethos was to make the reader really care about the characters, and then when they’re in peril it feels real too. Hopefully the reader won’t just want to ‘stay in’ with Raven’s Wand, but to stay in the story for good. Many readers say they feel sad at the end because they have to say ‘farewell’ to characters that have become like close friends, while others say they’d gladly swap their hectic modern lives for the witches’ simpler (but precarious!) coven lifestyle. As an extra to the book, the publishers have created an Augmented Reality experience, which brings a third dimension to the story making it the first UK fantasy novel to do so.

(Wow. That sounds brilliant. I see readers can find out more about the Augmented Reality experience here.)

What else have you brought along and why?

I also have the Loch Ness monster with me. Well, I did – she seems to have slipped her lead. . . but her home is still an indelible part of my writing. When I began plotting Raven’s Wand some years ago, I was living in Fort Augustus, near Loch Ness. The house was a wooden lodge, named ‘Wildwood’, and I took the name and used it as the name for the witches’ coven central to the story. I also took the surrounding forest as inspiration, and I’d walk or cycle it daily and as I did I’d daydream and see my characters living out their lives (and thus my story) amongst those towering trunks and sunlit glades. As an illustrator also I put as much time into drawing my characters as I did in writing them. It was very important to me to get the hero on the cover just right – I drew her many times before she clicked with the written character in the book.

I had no idea you’d created the cover image too Steve. You’re obviously a man of many talents! You really have persuaded me that fantasy can be a genre I’ll enjoy and I have decided to add Raven’s Wand to my TBR. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about it.

Raven’s Wand


Raven’s Wand is about two opposing secret societies waging a war of belief behind the skin of Victorian Britain. One uses magic to heal the world, while the other twists it into abominations and war machines. Young Kolfinnia has a great task set before her and, with the aid of the Raven wand, she dares more than she ever dreamed possible.

You can find out more by visiting The Dark Raven’s Chronicle website or Facebook page.

Published by Boddington and Royall, Raven’s Wand is available for purchase here and on Amazon.

About Steve Hutton

steve hutton b&w

Steve Hutton attained first a BA then later an MA in illustration and has illustrated for educational publishing, as well as running illustration workshops in schools across the country. As a freelance illustrator he has worked for the National Trust and created character concepts for film and TV, most notably The Golden Compass.

After years of illustrating for established writers, Steve decided it was time to tell his own stories. Taking his love of rugged northern lands, their legends and folklore, and combining them with interests as diverse as cosmology, magic and Earth sciences, the resulting narrative is The Dark Raven Chronicles. This ever-expanding fantasy series blends historical facts with wild fiction to create a unique world, enhanced and enriched by Steve’s own illustrations.

Steve owes as much to modern classics like Watership Down, and Mary Stewart’s Hollow Hills trilogy for their inspiration, as he does to the Icelandic Sagas and Beowulf. Over the years, his illustrative eye has been inspired by a host of talented artists, from Rodney Matthews to the team of illustrators who crafted the Dr Who novels he cherished as a boy. All of this feeds into his writing.

You can find out more by finding Steve on Facebook, and visiting his Wildwood website. There’s a brand new Twitter account for you to follow too @ChroniclesRaven.

Cuckoo by Sophie Draper


I love a twisty psychological thriller so I’d like to extend my enormous thanks to Sabah Khan at Avon Books for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for Cuckoo by Sophie Draper and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Published by Harper Collins imprint Avon on 29th November 2018, Cuckoo is available for purchase through the links here.



There’s a stranger in your house…

When her stepmother dies unexpectedly, Caro returns to her childhood home in Derbyshire. She hadn’t seen Elizabeth in years, but the remote farmhouse offers refuge from a bad relationship, and a chance to start again.

But going through Elizabeth’s belongings unearths memories Caro would rather stay buried. In particular, the story her stepmother would tell her, about two little girls and the terrible thing they do.

As heavy snow traps Caro in the village, where her neighbours stare and whisper, Caro is forced to question why Elizabeth hated her so much, and what she was hiding. But does she really want to uncover the truth?

A haunting and twisty story about the lies we tell those closest to us, perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Cass Green.

My Review of Cuckoo

After her step-mother’s funeral artist Caro returns to live in the family home in Derbyshire.

Oh yes indeedy! I really enjoyed reading Cuckoo. I did have willingly to suspend my disbelief a couple of times but I think that says more about me as a reader than it does about the narrative. I’m such a coward that had some of the events happened to me that happen to Caro I’d have run screaming for the Derbyshire hills and never returned. I really was quite unnerved on occasion.

I loved the claustrophobia of the setting. Derbyshire became as much a part of the story as the other characters and I could picture the scenes so vividly because Sophie Draper describes them brilliantly accurately. There’s such a clever build up in the writing from the literal restriction of the snow, through Caro’s reluctance to explore the house, to the more psychological elements of trapped memories and behaviours. Obviously I don’t want to spoil the story so I can’t say too much but I will say that this is very intelligently constructed.

In Cuckoo, Sophie Draper also makes wonderful subtle references that build up the tension throughout because they have the ability to trigger associations in the reader. I thought of MacbethThe Snow Queen and the film Don’t Look Now for example, all of which created the atmosphere for me. All the fairy tale references, the traditions of cautionary fables and morality lurk in a menacing way beneath the surface of Cuckoo, so that reality and imagination become blurred not just for Caro. It was as if Sophie Draper’s writing and Caro’s paintings ensnared my own reader emotions and fears without my permission, making for a very affecting read. I think Cuckoo would make a truly fabulous film as many of the element are extremely visual and cinematic.

The reduced number of characters also adds to the creepy claustrophobic atmosphere. I had no idea who to trust and even after reading the ending I still have my doubts. Caro is complex; vulnerable and strong in equal measure. I don’t think I’d want her as a friend and at times I didn’t much like her but I was spellbound by her.

I thought the plot was so good. Of course I had it all worked out and knew exactly what the denouement would be. Of course I was mostly wrong! I did guess a couple of elements that gave an added satisfaction to the reading because it made me feel part of the story, but at times I was also incredibly wrong-footed so that I experienced shocks and surprises too.

The themes in Cuckoo are fascinating. Family, guilt, memory, manipulation, community, superstition, relationships – I could go on – are all there. I really want to reread Cuckoo straightaway to look more carefully at the clues and the way Sophie Draper manipulated the reader. Cuckoo is a book that rewards a close and careful read.

Cuckoo is everything I want in this genre. It’s twisty, gripping and entertaining so that I didn’t want it to end. Cracking reading that I thoroughly recommend.

About Sophie Draper

sophie 1

Sophie Draper was born in the Midlands but raised in Scotland. After gaining an MA in Mediaeval History, she followed a career in finance, travelling the world as a management consultant and International Finance Director. She took a career break to have a family, returning to work as a non-executive director for a building society.

After her youngest child was born, Sophie rediscovered her love of stories, taking up life as a writer and traditional oral storyteller. In 2013, she was nominated for the British Awards for Storytelling Excellence in the category of Outstanding Female Storyteller. She now performs across the UK, telling stories to both adults and children, at festivals, schools, museums, historic houses and community groups.

Her debut novel, Cuckoo, was published by Avon (HarperCollins) on 29th November 2018. In 2017, Cuckoo (then titled The Pear Drum) won the Bath Novel Award, as well as the prestigious Friday Night Live competition at the York Festival of Writing. A second book is to be published by Avon later in 2019.

Sophie lives with her family in rural Derbyshire, in a house filled with music, several cats, too many books and three growing boys.

You can follow Sophie on Twitter @sophiedraper9 and visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Cuckoo Blog Tour

Staying in with L G Trafford

Vitellius' Feast - Cover

If you’re a regular visitor to Linda’s Book Bag it won’t have escaped your notice that I am a little bit obsessed with Roman history, having been on a dig, collecting Roman coins and visiting places like Jerash in Jordan, Carthage in Tunisia and Pompeii in Italy. Consequently, I simply had to invite L.J Trafford to the blog to stay in with me and tell me all about her latest book.

Staying in with L.J. Trafford

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, L.J.  Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Hello Linda. Firstly thank you so much for inviting me over. I am delighted to be here.

(I’m delighted you’re here too as I think I’m going to like what you’re about to tell me!)

Vitellius' Feast - Cover

I have brought my latest book Vitellius’ Feast. It’s book four in my historical fiction series examining the very bloody year 69AD. A year when Rome had four emperors. Three who went in fairly bloody circumstances leaving one ultimate victor.

(I love the Romans so I’ve a feeling I’m going to have to read ALL your books!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Vitellius’ Feast?

A bit of a Roman romp! Contrary to lots of depictions Romans weren’t serious grey headed men in togas making noble speeches at each other. Graffiti and poetry from the time reveals them to be earthy, filthy and funny.

(Having seen some of the murals in Pompeii, I can vouch for the fact they weren’t straight laced L.J.!) 

Having said that Vitellius’ Feast is set in a particularly brutal period of Roman history which means the stakes are high for all of my characters:

Can they successfully negotiate the fast changing political landscape?

Can they avoid the incoming legions bent on destruction and victory?

And can the palace catering department cope with the glutton emperor Vitellius’ every demand?

(A man after my own heart it would seem. Quite partial to a bit of gluttony myself…)

What else have you brought along and why?


I thought it fitting to bring a Roman dish of Vitellius’ own devising. It’s entitled Minerva’s Shield and the ingredients include pike-livers, pheasant-brains, peacock-brains, flamingo-tongues and lampreys (which are a sort of eel).

(Hmm. Not sure if I’m going to like that one much actually… Obviously I’m not that much of a glutton!)


I also have amphora of the finest Falerian wine kept cool using snow from the alps.

(That’s a bit more like it L.J.)

No Roman banquet would be complete without entertainment, so Domitian here is going to show off his archery skills firing arrows through the spread fingers of the slaves. Don’t worry he’s very good. Though obviously I will pay damages should any of your merchandise gets damaged.

(If you don’t mind, I’ll just move a couple of things with sentimental value out of the way before he begins!)

It’s been brilliant having a Roman evening in with you L.J. Thank you for staying in with me to tell me all about Vitellius’ Feast.

Vitellius’ Feast

Vitellius' Feast - Cover

AD 69. As this most dramatic year draws to a close, now is the time to choose a definitive side. Whilst Vitellius enjoys the trappings of power around him, machinations are afoot. In the East, Vespasian has his eye on the throne, but he needs help preparing Rome for his plans and, for his teenage son Domitian, protection from Vitellius’ agents.

With her characteristic flair, and lashings of skulduggery, sex, brutality, and humour, L. J. Trafford brings her Roman quartet, tracing the Year of the Four Emperors, to a spectacular conclusion.

Vitellius’ Feast, was published on 6th December 2018, by Sphinx, an imprint of AEON Books, priced £12.99, available from Amazon.

About L.J.Trafford


LJ. Trafford is the author of the The Four Emperors series. After gaining a degree in Ancient History, Trafford toured across the amphitheatres of Western Europe. A collision with a moped in Rome cut her journey short, as she returned to the UK battered and impressively bruised.

She spent several years working as a tour guide, which ended up being the perfect introduction to writing as her tips relied on the creativity and entertainment of her skill at telling the history of the tour.

L.J. Trafford now works in London doing something whizzy with computers, but still finds time to jump back in time to bring tales of Ancient Rome to her readers!

You can follow L.J. Trafford on Twitter @TraffordLj.

Staying in with Terry Ward


With traditional literature at the heart of my life, it gives me very great pleasure today to welcome Terry Ward to Linda’s Book Bag. Terry has an unusual book that I think will have enormous appeal for blog readers.

Staying in with Terry Ward

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Terry. Thanks so much for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought to tell us about this evening?


I have brought along Jack Dawkins, this evening, because he wants to set the record straight about what happened to him after he was obliged to take up lodgings in Newgate Prison. Thanks to the genius of Lionel Bart, we all have a lasting image of him skipping away into the sunset, arm in arm with Fagin. Well, the young jackanapes is here to tell you that the truth is very different.

I’m sure it is Terry! What can we expect from an evening in with Jack Dawkins?

You don’t have to know your history or your Dickens. Jack has very kindly provided a Glossary that you can refer to as he relates in his own inimitable fashion, his encounter with an unusually erudite Bow Street Runner, murderous villains, turnkeys, philanthropists, Owlers, passing strangers – and Miss Lysette Godden, the first human being he has ever loved. Strangely enough, Jack also reveals that, as he conducts what proves to be a highly dangerous search for his mother and father, he finds his true self.

(I think this sounds excellent. I’m delighted that I have a copy of Jack Dawkins on my TBR pile and I am very much looking forward to reading it.)

What else have you brought along and why?


I’ve had another visit from the Artful Dodger.  You will probably know from watching my You Tube video The Artful Dodger returns – that he has already helped me to promote his life story..

(I’ve watched that You Tube video. He’s quite passionate about it all isn’t he?)

He didn’t stay long, last night. With a copy of Johnson’s Dictionary tucked under his arm, he simply wanted to know ‘how it was going.’ He made some very astute comments after I told him that it was early days, yet. He said, ‘The trouble is, there’s no fantasy in it; nor no vampires, and such. That’s the sort of thing that gets read these days; that, and the unmentionable stuff.  How many shades of grey were there? Do you know something else, Mr Ward, sir?  People don’t realise how much pleasure they are going to get from reading Jack Dawkins until they start doing it.  At the end, they wonder how I managed to survive it all, but then, so did I at the time.’ ’

(I think Jack will be surprised by how many of us, me included, want to read his story Terry.)

After telling me that he had to go because there was a lot to do ‘up there’ before Christmas, Jack simply vanished.  I have a feeling he’ll be back, though. He did leave some of his opinions to share on:

 Judges: ‘They’ll send an out of work man to the gallows for pinching enough stuff to keep his wife and family alive, then go home to a mansion and a two hour dinner.’

War:     ‘Kill one man and you’ll get hanged.  Kill a hundred thousand and they’ll put up a statue with your name on it.’

 Poverty:  ‘I’ve spent most of my life trying to stay alive on the streets of London town, summer and winter.  You ought to try it sometime.  It’s an education.’

Kissing in general:  ‘Isn’t it the finest thing?’

Kissing Lysette:  ‘A stolen kiss isn’t worth much, but the real thing certainly is! I suppose everybody closes their eyes when they do it, don’t they?’

Napoleon:  ‘He’s another one who got sent down in the end. They’ve stuck him on an island, somewhere; but I bet he’s still got more than sixpence in his pocket.’

I thought you might like to meet Jack Dawkins’ ghost-writer.  You can see more of me on the You Tube video ‘the spirit of the Artful Dodger’.

In which Jack does the decent thing by returning from ‘Mutton Pie and Porter heaven’ to give me a helping hand.

(I think Jack Dawkins sounds quite a character Terry!)


I also brought a picture of myself as Jack Dawkins’s ghost writer.

(You look most distinguished!)

Thanks so much for staying in with me and telling me all about Jack Dawkins, Terry. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed finding out about the man and the book!

Jack Dawkins


After Oliver Twist intervenes to save Jack Dawkins – the legendary Artful Dodger – from transportation to Botany Bay, Jack embarks on what proves to be a perilous quest to discover his roots. Before he can say ‘Fagin!’ he’s battling to survive a devastating flood and rescue beautiful black-haired, green-eyed Lysette Godden, the girl of his dreams, from the hands of murderous villains. Jack and Lysette, searching for Jack’s parents, head to France and have an adventure there which tests their mettle and mutual love to the utmost and changes their lives for ever.

Brilliantly and evocatively written, Jack Dawkins is a worthy sequel to Charles Dickens’s immortal masterpiece Oliver Twist.

Hampered by her tendency always to want what she hasn’t got and an apparent inability to let go of the past, will Lucy ever find her elusive happy-ever-after? This witty, amusing, highly entertaining and fast-paced novel is sure to make you feel Lucy’s dilemma, and warm your heart.

Published by The Conrad Press, Jack Dawkins is available for purchase here or directly from the publisher.

About Terry Ward

terry bio

Born into dire, Dickensian poverty, I escaped from it by entering public libraries at a very young age; losing myself in the works of John Buchan, Robert Louis Stevenson-and Charles Dickens.  Oh, boy, how sympatico I was with his heroes!  I moved on to Conrad, Waugh, Wodehouse, Dostoevsky and so many others-but real-life prevailed.

Leaving home at the age of fifteen, I made my own way in the world; falling in love with desert landscapes while experiencing sharp action in the Aden Protectorate and serving with the elite Trucial Oman Scouts; a force that maintained law and order in the ‘Seven Sheikhdoms’, a primitive world that was to be swept away by the discovery of oil; lots and lots of lovely oil!  And so, for a few years, I lived a boy’s own adventure.  Some of it is recorded in my, rather unsatisfactory, autobiography, As Far as I can Remember and in Are You the Man? a unique collection of Trucial Oman Scouts veterans reminiscences and rare photographs; edited by myself.  Married to a beautiful woman, and with two sons, I continued to write while working as the head of a university’s hospitality services.

Jack Dawkins was wrested from the heart of my epic novel, self-published but now withdrawn from circulation, The Artful Dodger and the Hero of the Forlorn Hope.  This happened after I took early retirement in order to concentrate on becoming a published author.  A rather pedantic literary agent agreed to add me to his list of authors if I could find it in myself to write a first-person novel about the Artful Dodger.  I did so, because obtaining any form of agent is a miracle in itself.  By the way; young Oliver Twist has everyone dabbing at their eyes with a hankie as they read Dickens eponymous novel, but I gave sympathetic thought to the Artful Dodger and the inner strength he must have had in order to survive.  I simply had to give the lad a life.

A bibliophile all my life, I can distance myself from Jack Dawkins and firmly state that it would make a great TV drama, even in cartoon form, while the book it was torn from would make a magnificent movie.

I have just finished re-structuring a novel that was inspired by poet, James Shirley’s’ premise that there is no armour against fate. Between Cancer and Capricorn is a post Second World War story, relating the struggles and experiences of two brothers after they are separated by a devastating family tragedy.  In my mind, but not on paper, so to speak, are a children’s story Scare Crow and The Dirty Half-Hundred.  I will have my Peninsular War epic!

For what it’s worth, my advice to good writers, struggling to get published, is, never forget that you are dealing with a profession that has rejected everything from Animal Farm to Zen and the Art of Motor-cycle Maintenance via Lord of the Flies and Harry Potter.  Never stop knocking on the doors at the bottom of their ivory towers.