It seems odd to be in the middle of a July heatwave and to be writing about a novel called Winter Roses (plus its companion Songs of Spring) which have just been relaunched by Allison & Busby in paperback and ebook. They are the third and fourth novels in my Great War quartet about the Lilley family who live in a Sussex village rectory. Its predecessors, Summer’s End and Dark Harvest, were published last year.
This is an appropriate time for Winter Roses to appear as it opens in June 1916, and July, one hundred years ago, was the first month of the Battle of the Somme. The battle continued until November with all its tragedies and hard fought conflicts. During my earlier career as a publishing editor I met many who had fought at the Somme or elsewhere during the four years of war and the Great War quartet was born out of my memories of their differing reflections. The war changed the lives of the Lilley family as it did for millions of families all over the world. It’s fitting that the cover of Songs of Spring shows a field of poppies, which have come to be the symbol of remembrance of the suffering and the sacrifice.
Just had the good news that Kobo books are promoting Jack Colby’s first case, Classic in the Barn, in their Spring Into a New Series offers. On now until 14th April. What with that – it features a Lagonda – and Classic at Bay just published and featuring thirteen Jaguars, Jack is on a winning streak.
It’s 31st March, it’s spring and it’s publication day for Jack Colby’s eighth case, Classic at Bay. Jack has twelve classic Jaguars to entrance him in this novel. How could he want anything more? Well, to be able to acquire the thirteenth Jaguar – and not to have to cope with murder.
Jack’s Frogs Hill restoration garage is not far from Pluckley, which is reputed to be the most haunted village in England. That links up with the novel I’m currently writing, in which a ghost-hunt is on the menu and murder is not long to follow it. This time it’s not Jack Colby in the sleuth role however. It’s set in the nineteen-twenties and Nell Drury, chef at the stately home of Wychbourne Court, dons the deerstalker to find a killer. She’ll be letting us know what happens later this year!
At the moment, we’re basking in autumn sunshine here, the garden is lush (and needs weeding) after recent heavy rain and we are benefiting from a kind neighbour’s gift of vegetables from his allotment.Thank you, Keith.
Not all harvests are so rich. One hundred years ago the Battle of Loos was being waged on the Western Front, the terrible slaughter continued at Gallipoli, and on the home front terrifying Zeppelin raids were causing havoc. In October one Zeppelin dropped bombs in the heart of London, on the Strand, Aldwych, Holborn and Lincoln’s Inn. Some scars can still be seen in the pavement and on stonework.
The raid is described in Dark Harvest, the second in my Seasons of War quartet of novels, published by Allison and Busby in paperback, following the first novel Summer’s End published in August. The four novels were first published some years ago, the two above under the name of Alice Carr, but now they appear under my real name, Amy Myers. Dark Harvest begins in March 1915, as even the quiet village of Ashden in Sussex begins to realise that the war is set to continue for a long time and that it will affect everyone in the village – none more so than the Lilley family at its rectory.
A year ago in August Britain as so many other countries was remembering the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. For me it had its own special meaning for not only did my father serve in the war, but last year at the request of a local charity I researched and wrote the story of the 260 men from our village who served in the war – both what happened to them in the war and what happened to the survivors after that. It was a sobering and very moving task, achieved with the help of the men’s descendants combined with what documents remain. I came to ‘know’ these men, just as I ‘know’ the fictional Lilley family at the Rectory in Sussex where I set a quartet of novels about the home front in the First World War. The family consists of the Rector and his wife Elizabeth, their children – the lively Caroline, the selfish Isabel, the quiet Felicia, the bouncy Phoebe and their determined younger brother George – and the Rector’s sister, the suffragette Tilly. Now the quartet is being republished by Allison & Busby under my own name of Amy Myers rather than a pseudonym, and the first of them, Summer’s End, is now in paperback and ebook, with the other three to follow. The war changed the lives of all who lived in the Rectory, just as in real life it changed the lives of those 260 men in our village and so many millions around the world.
Spring has finally arrived in Kent and car detective Jack Colby is about to launch his new case, Classic in the Dock, at the end of May. Yesterday however reminded him (and me) of one of his earlier cases published two years ago, Classic Mistake, the opening of which is set at Allington Lock on the River Medway. (See the photo.) Yesterday Jim (who runs Jack Colby’s website for him) and I enjoyed a happy lunch at the nearby Malta Inn at an annual ‘Cousins Meeting’, the cousins being from the Hudson family (my mother’s side of the family from which I took my Harriet Hudson pseudonym). Not all the family was there – we’d have had to take the whole place over if everyone had come from far and wide – but here’s a big HELLO to two of them who missed it:
HELLO OLIVER and JOSEPH
I haven’t met them yet, but I hope I will.
In the meantime, I had better get cracking with writing Jack’s next case, Classic at Bay to be published next year – maybe at about the same time as the Hudson cousins gather once more.
Car detective Jack Colby is hard at work on his latest case, Classic in the Dock, due to be published on 29th May 2015, in which his friend Giovanni, a famous classic car artist, needs his help not with restoring his Ferrari Daytona but with clearing him of murder. This has distracted Jack from following the story of Richard III’s burial, in which he’s interested because not that far from where he lives in the Kentish countryside lies Eastwell, an ancient mansion (now a luxurious hotel) where in the fifteenth century the owner Sir Thomas Moyle discovered one of his stonemasons reading a Latin text. Curious, he asked the man’s story …
The stonemason claimed he was Richard Plantagenet, the illegitimate son of Richard III. Not knowing his parentage, he was summoned to the side of the king at what he later found to be Bosworth Field on the night before the battle; if, the king declared, he won the battle, he would declared Richard his rightful heir. If he lost, then his son should take the money he now gave him and flee for his life. That was how Richard came to Kent and worked on the Eastwell estate. Sir Thomas allowed him to build a small house for himself and he lived to the age of 81, dying in 1550, though his ghost is still said to haunt the lakeside in Eastwell park.
Don’t believe it? Well, the relevant register for Eastwell church records: ‘Rychard Plantagenet was buryed the 22d daye of December, anno ut supra.’ In front of it is the symbol that always indicated the death of one of noble family. In the chuchyard of the now ruined church is a tomb bearing his name, whether the original burial place or not. His home no longer exists but a nearby spring is called Plantagenet’s Well.
Now if Richard had one of Jack Colby’s classic cars to rescue his father history might have taken a different turn…
I was stuck. In need of a plot. I had the title, Classic Cashes In, but car detective Jack Colby needed more than that to solve his sixth case. Cashes In? On what? Answer came there none.
Then Jim and I went down to see a friend in Bognor Regis, seen nearest the camera in the photo. Chatting to him, he revealed that in the late 1940s before joining the Royal Navy he had worked for two years as a bank clerk in Hull, where his father was manager at a different branch. Immediately ‘cashes in’ sprang to life. Old Packards sprang after it. Bank robberies followed on. And hey presto, Jack Colby was heading for another case. Classic Cashes In has just been published; Jack’s case, the murder of an enigmatic banking magnate Philip Moxton, is set in the present day, but the Packard he has asked Jack to find for him has an interesting history going way back. Banking in the 1930s and 1940s was far from the world of today, as were its security precautions.
I’ve just finished writing its successor, so once again I’m in need of a plot. Maybe I should set off to Bognor again ….
At the end of my last post Victorian Master Chef Auguste Didier was fighting 21st century car detective Jack Colby for my attention. Jack Colby won the battle but I can report that Auguste Didier has unexpectedly entered the fray once more. I was in search of an idea and impatient at my slow progress he seems to have got busy on his own account.
Firstly the editor of the wonderful Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Janet Hutchings, who has published quite a few of his short stories over the years asked me to guest blog for the EQ site www.somethingisgoingtohappen.net on the subject of writing historical mystery stories – and in the course of the article Didier’s name naturally cropped up.
It then cropped up again in a big way when I heard the exciting news that nine of my novels featuring him are shortly to reappear as ebooks from Headline. In gratitude, Auguste has just planted the long sought idea for another short story in my mind. All I have to do is write it …
Not to be outdone, my other Victorian sleuth, chimney sweep Tom Wasp, decided to get in on the ebook action as well. A book of his short stories is published as an ebook by AudioGo under the title Victorian Villainies – and if you like to delve further back in time AudioGo have also ebooked Georgian Villainies – in which my short stories featuring the eighteenth-century parson, Caleb Pennywick appear. These also formerly appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. I need another idea for him too. Back to Jack first and then …
Yes, it’s spring (by the calendar anyway) and Jack Colby is taking to the road again – this time on his fourth case Classic Mistake, when he throws himself into hunting down the killer of his former wife’s Mexcian band-leader husband, Carlos. Jack is horrified when the tempestuous Eva rings him for help, not from Mexico but from the nearby River Medway in Kent where Carlos has been found murdered on the towpat. It’s normally a peaceful spot, but no spot is peaceful when Eva is around – especially as she is chief suspect. Luckily, she wasn’t around, except in my imagination,when Jim and I strolled along the towpath last year to the wonderful Malta Inn. There we sat and watched the baots go by, then crossed the nearby bridge to the far side of the river where we watched boats entering and leaving Allington Lock. We had come by Shanks’s pony, i.e. on foot, but Jack of course came by car to the lock in his mercy dash to help Eva. On returning to his Frogs Hill home, he is greeted by a beautiful blonde called Daisy, who demands that he finds her missing Morris Minor car, called Melody, which causes Jack almost as much trouble as Eva.
Now that Classic Mistake is published, the deadline for sending Jack’s next case, Classic in the Pits, to the publishers suddenly seems very close. In this case, Morris Minors have given way to a Porsche and a Morgan that cause problems for Jack, and it is due to be published later this year – provided I get on with the job …
…Trouble is, I’ve just had a good idea for a short story featuring Auguste Didier, and I’m wondering whether I dare divert from a twenty-first century car detective to a Victorian master chef with a knack for sleuthing … No, I can hear Jack indignantly calling me back to the plot.