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Dear Reader

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

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #35

Dear Reader,

My sales top ten this week with Saving Grace up to #2. Many thanks to everyone who supports my books.

My latest translation will be available soon, The Big Chill in Swedish. This is my third Swedish project with Jill, a wonderful translator.

Just published, Mom’s Favorite Reads February issue!

In this issue…

Valentine’s Day 
Leap Year
Mental Health 
Young Writers
Humour
Interviews
Hypnotism
And so much more!

Read online or download your FREE copy today 🙂

Before I write a story l like to know what the last line will be. My Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series will be twelve books, so at this stage it’s difficult to know exactly what the last line will be. However, I’ve just thought of the last significant action that will tie up all the threads within the series. It’s magical when that happens.

Local views today, Margam Park.

The alchemy always amazes me, how one line from research notes can transform into a story within minutes. I’ve just outlined Operation Treasure in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Even in war is it possible to shoot an unharmed woman in cold blood? Eve is about to find out.

Meanwhile, Operation Zigzag continues to climb the Hot 💯 Chart, rubbing shoulders with New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Amazon #1 bestselling author Robert Dugoni 🙂

Here’s the universal book link for Operation Zigzag https://books2read.com/u/mKDDyv

Women of Courage, Heroines of SOE

Jacqueline Nearne was born on 27 May 1916 in Brighton. She was the eldest daughter of an English father and a Spanish mother. Her family moved to France in 1923 then when France fell in 1940 she made her way to Britain via Portugal and Gibraltar.

In Britain, Jacqueline applied to join the ATS, but was rejected due to her lack of experience driving in the dark and on the left-hand side of the road.

In 1942, Jacqueline was recruited into the FANYs, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. This was common for many female members of the SOE. During the summer of 1942 she trained as a courier for the SOE. Her younger sister, Eileen, and brother, Francis, also served in the SOE.

Jacqueline trained with Lise de Baissac, and the two became great friends. On 25 January 1943, after further training, as a radio operator, Jacqueline parachuted into France to work for the Stationer circuit.

Jacqueline’s fake ID card while serving the SOE

The SOE provided agents with tailored clothing to suit the French fashions. Nevertheless, Jacqueline noticed that French and British knitting was so different that the Nazis could recognise the stitching. Therefore, she decided to knit socks for her fellow agents earning the nickname ‘Jackie Red Socks’.

Jacqueline carried spare parts for her radios inside a cosmetics bag. The average life-expectancy for a wireless operator was only six weeks. However, Jacqueline remained in the field for fifteen months, returning to Britain on 10 April 1944 via a Westland Lysander, an aircraft commonly used to deliver and rescue agents.

After the war, Jacqueline spent some time nursing her sister, Eileen, also an agent who had suffered while in France. Then she moved to New York to work at the United Nations.

In 1946, Jacqueline played ‘Cat’, a character based on herself, in the RAF Film Unit’s production of Now It Can Be Told, which was also released as School for Danger, a drama-documentary about the SOE. As well as her daring exploits, the film also highlighted Jacqueline’s knitting.

Operation Zigzag, book one in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series is now available to pre-order from Amazon.

Eve’s War is a series of twelve novellas. Each book contains approximately 20,000 words and a complete story. Kindly note that the price throughout the series will be set at the minimum level and that Eve’s story arc will be concluded at the end of the series.

Marseille, December 1942

“We’re in a fix,” Vincent said. “The Gestapo have captured a British agent, code name Zigzag. They picked him up through his false identity papers, only the thing is they haven’t discovered his true identity, yet. But they will. And he will talk. They all do in the end. And when he talks he will reveal secrets that will destroy the local resistance networks, including our own. But there’s a way out, through a guard. He’s open to bribes. We’d like you to meet the guard, bribe him, spring Zigzag from the Gestapo prison then escort him over the mountain pass into Spain.”

“Why me?” I asked.

