Tag Archives: Spanish Civil War

Authors Give Back

I’m supporting Smashwords’ Authors Give Back campaign where authors offer readers free or discounted books during this difficult time. All my books are discounted and you will also find the list of free titles here

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

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

Dear Reader #40

Dear Reader,

My personal top ten this week with Mind Games making the biggest leap up the charts.

The proof copy of Snow in August, which arrived this week.

Authors take two basic approaches to long-running series. 1. The lead characters remain exactly the same (Columbo is a good example of this). 2. The lead characters develop over time. My Sam Smith Mystery Series slots into the second category.

Looking for Rosanna Mee, book seventeen in the series, will see a development of Faye’s character. Sam will narrate, but Faye will lead the investigation. This will also be an ‘Alan story’ with the psychological aspect well to the fore.

Looking for Rosanna Mee will be available for pre-order shortly and the book will be published later this year.

I’m writing The Olive Tree, A Spanish Civil War Saga. In book one, Roots, Prince Nicolas Esteban invites author Naomi Parker to dinner. What should she wear? She decides on this dress by Madeleine Vionnet.

Recently, I enjoyed Dangerous Crossing, a 1953 film noir mystery, on DVD. Directed by Joseph M. Newman and starring Jeanne Crain and Michael Rennie, the movie was based on the 1943 play Cabin B-13 by John Dickson Carr.

The plot centres on the gaslighting of Jeanne Crain’s character as she embarks upon a honeymoon cruise.

A low-budget movie devoid of special effects, Dangerous Crossing relies on strong characterisation and a genuinely suspenseful plot.

Jeanne Crain is an attractive heroine who features in almost every scene while Michael Rennie lends solid support. To see the best of Jeanne Crain, however, I recommend Leave Her to Heaven where she excels in her trademark ‘girl next door’ role.

Research Makes Writing Easier

In Eve’s War, Guy Samson, my male SOE agent, is loosely based on three people. Guy has a Welsh mother and French father, but these people did not have that background.

While researching the area where my SOE agents will operate, Brittany, I discovered another agent, Andre Hue, who had a Welsh mother and French father. This coincidence completes the circle and makes Guy’s character much stronger. And strong characters make the task of writing so much easier.

Pictured: the ancient links between Brittany and Wales.

I completed the storyboarding for Operation Locksmith this week, fifteen A3 pages of squiggles. In Operation Locksmith, Eve, Guy and Mimi train to become SOE agents, but is there a traitor in the camp?

Meanwhile, it’s lovely to see that Operation Zigzag is keeping company with Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series 🙂

https://books2read.com/u/mKDDyv

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Maureen Patricia ‘Paddy’ O’Sullivan was born in Dublin on 3 January 1918 the daughter of journalist John Aloysius O’Sullivan (1873–1949) and Johanna Repen (1889–1919), who died when Paddy was only 15 months old.

At the age of seven Paddy was sent to live with an aunt in Belgium where she attended a convent school in Cortrai. At the beginning of the war she worked as a nurse in Highgate Hospital, London. She joined the WAAF on 7 July 1941 as an Aircraft Handler General Duties, and was later promoted to Section Officer. Her SOE report lists that her hobbies included reading, psychology and walking.

Paddy’s trainers had mixed views of her. She could be stubborn and prone to temper. However, others regarded her as kind-hearted and able.

As a member of the SOE, Paddy parachuted into Limoges on 23 March 1944. Falling through the fog, she landed heavily, sustaining a concussion. She awoke to find a cow breathing on her face. Later, she said that the two million francs strapped to her back, money to fund SOE and Resistance activities, saved her life.

As Micheline Marcelle Simonet, Paddy’s cover story revealed that she was a ‘dame de compagnie’ of a doctor in Paris. She was taking  one month’s leave to look for a lost Belgian parent in Creuse. Her documents, including a letter from the doctor, were good. However, the month-long limitation was a strange decision by the SOE because the intention was for Paddy to remain in the area for considerably longer than that. In the event, she changed her cover story and became the friend of a school-teacher’s wife – the school-teacher was a leader of the local Resistance.

On one occasion, Paddy was stopped by the Gestapo while transporting her wireless, which was hidden in a suitcase. In passable German, she flirted with the officer, made a ‘date’ for the following evening, then escaped, the suitcase forgotten by the lusting officer.

After noble and brave service, Paddy returned to Britain on 5 October 1944. 

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #39

Dear Reader,

Another excellent week for Ann in my personal sales top ten.

Published this week, the March issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads!

I’m delighted to be a member of the editorial team. In this issue you will find a number of my articles and interviews plus great contributions from a range of talented writers.

In this issue…

Our authors gaze into their crystal balls and predict the future.

Articles on mental health, physical health, women of courage plus everything you need to know about March.

The story of StreetVet, vets who help the pets of homeless people

Interviews, puzzles, poems, humour, travel, young writers and so much more!

This week, I made a start on Roots, The Olive Tree, A Spanish Civil War Saga. This mini series offers fresh and interesting challenges for me because the stories are not mysteries. That said, I’ve never regarded myself as a mystery writer in the Agatha Christie tradition.

Although these stories are set in 1937-8 the characters are familiar to me mainly because of their backgrounds.

As I branch out with The Olive Tree and Eve’s War the more I’m drawn to Sam. By exploring various formats and genres I believe it will strengthen my writing of the Sam Smith Mystery Series.

https://books2read.com/u/mgZ1dq

My latest translation, the German version of Saving Grace. Sandra has agreed to translate my forthcoming Eve’s War series. She’s a wonderful translator so I’m looking forward to that project.

While reading Pearl Witherington’s SOE file, I discovered an amazing coincidence. As secretary ‘Genevieve Touzalin‘, Pearl’s false papers and cover story stated that she lived on Rue Paradis, Marseille. Yesterday, I wrote a chapter of Operation Zigzag set on Rue Paradis 🙂

In Operation Zigzag, Eve’s husband, Michel, drives a Talbot Lago T150 SS Teardrop Coupe, like this one, along Rue Paradis.

My updated store, which features Snow in August, my latest Sam Smith mystery for only £2.99 a saving of 66% off the recommended retail price 🙂

https://hannah-howe.com/mystore/

I completed the writing of Operation Zigzag today. The editing and proofreading will follow. Next week I will develop the storyboard for Operation Locksmith. This story introduces Guy Samson and Mimi Duchamp to the series. The interplay between Eve, Guy and Mimi will be central to this series so I’m looking forward to writing this story.

Operation Zigzag is receiving excellent pre-order support from Canada, so many thanks to my Canadian readers.

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/operation-zigzag/9781999370992-item.html

The SOE had a team of boffins who designed everything from pen guns, to exploding cow pats to clothes in the latest French fashions. One of the tricks they employed was ageing, for clothing, briefcases and money. To age money the women in the Cover and Documentations department used to wear freshly minted banknotes in their brassieres to soften the notes.

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Yvonne Fontaine was born on 8 August 1913. From Troyes, Yvonne witnessed Allied bombing raids and her initial contact with the French Resistance came about through helping Allied airmen, shot down over France, to escape to Spain.

Saint-Girons, France to Esterri d’Aneu, Spain, the Freedom Trail

For the SOE, Yvonne began work for the Tinker network as a courier with organiser Ben Cowburn. When the Gestapo closed in on the network, the SOE recalled Yvonne to Britain on 15 November 1943. At this stage Yvonne was not officially recognised as an SOE agent. Indeed, some sources still do not recognise her, which is a shame given her level of bravery and commitment.

In Britain, Yvonne underwent SOE training. She returned to France by boat landing on the North Breton coast on 25 March 1944 to continue her work as a courier, travelling throughout France, carrying messages and sabotage materials.

Yvonne’s network enjoyed numerous successes, which included destroying railway tracks and engines, sabotaging canals by lowering the water levels and dusting itching powder on to the shirts and singlets of German submarine crews.

When the Nazis arrested the leaders of Yvonne’s network, she stepped up and continued their work helping to organise the Resistance in the lead up to D-Day. In the euphoria post D-Day, she collected information and materials, and collated reports before returning to Britain on 16 September 1944, her mission successful.

After the war, Yvonne settled into married life. She died on 9 May 1996.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #38

Dear Reader,

This week, Betrayal reached #1 on the Amazon charts for the ninth time while all five books in my Ann’s War Mystery Series reached the top forty. Therefore, Ann dominates my personal sales chart today.

My latest translation, another wonderful contribution from Adriana.

Operation Zigzag entered the Hot 💯 the day it was made available for pre-order and I’m delighted that the book is still in the Hot 💯 

The writing is going extremely well. It’s been fascinating learning about the mean streets of Marseille, the railway network and the social customs of the time.

I write the books I want to read and I can’t wait to write and read the next chapter 🙂

https://books2read.com/u/mKDDyv

Fort Saint-John in Marseille. Allied prisoners of war were held here.

In Operation Zigzag, set in December 1943, the Resistance ask Eve to spring Zigzag from this prison and escort him to the relative safety of Spain.

From 1940-2 the Germans and Allies had a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ whereby the prisoners were allowed to wander around Marseille by day as long as they returned to the prison at night. Both sides honoured this agreement. However, when the Gestapo arrived in Marseille in November 1943 fascist barbarity replaced civilisation.

My 2020 writing schedule includes two Sam Smith mysteries, two Olive Tree Spanish Civil War novellas, two Eve’s War Heroines of SOE novellas and Pearl of the SOE. These books will be published this year, starting in March, although Pearl of the SOE is scheduled for 2021.

This is a demanding, but exciting schedule. My notebooks are full of novel and series ideas, which I hope to develop in due course.

Along with translations and audiobooks, these stories will be my main writing and publishing focus for the foreseeable future.

The cover for my forthcoming dramatised biography of Pearl Witherington the only woman to lead a Marquis group (of approximately 4,000 men) during the SOE’s fight against fascism.

Unknown to the general public, the SOE’s offices were on Baker Street, home of course to the fictional Sherlock Holmes, and immortalised in this classic Gerry Rafferty song.

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Alix Marrier d’Unienville was born on 8 May 1918 in Mauritius. Her parents, wealthy French aristocrats, moved back to France, to a chateau near Vannes, when she was six.

In 1940, with her dual French and British citizenship, Alix escaped to Britain where she wrote propaganda leaflets in the Free French headquarters at Carlton Gardens, London.

Recruited by the SOE, Alix began her training in June 1943. On 31 March 1944, she parachuted into Loir-et-Cher from a Halifax aircraft with millions of francs to distribute to the Resistance.

Under the alias of Aline Bavelan, her cover story stated that she was born on the island of Réunion in 1922 (the SOE making her four years younger), moved to France in 1938 to study and now was the wife of a prisoner-of-war. Clandestinely, her main mission in France was to organise messages for the Free French in Paris.

Alix worked in Paris under the code names Myrtil and Marie-France. She was successful until 6 June 1944 when the Gestapo arrested her in Paris. At Avenue Foch, where she was interrogated, the Gestapo found her cyanide pill.

Held in Fresnes Prison, in solitary confinement, Alix pretended to be mentally ill in the hope that the Gestapo would transfer her to Saint-Anne hospital. However, instead they transferred her to La Pitié a place known for its brutal atrocities. There, she continued her pretence, drawing inspiration from a family servant who had suffered from psychological problems. The secret, Alix reasoned, was never to look people in the eyes.

Transferred again, to a prison camp at Romainville, Alix plotted her escape with another prisoner, Annie Hervé. Their plan was to escape over the prison walls using a rope made from black curtains. Alix abandoned her plan when the Gestapo deported Annie Hervé to Germany. 

Throughout her time in captivity, the Gestapo were deeply suspicious of Alix. Indeed, all the clues pointed to her being an agent, yet they never put all the pieces together. Although she existed in squalid conditions on merge rations, she remained physically and mentally strong, strong enough to continually outwit her enemy.

On 15 August 1944, with the Allies approaching, Alix was in the last convoy travelling from Romainville to Germany when she reached Marne. There, the Allies had destroyed the railway bridge, so the Gestapo ordered the prisoners to cross a road bridge. 

In the town square, the prisoners spied a fountain. They ran towards the fountain to drink while the guards ran after them to haul them back. Sensing her opportunity, Alix escaped. At first, she entered a house. The occupants were sympathetic and offered her temporary shelter. Later, she hid in a meadow and after that with a woodcutter and his family before the advancing Americans liberated her. Free, she returned in a jeep to Paris.

After the war, Alix was employed as a war correspondent for US forces in south-east Asia. Then she worked as an air hostess for Air France. Putting her dramatic life experiences to good use, she became an accomplished writer of fiction and nonfiction producing several quality books.

In keeping with many of the female SOE agents who survived the war, Alix lived into her nineties. She died in Paris on 10 November 2015, aged 97.

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