Where do you get your ideas from? Is a common question asked of authors. My answer is, my ideas always stem from my characters. Where do my characters come from? The answer to that question is various sources, including old photographs. Here’s an example of a nurse in the Spanish Civil War. I don’t know her name or background, but her strong features immediately spoke to me and just by studying the picture a fictional character, Lise Lazard, took shape. You can read about Lise in Branches, book two in The Olive Tree, A Spanish Civil War Saga. Available soon 🙂
I write, therefore I am…
In September 1953, sugar rationing in Britain finally came to an end. The wartime government introduced it in January 1940. A weekly sugar ration ranged from 8oz to 16oz per week.
Where to collect your ration if you lived in Birmingham. Maybe we’ll see similar Brexit inspired posters in the new year.
Station IX, which developed weapons and gadgets for SOE agents, created a small motorcycle called the Welbike. Although 3,641 bikes were produced they were rarely employed by the SOE. Instead they were issued to the 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions who used them during the Anzio and Normandy landings. The Welbike also featured at Arnhem during Operation Market Garden.
Bulgarian joke. Red Bull gives you wings. Vodka gives you 4×4 🤣
One for the album. Operation Zigzag has entered the Brazilian chart alongside John le Carre, Tom Clancy and Stieg Larsson 🙂
Eve at #1 for the first time 🙂
I’m reading A Moment of War, Laurie Lee’s lyrical account of his time in the Spanish Civil War.
“Eulalia turned and smiled at me brilliantly, showing her tongue, her face cracking open like a brown snake’s egg hatching.”
Vertigo, what vertigo?! Acrobats do their thing on top of the Empire State Building, 1934.
A lovely weekend for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, #1 in America and Britain, and now in Australia 🙂
No ill effects!
Easy to swallow!
The solution you’ve been waiting for, sanitised tape worms!
October 1944, the Allies cross the Belgium-Germany border and prepare to write the closing chapters of World War II with the defeat of Hitler’s brand of fascism.
My article about SOE agent Odette Sansom is on page 24 of this month’s Seaside News 🙂
These two bullets collided during the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915. The chances of that happening are one in a billion.
A common question: where do you get your ideas from? My answer: mainly my imagination and research, plus observation and personal experience. Bizarre, but true, these ideas usually develop into a story while I’m cleaning my teeth. This week, an idea about a female pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary developed into a story. I’m not sure where it will slot into my writing schedule, but I would like to write the idea as a novella and publish it as a free book for my readers.
This is Mary Ellis, an inspiration for my story. Aged 101, a week before she died, she talked with Dan Snow about her career. Mary flew hundreds of planes during her career, including her favourite, the Spitfire. Aged 99 she flew in a Spitfire again, adding another chapter to her remarkable life.
My latest audiobook, Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen. Working with talented narrators and translators is a highlight of publishing.
Humanism: think for yourself, act for everyone.
The rivers of Wales.
Polish airmen who fought in the Battle of Britain. Airmen from Poland, and other Allied countries, trained at Stormy Down, an airfield a mile from my home.
A total of 145 Polish fighter pilots took part in the Battle of Britain. Poles made up 5% of all RAF pilots during the battle. At the peak of the battle, Poles accounted for 13% of frontline fighter pilots. In October 1940, this figure rose to 20%.
“The streets were dark with something more than night.” – Raymond Chandler
Poster for the 1945 General Election
Jeannie Yvonne Ghislaine Rousseau was born on 1 April 1919 in Saint-Brieuc. A brilliant linguist, she graduated in languages from Sciences Po in 1939. When the Nazis invaded France she joined her family in Dinard where she became an interpreter for the occupiers. However, as she interpreted she also gathered intelligence.
Jeannie’s intelligence gathering included secrets of commercial deals and details of the steel and rubber industries. She said later, “I was storing my nuts, but I had no way to pass them on.”
The Gestapo arrested Jeannie in January 1941, but they released her with the proviso that she did not visit the coast. Later that year, she moved to Paris where she gathered more intelligence from a Parisian company that supplied materials to the Nazis.
Jeannie’s formal career as a spy began in 1941 when she met Georges Lamarque on the Paris-Vichy night train. Lamarque remembered Jeannie, and her talent for languages, from the University of Paris. He invited her to work for him and she agreed immediately.
During 1943, Jeannie filed her most remarkable reports – details of the missile and rocket development at Peenemünde. These reports alerted R.V. Jones, the Assistant Director of British Intelligence (Science), to the V1 and V2 rocket threat and in so doing saved thousands of lives.
When R.V. Jones received Jeannie’s reports he enquired about their source and was told that they came from “one of the most remarkable young women of her generation.”
Thanks to R.V. Jones’ persuasive nature, the Allies bombed Peenemünde. Initially, he met with departmental resistance before convincing Churchill about the importance of the mission. Because the raid would take place in August, partly in daylight, it carried great risk. Also, it involved a great number of Allied bombers, diverting them from other targets. The mission was successful, although the Allies did lose a large number of planes and aircrew during the daylight leg of the raid.
Shortly before D-Day, with the Gestapo closing in, Jeannie planned to escape with two other agents. However, she was caught by the Gestapo. Bravely, during her capture, she alerted her colleague and he escaped.
R.V. Jones later said, “Amniarix’s (Jeannie’s code name) reports stand brilliantly in the history of intelligence, and three concentration camps – Ravensbrück, Königsberg (a punishment camp) and Torgau could not break her.” Thankfully, the Swedish Red Cross rescued Jeannie shortly before the end of the war.
After the war, Jeannie worked as a freelance interpreter for the United Nations and other agencies. She also married Henri de Clarens whom she met while recovering in Sweden from tuberculosis, contracted during her imprisonment. Henri had endured periods in the Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps. The couple had two children.
Henri died in 1995 while Jeannie died on 23 August 2017 in Montaigu, aged 98.
I never imagined that readers would download over 400,000 of my books, but I have reached that number. Many thanks to everyone who has made this possible.
My merchandiser was kind enough to supply me with a Hannah Howe calendar. Here’s the image for April, Paris in the spring.
My latest translation, the Portuguese version of Secrets and Lies, which will be available soon. Many thanks to Cristiana for her wonderful contribution to this book.
Six new audiobooks are in production. Currently, I have fourteen audiobooks available and with the inclusion of my new Eve’s War and The Olive Tree series I intend to increase this number to forty-two.
Exciting news. My books will soon appear on the Hive website. Hive is the largest supporter of independent bookstores in Britain. More details soon.
A short stroll from my home, Kenfig Pool this week.
Hedy Lamarr’s controversial 1933 movie, Ecstasy, was playing in Eve’s local cinema in Operation Zigzag. Eve used the movie to distract a Gestapo officer who was following her.
Hedy Lamarr was a complex woman, with beautiful looks and a beautiful mind. In fact, physically she was too beautiful for her own good.
She fled Nazi oppression and became a Hollywood star. However, at night she was an inventor and created a weapon guidance system, her contribution to the war effort. The American military were interested in her invention, so interested that they stole her idea.
Hedy’s invention developed into Bluetooth so you can see what a ground-breaking idea it was and how brilliant she was as an inventor. This invention will feature in Eve’s War Operation Treasure.
I’ve just completed the character profiles for Operation Broadsword, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE book three. This book features a farmer and his family. Eve is staying with the family, at Le Bougain in a house similar to the one pictured, on the pretence of being a widow resting in the countryside to overcome nervous exhaustion.
The farmer’s family includes two young teenagers, Paul, who is deaf, and Kadia, a sister who is very protective of him. The teenagers are involved in a particularly dramatic incident in a later book in the series.
In Eve’s War Operation Locksmith Mimi Duchamp can transmit Morse code messages at twenty words a minute, eight words above the average.
Recognising Mimi’s talent, her SOE instructors train her as a wireless operator, arguably the most dangerous job of the Second World War.
When Eve asks Mimi how her training is going, Mimi replies, “It’s very intense. We learn Morse from dawn to dusk. I even dream in dots and dashes.”
In Operation Treasure Heroines of SOE book four the RAF want to bomb a strategic factory, the local Maquis want to bomb the factory and Eve’s SOE partner Guy Samson also wants to bomb the factory. Guy’s motivation is to cause maximum damage while saving lives.
Eve also receives three dinner party invitations…from the third member of her team, Mimi Duchamp – it’s her twenty-first birthday – from the local Gestapo leader, Hauptsturmfuhrer Klaus Raab and from Guy.
This is an explosive episode in the series, in more ways than one.
Through reading personal correspondence sent to the SOE agents who were in France you realise that they were held in great affection by the local people. Quite often the locals regarded these agents as ‘one of the family’ and these families often endured great suffering rather than betray an agent.
Of course, traitors existed, but these people were relatively small in number, soon identified and ‘dealt with’.
Often, whole villages would turn out to greet an agent upon his or her arrival, and feasts were held in their honour.
The correspondence that continued after the war was even more touching as memories were recalled, casualties remembered and remarkable incidents relieved.
Adversity forges strong bonds, and nothing can break those bonds.
Occupied France, 1944
A seven-year-old girl was sitting with her mother in a tram. A big Nazi soldier got on to the tram and the girl noticed his belt.
“What’s that on his buckle?” the girl asked her mother.
”Gott mit uns.”
”What does that mean?”
”It means God is with them,” her mother explained.
The girl paused. Then she raised her head and smiled. ”Well that’s nothing, mother,” she said with pride, “we’ve got the Resistance on our side.”
My Women of Courage Heroines of SOE Series will continue next week. Meanwhile, thank you for your interest and support.
Currently, I’m reading Above Suspicion and Assignment in Brittany, the first two novels written by espionage novelist Helen MacInnes, pictured. These novels about the Second World War were written during the war, so they carried the stamp of authenticity. Furthermore, Helen MacInnes was married to Gilbert Highet who served in MI6 as a British intelligence agent. It is believed that Highet provided espionage details for many of MacInnes’ books and that their experiences formed the basis for Above Suspicion.
Directed by Richard Thorpe, Above Suspicion was released as a movie in 1943. Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray took the lead roles in a plot that followed two newlyweds as they spied on the Nazis during their honeymoon in Europe.
The production standards for the movie were good. The back projection and background paintings, standard practice in movie making for decades, were largely unobtrusive. On first viewing, I thought Joan Crawford was miscast. However, on second viewing, I agreed with the New York Times who said, “Joan Crawford is a very convincing heroine.”
The plot lent itself to a noir treatment. However, the producer and director went for a lighter touch, including humour and musical numbers whenever possible. This was justified because a musical score was central to the plot.
Given that the movie was released in 1943, it contained some racy banter between Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray whose innuendos and desire to have sex whenever possible realistically portrayed them as newlyweds.
Above Suspicion marked the end of Joan Crawford’s eighteen year career with MGM before she signed with Warner Bros. Sadly, the movie served as the final role for character actor Conrad Veidt, who died of a heart attack shortly after the final scenes were shot.
If you are a fan of vintage movies, then Above Suspicion is certainly worth ninety minutes of your time.
My sales top ten this week with Saving Grace up to #2. Many thanks to everyone who supports my books.
My latest translation will be available soon, The Big Chill in Swedish. This is my third Swedish project with Jill, a wonderful translator.
Just published, Mom’s Favorite Reads February issue!
In this issue…
Valentine’s Day Leap Year Mental Health Young Writers Humour Interviews Hypnotism And so much more!
Read online or download your FREE copy today 🙂
Before I write a story l like to know what the last line will be. My Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series will be twelve books, so at this stage it’s difficult to know exactly what the last line will be. However, I’ve just thought of the last significant action that will tie up all the threads within the series. It’s magical when that happens.
Local views today, Margam Park.
The alchemy always amazes me, how one line from research notes can transform into a story within minutes. I’ve just outlined Operation Treasure in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Even in war is it possible to shoot an unharmed woman in cold blood? Eve is about to find out.
Meanwhile, Operation Zigzag continues to climb the Hot 💯 Chart, rubbing shoulders with New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Amazon #1 bestselling author Robert Dugoni 🙂
Jacqueline Nearne was born on 27 May 1916 in Brighton. She was the eldest daughter of an English father and a Spanish mother. Her family moved to France in 1923 then when France fell in 1940 she made her way to Britain via Portugal and Gibraltar.
In Britain, Jacqueline applied to join the ATS, but was rejected due to her lack of experience driving in the dark and on the left-hand side of the road.
In 1942, Jacqueline was recruited into the FANYs, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. This was common for many female members of the SOE. During the summer of 1942 she trained as a courier for the SOE. Her younger sister, Eileen, and brother, Francis, also served in the SOE.
Jacqueline trained with Lise de Baissac, and the two became great friends. On 25 January 1943, after further training, as a radio operator, Jacqueline parachuted into France to work for the Stationer circuit.
The SOE provided agents with tailored clothing to suit the French fashions. Nevertheless, Jacqueline noticed that French and British knitting was so different that the Nazis could recognise the stitching. Therefore, she decided to knit socks for her fellow agents earning the nickname ‘Jackie Red Socks’.
Jacqueline carried spare parts for her radios inside a cosmetics bag. The average life-expectancy for a wireless operator was only six weeks. However, Jacqueline remained in the field for fifteen months, returning to Britain on 10 April 1944 via a Westland Lysander, an aircraft commonly used to deliver and rescue agents.
After the war, Jacqueline spent some time nursing her sister, Eileen, also an agent who had suffered while in France. Then she moved to New York to work at the United Nations.
In 1946, Jacqueline played ‘Cat’, a character based on herself, in the RAF Film Unit’s production of Now It Can Be Told, which was also released as School for Danger, a drama-documentary about the SOE. As well as her daring exploits, the film also highlighted Jacqueline’s knitting.
Operation Zigzag, book one in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series is now available to pre-order from Amazon.
Eve’s War is a series of twelve novellas. Each book contains approximately 20,000 words and a complete story. Kindly note that the price throughout the series will be set at the minimum level and that Eve’s story arc will be concluded at the end of the series.
Marseille, December 1942
“We’re in a fix,” Vincent said. “The Gestapo have captured a British agent, code name Zigzag. They picked him up through his false identity papers, only the thing is they haven’t discovered his true identity, yet. But they will. And he will talk. They all do in the end. And when he talks he will reveal secrets that will destroy the local resistance networks, including our own. But there’s a way out, through a guard. He’s open to bribes. We’d like you to meet the guard, bribe him, spring Zigzag from the Gestapo prison then escort him over the mountain pass into Spain.”
“Why me?” I asked.
“Because you helped to establish the escape network. And you know the mountain trails like the back of your hand. Furthermore, as the wife of respected industrialist Michel Beringar you are above suspicion.”
I glanced at Michel. From the stern look on his face, I could tell that he wasn’t pleased. Was this one risk too many? And as for me being above suspicion…the Gestapo were following me and they were tapping my phone.
As a child, I’d run away from home. As a teenager, I’d travelled the world, living on my wits. As a journalist, I’d witnessed atrocities inflicted in the name of fascism. As a member of the Resistance, I’d eyeballed fear and stared it down. For the past thirty years I’d lived a full life. I could do this. However, even as I voiced my agreement I knew that my life in Marseille, my life with Michel, would never be the same.