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Dear Reader #67

Dear Reader,

This week, my writing takes me to the Spanish Civil War with Branches, book two in The Olive Tree. This story actually starts in Paris during the International Exposition of 1937. Pictured, The Soviet pavilion and the German pavilion near the Eiffel Tower.

Enjoying dinner aboard a Zeppelin, Berlin to Paris, 1928.

The proof copy of Looking for Rosanna Mee has arrived from the printer. Also, I’m delighted that a Spanish version of this book, my latest Sam Smith Mystery, is now in production.

In Spain, Vice-President Pablo Iglesias announced that descendants of those who fought in the International Brigades will be able to apply for Spanish citizenship. In 2007 a law granted members of the International Brigades citizenship.

Los descendientes de los brigadistas internacionales que combatieron por la libertad y contra el fascismo en España, podrán acceder a la nacionalidad española. Ya era hora de decir desde el Gobierno a estos héroes y heroínas de la democracia: gracias por venir.

Translation:
“The descendants of the international brigade members who fought for freedom and against fascism in Spain, will be able to access Spanish nationality. It was time to say from the Government to these heroes and heroines of democracy: thank you for coming.”

Commemorating the Battle of Britain, an international team effort.

A worker at the B.T.H. factory in Neasden Lane, Willesden writing messages on a Covenanter tank of British Guards Armoured Division, 22 September 1942.

A post World War Two silk dress made from ‘escape and evade’ maps. The maps were given to RAF pilots and SOE agents to aid their escape should they be trapped behind enemy lines.

Maps were printed on silk during the war because the material is durable, rustle free, easy to conceal and doesn’t degrade in water. The maps, along with secret messages, were often sewn into an agent’s clothing.

This weekend’s sweet treat in our house is a Teisan Lap, a moist cake that was very popular with coalminers.

The Train, a 1964 Second World War movie, is based on an interesting premise: are great works of art more valuable than human life?

Directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Burt Lancaster, The Train is an ‘industrial’ movie in that sweat and coal dust are never far from the actors’ faces. It’s also a stirring action movie with a number of dramatic, explosive scenes.

It’s August 1944 and with the Allies closing in on Paris, the Nazis decided to transport, by train, the great art treasures of France to Germany. In the movie, the main protagonists are Paul Labiche, a railwayman and Resistance member, played by Burt Lancaster, and art lover Colonel Franz von Waldheim, played by Paul Scofield.

Given that the Allies are approaching, the Resistance only need to delay the train by a few days, while protecting its priceless cargo. Although initially reluctant to participate in the plan, Labiche devises an elaborate plan where, instead of travelling in a straight line to Germany, the train travels in a circle. In all aspects, the movie is gritty and realistic. However, this concept does require a suspension of disbelief because the Nazis never suspect that the train is taking a circuitous route.

Paul Scofield and Burt Lancaster

One of the most dramatic scenes in the movie is a train crash. This was filmed for real. However, the stuntman pulled the throttle back too far and the train travelled too fast, demolishing a dozen cameras en route. This left just one camera, buried in the ground, to capture the action, which it did to stunning effect, the wrecked train coming to rest above its all-seeing lens.

Due to a number of complex sequences, the movie overran it’s production schedule. Many of the French character actors in the film were committed to other projects. Therefore, director John Frankenheimer came up with a simple solution. As Resistance fighters, they were placed against a wall and shot by the Nazis. Historically correct, this explained their absence from the closing scenes of the film.

An agile performer, Burt Lancaster performed his own stunts. These included jumping on to a fast moving train and, later, being pushed off a fast moving train. He escaped without injury. However, on a rest day he played golf and badly damaged his knee. John Frankenheimer needed a reason to explain Lancaster’s limp, so he included a new scene in which the Nazis shoot Lancaster in the knee as he makes his escape thus allowing the production to continue without further delay.

Jeanne Moreau

With filming complete, John Frankenheimer showed The Train to the production company, United Artists. They realised that the movie required another action scene. Therefore, Frankenheimer reassembled the cast for a dramatic Spitfire attack scene, a highlight of the movie. 

At Lancaster’s suggestion, Frankenheimer also added a philosophical/romantic scene, which Lancaster largely wrote. This scene featured Lancaster and Jeanne Moreau, and is another highlight of the movie.

Throughout the film, John Frankenheimer juxtaposed the value of art with the value of human life. A brief montage at the close of the movie intercuts the crates full of paintings with the bloodied bodies of the hostages, shot by the Nazis, before a final scene shows Lancaster as Labiche limping away.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #41

Dear Reader,

My personal top ten sales in Europe this week.

A Lovely Review for Sam’s Song 

A stalker. a murder, a bevy of marginally odd-ball characters, emotion, violence, and a touch of humor and romance describe the novel.

Sam is in the process of finding herself after a troubled childhood and a brutal, failed marriage. She tries for self-confidence but it slips away when the past comes calling. She is frightened of relationships. However, in the hidden depths of her mind, she is strong. As a PI, she is determined to solve the case.

The author has a breezy style of writing, drawing her characters with a light touch. But it is also serious, intense especially. The main characters are displayed with all their quirks and peccadilloes showing.

Amazon Vine Voice, Five Stars

Published today, here’s one for the album, Snow in August is sitting alongside Dorothy L Sayers as a top thirty hot new release.

https://books2read.com/u/megq6A

From childhood, I’ve always read at least four books at once. I think the reason for this is I’m a fast reader and when I’m enjoying a book I don’t want to race to the end. 

At the moment, I’m reading over forty books at once. These books are linked to my research and most of them are chronological therefore I’m reading the timeframes that tie-in with my current stories.

The above is a preamble to say that currently I’m working on four books at once: I’m editing The Olive Tree: Roots and Eve’s War: Operation Zigzag, storyboarding Eve’s War: Operation Locksmith and developing the characters for Looking for Rosanna Mee: Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen. All four books will be published this year.

The Olive Tree, a Spanish Civil War Saga is about two women from opposite ends of the social spectrum. Therefore, while impoverished nurse Heini Hopkins collects clothing for the poor people of Spain, aristocratic author Naomi Parker enjoys this menu with Prince Nicolas Esteban.

This is Llancaiach Fawr Manor, a sixteenth century manor house in the heart of the Rhymney Valley. This house is the inspiration for the central location in Looking for Rosanna Mee, Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen. Rosanna, a young housebound woman, has disappeared. Where could she be?

The gothic atmosphere of Llancaiach Fawr is highlighted by the four ghosts who are said to haunt the house, including a man in black, a murderer who patrols the perimeter.

Mark Knopfler said that his best songs develop from two ideas that marry at an opportune moment.

I already had an idea for Stormy Weather, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eighteen, and I’ve married that to an article I read this afternoon about a sleazy politician who is exploiting vulnerable people.

Modern British society doesn’t care about its vulnerable people, but Sam does. Expect plenty of fireworks in this one.

Eve’s War Research 

A small number of SOE agents arrived in Occupied France over land while others arrived by sea. The vast majority, however, parachuted into the country. What did they take with them? Here’s a basic 24 hour survival pack.

1 packet of plain biscuits 
1 block of chocolate 
1 sachet of boiled sweets
2 blocks of tea
1 packet of sweet biscuits 1 packet of plain biscuits
1 box of matches
1 roll of toilet paper
1 packet of oatmeal
2 packets of meat broth
2 packets of chewing gum
1 packet of sugar tablets
1 tin of Spam

Agents who were met by the local Resistance often received a warm meal in a farmhouse, but those who jumped ‘blind’ into the wilderness relied on their rations.

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Marguerite Diana Frances ‘Peggy’ Knight was born on 19 April 1920 in Paris. She was a member of the Women’s Transport Service before joining the SOE as a courier, a role mainly performed by women.

The daughter of Captain Alfred Rex Knight and his Polish wife, the former Charlotte Beatrice Mary Ditkowski, Peggy was a perfect French speaker and this ability captured the SOE’s attention.

On 11 April 1944, Peggy began her training. The SOE rushed her through the course in two weeks during which time she completed only one practice parachute jump from a static balloon instead of the customary three or four. After training, she landed in Vichy France under the code name Nicole to work for the highly compromised and deeply divided Donkeyman network.

Following D-Day, in June and July 1944, Peggy crossed the battle lines many times, carrying intelligence messages and gathering vital information. She did this by travelling vast distances on her bicycle. She also participated in an attack upon a Nazi military convoy, firing her Sten submachine gun.

Later in 1944, Peggy narrowly escaped capture and executIon when one of her colleagues betrayed her group of resistance fighters to the Nazis. One of thirty people, Peggy fought her way out of a forest through the encirclement.

Roger Bardet, the man responsible for the betrayal, was later arrested, tried and sentenced to death as a collaborator. However, his sentence was commuted and ultimately he was released from prison in 1955.

Peggy and Eric’s wedding registration

Her missions complete, Peggy left the SOE in November 1944. In December 1944, she married Sub-Lieutenant Eric Smith of the Royal Navy and gave birth to two sons within two years. Later, she told a local newspaper that her main concern now was ‘getting enough soap during austerity to keep the family clean.’ 

Highly praised by her masters at the SOE for her bravery and commitment, Peggy settled down to a life of domesticity.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx