Introducing Letterbox by P.A. Davies

Letterbox - P.A. Davies - Book Cover

My enormous thanks to fellow blogger and tour organiser Caroline Vincent at Bits About Books for inviting me to be part of the celebrations for Letterbox by P.A.Davies. I’m thrilled to have a fascinating guest post from P.A. Davies explaining the origins of Letterbox to share with you today.

Letterbox is available for purchase from Amazon, but signed copies are available directly from the author here.

Letterbox

Letterbox - P.A. Davies - Book Cover

At approximately 09.00 hrs on the 15th June 1996, an unassuming white lorry was parked on Corporation Street in the city centre of Manchester, England; It contained over 3000 pounds of high explosive.

At 11.15 hrs the same day, Manchester witnessed the detonation of the largest device on the British mainland since the Second World War … The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility for the attack.

Based around actual events, Letterbox tells the story of Liam Connor, an ordinary boy brought up in Manchester by a seemingly ordinary family.  He goes to the local school, loves football and has a best friend called Sean … an ordinary life.

Unbeknown to Liam, his father, Michael Connor, harbours a dark historic secret and follows a life less ordinary … as a furtive yet high ranking soldier within the IRA.

As a result of extraordinary circumstances, Liam’s innocent and carefree world is shattered when he is exposed to the truth about his family’s heritage and then learns about the tragic death of his father at the hands of the SAS.

Consumed with both hate and the need to seek retribution, Liam is taken to Ireland where he is intensively trained to become a highly skilled and efficient soldier within the Irish Republican Army … He is 16 years old.

Some years later, following the drug-induced death of his beloved sister, Liam is given the opportunity to exact his revenge on those he believed should truly be blamed for the tragedies in his life … The British Government.

Thus, on the 15th June 1996, it was Liam’s responsibility to drive the bomb-laden lorry into the unsuspecting city of Manchester and let the voice of the IRA be clearly heard …

And listened to…

The Origins of Letterbox

A Guest Post by P.A. Davies

At 10.15hrs on Saturday 15th June 1996, the Greater Manchester Police received a coded message stating that a bomb had been left in the city centre.

With little time to spare, it then became the responsibility of just twelve Police Officers from Bootle Street Police station – together with a handful of Security Guards – to orchestrate the evacuation of some seventy five to eighty thousand people from the city centre streets surrounding the bomb’s location.

At approximately 11.15hrs the same day, a 3000-pound bomb – hidden inside a white Ford Cargo Lorry – exploded on Corporation Street; the largest device to have been detonated on the mainland of Britain since the Second World War.

The Irish Republican Army went on to claim culpability.

The explosion left an estimated £700 million in structural damage and injured over 200 citizens, though it was down to the actions and sheer determination of the people tasked with the public’s egress that miraculously, nobody lost their life.

Despite an extensive investigation into the bombing, the only people to have been arrested in connection with the crime were a Police Officer and a Journalist for allegedly leaking and reporting on, information regarding the identity of a possible suspect.

Though both were cleared of any charges, the case against the one and only “real” suspect was rendered inadmissible in court, and subsequently closed. The offence still remains unsolved to this day.

Many people, both in and out of Manchester, have been heard to say, that in terms of the regeneration that followed, the IRA bombing was probably the best thing that could ever have happened to the City as – like a Phoenix rising from the ashes of destruction – it has become one of Europe’s most cultural and modernistic centres.

Though the sheer power of the explosion had indiscriminately destroyed the surrounding aged buildings, it is ironic that one small thing within the immediate epicentre of the blast remained relatively unscathed … a Letterbox constructed during the reign of Edward VII.

To this day that same red Letterbox stands proudly on Corporation Street, Manchester, England, like a beacon of defiance and hope shining brightly against a world of adversity.

Letterbox is a work of fiction, based around the actual events of Saturday 15th June 1996 and follows the life of Liam Connor: a boy who would eventually become the man to drive the lorry into Manchester City centre on that fateful day and leave the infamous legacy of the IRA.

(Thank you so much for such a fascinating guest post. I now want to put Letterbox at the top of my TBR pile.)

About P.A.Davies

P.A.-Davies-Author-Image

P.A. Davies grew up in Manchester, UK, a place he has lived in and around all his life – he loves Manchester and is proud to be part of the multi-cultural, modern city that houses two Premiership football teams and is the birthplace of many a famous band, such as Oasis, the Stone Roses, Take That and Simply Red.

For most of his life, he dabbled with writing various pieces, from poems to short fictional stories just for fun. However, following advice from a good friend he decided to have a go at writing a novel. Thus, his first novel Letterbox was conceived, a fictional take on the infamous IRA bombing of Manchester in 1996. It took him over a year to complete but while doing so, he found it to be one of the most satisfying and interesting paths he had ever followed. It comes as no surprise that the writing bug now became firmly embedded within him.

P.A. Davies’ second book was published in May 2013, ‘George: A Gentleman of the Road’, a true story about one of Manchester’s homeless. His third novel, ‘The Good in Mister Philips’, is an erotic novel (arguably set to rival Fifty Shades…!) and his fourth, ‘Nobody Heard Me Cry’ (Dec. 2015) is again a fact-based tale, this time of Manchester’s darker side. The thriller ‘Absolution’ (Oct. 2017) is his fifth novel. Currently, P.A. Davies is writing his sixth novel, titled ‘I, Muslim.’

To label P.A. Davies’ writings would be difficult because his works diverse from thrillers to touching novels to true-to-life tales embedded in a captivating story for the author is an imaginative and versatile storyteller.

You can find out more by visiting P.A. Davies’ website, finding him on Facebook or Instagram and following him on Twitter @padavies_ and Goodreads.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Letterbox - P.A. Davies - Book Blog Tour Poster

Staying in with Janice Milusich

Cleos big ideas

As a result of my terrible sight, I was a late reader, so I’m always keen on Linda’s Book Bag to feature authors who write for children because I don’t want children to miss out on the joy of reading and come to it late like I did! Consequently, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Janice Milusich to the blog today to tell me about one of her children’s books.

Staying in with Janice Milusich

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Janice. 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? 

Cleos big ideas

This evening I’ve brought along Cleo’s Big Ideas: One Thing Leads to Another to share with your readers. Cleo’s Big Ideas, is an early chapter book that encourages creative thinking, has quirky characters you’ll want to root for and incorporates amazing activities after a number of the chapters. I’ve chosen to share it because I’ve just finished writing a sequel to Cleo and I want to get the word out on what I hope will become a fun “green themed” series for kids.

(What a brilliant idea Janice.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Cleo’s Big Ideas?

eating

An evening with Cleo wouldn’t be complete without her SETI enthusiast and deely-bopper loving friend Albert coming along too.  When Cleo moved into her new old house on Limbo Lane in the quiet town of Humble Albert was the only one who appreciated her big ideas. Even after her Turbo-twisting boomerang and kite launcher conked him in the head.

(Albert must be a very good friend after forgiving that encounter!)

Cleo’ s knack for inventions made from recycled whoosey-whatsis-doodads, and thing-a-ma-jigs, and Albert’s love of space and all its frontiers help to keep the two a good balance, as true friends are.

pointing

What else have you brought along and why?

solar

I’ve brought along one of Cleo’s and Albert’s favorite recipes, Solar S’mores to share. I hope you’ll try it, and I know if you do, you’ll like it!

(Looks like my kind of treat actually Janice!)

boomerang

And afterward if your readers want to learn something new Cleo can show them the steps it takes to chuck a boomerang.  Just remind them to duck!

(Er… Maybe we’ll try that later!) 

Thanks so much for staying in with me and telling me all about Cleo’s Big Ideas Janice. Cleo sounds like my kind of girl!

Cleo’s Big Ideas: One Thing Leads to Another

Cleos big ideas

Look out Humble, here comes Cleo. Cleopatra W. Darby’s ideas are big, and her inventions are out of this world. So when Cleo moves into her new old house in the country, the small town of Humble isn’t quite ready for her, especially Ms. Mason and her daughter Emmie. Cleo is worried that Humble just isn’t the place for her. All of her inventions have flopped since she’s arrived. But Mom, Dad, Albert, and Mrs. Swell believe in her, and Cleo is not one to give up. If she can’t find a friend, she’ll invent one. And after her invented friend, Hope, falls apart, Cleo is still able to save the day. After all, one good idea always leads to another.

Every chapter includes one of Cleo’s Do-it-yourself activities that you can try out, too!

Cleo’s Big Ideas: One Thing Leads to Another is available for purchase here.

About Janice Milusich

Janice

Janice Milusich is a published children’s book author. Her picture book Off Go Their Engines, Off Go Their Lights was published by Dutton. Her early chapter book, Cleo’s Big Ideas: One Thing Leads to Another, was published by Eifrig Publishing. She is a graduate of Stony Brook University’s Children’s Literature Fellowship. She is also a teacher for the blind and visually impaired presently working with visually impaired/blind students.

You can find out more by visiting Janice’s website.

An Extract from The Poison Bed by E.C. Fremantle

The Poison Bed

My enormous thanks to Katie Ashworth at Michael Joseph Books for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for The Poison Bed by E.C. Fremantle. I’ve a copy of The Poison Bed on my TBR that I’m so looking forward to reading and I’m thrilled to be able to share the beginning of the book with you today.

Published by Michael Joseph, a Penguin imprint, on 14th June 2018,  The Poison Bed is available for purchase here.

The Poison Bed

The Poison Bed

A Marriage. A Murder.

One of them did it.

Which one of them will die for it?

Autumn 1615.

A scandal pervades the Jacobean court.

A popular, much admired couple are imprisoned for murder.

She is young and captivating. Rescued from an abusive marriage, she is determined to make a new life with her second husband . . . Whatever the cost.

He has risen from nothing to become one of the countries most powerful men. But to get to the top, you cannot help making enemies.

Now, a man is dead.

And someone must pay with their life.

Who has the most to lose?

Who is willing to commit murder?

An Extract From The Poison Bed

Her

She was ready when they came, the three men. They smelt of damp wool and resisted staring but stole furtive glances instead. She walked to the door. Her sister sobbed, folding her into a wet embrace, while the nurse, bawling child in her arms, watched with a blunt glare.

Outside, the wind slapped hard in bitter gusts of mizzle. She felt eyes at the windows on her but refused to adopt a  posture of shame. Shame is ravenous. If it is allowed in, it will eat away at you, to the bone.

They followed the route towards the river, over slick cobbles.

‘Must we go by water?’ she asked. But they had orders to obey.

She became aware of a clamour, a frenzy of chanting and bellowing, and once through the gates she saw the crowd: red faces, bared teeth. Were it not for her armed escort she might have been torn limb from limb. The thought tightened her gut like a drawstring and she forced her mind off it for fear of losing her composure. But neither could she think  of  the  river’s beckoning fingers and wondered which was worse: the crowd, a quick, savage battering, or those  icy fingers about her throat?

A shadow broke from the throng, snarling. It spat. She lost her footing, skidded down the river steps, but was caught by one of the men and as good as carried the rest of the way down, into the waiting boat.

‘Hope you fall in and drown, bitch,’ someone shouted.

She took her handkerchief from her cuff to wipe away the trail of mucus, discarding it over the side. It floated away, bobbing, like a small white bird. The vessel jolted and her head cracked hard against a wooden strut. The pain was sharp, but she maintained her poise. She would not give her escort the satisfaction of seeing her suffer.

One of them seemed familiar. She racked her brain for his name, thinking it might give her some small advantage if she could use it. Again, the boat rocked, oars slapping, and she was thrown back in time: a vast hand pressing down on her head, the wet shock, the tide of panic and the quiet menace of his voice, you must learn to trust me to resist weakness. Her breath stuttered, the guard looked over and she coughed, pretending irritation in her throat.

Approaching the bridge, she could feel the force of the rapids sucking them into the shadows. She shut her eyes, holding her breath, until they emerged  on the other side where the tower loomed. Her husband was there, somewhere behind those sheer walls. She wondered if he watched her approach and could picture him, like a carved angel, gilded by the low winter sun. But she mustn’t think of him, mustn’t be distracted from what she was about to face.

The boat slid into the tunnel that ran beneath the outer ramparts, where torches reflecting on to the rippled surface made it seem in flames. She half expected to encounter Cerberus when they reached  the other side. But they found instead a small man, starched with deference, who took her hand to help her from the barge. She imagined his, beneath its glove, as a pink paw with sharp claws to go with his rodent’s face.

He led the way up a flight of steps. Wind whipped around  the walls, tugging at her clothing as she waited for him to unlock a heavy door, which fell open with a shriek. Within,the chamber had small windows on both sides and an unlit  hearth from which a foul stench emanated, as if a pigeon had died in the flue. One wall glistened with damp and the chill made her shiver despite her thick cloak.

‘The attorney general will be here shortly,’ he said, without looking at her, and Bacon arrived as if on cue, blowing in  through the door, like a demon, on a blast of wind.

‘Why is the fire not lit?’ he said, even before making his greeting. ‘I can’t be expected to carry out my business  in this cold . . .’ he paused to cast a look her way that pricked the nape of her neck ‘. . . can I?’

A boy was sent for. He set down his bucket of hot coals on the flagstones with a clang and began laying the hearth while Bacon silently dissected  her. His eyes hadn’t an ounce of kindness in them. She had no use for kindness, anyway.

But she was accustomed to men responding to her appearance. On Bacon she couldn’t discern even so much as a dilated pupil, and that disarmed her. Perhaps she was not quite as immune to fear as she liked to believe.

‘I haven’t seen you since you hosted the celebration for my wedding.’ She wanted to remind him who she was.

‘Three years ago,’ he stated, seeming to imply that things  had changed since then, and she regretted bringing  it up.  Her wedding and the circumstances that had brought her to this place were inextricably linked. His expression remained indecipherable.

With a pair of tongs the boy plucked a red-hot coal from  his bucket, which caught the kindling instantly, flaring up.

They became aware of heavy footfall mounting the steps  and  turned simultaneously towards the door. Her breath faltered.

‘This must be the lord chief justice now. He will be joining us.’

Coke lumbered in, wheezing. He smelt strongly of sweat, as if the steps had been a mountain, and ran his gaze slowly over her. She saw the hungry spark in Coke’s eye, lacking in  Bacon’s. A young man, ledger tucked beneath his arm, slid quietly in behind him.

She took back control and offered them a seat, as if it was a social visit, noticing that Bacon wiped the bench before he  sat, slapping his palms together to remove the dust.

The fire was smoking, stinging her eyes. The servant opened a window to help it draw, and Bacon snapped, ‘What do you think you’re doing, idiot? In this weather.’ The boy flinched as if he feared a beating and she suggested he look in the chimney for blockages. He prodded about with a long broom, and the half-rotted carcass of a bird dropped into the flames. They watched it burn. The smell turned her stomach. ‘So,’ said Bacon, once the boy had gone, clasping his hands together  and stretching  them out, palms turned forward until his knuckles cracked. ‘I suppose you intend to deny the charges.’

‘No.’ She met his gaze. ‘I’m guilty.’ His posture crumpled  almost imperceptibly. It was clear she had surprised him, even disappointed him perhaps. ‘I wanted him dead.’

The clerk held his pen aloft, eyes wide. Bacon sighed.  Regret, or something like it, began to wrench at her. But it was too late to turn back.

‘You are aware of the inevitable outcome of such a confession?’

She nodded. ‘I know I must accept the consequences. It is the whole truth.’

‘The whole truth – is that so?’ Bacon’s look penetrated  her, as if he could see into her bones. ‘You may be clever,’ he narrowed his eyes slightly, ‘for a woman.  But don’t think you can outfox me.’

‘I don’t know what you mean.’

‘No?’ He continued to scrutinize her, making her feel like the subject  of one of his philosophical enquiries.

They fell quiet, the only sound the scratch of the clerk’s pen and the draught whistling through the ill-fitting windows.

It was Coke who spoke eventually, firing off a volley of questions.

‘Is it not enough that I confess but you must know how?’ He carried on, asking about things and people that seemed to bear no relation to the case, seeking links where they didn’t exist. Bacon seemed irritated by Coke’s line of query, thrumming his fingers on the table.

Eventually he interrupted: ‘And your husband? What was his part?’

‘He had no hand in it.’ The words exploded from her too loud and too fast.

Bacon spat out a caustic laugh but said nothing.

‘He’s  innocent.’  She  knew  she  sounded  rattled  and  wondered  if repeating herself made the declaration sound less credible.

And that was it.

They stood, the clerk clapped his ledger shut, and she was left alone, wondering if her husband had also confessed.

(Oh my goodness. I can’t wait to read the rest of this. Wow!)

About E.C. Fremantle

Liz Fremantle

E.C. Fremantle holds a First for her BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck. As Elizabeth Fremantle she is the critically acclaimed author of four Tudor historical novels: Queen’s GambitSisters of TreasonWatch the Lady and The Girl in the Glass Tower. She lives in London and Norfolk.

You can follow E.C.Fremantle on Twitter @LizFremantle, visit her website and find her on Facebook. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Poison Bed Poster

Staying in with F J Campbell

No Number Nine

I’m so pleased to welcome F J Campbell to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me today. F J is taking me off on my travels again and I can’t wait.

Staying in with F J Campbell

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag F J and 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?

author and book

I’ve brought along my debut novel, No Number Nine. It’s recently published (April 2018) and the reviews are positive so far. I think it’s a wonderfully uplifting book, with a bit of heartbreak and first love and lots of brilliant characters. I had an enormous amount of fun writing it and I think that comes across when you read it. It’s a great book to read on the beach on your summer holiday, or on the train on the way to work, or curled up on the sofa in the evening.

(This sounds smashing. I think No Number Nine could be off on its holidays with many readers!)

What can we expect from an evening in with No Number Nine

No Number Nine is a coming-of-age story for adults. I love coming-of-age novels – it was such an exciting time, when you leave home and your parents and start to have adventures of your own. The main character in the book, Pip Mitchell, is English, 18 years old, and has suffered from a family tragedy that has meant she’s retreated away from the world. The start of the book sees her try and begin her life again. She’s a very brave character, and although she makes some really silly mistakes (as we all do), I think readers will take her to their hearts.

(You’re right. We all make mistakes!)

This is the first paragraph of the book:

Philippa Mitchell was eighteen years old when she left England. She left behind her bedroom, that cocoon of misery in which she’d imprisoned herself; her parents, with their forced, hollow cheerfulness; and the pieces of her heart, smashed to smithereens two years ago with a phone call that came in the middle of the night.

(Hum! Now, of course, I want to know more about what happened both in the past and from now on for Philippa!)

I thought I’d share some reviews:

“Twists and turns to the plot, compelling characters, interesting setting, all mixed together with a healthy dose of nostalgia for a misspent youth.”

“The characters are developed wonderfully and you live every moment with Pip. The book is easy to read with some proper belly laughs.”

(These really entice me to read No Number Nine. I think it sounds a super book.)

What else have you brought along and why?

Beer and sausage

I’ve brought along some German beer and sausage because the first part of the book is set in Munich. I lived in Munich for many years and the suburb where Pip lives and works – Solln – was where my house was (but not quite as glamorous as the house in the book!). Along my street, near to the station, was a lovely independent book shop, called Bucher Krugg, which was the nicest place in the world to buy books from.

(How wonderful to be so close to a bookshop.)

I’ve also brought lots of memories of being at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, as the second part of the book is set at these Olympics. In No Number Nine, some pretty awful things happen and generally Pip doesn’t have a good time there – but this was no at all the case for me! It was one of the best holidays of my life and I love the city and its people.

(I agree. I love Sydney. It’s a brilliant city. You’ve rekindled some of my memories too.)

People often ask if No Number Nine is autobiographical and that’s a good question but a difficult one to answer. There are a few experiences that I’ve lifted from my life – for example, I was an au pair and I was fired (that’s a different story, though, for another day) – but much of No Number Nine is straight out of my imagination. Thank goodness – however much I love Pip, I wouldn’t want to be her and go through what she’s been through. My life is much more mundane than hers and I like it that way!

Thanks so much for staying in with me, F J, and telling me about No Number Nine. I really want to meet Pip now and shall have to buy the book!

No Number Nine

No Number Nine

What do you do when your amazing, beloved sister dies?

Hide in your room for two years.
Sleep with a very, very wrong man.
Leave home and start a new life, lying to everyone you meet including your kind employer, your curious friends and the man you love?

Pip Mitchell’s an expert at making seriously bad decisions. But when her past, present and future collide at the Sydney Olympic Games, she’s going to have to decide whose side she’s on – or she’ll lose everyone she loves.

No Number Nine is available for purchase through these links.

About F J Campbell

snow

FJ Campbell was born in the twentieth century in a seaside town and has moved around a lot, in Britain and Europe. FJ loves reading and sport (but not at the same time) and has visited three Olympic Games including Sydney 2000 (as a fan).

You can find out more about F J Campbell on her website, by following her on Twitter @fj_campbell.

The Story Collector by Evie Gaughan

thestorycollector-667x1024

My enormous thanks to the author Evie Gaughan and publishers Urbane for a copy of The Story Collector in return for an honest review.

I’m going to be spending an evening in with Evie Gaughan to chat all about The Story Collector on 21st June as part of the book’s launch celebration, so do drop by and see what we get up to.

Published by Urbane today, 14th June 2018, The Story Collector is available for purchase here. There will be an online Twitter party to celebrate if you’d like to join in using the #TheStoryCollector.

twitter

The Story Collector

thestorycollector-667x1024

A beautiful and mysterious tale from the author of The Heirloom and The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris.

Thornwood Village, 1910. Anna, a young farm girl, volunteers to help an intriguing American visitor, Harold Griffin-Krauss, translate ‘fairy stories’ from Irish to English.
But all is not as it seems and Anna soon finds herself at the heart of a mystery that threatens the future of her community and her very way of life…

Captivated by the land of myth, folklore and superstition, Sarah Harper finds herself walking in the footsteps of Harold and Anna one hundred years later, unearthing dark secrets that both enchant and unnerve.

My Review of The Story Collector

With her marriage in tatters, Sarah finds herself in Ireland and the land of the Faery Folk.

I have a confession. I’m going to be on the blog tour for The Story Collector and wasn’t actually going to review it, but then I kept seeing such positive things about it and it is so beautifully presented both inside and out that I thought I’d just have a quick look at the first few pages. Hmm. An entire day later and I had read the lot because I couldn’t put it down.

I was instantly drawn into The Story Collector because Evie Gaughan writes with such warmth so that, even though I haven’t read her other books, it felt like I was revisiting an old friend. I think it’s the attention to detail and the naturalness of the direct speech that is so captivating. I know Evie Gaughan paints as well as writes and I think that gives added depth to her writing, making for a very visual experience too as her writing is very poetic at times. In fact, she conveys all the senses so well from the sound of milk hitting a pail to the taste of recently churned butter on fresh bread. Butler’s Cottage and its surrounds felt very real to me.

The Story Collector is a cracking story. Not only is it about traditional stories, but it is a traditional story and a fabulous example at that. There’s good and evil, the real and the magical, love and hate so that the narrative resonates with a shared tradition that all readers can relate to. I loved every word of it because it took me away from the mundane world into another where there are all kinds of possibilities and yet it is all still rooted in reality and truth. This is such clever storytelling.

I thought the characters were wonderful. I preferred the sections relating to Anna and Harold because I was less familiar with their world and through them I was transported to another era where social class and superstition played much greater roles. I especially liked the echoes of loss between the two timescales and the sense of identity that both Anna and Sarah are looking for.

The Story Collector is a delightful, bewitching book. It has tradition at its heart but it is captivating and accessible to the modern reader so that it held me spellbound.

About Evie Gaughan

Evie

Evie Gaughan is the bestselling author of The Heirloom and The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris.

Living on the West Coast of Ireland, which is not renowned for its sunny climate, Evie escapes from the inclement weather into a converted attic to write stories and dream about underfloor heating. Growing up in a walled medieval city, she developed her love of storytelling and all things historical. Her books tread the intriguing line between the everyday and the otherworldly – but always with an Irish woman’s wit. With a taste for the magical in everyday life, her stories are full of ordinary characters with extraordinary tales to tell.

When not writing, she also works as an artist, creating stories on canvas.

You can follow Evie on Twitter @evgaughan, find her on Facebook and visit her website.

Staying in with Imogen Matthews

The Hidden Village

I’m delighted to be welcoming in Imogen Matthews to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me about one of her books today as I know Imogen is going to take me on my travels and treat me to some history, both of which are favourite parts of my life.

Staying in with Imogen Matthews

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

Hi Linda, I’m really honoured that you’ve invited me to stay in with you.

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

The Hidden Village

I’ve chosen my historical novel, The Hidden Village which I’ve set in World War 2 Holland. It was published a year ago, but I’m thrilled to tell you that it’s just come out as an audiobook.

(Congratulations. That must be such an exciting development for The Hidden Village.)

This book is very personal to me as my mother was Dutch and when I was growing up she used to tell us stories of how she coped during the harsh Hunger Winter of 1944/45. This undoubtedly influenced my writing, but the story is not about her memories. It’s set in different part of Holland I’ve been visiting for family cycling holidays for years, where I discovered a woodland village of underground huts built to shelter Jews from the occupying German soldiers.

(How brilliant. I’d love to have stumbled across something like that.)

I’ve written the story from the perspective of two young people – Sofie, a young Jewish girl forced to go and live in the village, and tearaway Jan, who is always on the look out for adventures, despite warnings not to go into the woods on his own. My mother used to say that for a young person the war was incredibly exciting (as well as frightening), and it is this that I wanted to convey through my characters.

Sounds wonderful. So, what can we expect from an evening in with The Hidden Village?

Can I try to paint a picture of the place where The Hidden Village takes place?

(Yes, please do!)

I remember the first time I came across the real hidden village. It was along a cycle path we’d been along umpteen times, but on this occasion I noticed a memorial stone I hadn’t seen before. It described how on that spot the local community had pulled together to help desperate people stay safe. Hidden away in the trees were some reconstructed underground huts. The place made me shiver as I tried to imagine what it must have been like living so far away from normality and one’s friends and family. It was a story I knew I had to tell.

Since The Hidden Village was published, I’ve been astounded at how many reviews I’ve had from people thanking me for bringing this piece of forgotten history to life. It really does seem to have struck a chord.

(Could you share a few with us Imogen?)

Here are a few reviews from Amazon:

“Thank you for sharing such a compelling story with us all. Well done, well written. Readers should read & remember, praying to God history is not repeated.” Like2Read

“Its an amazing story about a place where so many of its citizens were willing to defy the Nazis and help Jews and others who needed to escape. It’s miraculous that a hidden village was able to last so long without being detected. The characters are very real, they have their flaws but overall they are good and it makes you care about them. Their story draws you in. They were heroic (as were the real people who created and maintained this village) The book is very entertaining and a great way to learn about a part of Holocaust history that (I believe) most people have never encountered.” Cheri

“I have Dutch heritage on my mother’s side and learning about the people and culture is important to me. This is really interesting on a historical level and yet once again the horrors that the Jewish people endured. Very heartwarming to focus on the help and protection of non-Jews to protect and hide as many as possible. Well written…could hardly put it down. Pat Sands

(Those have given a real taster of what readers can expect Imogen and I know The Hidden Village would be exactly my kind of read. When you’ve gone home I’m going to add it to my TBR.)

What else have you brought along and why?

cycle path

These are the Veluwe woods in Holland where my family and I love to go cycling at least once a year. They are criss-crossed with cycle paths that take you through beautiful beech woods, across purple heaths and even alongside sand dunes. These days, the Veluwe is nowhere near the sea, but as so much Dutch land has been reclaimed that there are pockets of “beaches” tucked away in the woods. It’s all very different to the way things were in 1943…

underground hut

hut entrance

Can you imagine what it must have been like for whole families to live in such cramped conditions for so long? But they had to. The Germans were patrolling the woods nearby and if caught, these fugitives would have been shot or deported to concentration camps.

(It doesn’t bear thinking about does it. What a way to have to live!)

pancake

On a lighter note, our bike rides are never complete without a visit to our favourite pancake house in Vierhouten. Holland is not renown for its cuisine, but some things it does really well, like the delicious pannekoek met spek en appel (pancake with bacon and apple).

Now that sounds a much better prospect Imogen! Thank you for bringing it along and for staying in with me to tell me all about The Hidden Village. Congratulations again on the new audio book too.

The Hidden Village

The Hidden Village

Wartime Holland. Who can you trust?

Deep in the Veluwe woods lies a secret that frustrates the Germans. Convinced that Jews are hiding close by they can find no proof.

The secret is Berkenhout, a purpose-built village of huts sheltering dozens of persecuted people.

Young tearaway Jan roams the woods looking for adventure and fallen pilots. His dream comes true when he stumbles across an American airman, Donald C. McDonald. But keeping him hidden sets off a disastrous chain of events.

Sofie, a Jewish Dutch girl, struggles to adapt to living in Berkenhout, away from her family and friends. As weeks turn to months, she’s worried they’ll abandon her altogether.

Henk Hauer, head woodman, is in charge of building the underground huts and ensuring the Berkenhout inhabitants stay safe.

But many grow suspicious of his liaisons with the Germans. Is he passing on secret information that could endanger lives?

All it takes is one small fatal slip to change the course of all their lives for ever.

The Hidden Village is available for purchase on your local Amazon.

About Imogen Matthews

imogen

Imogen Matthews is English and lives in the beautiful University town of Oxford. Before she wrote The Hidden Village, she published two romantic fiction e-novels under her pen name, Alex Johnson. The Hidden Village is published by Amsterdam Publishers, based in the Netherlands.

Imogen has strong connections with the Netherlands. Born in Rijswijk to a Dutch mother and English father, the family moved to England when Imogen was very young.

Every year since 1990, Imogen has been on family holidays to Nunspeet on the edge of the Veluwe woods.

It was here that she discovered the story of the hidden village, and together with her mother’s vivid stories of life in WW2 Holland, she was inspired to write her novel.

You can follow Imogen on Twitter @ImogenMatthews3, and find her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Discussing Cuttin’ Heads with D.A. Watson

Cuttin Heads

Many thanks to fellow blogger and tour organiser Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for D.A. Watson’s Cuttin’ Heads. I’m delighted to have D.A. Watson staying in with me to tell me all about the book. And when you’ve heard what he has to say you may well want to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this blog post too!

Staying in with D.A.Watson

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Dave. Thanks so much for staying in with me.

Thanks for having me round, Linda.

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

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I have here my recently published third novel, Cuttin’ Heads. To be honest, I’ve brought it along because I want it to make me rich and famous, so I’m promoting seven shades of shite out of it by any means necessary. Hope that’s cool!

(Absolutely! Writers have to live. They can’t all wear velvet jackets and reside in ivory towers sighing heavily!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Cuttin’ Heads?

Well, the book’s about a talented, but unrecognised three piece rock band, and what happens to them when they get involved with a mysterious music producer. A lot of it’s based on my own experiences playing in bands over the years, and it is essentially a story about the love of music versus the love of family, how damaged people deal with their demons, and what people are willing to sacrifice to make their dreams come true. So you can expect more rock n roll references than a trip to Gene Simmons’s house, you can expect scares, laughs, hopefully some tears, and deep ponderings on the price of fame, fortune, friends and family. Here’s a wee taster to get you in the mood…

She’s walking through a chapel. The one she used to attend as a child. St Michael’s. Same raggedy red carpet down the aisle beneath her feet. Same intricately carved wooden pulpit pews. The same imposing crucifix on the wall with its thoroughly miserable looking Christ, and the same tiny confessional booth on the floor to the left of the dais, dark wood panels, brass fixings, looking like an upright coffin.

There are no walls to the left or right, only deep banks of vaguely shifting darkness where votive candle flames flicker like a yellow starfield. The air’s heavy, cloying with the sweet smell of incense, and a voice, old as Death and dry as moldering bones, ghosts around the shadowy room, insidious, reverberant, as if spoken in a stone cathedral rather than the little chapel of Luce’s childhood. That voice reads something from the book of Job. A verse that had frightened her as a child.

…Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof…

The door of the casket-like confessional slowly creaks open, and Karen emerges. She glides across the floor and stands naked in front of the dais, beckoning to Luce, blood spilling from her eyes, nose and mouth in red ribbons as her lips move, mouthing the litany in that ancient, spectral voice.

…In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men…

The priest, old Father Lafferty, hatchet nosed and eyes like cigarette burns, stands beside Karen, also naked. A massive erection juts up between his spindly legs as he grins a rictus grin crammed with too many teeth.

…Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake…

Karen turns from Luce and looks up at Father Lafferty with beatific devotion before kneeling in front of him and reaching for his cock.

Luce looks away, up at the big crucifix on the wall. The despondent figure of Christ has been replaced by the bass player from Shattered Twilight. She still can’t remember his name, but he’s grinning down at her, his lips twisted in a suggestive leer. His side’s split open, revealing a ropy bulge of dripping viscera, his nailed hands and feet and thorn-torn forehead bloody with stigmata, running black in the candlelight.

…Then a spirit passed before my face, the hair of my flesh stood up…

The deep space blackness to her left and right recedes, slowly revealing crumbling grey brick walls adorned with water-stained posters from past Public Alibi gigs. Fat Sam’s in Dundee. The Tunnels in Aberdeen. King Tuts in Glasgow. Studio 24 in Edinburgh. Last year’s Wickerman Festival. The flyers hang feebly on the wall, barely clinging on.

…It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof…

Luce becomes aware of music. The tune sounds almost familiar, a song she knows but can’t quite place. Then she recognizes a snatch of melody from Stone Me, one of the band’s early songs, played at a drastically reduced tempo, slow and muddy.

With the random suddenness of dreams, a dead eyed congregation are abruptly filling the pews around her, moaning along to the funereal dirge en masse, and there, up on the dais beneath the crucifix, are the band. Her band. Aldo, Ross, and herself, appearing like animated waxworks with low batteries, only their arms moving sluggishly on their instruments. Glassy eyed, waxy faced, staring ahead out over the heads of the muttering dead choir below.

…An image was before mine eyes, there was silence…

The congregation – who Luce now sees includes her parents, old schoolmates, work colleagues, ex bandmates, friends and lovers and long dead family members – groan along with the band, their lifeless faces turned up to the crucifix, where the Shattered Twilight bass player has now been replaced by another figure, one dressed all in black, long haired and handsome, smiling placidly out over the congregation below.

The music slows further, like a record on a turntable being forced down under a ragged fingernail, until it’s a tonally malevolent, mumbling nonsense sound.

…And I heard a voice, saying…

The people crowded into the pews turn as one and fix Luce with hollow eye sockets, and she realises they’re dead, every one of them. They begin to shuffle towards her, corpulent skin and flesh falling from their bones, and she retreats, backing toward the exit, except she finds herself somehow turned around, forced towards the pulpit as the ghoulish churchgoers surge down the aisle toward her, their skeletal clawed hands reaching for her. She struggles and bucks in panic as they seize her and begin binding her face and limbs with lengths of mouldering fabric that smell of the grave.

Then strong hands grip her by the shoulders from behind. Hands that feel wooden, tipped with carved meathook claws. A strangely accented voice, velvety as coffin lining, whispers in her ear.

…Shall mortal man be more just than God?

Luce screams into the suffocating cloth covering her face, desperately thrashing against the death shrouds knotted around her by the rotting congregation.

But then she remembers, and Luce fights to control the fear, clamping down on it and forcing herself through sheer will to stop shrieking and kicking. Immediately she feels her bonds loosen, and notices for the first time that through the material covering her face, she can make out a floral pattern on the weave of the fabric, blurry and indistinct.

The breath shudders out of her in a long sigh. She removes the duvet from her face, untangling her sweaty limbs from the bedclothes.

(I wish you’d warned me about that before I read it Dave. I’ve come out in a cold sweat now!)

I’m not sure I want to know the answer to this question, but what else have you brought along and why? 

Well, I brought a link to Iron Maiden on YouTube but unfortunately it’s been suspended because of infringements so…

(Actually, I’m not too sorry about that, but I did find another link here. I’m more of a Roxy Music person myself! But why Iron Maiden?)

Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast is the first record that I ever genuinely loved. One of my elder brothers bought it when it came out in 1982. I was five years old at the time, and found myself fascinated by it, at first mainly because of the artwork on the cover; a very graphic and frightening vision of Hell. Much of my interest was due to the fact that I was raised in a pretty religious house, where you had to read a bit of bible and say your prayers every night. And the way the music on the record sounded… holy shit. I’d never heard anything like that. It was scary and exciting and fast and angry and really really loud! It’s still one of my favourite albums to this day.

(Pass me the ear plugs and I might let you play it as we chat some more about Cuttin’ Heads.)

Later in life, when I started playing guitar and just immersed myself in music, I learned about the various connections and conflicts between music and religion, like how the mediaeval Catholic church banned a certain note arrangement they called Diabolus in Musica or “the devil’s interval” which was later heavily used in the blues and was a defining characteristic of heavy metal (listen for it in the opening notes of the first song on Black Sabbath’s debut album).

(I’ll just take your word for it. Though I have to say, those connections are fascinating and the cover of Cuttin’ Heads has fabulous resonance with those ideas.)

I learned about the folklore and legends behind the blues, selling your soul to the Devil down at the crossroads, how even in modern times the church were burning rock records as tools of Satan and bands were being dragged through the courts for recording subliminal backwards messages into their albums that were causing kids to kill themselves. Basically, music, religion, books and a fascination with the supernatural were massive influences on me growing up, so it’s fair to say that when I started writing, this was all going to come out in a novel! I just hope people have as much fun with it as I did.

Despite the fact that I think we are chalk and cheese in musical taste, Dave, I’ve really enjoyed hearing about Cuttin’ Heads. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about it. And I hope you make that money!

Cuttin’ Heads

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Aldo Evans is a desperate man. Fired from his job and deeply in debt, he struggles to balance a broken family life with his passion for music. Luce Figura is a troubled woman. A rhythmic perfectionist, she is haunted by childhood trauma and scorned by her religiously devout mother. Ross McArthur is a wiseass. Orphaned as an infant and raised by the state, his interests include game shows, home-grown weed, occasional violence and the bass guitar. They are Public Alibi. A rock n’ roll band going nowhere fast. When the sharp-suited, smooth talking producer Gappa Bale offers them a once in a lifetime chance to make their dreams come true, they are caught up in a maelstrom of fame, obsession, music and murder. Soon, Aldo, Luce and Ross must ask themselves: is it really better to burn out than to fade away?

Cuttin’ Heads is available for purchase from Amazon UK.

About D. A. Watson

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Prizewinning author D.A. Watson spent several years working in bars, restaurants and call centres before going back to university with the half-arsed plan of becoming a music teacher. Halfway through his degree at the University of Glasgow, he discovered he was actually better at writing, and unleashed his debut novel, In the Devil’s Name, on an unsuspecting public in the summer of 2012. Plans of a career in education left firmly in the dust, he later gained his masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Stirling.  He has since published two more novels, The Wolves of Langabhat and Cuttin’ Heads, a handful of non-fiction pieces, several short stories including Durty Diana, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016, and the Burns parody Tam O’ Shatner, which in 2017 came runner up in the Dunedin Robert Burns Poetry Competition, and was a competition winner at the Falkirk Storytelling Festival.

He lives with his family in Western Scotland.

You can find D. A. Watson on Goodreads and Facebook and follow him on Twitter @davewatsonbooks 

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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Giveaway – Win a signed copy of Cuttin’ Heads

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*Terms and Conditions –Please enter here.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then the organiser reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time they will delete the data.

Please note that this giveaway is run independently of Linda’s Book Bag and I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.