“Because you helped to establish the escape network. And you know the mountain trails like the back of your hand. Furthermore, as the wife of respected industrialist Michel Beringar you are above suspicion.”

I glanced at Michel. From the stern look on his face, I could tell that he wasn’t pleased. Was this one risk too many? And as for me being above suspicion…the Gestapo were following me and they were tapping my phone.

As a child, I’d run away from home. As a teenager, I’d travelled the world, living on my wits. As a journalist, I’d witnessed atrocities inflicted in the name of fascism. As a member of the Resistance, I’d eyeballed fear and stared it down. For the past thirty years I’d lived a full life. I could do this. However, even as I voiced my agreement I knew that my life in Marseille, my life with Michel, would never be the same.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

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

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Dear Reader

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

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #31

Dear Reader,

A lovely week for my books with Sam’s Song reaching #2 on the private investigator’s chart. The book has already reached #1 seven times, which is beyond my expectations 🙂

Great to see that Snow in August is still a Hot 💯 New Release sitting alongside New York Times bestselling author Harlan Coben 🙂

This week I completed the first draft of The Olive Tree: Roots, a Spanish Civil War Saga. The editing of Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen is also going well. Both books are available for pre-order.

My research this week centred on Eve’s War, my Special Operations Executive series. I’m studying the lives of twenty-one female agents. Here are the remarkable stories of two of them.

The exact number of Special Operations Executive agents who served in France isn’t known, but the female branch is estimated at forty. The two female agents in my Eve’s War series are a composite of twenty-one of those agents and my stories are based on their real-life experiences.

Giliana Balmaceda

Giliana Balmaceda was the first female agent the SOE sent to occupied France. Born in Chile c1910 she worked as an actress in Paris where she met Victor Gerson, a British citizen and a dealer in fine rugs and carpets.

The couple married and on 18 June 1940, at the signing of the armistice, they escaped to Britain where they joined the SOE.

Victor Gerson suggested creating a network of helpers to assist the entrance and exit of SOE agents assigned to France and Giliana volunteered to assess the possibility.

In May 1941 the SOE sent Giliana into occupied France. She returned through Spain in late June 1941. During her three months in France Giliana travelled freely in Lyons and Vichy, ostensibly on holiday, her Chilean passport securing her passage.

With a large haul of intelligence, contacts and administrative documents, such as ration cards, Giliana returned to Britain. There, the SOE reproduced the documents and subsequently agents used them on their clandestine missions.

Sonya Butt

Sonya Esmée Florence Butt, also known as Sonya d’Artois, was the youngest female SOE agent to serve in France. Born on 14 May 1924, Sonya worked as a courier for the Headmaster network under the code name Blanche.

Sonya Butt

Sonya’s role of courier brought her into contact with German check-points. The SOE preferred female agents as couriers because when travelling around the district on bicycles they were less likely to attract attention compared to males of military or working age.

Sonya joined the SOE, aged 19, on 11 December 1943. Her training included soldiering skills and stamina development, plus specialist skills for her life in occupied France. This training regime was new to women at the time. However, the training was familiar to men, including a French-Canadian army officer, Captain Guy D’Artois, whom Sonya met and later married.

Sonya Butt and Guy D’Artois

On 28 May 1944, the SOE parachuted Sonya into Le Mans to work as a courier. She arrived nine days before D-Day. A fellow agent who landed with her was shot, so Sonya took on his role of weapons instructor. As a courier, she carried money, delivered messages and maintained contact with fellow SOE agents and the French Resistance.

After D-Day, the Allies liberated Sonya’s district. However, before then two German soldiers detained her for questioning. Thankfully, her cover story and false papers withstood the interrogation and she was released.

Sonya Butt

In October 1944, Sonya returned to Britain. She married Guy d’Artois and the couple lived in Canada where they raised six children, three boys and three girls.

Sonya died on 21 December 2014 at the age of 90. It is a remarkable fact that of the twenty-one agents who form the background for my two SOE characters two-thirds of them lived well into their eighties and nineties.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx