Tag Archives: Philosophy

Dear Reader #33

Dear Reader,

My sales top ten this week. Many thanks to everyone who supports my books.

Some people stand out. If you watch this video you will see what I mean. Currently, I’m reading dozens of books about twenty-one female SOE agents. All these women were remarkable, but some stand out even amongst such illustrious company.

This research will shape my SOE agents, Eve and Mimi. It’s an honour to read about these people, and their stories are gold dust for an author. So many ideas spring from every page. It’s very exciting.

Local views this week, at Sger.

Women of Courage, Heroines of the SOE

More research for my forthcoming Eve’s War series.

Lise Marie Jeanette de Baissac was born on 11 May 1905 in Mauritius, which made her a British subject. Of French descent, she was the youngest of three children.

In 1919 Lise and her family moved to Paris. When the Germans occupied Paris in 1940 Jean, her eldest brother, joined the British Army while Lise and her youngest brother, Claude, travelled for six months through Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar before arriving in Britain.

In Britain, Claude was recruited by the SOE while initially Lise worked at the Daily Sketch newspaper. Soon, Lise joined Claude in the SOE. However, instead of being trained for the usual roles of courier or wireless operator, Lise was instructed to create her own resistance circuit.

Lise de Baissac

Lise trained with Mary Herbert, Jacqueline Nearne and Odette Sansom. She impressed her trainers with her ability and her imperturbable, cool reactions. They regarded her as intelligent, strong-minded and decisive, with a flair for organisation.

On 24 September 1942, Lise and Andrée Borrel were the first female SOE agents to parachute into France. The agents jumped from a Whitley bomber and landed in the village of Boisrenard near the town of Mer. Their mission was to establish a safe house in Poitiers where new agents could settle into their secret lives.

An Armstrong Whitworth Whitley c1940

Lise’s role was to form a new circuit and to establish a centre where agents could go with complete security for material help and information on local details, and to organise the pick-up of arms drops from Britain to assist the French resistance.

Cover stories were vital to SOE agents. For her cover story Lise was Madame Irene Brisse, a poor widow from Paris, seeking refuge in the provinces from the tension of life in the capital. She moved into an apartment on a busy street near the Gestapo HQ, and became acquainted with the Gestapo chief, Herr Grabowski.

Posing as an amateur archeologist, Lise cycled around the countryside to reconnoitre possible parachute drop-zones and landing areas for the RAF. When local networks collapsed and the Gestapo closed in, Lise was flown back to Britain. There, while assisting new recruits in training, she broke her leg.

With her leg healed, on 10 April 1944 Lise returned to France where she rejoined her brother Claude. After D-Day, she gathered information on German dispositions and passed that information on to the Allies. She was bold enough to rent a room in a house occupied by the local commander of the German Forces.

According to Lise, on one occasion, “The Germans arrived and threw me out of my room. I arrived to take my clothes and found they had opened up the parachute I had made into a sleeping bag and were sitting on it. Fortunately they had no idea what it was.”

In the summer of 1944 Lise enjoyed another lucky escape when cycling from Normandy to Paris. She was searched by a young soldier at a German checkpoint while carrying spare parts of radio sets around her waist. Later, Lise said, “He searched me very carefully. I knew he could feel the things I was carrying. But he said nothing. Perhaps he was looking for a weapon like a revolver, maybe he thought it was a belt. I do not know.”

Claude de Baissac

Lise’s colleagues spoke very highly of her. Captain Blackman, the leader of an SAS party in France wrote: “Every day she would cycle sixty or seventy kilometres. She often carried much compromising material on her person and bicycle, such as wireless material and secret documents. If she had been discovered carrying such things she would have been undoubtedly shot on the spot without trial or formal enquiry. Consequently she risked her life daily.”

Lise continued her SOE activities until the liberation, organising several groups and providing the Allies with information. She was also involved in sabotage missions, setting tyre bursters and mines on roads used by the military, cutting telephone wires, underground cables and railway lines. On at least one occasion she took part in an attack on an enemy column.

After the war Lise married Gustave Villameur, an artist and interior designer living in Marseille. She died on 29 March 2004, aged 98.

In 2008, Lise’s life was recaptured in the highly fictionalised French film Female Agents (Les Femmes de l’ombre).

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #32

Dear Reader,

My new banner featuring some old favourites and forthcoming titles.

My sales on Apple so far this year reveal a pleasant surprise…Digging in the Dirt (Sam) is my current bestseller followed by Secrets and Lies (Sam), Smoke and Mirrors (Sam) and Blackmail (Ann). Digging in the Dirt was great fun to write so I’m delighted that my readers like it too.

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shakespearean actress Melinda Mullins. You can read that interview here https://issuu.com/momsfavoritereads/docs/january_2020

Melinda is also a talented artist. Here is an example of her work.

To see more of Melinda’s beautiful paintings and drawings please visit her website http://www.emcleobryant.com

Many thanks to Gloria for her lovely translation of Mind Games into Spanish. We have started the publishing process and the book will be available soon.

This is my 45th translation, sixteen of them into Spanish, with more in progress.

My local beach this week.

My personal top ten this week. Many thanks to everyone who supports my books.

Women of Courage, Heroines of the SOE.
More details from my Eve’s War research.

Valentine Blanche Charlet, born in Belgium on 23 May 1898, was one of the oldest female SOE agents to serve in France. Blanche worked as a courier for the SOE and held the rank of Field Agent and Guerrilla Commander. Before the Second World War she lived in Brussels where she managed an art gallery.

Blanche was one of the first four female agents the SOE trained. When she arrived in France, on 1 September 1942, she worked with fellow agent and wireless operator Brian Stonehouse. 

On 24 October 1942, German detector vans picked up Stonehouse’s radio signals while he was transmitting to London. They tracked him down to his safe house and arrested him. Before the Germans left, Blanche arrived for a pre-arranged meeting with Stonehouse and she too was arrested and interned in Castres Prison. 

The Germans held Blanche until September 1943 when she secured guns and spare keys from a sympathetic Yugoslavian wardress. Along with French resistante Suzanne Charisse and thirty-five others, Blanche escaped.

Blanche and Suzanne reached open country and, helped by Benedictine monks, they took refuge in a monastery. 

The monks sheltered Blanche and Suzanne in a guest house for two months before the women followed an escape route into the Pyrénées. However, the heavy winter snow prevented them from crossing into Spain.

In the spring of 1944, Blanche made her way to Brittany where she boarded a lifeboat ferrying supplies and fresh agents. German patrol boats were waiting. However, despite them and a gunfight, Blanche made her escape. 

Blanche reached safely on 20 April 1944. She made her report and stated that the practice interrogations she had endured with the SOE had saved her life. In more peaceful circumstances, she lived until 1985.

Mary Katherine Herbert was born in Ireland on 1 October 1903. 

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Mary worked in the British Embassy in Warsaw, then as a civilian translator in the Air Ministry. She joined the WAAF on 19 September 1941 and, at her own request, transferred to the SOE in May 1942, aged thirty-nine.

A well educated woman with a degree in art, Mary was fluent in French, German, Italian and Spanish. She also obtained a diploma from the University of Cairo in Arabic. 

Mary trained with Lise de Baissac, a contact who later would have a significant influence on her life. 

Mary arrived in France on 30 October 1942. She travelled to Bordeaux to act as a courier for the Scientist circuit, using the codename Claudine. In keeping with fellow SOE agents she travelled by bicycle and train, liaised with the French Resistance, carried messages, sought safe houses and potential recruits. Another task familiar to Mary and her fellow agents was to arrange and attend parachute drops as fresh agents arrived in France.

In France, Mary caught up with Lise de Baissac. She also met Lise’s brother, Claude. An affair between Mary and Claude produced a daughter, Claudine, born in December 1943. After the birth, Mary and Claudine moved into a flat maintained by Lise.

On 18 February 1944, the Gestapo raided Lise’s flat and arrested Mary in the belief that she was Lise. Separated from her baby daughter, Mary remained in prison until Easter 1944. During that time she created a cover story for herself stating that she was Madame Marie Louise Vernier, a Frenchwoman from Egypt. Despite interrogation by the Gestapo, Mary did not waver from her cover story.

