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Dear Reader #89

Dear Reader,

Next week, I will complete the writing of Stormy Weather, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eighteen. I write my Sam Smith mysteries in ‘real time’ so the main decision was whether to include the pandemic. I realised early on that the nature of the pandemic and the government’s negligent response meant that the problem would remain with us for some time. Therefore, I decided to include the pandemic. The main theme of the story is the climate crisis so the pandemic and the way we abuse nature tied in with that theme. Stormy Weather is available for pre-order from all major Internet outlets.

Available soon, my latest translation, Escape in Afrikaans. We now have four books in this series published in Afrikaans while Nelmari is currently working on Victory, book five. It’s wonderful to see my books available in a number of languages, twelve at the latest count.

This week, I created the characters for Operation Sherlock, book five in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. This story is set in Paris and like all the stories in the series it’s based on true events. Character creation is my favourite part of the writing process. Once I’ve created the characters, I sit back and allow them to tell the stories. Operation Sherlock will be available for pre-order soon.

Meet the ancestors, my 29th great grandfather, Saunder de Sancto Alberico also know as Awbrey. He arrived with William the Conquerer (also a direct ancestor) in 1066. His son Sir Reginald Awbrey established a manor house and estate in Abercynrig, Brecon in 1093. The property, pictured, remained in the family until 1630.


One of my favourite pictures. This is a colourised image of Lamb Row, South Corneli. The original dates from 1905. During the Victorian era, Lamb Row was home to the Howe branch of my family. You can see their house on the top left of the picture. It’s possible that some of my ancestors are in this picture. The image is deceptive because every time you look at it you see a new person. How many people can you identify?

Property Developing, Freedom of the City and Carnal Knowledge 

Samuel Axe, my 5 x great grandfather, was born in Greenwich in April 1771, the son of William Axe and Ann. He was baptised on 14 April 1771 at St Alfege Church, Greenwich.

Samuel married Grace Austin (1786–1823) on 22 September 1803 at St Luke Old Street, Finsbury, London and the couple lived in Hoxton, Middlesex where they produced eight children, including my direct ancestor, Jane Esther Axe.

As a property owner, Samuel was eligible to vote and therefore appeared on the electoral registers, which confirm his address. 

Various documents describe Samuel’s occupation as ‘bricklayer’. In the first half of the nineteenth century a bricklayer was a builder, someone who designed and constructed houses. These houses could range from humble dwellings to huge city projects.

Colourised, Pitfield Street, Hoxton, London, 1896 – buildings built by Samuel? I love this image, it’s so full of life.

It would appear that all was not well with Samuel and Grace’s marriage because on 21 June 1816 Maria Hammont, single woman, petitioned the parish with the claim that ‘Samuel Axe, bricklayer of Hoxton Town gained carnal knowledge of her body.’ Maria gave birth to a bastard female on 12 May 1815 at her mother’s house in Hoxton Fields. The outcome of her petition was not recorded. However, Samuel was a wealthy man so hopefully he supported his child.

Samuel died on 26 November 1838 in Shoreditch, London and was buried on 2 December 1838. 

My direct ancestor, Jane Esther Axe, who lived in the same street as Samuel and Grace, was the sole executrix of Samuel’s will. Samuel left £600, approximately £40,000 in today’s money, which suggests he was successful in his trade.

On 17 January 1845 Samuel’s youngest son, John, paid £5 to acquire the ‘Benefits of a Fellowship Porter’. In other words, he could trade in ‘measurable goods’ such as coal, grain, flour and salt, overseeing their transportation from trading ships to dockside warehouses. This was a good position with the opportunity to make considerable sums of money.

The above records suggest that the Axe family lived in comfort during the first half of the nineteenth century. However, only five of Samuel’s eight children survived into adulthood.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #71

Dear Reader,

I made great progress this week with the writing of Branches, book two in The Olive Tree, my Spanish Civil War saga, and the editing of Operation Broadsword is nearly complete. My thoughts are turning to Operation Treasure, book four in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, and Stormy Weather, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eighteen, a novel about climate change.

Met some friends on the Bwlch this morning.

My latest translation, available soon, Invasion in Afrikaans. Also, delighted that Nelmari has agreed to translate Blackmail, book three in my Ann’s War series.

‘Potato’ Jones, captain of the cargo steamer Marie Llewellyn. During the Spanish Civil War, ‘Potato’ Jones ferried 800 refugees to safety. In total Welsh sea captains ferried 25,000 refugees to safety.

He also delivered fuel, food, medicines, guns and ammunition to the anti-fascists in Spain, breaking the blockade at Bilbao.

Cardiff International Brigade veteran Tom Williams: “The fight for democracy in Europe is carried on by the British ships carrying predominantly Welsh crews, and we are known on the continent as the ‘Welsh Navy’.”

Eve is back at #1 🙂

Merthyr Mawr this week

It’s a simple job, they said. We want you to wander down to Maddox Street and Conduit Street in Mayfair and attach the main telephone cable to a new support wire…

I’m reading George Orwell at the moment, his experiences in the Spanish Civil War. Very lyrical and insightful.

Meanwhile, no irony here…

With Joana and Sandra, started work on two new translations today, Mind Games, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eleven, into Portuguese and Operation Locksmith, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE book two, into German. Great respect for translators and the talent they bring to these projects.

Hands up if you’ve said or heard these words 🙂

Responding to QI, the other followers said ‘I’d won Tweet of the Day’ and ‘I’d won the Internet’ with this comment 😂

Incidentally, I received well over 1,000 likes, which is easily a record for me.

I’ve completed Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, and now I’m looking forward to January 2021 and Operation Treasure, book four in the series, which is now available for pre-order.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08L9G7V4Z/

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #60

Dear Reader,

“Have the courage to use your own reason. That is the motto of enlightenment.” – Immanuel Kant

From QI

The Aryan poster child used in Nazi propaganda was, in fact, Jewish. A photographer submitted her image to a contest to find “the most beautiful Aryan baby”.

The cover for the print version of Operation Zigzag, currently with the printer.

“All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened.” – Ernest Hemingway

From 1914. If you wanted a copy of this map, you had to collect ten coupons from Black Cat cigarette packets. As if the war wasn’t bad enough, smoking also increased substantially.

The writing is on the wall…

I wrote the Ann’s War series for my own amusement so I’m amazed and delighted to see Betrayal, book one in the series, at #1 for the eleventh time on the mystery and literature charts.

“Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear.” – Hannah Arendt

East and West Berlin before the fall of the wall. The different street lights indicate the border.

This is what happens when society tolerates or embraces fascism. Staff at Auschwitz enjoying their ‘work’.

Please pause and give this some deep thought.

Wanted: replacement electrician. Must supply own rubber boots.

From Future Generation Wales

If you think this is extraordinary you should have seen the bull 👀

If all the ice melted…

History often overlooks the great women…

One of the inspirations for Guy Samson in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, André Hunter Alfred Hue was born in Swansea, Wales on 7 December 1923. 

Andre Hue, the photograph attached to his fake identity card

André’s father, also André, was French while his mother, Caroline, was Welsh. A First World War veteran, André senior received a bullet wound to the head. The bullet remained in place and contributed to his early death in 1938.

Caroline did not speak French. Indeed, before their marriage neither she nor her husband spoke each other’s native language. However, Caroline insisted that her children should learn French.

From Swansea, André’s family moved to Le Havre. There, in 1939, he became a sailor in the French merchant navy with the rank of purser. 

On 17 June 1940, André’s ship, the SS Champlain, struck a mine off La Rochelle and sank. André was in the shower at the time, but he managed to swim ashore, naked.

While working as a railroad clerk in Guer, Brittany, André fulfilled a burning ambition and joined the French Resistance. The railroad station at Guer was strategically important because it served as a key artery for supplying German troops to north-western France.

Working in the railroad office, André provided information about secret timetables so that the RAF could attack trains carrying German troops and supplies. 

As trust in André’s abilities increased, the Resistance encouraged him to smuggle Allied airmen, shot down over France, to safety, often by guiding them to the coast and the waiting boats and submarines.

With André’s courage and his trustworthiness established, the Special Operations Executive invited him to train as an agent. In February 1944 he crossed the Channel to Britain to commence training. His reports stated that he was “a very active, energetic, enthusiastic man with a reasonably stable personality, although inclined to excitement at times.”

André succeeded with his training and the SOE awarded him the rank of Acting Captain in time for Operation Overlord.

During the night of 5/6 June 1944, André parachuted into France. Men from the French Special Air Service accompanied him. Upon landing, an immediate task was to avoid Cossacks who were patrolling the countryside. The Cossacks were Soviet POWs who’d joined the German Army.

Maquis in an armoured Jeep

In Brittany, André’s task was to organise the local Maquis so that they could launch guerrilla attacks on communication lines, railroads and roads. Their ultimate aim was to prevent the four Nazi divisions stationed in Brittany from joining the rest of the German army in Normandy.

André was based at La Nouette farmhouse near Saint Marcel. He noted in his autobiography, The Next Moon, that he feared the Milice more than the Germans because the Milice being French could identify regional accents. However, as a natural French speaker he escaped initial suspicion.

On one occasion, André was present when the Nazis shot five SAS men  and seventeen French civilians. On another occasion, he was trapped in a barn, which the Nazis had torched. Despite the smoke and flames, he managed to escape.

On 18 June 1944, the Nazis attacked André’s farmhouse. Four thousand Maquisards rushed to defend the farmhouse and the Battle of Saint Marcel ensued.

La Nouette after the battle

In The Next Moon, André recalled the battle. “Now every weapon that the enemy possessed was brought to bear on our front line in a cacophony of shots and explosions which could not drown an even more sinister noise: the occasional crack of a single bullet. A man within feet of me slumped to the ground with blood spurting two feet into the air from the side of his neck. We had anticipated an infantry assault – possibly backed up with light armour – but snipers, a threat we had not met before, were difficult to counter. Within minutes of the first casualty, another seven of our men lay dying within the farm complex: all had been shot from long range.”

As the Nazi snipers continued to assassinate André’s men, he could hear the sound of panzers in the distance, so he ordered a retreat into the woods under the cover of darkness. There, André used his radio to contact the SOE and RAF. They organised an air strike, which resulted in mass confusion. During that confusion, André and his men escaped.

La Nouette restored after the Second World War

Throughout August 1944, André participated extensively in the liberation of France. He executed an operation where the Resistance secured the villages in Brittany to aid the advancing Allies. After his work in Brittany, he parachuted into the town of Nevers in Burgundy, where he coordinated operations between the SOE and the Resistance.

On 30 August 1944, André landed in the Nievre just west of Dijon where he took command of the SOE Gondolier circuit. There, he trained the local Maquis and blew up three bridges in Burgundy, which denied the retreating Nazis an exit point from the South of France. Also, in Luzy, André removed mines, placed by the Nazis to kill and maim local civilians. 

For his extraordinary efforts, André was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his work in France. At the age of twenty, he was one of the youngest men to receive a DSO.

By the end of the Second World War, André held the rank of Major in the British Army. He served overseas, in Burma, Palestine, Cyprus and Cambodia. During his stint in Cambodia, he met his future wife, Maureen Taylor, who worked in the British Embassy in Phnom Penh. The couple married in 1957 and had one daughter.

Before establishing a successful business career, André worked for MI6, his activities centred on the Far East.

In later years, André suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which claimed his life in 2005.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #3

Dear Reader,

A productive week with lots of ideas flowing. Sometimes, it goes like that. I have ideas and make notes on a regular basis, but occasionally the ideas come so thick and fast I have to place other writing tasks on hold and develop them. The main ideas this week centred on the storyboarding of The Fifth Man, my novel set in 1948, and my novel about the Spanish Civil War. I am researching the Spanish Civil War and yesterday I ordered this book as part of my research.

I’ve also had ideas for my next Sam Smith mystery, Snow in August. Book sixteen in the series, this novel will be set in west Wales. Writing will begin next week. It’s always exciting to start a new Sam Smith mystery. I like to have my covers in place as soon as possible because sometimes they offer suggestions for the characters and storyline. The book will be available for pre-order in the near future. Here’s the cover.

I also have ideas for Stormy Weather, book seventeen in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. The theme of this book will be climate change. Here’s the cover.

I’m the co-founder and co-editor of Mom’s Favorite Reads, and this week we published the June issue of our magazine. This is our retro issue with lots of great articles about the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, plus features about modern times. The magazine is free, so please take a look. We include some big names in our magazines and a future edition will include an exclusive interview with bestselling novelist Bernard Cornwell.

This week, my youngest son, aged eleven, came to me with a collection of songs he’d been listening to on YouTube. Many of them were country songs, including this classic by the Highwaymen. He has a great love of music, which I hope he will develop. Incidentally, he received his school report this week. His target was level four in Mathematics, Welsh, English and Science, but he achieved level five in all subjects, and solved mathematical problems in level six too. Of course, he inherited this ability from me 😉

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #1

Dear Reader,

This week I’ve been editing Victory, the final story in my Ann’s War Mystery Series. I used to find editing the hardest part of writing, but after publishing twenty books I think I’m getting the hang of it 😉

I’ve also been outlining ideas for two Sam Smith novels, Snow in August and Stormy Weather. Climate Change will be the theme of Stormy Weather. These will be books sixteen and seventeen in the series, with more planned. 

Storyboarding is one of my favourite parts of writing and currently I’m storyboarding The Fifth Man, a spin-off from my Ann’s War series, a novel set in 1948. The National Health Service will be central to this novel because 1948 saw its birth. With talks of privatising the National Health Service gathering momentum it seems appropriate to write about this subject. Pictured, Aneurin Bevan, the ‘father’ of the National Health Service.

Reading the political columns of The Guardian and Independent newspapers brought to mind the concept of civil war, when friends, family and neighbours become enemies over political, ideological or religious beliefs. This is fertile ground for a novelist, so I played with some ideas.

I don’t know enough about the American Civil War to write about that subject and the English Civil War of 1642–1651 does not appeal to me because neither Cromwell and his Puritans nor Charles and his Royalists are heroic figures. So my thoughts turned to the Spanish Civil War. This period of history resonates with today and already characters are filling my notebooks. I might develop this idea into a novel, or a mini series, depending on where my characters take me.

Away from writing, I love listening to music. In particular, I’m a big fan of Apple Music. I have thousands of songs on my personal jukebox and I play them on random. This song popped up first this morning.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx