Aug 282011
 

On Thursday I was finally able to get Dancing with Spies out into the market with its revised cover which I like just as much as Kelly’s first design. What do you think? It seems to have been many weeks since we were ready to publish but it has been delayed for one reason or another. The other good thing was that within three hours of it appearing on Kindle the first sale had been made.

That’s all I’m going to say about the new book, because I’ve been reading A Week in December by Sebastian Faulkes. As usual the writing is excellent and the characterisations are brilliant. But aren’t I glad that I don’t live in London any longer. The picture Faulkes paints of life in the British capital, which I’m sure is accurate, is of a people motivated entirely by greed, fuelled by drugs and ruined by racial disharmony. Their God is the new technology.

The England I knew wasn’t like that. I was brought up in the West Country in the decades after the Second World War. Material things were in short supply and some items were still rationed in the 1950’s. I remember my father had a tatty old, second-hand car. There was no television and most modern technological inventions hadn‘t even been thought of.

There was a strong sense of local community. As a lad I cycled everywhere. The roads were safe. The countryside was largely unspoiled. Nobody had heard of global warming or health and safety and the media knew their place. Of course tragedies and terrible crimes still occurred. But after the horrors of the war it seemed a light-hearted time to be alive. I count myself lucky to have grown up in that era. I have written about the times in my saga Riversmeet which I think I shall consider publishing early next year.

Now we have escaped from modern Britain and live in Spain, a few miles inland from the coast, where we can avoid the holiday-makers and experience some of the traditional ways of the Spanish. This Spain still seems to have a lot of the things I remember and value from England in the fifties. There is still a strong sense of community in the small towns and villages of the interior, encouraged by the local fiestas and other events. Traffic isn’t as horrendous as it has become in the UK. You can quickly get out into the country and up into the mountains where the only noises you encounter are those made by nature. You can eat and drink outside secret bars in the open air and listen to the arguments which they carry on at the top of their voices.

Of course Spain has many problems and there a number of things here which are not always to everybody’s liking. But the overwhelming sensation is that the Spanish still understand that the basic things in life are important and they give those things priority.

Viva Espana!

 

Aug 212011
 

This week I was hoping to be able to tell you that my new novel Dancing with Spies would be available for down-loading in a matter of days. However there has been a hitch. The people who provided a photo from which an extract was taken to include in the cover design refused to permit us to use it for reasons best known to themselves, so Kelly is having to redesign the cover using a new photo. We hope this will only put back the launch of Dancing with Spies for a week or two.

Meanwhile I thought I would tell you how I discovered the character of the heroine in this book. Dancing with Spies is the first novel which I have tried to write entirely from a woman’s view-point. You can imagine it was not easy. I needed a role model for my heroine who is just an ordinary everyday woman – not a female James Bond. Of course I soon realised that the ideal role model was my wife. I knew for sure that she was a real heroine.

Sue is my second wife. I have only known her for twenty years. I wish I had met her three decades earlier. About twelve years before we met she reached a crisis in her life when she was told she had breast cancer. This was soon after she found out her husband was having an affair with a teenage girl who she  employed .  He had promised it wouldn’t happen again but she suspected he was still seeing her. And he wouldn’t give her any support when she went for surgery.

This was more than thirty years ago and the treatment she had was dreadful. With no-one to turn to for help or advice, she was bullied into having a mastectomy which she was later informed had not been necessary. After the operation she was very poorly for a week. She says she still remembers the first time she was allowed to go to the bathroom alone.

She opened her dressing gown and the buttoned nightdress and looked at the flat side of her chest with the jagged scar reaching from the middle of her body up into her armpit and it was like being slapped violently across the face. It took her breath away.

“What chance will I have with one breast against a seventeen year-old?” she thought and burst into tears.

Some months later she received a silicone implant that restored some of the confidence she’d previously had in her body but her husband could never bring himself to look at her in the nude again. Their relationship continued to deteriorate and some years later they were divorced.

The fact that she has only one breast of her own has never been an issue between us. In fact, at 65, I still think she is the sexiest woman that I have ever met.

Of course there is no direct similarity between my wife and the heroine of my novel. But I hope that some of the spirit she showed in adversity shines though in development of the main character in my novel, Caroline Daley. I would be pleased if you tell me what you think.

 

 

Aug 142011
 

Dancing with SpiesExciting news! I have received the design for Dancing with Spies, my new mystery adventure novel, from Kelly Walsh and you can see it below. I think Kelly does brilliant original designs and this lives up to the standard she had set on my other book covers.

We wanted the sun-drenched setting of Dubrovnik to be shown, as it is by this photo-extract of a coastal view from the Old City walls. But overhead hangs the gloomy threat of the Yugoslav Civil War about to break on this beautiful part of the world. In the background is the shadowy figure of the heroine involved in the conflict of spies and the dance which she has in Chapter 18 with two of the spies in contention.

I attach an extract from Chapter 11 which I hope captures the heat and the confusion that Caroline feels as she gets dragged into the hostilities:-

 The ground seemed to be moving slightly under her feet. Did they have seismic activity in this area? There was a crack in the rendering not twenty feet in front of her. The crack seemed to twist and move upwards. She closed her eyes again.

“Am I going mad or is it just the heat?”

When she looked again, what she saw made her smile. The moving crack was a long green lizard. It undulated onto a window cill and paused. She turned to call Brian. At that second the shutters were pushed half-open.

From the corner of her eye as she turned away Caroline had the impression of a woman at the window. Her mouth was open in a soundless scream. In the room behind her a man was seated on a chair. He was sitting stiffly upright as though he was tied to its back. There was blood on his mouth and his hair was disheveled. Another man stood in front of him – short, swarthy, with iron-grey hair. As Caroline turned back to look at the scene the woman disappeared, the shutters were banged shut and it was as though nothing had been there. Even the lizard had disappeared.

 If you want to contact Kelly Walsh to discuss this cover or her approach to design in general she can be reached at keleonie@gmail.com.

 

Aug 072011
 

In 1991 Croatia was attempting to secede from the Yugoslav confederation and gain independence. Croatia is an unusual-shaped country. The bulk of its land mass is in the north of Yugoslavia but it also has a long narrow coastal strip running down a large part of the eastern side of the Adriatic including the coastal islands. At the southern end of this strip, and cut off from the rest of Croatia by the short length of the Bosnian coastline, there is the World Heritage City of Dubrovnik and its environs.

In the autumn of that year the area was besieged by the Serb-led JNA (Jugoslav National Army) and a Serb-crewed frigate was patrolling the coast. JNA guns were trained on the international airport and Dubrovnik was effectively cut off from the outside world. The international community was doing plenty of talking and the American sixth fleet was patrolling the southern end of the Adriatic, but they were refusing to take military action at that stage to try to resolve any of Yugoslavia’s problems, It was this inaction that was a partial cause of the tragedies which were to blight that unfortunate country in the following years.

Montenegro had long laid claim to this southern outpost of Croatia. However nobody could believe that the Serbs and Montenegrins would actually open fire on the beautiful old city which had no effective defences against modern high velocity guns and where the Croatian defenders numbered less than 1500 men with few effective weapons. On the other side the JNA had nearly 20,000 troops with modern tanks and artillery.

This is the historical setting for my latest novel called Dancing with Spies. My heroine finds herself trapped in the old city and gets caught up in the underground tangle of complex machinations between Serbs, Croats, Montenegrins and the other races who are trying to gain the upper hand in the escalating struggle.

Caroline Daley is an ordinary everyday woman who is escaping from a disastrous marriage in the English Cotswolds.  The siege puts her in danger and forces her to fight for her survival and the causes she believes in. It also leads to unexpected love, self-discovery and fulfilment of her desires by the time the conclusion of the story is reached.