Upon her release, Mary hid in a small country house near Poitiers. In September 1944, after a difficult search conducted in trying times, she was reunited with Claude and Lise.

Mary and Claude, marriage index

Mary married Claude in November 1944. After the war, she lived a quieter life giving private French lessons.

Mary died on 23 January 1983 with her daughter Claudine at her side.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #30

Dear Reader,

I’m delighted to be a member of the talented team involved in Mom’s Favorite Reads.

And to start the new year in style, here’s our January 2020 issue featuring an exclusive interview with Melinda Mullins, star of Remember WENN, M*A*S*H and the Shakespearean stage, a Romance Roundtable, Anna Grace discusses mental health, young writers and so much more.

The new year promises to be my busiest yet with six books scheduled: two Sam Smith novels, Snow in August and Looking For Rosanna Mee; Roots and Branches, the first two novellas in The Olive Tree, A Spanish Civil War Saga; plus Operation Zigzag and Operation Locksmith, the first two novellas in my Eve’s War series about the Special Operations Executive and the French Resistance.

Yesterday, I wrote the first draft of chapters one and two of The Olive Tree: Roots. The stories in this series will be told from two viewpoints: a nurse, Heini Hopkins, and a socialite author, Naomi Parker. Heini rides a bicycle while Naomi drives this SS Jaguar 100, pictured outside the SS Cars building in 1937.

The ‘100’ was the car’s top speed while this image represents the first recorded use of the Jaguar ‘leaper’ mascot.

In Roots, book one of The Olive Tree, my nurse Heini Hopkins is at home tending her sick mother. This item is from my domestic research into the period. I remember using carpet cleaners like these when I visited my grandparents’ house.

A mangle, another item from my domestic research into the 1930s. My nurse, Heini Hopkins, would certainly be familiar with this item, and I can remember seeing similar models when I visited my grandparents’ house.

In The Olive Tree, Heini Hopkins is a nurse specialising in tuberculosis. As the story opens she is tending Mari, her sick mother.

For centuries, tuberculosis was considered ‘the romantic disease’ because it ‘assisted artistic talent’. People believed that the fever and toxaemia associated with tuberculosis helped artists to see life more clearly and that this clarity of mind liberated their creative muse.

You can read my full article here https://hannah-howe.com/the-olive-tree/tuberculosis/

Local views this morning, at Sger.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #15

Dear Reader,

Most of my writing is planned, but occasionally you have to go with the flow, and the flow at the moment is taking me towards Spain and the Spanish language.

I’m delighted to say that soon sixteen of my books will be available in Spanish, with more to follow. Thank you to my wonderful translators for making this possible.

Also, I’m absorbing Spanish culture and history through my research for The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War saga.

Maybe Sam will visit Spain, or a Spanish speaking country one day. That’s a lovely thought.

I’ve just completed the storyboard for Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen. For Sam, this will be an emotional story, the most emotional story since Sam’s Song.

Bernie Taupin once compared one of his later lyrics, I think it was I Want Love, to Your Song, contrasting writing with youthful exuberance to writing with experience. Snow in August covers some of the same themes as Sam’s Song, but through the filters of fifteen previous novels and Sam being older. This offers a fresh perspective on those themes. I’m very pleased with the story, and hope readers will enjoy catching up with Sam again.

A shame Boris Johnson doesn’t believe in this.

Some exciting personal news. My eldest son has been identified as ’one of Wales’ brightest students‘ and has been invited to join The Seren (Star) Network for high achievers. The Seren Network connects students with staff from leading universities to offer guidance as the students make their way through school and on to university.

This is a nice feature from Smashwords that shows where my books have sold over the past ninety days. My top five are:

America

Bulgaria

Canada

Australia

Britain

My books have also sold in:

Ireland

New Zealand

Norway

Mexico

Germany

Spain

Zimbabwe

South Africa

France

Netherlands

Italy

Greece

Singapore

Philippines

Dominican Republic

Brazil

Maths Made Simple

Lesson One: Family Finance

If your wife has £100 and you have £400 how much money does your wife have? The answer is, of course, £500. Award yourself ten points!

Ever looked at your laugh lines and thought, nothing’s THAT funny?! 😆

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx