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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #55

Dear Reader,

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows not.” – Blaise Pascal

In 1942 a Lockheed P38 Lightning crashed during training on the beach at Harlech, Wales. It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Picture: RC Survey

Listening to and loving Paula’s interpretation of Eve’s War: Operation Zigzag, which is currently in production.

‘It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you.’ – Ian McEwan, in Atonement.

This is a Welrod Mk 1, the gun of choice for SOE agents during the Second World War.

In Operation Locksmith, book two in my Eve’s War series, Eve uses a Welrod for the first time.

The Welrod is an extremely quiet gun, producing a sound of around 73 dB when fired, and thus is ideal for clandestine operations.

“There was a definite process by which one made people into friends, and it involved talking to them and listening to them for hours at a time.” – Rebecca West

This week, I enjoyed a documentary about the Spitfire. With its elliptical wing design it must be the most graceful aeroplane ever built.

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world do this, it would change the earth.“ – William Faulkner

Local pictures this week, Kenfig coast.

A new series, Resistance Couples

Cécile Rol-Tanguy, born 10 April 1919, was a leading member of the French Resistance during the Second World War. She participated in the liberation of Paris, conducted clandestine operations and relayed confidential messages.

In 1936, Cécile met Henri Tanguy, a political activist who volunteered for the International Brigades and fought against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. The couple married in 1939 and their first child, Françoise, was born in November. Sadly, Françoise fell ill and died on 12 June 1940, two days before the Nazis entered Paris.

In an interview in 2014, Cécile recalled that painful episode: “I can still remember the terrible pall of burning smoke over Paris and wondering if that was what had made my baby ill. I left her in the hospital overnight, and when I went back the next day, there was another baby in her bed.”

Cécile and Henri Rol-Tanguy

During the Nazi occupation, Henri joined the French Forces of the Interior while Cécile supported the FFI as a liaison officer. 

After the birth of her second child, Hélène, Cécile used her baby’s pushchair to conceal guns, grenades and clandestine newspapers. At this time, 1942, the Nazis arrested Cécile’s father and deported him to Auschwitz, where he died.

Despite this setback, Cécile and Henri fought on. In May 1944, Henri was appointed regional leader of the FFI. With Cécile’s help he established an underground command post at Place Denfert-Rochereau, and from there the couple distributed messages to the Resistance.

25 August 1944, the 2nd Armored (Leclerc) Division destroy a Nazi tank in front of the Palais Garnier.

On 19 August 1944, Cécile and Henri published a pamphlet, a call to arms for the citizens of Paris. The people responded and on 25 August they liberated Paris, sweeping the hated Nazi occupiers aside.

Recalling that momentous day, Cécile said, “When they told us, (of the victory) we didn’t hear the bells ringing, but we had a pillow fight with the girls who were with me.”

Parisians line the Champs Élysée for a parade conducted by the French 2nd Armoured Division, 26 August 1944.

After the liberation, Henri became an officer in the French army while Cécile joined the Union des Femmes Françaises, an organisation that maintained the memory of Resistance and anti-fascist fighters. 

The couple had four surviving children: Hélène and Jean, who were born during the war, and Claire and Francis, who were born after the war. Later, the family left Paris to live near the Loire.

After 63 years of marriage, Henri died on 8 September 2002. Cécile passed away at her home at midday on 8 May 2020, the 75th anniversary of VE Day, aged 101. 

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #45

Dear Reader,

I have extended my participation in Smashwords’ Authors Give Back sale until 31 May.

All my books are listed as free or 0.99.

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/hannahhowe

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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.

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My merchandiser was kind enough to supply me with a Hannah Howe calendar. Here’s the image for April, Paris in the spring.

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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.

SECRETS AND LIES PORTUGUESE UPDATED

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.

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Exciting news. My books will soon appear on the Hive website. Hive is the largest supporter of independent bookstores in Britain. More details soon.

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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.

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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.

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In Eve’s War Operation Locksmith Mimi Duchamp can transmit Morse code messages at twenty words a minute, eight words above the average.

Yvonne Cormeau achieved this remarkable rate and you can read her story here https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/yvonne-cormeau/

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.”

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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.

https://www.amazon.com/Hannah-Howe/e/B00OK7E24E

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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.

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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.

Hannah xxx

Categories
Private Detectives True Crime

Vidocq – The First Detective

Vidocq – The First Detective

Eugene Francois Vidocq, born in 1775, was a thief turned detective, Europe’s first bona fide private eye. At fourteen he killed a fencing master in a duel and this incident paved the way to a life of crime. After serving his time as a convict in the galleys, Vidocq became a police spy and later the head of the Paris Surete.

Vidocq

Eugene Francois Vidocq

A powerful physical specimen with a leonine head and muscular arms, Vidocq was the son of a respected baker from Arras. After killing the fencing instructor Vidocq stole two thousand francs from his father’s safe and fled to America. However, within a year he was destitute and so returned to the family home.

Back in France he joined the Bourbon Regiment and within six months he was involved in no less than fifteen duels. His thirst for action produced many brave acts, particularly in a battle at Valmy in 1792. However, far from being regarded as a hero, Vidocq’s violent acts led to his banishment from his home town.

A period of womanizing and gambling followed and at times Vidocq was arrested, only to escape – in Toulon he fell in behind a funeral cortege and walked to freedom.

A life of serious crime beckoned though Vidocq, for all his misdeeds, had no wish to travel down that road. Instead he met with a Paris policeman called Henry, nicknamed the Bad Angel and the two men struck a deal – an amnesty if Vidocq became a secret police agent. Faced with a lengthy spell in prison, Vidocq could hardly refuse.

A natural, Vidocq soon adapted to undercover police work and the man became something of a legend, both in the Paris police and the criminal underworld. His physical gifts and his detective skills ensured that by 1811 he was serving as the first full-time detective in the Paris police. Gaining in confidence and influence he proposed the creation of the Surete, a proposal that was readily accepted.

The Surete with its twenty-four full-time agents and network of police spies soon became a great success in fighting crime. The agents were not paid a salary. Instead, they were rewarded with expenses and a fee for every arrest.

At heart, Vidocq was a showman and he ensured maximum publicity for every success. His reputation helped to secure a decent pension and he retired in 1827, aged fifty-two. However, in retirement he was far from idle. He opened a paper mill, employing former criminals in an effort to rehabilitate them. Sadly, this public-spirited venture was not a commercial success and, insolvent, Vidocq was forced to return to the Surete.

In 1836 Vidocq retired for a second time and on this occasion he set up a private detective agency, twenty years before Pinkerton established his agency in Chicago. Playing a game he knew well, Vidocq ensured that his agency was a great success, often outflanking the police in the best traditions of detective fiction. Unfortunately success brought jealousy and Vidocq’s offices were raided by the police. Over three thousand files were seized, many of them police files, and Vidocq was arrested on charges of corrupting the civil service. Vidocq was convicted, but won an appeal. However, the bad publicity surrounding his arrest brought the curtain down on his agency.

Insolvent again, Vidocq turned to his pen. He wrote Memoirs of Vidocq, Principal Agent in the French Police. With the aid of a ghost writer the memoirs were a great success. Blending fact with fiction Vidocq’s stories were the earliest of their type and they went on to influence the cultural perception we have of the private eye.

After leading a colourful life Vidocq was finally granted a pardon in 1843. His legacy as a policeman is a substantial one, yet you could argue that his memoirs are more important because they paved the way for the plethora of Victorian detective stories that followed and still influence the detective fiction we read and write today.