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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #48

I’m honoured to have two of my articles featured in the Seaside News this month. You can find them on page sixteen of the magazine.

This is Lilly of the Valley. A French friend informs me that it’s a tradition to share this at the beginning of May to wish friends good luck and happiness throughout the coming year, so I’m happy to share it with you 🙂
 
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We are making good progress with the audiobook version of Digging in the Dirt and hope to publish in early June. Meanwhile, here’s the cover.

The May 2020 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now available to read and download FREE 🙂

Sam visits the Rhymney Valley in Looking for Rosanna Mee.

Lightly populated for centuries, the valley developed through heavy industry – iron, steel and coal.
 
Local legend states that a giant harassed the fairies. They asked an owl for help and he slew the giant. As the fairies burned the giant’s body the scorched earth revealed the coal.
 
Picture: Wikipedia
 
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This is a letter written by Captain Selwyn Jepson of the SOE recommending Jacqueline Nearne for service in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. It’s pure fiction. For this letter to be authentic, Jepson should have known Jacqueline for at least two years (he’d known her for two weeks). Prudence Macfie of the FANY wrote a similar letter, even though she‘d known Jacqueline for a shorter period than Jepson.
 
Why the deception? The FANY was used as a cover for female SOE agents and in Jacqueline, Jepson saw someone who could serve the SOE well. His judgement proved correct. Jacqueline served the SOE with distinction and was awarded numerous honours after the war.
 
 
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During the Second World War, thousands of coded messages were sent from Britain to SOE agents in France. Here are four received by Pearl Witherington’s Wrestler network.
 
Quasimodo is a fete = Intensify guerrilla warfare
Don’t play about in the morning = Cut telephone communications
Sherry is a Spanish wine = Block the roads
A badly dressed woman = Sabotage railway lines
 

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Local views this week, from Ogmore, Kenfig and the Goylake River.
 

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Wishing you a Happy 75th VE Day Anniversary.
 
Our ancestors gave so much, including their lives, in the fight against fascism. We owe it to them, ourselves and our children to ensure that the current generation of fascists with their racist views, false smiles and pathological lies do not triumph.
 
Our ancestors gave their lives for a better world. It is up to us, everyone of us, to make their dream a reality.
 
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Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Odette Victoria Wilen was born on 25 April 1919. She served the SOE in France under the code name Sophie. Odette’s experiences in France read like a romantic adventure novel, with tragic twists and turns, and a fairytale ending.

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Odette Wilen

Born of a French mother and a Czech father, who served as an RAF officer, Odette became a naturalised British citizen in 1931. In June 1940, she married Dennis Wilen, a Finnish RAF pilot instructor. Sadly, he died during a flying accident in 1942.

In April 1943, Odette joined the SOE. At her request, she trained as a wireless operator and was parachuted into France on 11 April 1944 to join the Stationer network in Auvergne.

Odette’s organiser, Maurice Southgate, believed that she had not received sufficient training, which was symptomatic of the SOE’s desperate need to send wireless operators into the field. Subsequently, she was replaced.

Meanwhile, through a network of contacts, which included fellow agents Pearl Witherington and Virginia Hall, Odette transferred to the Labourer network where she worked in Paris as a courier alongside Marcel Leccia, who became her fiancé. Sadly, through betrayal the Gestapo captured Marcel and two of his colleagues. In keeping with their barbaric code, the Gestapo murdered Marcel in September 1944.

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Pearl Witherington

Odette was saved from the Gestapo by Pearl Witherington and by Marcel’s sister, Mimi, who warned her of their impending threat. After trying to secure Marcel’s release, Odette fled Paris by bicycle before following the well-warn escape route over the Pyrenees into Spain, then on to Gibraltar and Britain, arriving in August 1944.

During her exfiltration, Odette met the head of the Spanish escape network, Santiago Strugo Garay. Although they spent only three days together, Odette must have left a strong impression on Santiago because at the end of the war, he left Spain to meet up with her in Britain. The couple married in March 1946 and later settled in Buenos Aires.

Odette and Santiago produced two children. He died in 1997 while she died in 2015, aged 96.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

PS Apologies for any formatting errors, these are a result of WordPress’ increasingly unreliable platform.

 
 
 
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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #47

Dear Reader,

This is exciting, Looking for Rosanna Mee, which is published in September, is a Hot 💯 new release sitting alongside the legendary Bill Pronzini 🙂

https://www.amazon.com/Looking-Rosanna-Mee-Smith-Mystery-ebook/dp/B086C624BC/

I suspect this will be my book statistic of the week, my sales on Kobo are up exactly 1,000% (!) 🙂

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=hannah%20howe&fcsearchfield=Author

A busy week with audiobooks with five in production: Smoke and Mirrors, Stardust, Digging in the Dirt, Boston and The Devil and Ms Devlin, all in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. It’s always fascinating to hear how narrators interpret your words and it’s always great to work with other creative people.

Here’s some we made earlier https://hannah-howe.com/audio-books/

My Author of the Week, Val Tobin

As part of the Authors Give Back sale where authors support readers during this difficult time Val Tobin is offering her books for free and at 60% off the recommended retail price.

Nothing is more glorious than finding a book that keeps you turning pages to discover what happens next. Val Tobin’s stories will do just that. Take a journey with characters who will inspire you, intrigue you, and entice you to read just one more chapter.

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

The Chocolate Egg and the Router

Earlier this week, I lost my Internet connection. An engineer was due today, so yesterday evening I decided to tidy the living room to make space for him. And guess what I found? In a corner inaccessible to man or beast, the router plug was sitting on the floor. I plugged it in and within ten minutes our Internet was restored.

So, how did the plug get on to the floor? As unlikely as it sounds it seems that one of my children reached for an Easter egg, knocked a small 5.1 music speaker off the shelf, the speaker landed on the plug and knocked it out of the socket. Throughout this a light remained on the router – it’s fed by two sockets – and the corner is inaccessible except for the plug sockets so no one thought to look there.

I told the engineer there was no need to call because I’d fixed the problem. Doubtless, he was impressed. However, I didn’t tell him how I did it 😉

My current reading list for Eve’s War

Madame Fourcade was an amazing woman. Forget de Gaulle, Madame Fourcade was the real leader of the French Resistance. She was the one who rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in when it came to fighting the fascists.

Most of my Eve’s War series is set in Brittany, hence the need to top up my knowledge of that region.

After the war, Ann-Marie Walters established a career in literature and her book is the best written account of an SOE agent’s experiences in France.

“I’m very nervous, but patient. It’s a funny mixture really and you need that for radio work. You need the patience to do the coding and decoding. You need the resourcefulness of nervousness to be able to decide to go on if you think somebody’s listening in (the Gestapo used to listen in to transmissions in vans disguised as Red Cross vehicles) or to cut off and ask for another sked (transmission schedule).” – Yvonne Cormeau.

Yvonne was the ‘fastest finger in France‘. She transmitted Morse code messages at a rate of twenty words a minute (the average was twelve words a minute) and she sent more messages than any other female SOE wireless operator.

https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/yvonne-cormeau/

In 1944, SOE agent Anne-Marie Walters, pictured below, had a narrow escape when travelling by train to Condom via Tarbes. A Gestapo officer approached to search her cases, which contained small arms and demolition equipment. However, a young woman with two babies, unknown to Anne-Marie, but sensing danger, created a fuss over the Gestapo searching her bags. In the commotion, the Gestapo officer didn’t search Anne-Marie’s cases. When he left the carriage, the young woman offered Anne-Marie a smile of understanding. In that moment she had saved Anne-Marie’s life.

On another occasion, Anne-Marie found herself at a bus stop facing a snap search. While one fascist inspected her (false) documents another searched her handbag and pulled out a crumpled ball of toilet paper. Anne-Marie blushed at the sight and the fascist returned the toilet paper to her handbag. That toilet paper contained thirty coded messages. The BBC broadcast these messages at set times during the day. They carried instructions for the Resistance, informing them of arms drops via parachute, details of other networks and most famously of all the timing of the D-Day invasion. The code for that message was the first stanza of Paul Verlaine’s poem “Chanson d’automne”. The first part of the stanza, Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne (“the long sobs of the violins of autumn”) indicated that the invasion would begin within 24 hours; the second, Blessent mon cœur d’une langueur monotone (“wound my heart with a monotonous languor”) was the specific call to action.

A memorial to the SOE agents of the Wheelwright network in Lapeyrade, Landes. Yvonne Cormeau, Anne-Marie Walters and Yvonne Baseden have featured on my website.

Pictures taken near my home in South Wales this week: Kenfig, Mawdlam, Cefn Cribwr, the Goylake River, Kenfig and Ballas

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

SOE agent Eileen Mary “Didi” Nearne was born on 15 March 1921 in London to an English father, John, and a Spanish mother, Marie. She was the youngest of four children while her elder sister, Jaqueline, and her brother, Francis, also became SOE agents.

In 1923, the family moved to France where Eileen became fluent in French. After the German invasion in 1940, Eileen and Jacqueline followed the well-worn path to London via Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Gibraltar and Glasgow, while their parents and brothers remained in Grenoble.

Eileen Nearne

In Britain, the SOE soon identified Eileen’s talents. Initially, she worked as a signals operator decoding secret messages, often written in invisible ink, received from agents in the field.

After a period of training, on 2 March 1944, Eileen arrived via Lysander in Les Lagnys, Saint-Valentin. Her mission was to work as a wireless operator for the Wizard network. She also organised sources of finance for the Resistance. Over five months she transmitted 105 messages, each one sent at enormous personal risk.

Coincidentally, Eileen’s organiser, Jean Savy, returned to Britain on 9 April 1944 on the same aircraft as her sister, Jacqueline, who had spent fifteen successful months in the field. Savy arrived in Britain with important information about the Nazi’s V1 rockets.

In July 1944, the Gestapo detected Eileen’s transmitter and arrested her. A period of barbarity followed, which included crude forms of inhuman treatment. Nevertheless, despite the torture, Eileen convinced the Gestapo that a businessman had hired her to send messages and that, at the time, she remained innocent of his British nationality.

In August 1944, the Gestapo sent Eileen to Ravensbrück concentration camp then on to Silesia. At the camps, the guards forced her into slave labour. However, she remained defiant and, despite more torture, refused.

Jacqueline Nearne

On 13 April 1945, Eileen escaped with two French women. Marching to another camp through the snow and dark they hid in a forest then travelled to Markkleeberg where the S.S. arrested them. However, they managed to fool the S.S. (it’s remarkable how many agents managed to do this) and with the aid of a priest they hid in Leipzig until the liberating Americans arrived a few days later.

It’s ironic that Eileen constantly lied to the Gestapo and, for the most part, the believed her. They regarded her as ‘a silly little French girl who was wasting their time.’ However, when she told the Americans the truth they didn’t believe her and it took some time before they handed her over to the British authorities.

After the war, Eileen suffered from what we now recognise as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Jacqueline cared for her and in 1997 she felt well enough to appear on a Timewatch television programme where she discussed her wartime experiences.

Eileen died in September 2010 aged eighty-nine.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #44

Dear Reader,

My personal top ten this week.

My top ten sales countries this week: America, Britain, Canada, Australia, Bulgaria, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, Germany, France.

My latest Sam Smith Mystery, Looking for Rosanna Mee, book seventeen in the series, is now available for pre-order 🙂

“Aged twenty-one, Rosanna Mee was housebound, severely agoraphobic. Yet, when Faye and I arrived at her flat to deliver legal papers we could not find her. She’d disappeared. How could a woman who had not travelled from her home in three years simply disappear? That was the first in a series of questions that led us into the world of bodybuilding, fraud and murder.

Meanwhile, the kaleidoscope of my life continued to change. As the picture settled I discovered that I was saying goodbye to a friend, hello to a new office and facing a development that would totally transform my personal life.”

https://books2read.com/u/banLVv

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Sam has new readers, in Uzbekistan

Pictured: Traditional embroidery from Uzbekistan

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I managed to get hold of another ‘top secret’ document. This document is the SOE file on traitor Roger Bardet who betrayal many of his colleagues to the Nazis. His story will form the basis for Operation Sherlock, book five in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series.

Local pictures taken at Sger and Kenfig this week, a stone’s throw from my home.

I’m outlining Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. In this story Eve, Guy Samson and Mimi Duchamp arrive in Dol-de-Bretagne, by parachute, to establish the Broadsword resistance network.

In peacetime, Guy is an archaeologist, a professor, and he uses that cover in Dol-de-Bretagne. One of the historical objects that catches his eye is the Menhir de Champ-Dolent, the largest standing stone in Brittany at over nine metres high. The menhir is made of pinkish granite and weighs an estimated 100 tonnes.

In the story, Eve discovers that friends can be enemies. However, can enemies also become friends?

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I’ve finalised the running order for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series. The stories, all based on true events, will cover December 1942 to October 1944. The books are in various stages of production, from draft outlines to completed manuscripts. Publication will begin in June and will continue at two monthly intervals.

The running order:

Operation Zigzag 
Operation Locksmith 
Operation Broadsword 
Operation Treasure 
Operation Sherlock
Operation Cameo
Operation Rose
Operation Watchmaker 
Operation Overlord
Operation Jedburgh 
Operation Butterfly 
Operation Liberty

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

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Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Virginia Hall Goillot was a rare breed, an American who worked for the SOE. 

Born in Baltimore, Maryland on 5 April 1906, Virginia attended university where she studied French, German and Italian. Completing her studies in Europe, she travelled to France, Germany, Austria and Poland. In Poland in 1931 she secured employment as a consular service clerk at the American Embassy.

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In 1932, Virginia lost her left leg below the knee after a shooting accident. The surgeons affixed a wooden leg, which she nicknamed Cuthbert. 

After her accident, Virginia made several attempts to become a diplomat. However, the American authorities rejected her on the grounds that she was a woman and disabled. Consequently, in March 1939, she resigned as a consular clerk.

In February 1940, Virginia became an ambulance driver for the French army. After the fall of France in June 1940, she made her way to Spain where she met George Bellows, a British Intelligence Officer. This meeting led to an invitation to join the SOE.

Virginia joined the SOE in April 1941 and, after training, she arrived in Vichy France on 23 August 1941. Her cover story, as a reporter for the New York Post, allowed her to travel, talk with people and gather information. During this period, she became adept at changing her appearance through various forms of disguise.

In common with other SOE agents, Virginia organised the Resistance, supplied agents with money, conducted weapons training, helped downed airmen to escape, tended wounds, established safe houses and recruited new members to the cause.

Among Virginia’s recruits was Lyon brothel owner Germaine Guérin. Guérin made several safe houses available to Virginia. She also passed on information garnered from her prostitutes, tidbits gleaned from the German officers who frequented her brothel. Furthermore, while in Lyon, George Whittinghill, an American diplomat, allowed Virginia to smuggle reports to Britain in the diplomatic pouch.

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Downed airmen often made their way to Lyon where contacts told them to visit the American Consulate and say they were, ‘A friend of Olivier’. Olivier was Virginia and with the help of brothel owner Germaine Guérin and others she hid, fed and helped the airmen to escape to Spain then on to Britain.

Unfortunately, the Nazis captured Germaine Guérin and sent her to a concentration camp, but she survived. On hearing this news, Virginia arranged compensation of 80,000 francs from Britain for Guérin.

M.R.D. Foot, the official historian of the SOE, said that an agent’s motto was “dubito, ergo sum”  –  “I doubt, therefore I survive.” Virginia took this motto to heart. Indeed, in October 1941 she sensed danger and refused to attend a meeting of SOE agents in Marseille. That meeting led to disaster and the arrest of a dozen agents.

Virginia learned that the Nazis had incarcerated the twelve agents arrested in October 1941 in the Mauzac prison near Bergerac. With the aid of Gaby Bloch, wife of prisoner Jean-Pierre Bloch, Virginia smuggled tools and sardine tins into the prison. With these tools and tins the prisoners made a key to the prison door and on 15 July 1942 they escaped and hid in the woods. After an intense manhunt, Virginia helped the men to escape into Spain then on to Britain. Later, several of the escapees returned to France to lead SOE networks.

Furious with the escape, the Nazis flooded Lyon with Gestapo officers. Also, on 7 November 1942, the American Consulate in Lyon informed Virginia that the Allied invasion of North Africa was imminent and that the Nazis would retaliate in brutal fashion. Therefore, she escaped by train from Lyon to Perpignan. Then, with a guide, she walked – on one good leg – over a 7,500 foot pass across the Pyrenees into Spain, covering fifty miles in two days.

The Gestapo referred to Virginia as ‘that Canadian bitch’ even though she was, of course, American. You have to wonder at the basic intelligence and ability of the Gestapo when they couldn’t capture a one-legged woman with distinctive red hair. Furthermore, she spoke French with a broad American accent. 

Although Virginia was eager to return to France, the SOE refused on the grounds that she was known to the Gestapo. However, the Americans had no such qualms and so, by gunboat, she returned to France in March 1944 as a wireless operator for the American OSS. 

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French identification certificate for Virginia Hall as “Marcelle Montagne” forged by OSS

While working for the OSS, Virginia fell in love with a colleague, Paul Goillot. After the war, the couple lived together and eventually married in 1957. 

In 1947, Virginia joined the CIA, one of the first women hired by the new agency. She retired in 1966, aged sixty, to a farm in Barnesville, Maryland, where she lived until her death on 8 July 1982.

Admired by fellow agents, Virginia did much to establish the early SOE networks in France. Quite rightly, she is remembered as a woman of remarkable ability and courage.

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Happy Easter and as ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #42

Dear Reader,

My personal top ten this week.

My publishing schedule for 2020

*March: Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen

*June: The Olive Tree: Roots, A Spanish Civil War Saga

*June: Operation Zigzag, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE

*August: Operation Locksmith, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE

*September: Looking for Rosanna Mee, Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen

October: Operation Broadsword, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE

November: The Olive Tree: Branches, A Spanish Civil War Saga

December: Operation Treasure, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE

* Currently available to order or pre-order

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

As mentioned above, my latest Sam Smith Mystery is now available for pre-order 🙂

Aged twenty-one, Rosanna Mee was housebound, severely agoraphobic. Yet, when Faye and I arrived at her flat to deliver legal papers we could not find her. She’d disappeared. How could a woman who had not travelled from her home in three years simply disappear? That was the first in a series of questions that led us into the world of bodybuilding, fraud and murder.

Meanwhile, the kaleidoscope of my life continued to change. As the picture settled I discovered that I was saying goodbye to a friend, hello to a new office and facing a development that would totally transform my personal life.

https://books2read.com/u/banLVv

Sam has new readers, in Peru 🙂

Pictured, Cusco, capital of the Incan Empire

My merchandiser produced a Hannah Howe calendar. This is the image for March, the Rakotz bridge in Kromlau, Germany.

Andre Hue is one of the inspirations for Guy Samson, my male SOE agent in Eve’s War. Andre was born a few miles from my home in Wales to a Welsh mother and French father. An interesting fact about Andre’s parents is when they met and married Andre’s mother, Caroline Hunter, could not speak French while his father, also Andre, could not speak English. Obviously, they communicated through the greatest universal language of all, love.

This picture was taken from Andre’s fake ID card issued by the SOE in June 1944

I managed to get hold of a ‘top secret’ document from 1944 that details the Special Operations Executive’s contribution to Operation Overlord. I will be using these details in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series.

I have a wealth of archive material for this series. However, it’s estimated that 85% of the SOE’s records were destroyed in a suspicious fire and there is speculation that that fire was started deliberately so that the records would be forever hidden from the public’s gaze.

Local views of Sger beach this week

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE 

Yvonne Cormeau, born Beatrice Yvonne Biesterfeld on 18 December 1909, served the SOE as a wireless operator for the Wheelwright network under the code name Annette. She operated in southwestern France from August 1943 until the liberation of France in September 1944. Yvonne was an unusual SOE agent in that she was a mother.

The SOE acclaimed Yvonne for the quality and quantity of her wireless transmissions. Wireless operators were vulnerable to detection and capture, often within weeks of landing. Nevertheless, she performed her duties with great courage and skill for over a year.

Yvonne Cormeau

Educated in Belgium and Scotland, Yvonne was living in London in 1937 when she married Charles Emile Cormeau, a chartered accountant. Charles enlisted in the Rifle Brigade and, in 1940, was wounded in France. Tragically, he was killed shortly after his return to London when the Nazis bombed his home. Yvonne survived the bombing when a bathtub fell over her and protected her head. However, her unborn baby did not survive.

Yvonne sent her two-year-old daughter Yvette into the countryside for her own safety. Then she decided to “take her husband’s place in the Armed Forces”. She joined the WAAF as an administrator in November 1941. From there the SOE recruited her to train as a wireless operator. After much agonising and fearing that she might make her daughter an orphan, she joined the organisation on 15 February 1943. 

With Yvette in a convent, where she remained until she was five, Yvonne parachuted into France, arriving on 23 August 1943. In common with many agents, she declined to take a cyanide pill with her to commit suicide if captured. The SOE issued her with a .22 revolver, but she did not carry the firearm because discovery of a weapon could lead to instant execution.

Wireless operators transmitted an average of twelve words per minute in Morse code. However, Yvonne averaged twenty words per minute. This meant she was a very talented “pianist”, SOE slang for wireless operators.

Yvonne also worked as a courier, cycling 50 kilometres on regular occasions. As a “district nurse” Yvonne travelled the countryside avoiding the Nazis and the dreaded Milice, a radical and brutal branch of the French police.

A “wanted” poster in Yvonne’s neighbourhood offered an accurate description of her appearance, heightening the danger. On one occasion, the Nazis stopped her at gunpoint at a roadblock. Eventually, they accepted her false papers and her story, passing her wireless equipment off as an X-ray machine.

M.R.D. Foot, the official historian of the SOE said of Yvonne, “She was a perfectly unobtrusive and secure craftswoman. She broke one of the strictest rules of wireless security – i.e. always keep on the move – with success: she transmitted for six consecutive months from the same house. She could see for three miles from the window where she worked, which was one safeguard; a more effective one was that there was no running water in the village, so the Germans who knew there was an English wireless operator somewhere close by never thought of looking for her there.”

Bloodstained dress and briefcase of Yvonne Cormeau on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum

Yvonne assisted in the cutting of power and telephone lines, resulting in the isolation of the Wehrmacht Group G garrison near Toulouse. In June 1944, she was shot in the leg while escaping from a Nazi attack on Castelnau, but managed to rescue her wireless. The dress she wore on that occasion and the bloodstained briefcase she carried are on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum in London along with her WAAF officer’s uniform.

After the war, Yvonne worked as a translator in the SOE section at the Foreign Office. She also became a leading organiser of veterans’ reunions. Reunited with her daughter, Yvette, she lived in London.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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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