Tag Archives: Spanish Civil War

Dear Reader #13

Dear Reader,

A very busy week with translations again this week. More translations were published while others were confirmed. Along with my English language titles this means I now have 74 books published or in production.

When talking about his album, Sailing to Philadelphia, Mark Knopfler mentioned that he often creates songs when two separate ideas come together. I agree with him. My books are often a marriage of ideas. This week, I had ideas for another mini-series when two totally separate thoughts came together. I might write this mini-series under a pen-name to give readers a break from Hannah Howe, and because the subject matter is different from my mysteries. This morning, while gardening, I created a storyline. If I have a strength as a novelist it’s that ideas for stories come easy to me.

Mark Knopfler

I have received great help this week from experts with a detailed knowledge of the Spanish Civil War. In these mean-spirited times when some people are interested only in themselves and are prepared to see others suffer in the pursuit of their selfish goals it is life-affirming when kind people go out of their way to help you.

My Spanish Civil War Saga, The Olive Tree, will feature six main characters and follow their lives over the five books. Heini Hopkins, my nurse, is the main character. Heini is a rare name. It means “fit” in the Welsh language and is both female and male.

In Roots, book one, Heini is in Wales nursing her sick mother, debating whether to marry her childhood sweetheart, coal miner Deiniol Price, while collecting food, clothing and medical supplies for the people of Spain. Then the fascists bomb Guernica, killing hundreds of innocent people and, even in Wales, everything changes…

Heini’s home, Cleavis Cottage, Lamb Row, South Corneli, Glamorgan

I mentioned Mark Knopfler earlier, and here’s his classic album Sailing to Philadelphia.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #12

Dear Reader,

Books sixteen, seventeen and eighteen in the Sam Smith Mystery Series will be Snow in August, a story about childhood trauma; Looking For Rosanna Mee, a story about how the Powers That Be abuse vulnerable people; Stormy Weather, a story about climate change. The storyboarding of Snow in August is progressing well and I intend to finish it next week.

Another busy week with my translators with three books published, all in Spanish. We also started two new translations taking the total to forty-three books in ten languages.

This week, my Spanish Civil War research focused on Lily Margaret Powell, a remarkable woman, a true heroine who volunteered to nurse in Spain during the war and was the last International Brigades nurse to leave the conflict. You can read Margaret’s remarkable story here

Margaret Powell, second left, and her medical team in Spain

My film of the week is Fallen Angel, a noir movie made in 1945. The movie reunites director Otto Preminger with Dana Andrews, who had worked together on Laura the previous year. The movie also features Alice Faye, Linda Darnell and a host of fine character actors.

While the movie doesn’t quite touch the heights of Laura – few movies do – it’s still an excellent story. Like Laura, it’s a film of two halves. In Laura, the title character didn’t appear until the second half of the film while in Fallen Angel Linda Darnell dominates the first half with a sultry performance as the femme fatale and Alice Faye blossoms in the second half; Dana Andrews links the whole piece together.

Playing a bookish, reserved woman, Alice Faye had the toughest role – noir movies are basically designed around the femme fatale and Linda Darnell shone in this part. Initially, Fallen Angel was intended to showcase Alice Faye’s talents. However, many of her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Some suggest that film producer Darryl F. Zanuck decided to use the film to promote Linda Darnell, his new protégé, instead of Alice Faye. Certainly, Alice Faye’s characterisation suffers from the cuts and she wasn’t pleased about it. Indeed, she retired from movies until 1962 when she made State Fair.

Alice Faye

In 1987, Alice Faye told an interviewer, “When I stopped making pictures, it didn’t bother me because there were so many things I hadn’t done. I had never learned to run a house. I didn’t know how to cook. I didn’t know how to shop. So all these things filled all those gaps.”

Linda Darnell

As a mystery author, usually I unravel a movie plot early on. And while I identified the murderer during the early scenes of Fallen Angel the movie is well crafted and until the closing scenes all the principal characters remain in the frame.

Dana Andrews

Fallen Angel is also worth watching for Alice Faye reciting the following poetic lines:

We are born to tread the Earth as angels 

to seek out Heaven this side of the sky.

But they who race alone shall stumble,

in the dark and fall from grace.

Then love alone can make the fallen angel rise,

for only two together can enter paradise.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #11

It’s been a summer of ideas. Initially, my goals for the year were to publish Victory and write Snow in August. However, in May I had an idea to write about the Spanish Civil War, a subject I had never considered writing about before that moment. I hesitated, because it is a big subject, but the ideas kept coming. I believe there is truth in the saying, ‘Subjects choose their authors, authors don’t choose their subjects.’

Since May I have had ideas for five books in my Spanish Civil War series plus three ideas for Sam Smith mysteries. Today, I developed ideas for a Sam Smith mystery and got stuck around chapter twenty-three. That’s because one of the characters proved elusive to me. Then I realised he didn’t really fit into the book because his involvement dragged the story away from the central character and complicated the theme. So I returned to the theme and the central character and the full story unfolded naturally. 

This story, so far untitled, will see Sam get very angry on behalf of her client. I love writing Sam when she’s angry and, believe me, she’ll be tearing up some trees in this one. The source of her anger is a woman who does something that is beyond the pale. Furthermore, the story is based on reality.

I’m delighted and honoured to be featured by the Fussy Librarian this week. You can read my interview with Sadye of the Fussy Librarian here https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/newswire/2019/08/02/author-qa-hannah-howe

This week, my Spanish Civil War research led me to Dorothy Parker.

During 1936-9 the Conservative government in Britain, plus the governments in America and France, adopted a stance of ‘non-intervention’ in the Spanish Civil War. In fact, this amounted to support for the fascists because of the various outcomes these governments desired a fascist victory over a victory for the Spanish people. Of course, Britain, America and France paid heavily for this stance because it encouraged Hitler and Mussolini, and this led to the Second World War.

With no support from overseas governments, the Spanish people relied on individuals and organisations for support. Dorothy Parker held her hand up and stepped forward as one of those individuals.

A celebrated poet, writer and wit, Dorothy Parker was one of the founders of the Anti-Nazi League in Hollywood. She helped to raise $1.5 million ($65 million at today’s value) for Spanish refugees. For her trouble, she was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, ‘the time of the toad’, as she called it. However, history smiles on Dorothy Parker while McCarthy’s name is associated with all that is dark about humanity. 

While in Spain, in October 1937, Dorothy Parker said, “It makes you sick to think of it. That these people who pulled themselves up from centuries of oppression and exploitation cannot go on to a decent living, to peace and progress and civilisation, without the murder of their children and the blocking of their way because men want more power. It is incredible, it is fantastic, it is absolutely beyond all belief…except that it is true.”

I have added lots more to my website pages this week – the pictures offer a clue – so please take a look around. I hope you will find something of interest.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #10

Dear Reader,

Sometimes stories arrive fully formed and from that point on it’s a question of filling in the details, while other times ideas come in stages, over a period of time. The idea for The Olive Tree, my Spanish Civil War Saga, arrived fully formed and now I’m adding more research and filling in the details. At the same time I had an idea for a Sam Smith mystery. The emotional strand to this story arrived fully formed, but the mystery element was missing. Yesterday, while thinking about hair, of all things, the missing element arrived. For a writer, it’s exciting when these things happen 🙂

Over the past month I haven’t been actively promoting my books, but my sales have increased. How come? I think the answers lies with the past five years of promoting, particularly the past two years. For authors, the hardest part is to stimulate interest in your books. It takes time to build a readership. Therefore, my advice to authors is to build a strong foundation. Once you have done that you will attract readers.

I received fan mail this week. Unfortunately, it was intended for Hannah Howell 😱 To be honest, I’m not familiar with Hannah Howell’s books, and I’m sure she’s never heard of me. I’m not sure if having similar names is an advantage or a disadvantage. On balance, it is probably a disadvantage because it does have the potential to confuse readers.

Female bodybuilding. It’s a subject I don’t know anything about, but for my novels it’s an area of research. What are your opinions on female bodybuilders? If you are a female, why do you do it? If you are a male what are your thoughts? I would be interested in your opinions.

At the moment, I’m devouring books about the Spanish Civil War at great speed. I’m watching movies about the subject too. You will find details of these books and movies under the The Olive Tree tab on my website. The question occurred to me, why does the Spanish Civil War still attract our interest? The answer is multilayered, but one of those layers includes the fact that for people outside Spain, their governments did not force them to go to war. Many thousands volunteered and decided to fight for a principle. That is something worth thinking about and, I believe, it makes the Spanish Civil War relevant to today.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #9

Dear Reader,

This week, my writing has focused on research for The Olive Tree, my Spanish Civil War Saga. I have created a number of pages on my website chronicling some amazing stories of bravery and courage. You are invited to read these stories.

https://hannah-howe.com/the-olive-tree/esperanza-careaga/

https://hannah-howe.com/the-olive-tree/fifi-roberts/

https://hannah-howe.com/the-olive-tree/nurses/

https://hannah-howe.com/the-olive-tree/wales-and-spain/

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #8

Dear Reader,

Another busy week with translations. We published the Spanish version of Saving Grace, started the German version of Victory and I’m delighted to say that Jill has offered to translate The Big Chill into Swedish. This will be our third project after Sam’s Song and Love and Bullets and it’s exciting to see my books reaching Swedish readers in their own language 🙂

While researching material for a future Sam Smith novel, I discovered that the British government’s health assessment programme for disabled people has resulted in 21,000 deaths. These deaths are based on the government’s own figures, so it is certain that the real figure is a lot higher. This raises the question: what is the difference between death by bureaucracy and death by cold-blooded murder? None. It all results in death. This is a tragedy for disabled people and their families, and it is a subject I am determined to explore.

The Olive Tree, my Spanish Civil War Saga, will be based on true events and real people. For example, Thora Silverthorne of Blaenafon, Wales.

In 1936, Thora volunteered to go to Spain as a nurse. There, she became a matron in a hospital established in a primitive farmhouse.

“I had done a lot of operations before,” Thora said, “but in Spain it was quite different. We dealt with seriously injured people. Once we treated 700 people over five days. We were under fire. We had a Red Cross on the roof, but were warned, ‘take it down – it’s the first thing the fascists will aim for.’”

On her return to Britain, Thora helped to establish the first union for nurses, the National Association of Nurses, in 1937.


This week, I’ve been scanning my reference books looking for names for my Spanish Civil War Saga. It’s an international story featuring characters from America, France, Ireland, Spain and Wales. The right name is important and often it can suggest facets of a character. For example, one character, a nurse, was going to be docile and a support character. However, when I found her name, Adele Lazard, she stepped forward. Now, she’s going to Spain as a nurse, but really she wants to fight at the front.

Pictured: Two women and a man at the Siege of the Alcázar in Toledo, 1936.


During the Spanish Civil War, Wales welcomed many refugees, including Esperanza Careaga, pictured here in 1939. Espe, her name means hope, left Spain in April 1937, eight days before her sixth birthday. Her brother, Alberto, was transported to Russia and it took 50 years before Espe saw him again. Meanwhile, Espe settled in Barry, Wales.

At the end of the war, most of the refugees returned to Spain. However, 35 children remained in Wales, including Espe. She married in 1958, had two sons and four granddaughters.

From tragic beginnings, Espe lived up to her name, and through her courage we can draw belief, strength and hope.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #7

Dear Reader,

This project is at the research stage, but will develop into five novellas set during 1937-8. The novellas will follow two Welsh women, an impoverished nurse and a wealthy author, who travel to Spain and view the conflict from opposite sides of the war.

The title comes from Dolores Ibárruri, La Pasionaria, who said, “You are history. You are legend. You are the heroic example of democracy’s solidarity and universality. We shall not forget you; and when the olive tree of peace is in flower, entwined with the victory laurels of the Republic of Spain, come back.”

As you know, humour plays a big part in my novels, particularly my Sam Smith novels. I hope this story tickles your funny bone.

I decided to get a pet from the local pet shop. Even though the scorpion had been a bit of a disaster – they’re not big on cuddles – I opted for something different and selected a millipede. I named her Millie and brought her home.

I sipped my coffee and watched as Millie settled into her millipedearium and in no time at all she seemed content, at home.

The following day I asked Millie if she would like to go for a walk. “Fancy a stroll around the garden?” I asked. “There’s lots of lovely leaves and mud out there. And other arthropods you can make friends with. You never know, you might get lucky; love might be in the air.”

No answer. Silence. You could hear a pin drop.

So I raised my voice and asked again. “Fancy a stroll around the garden?”

No reply. Not a whisper. It was like talking to the wall.

I was getting annoyed now and beginning to wonder if a cockroach would be more fun. So I yelled, “Fancy a walk?”

“Missy,” Millie the millipede sighed, twitching her antennae, “there’s no need to shout. I heard you the first time. Can’t you see, I’m putting my @%&#@& shoes on…” 😂

Thought for the week…

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx