A P Martin and WW2 Intrigue- Code Name Lazarus

While I can’t think of any time period that’s been better documented than the Second World War, there are still stories to be told. Today’s interview is with A P (Paul) Martin, who shares the story of a British student who becomes a spy at the outbreak of the war. The new novel is Codename Lazarus, the Spy Who Came Back From the Dead.

So who is A P Martin, and why do we care?

I’m an Anglo-Swiss academic who retired in 2013 to live with his wife in the

First time novelist AP Martin
First time novelist AP Martin

Bernese Alps in Switzerland. I’ve always read a great deal of fiction and for the last couple of years I’ve really enjoyed writing my first novel. I’ve found the whole experience a lot of fun and very rewarding, though not, so far, financially! (Editor’s note… we feel ya.) It’s amazed me how ideas and solutions to plot and writing problems can pop into my head when I’m hiking up a mountain. Good job a writing pad and pencil are always in my pocket!

What’s the book about?

Codename Lazarus is basically a spy story and its principal action takes place between 1938 and 1940. It concerns a young academic, who is approached by his university mentor to play the lead role in a daring plan to deceive Britain’s enemies in the run up to and first years of the Second World War. Without giving too much away, I can say that, as the plot unfolds he not only finds himself in frequent danger, but also his past comes back to threaten him in a completely unexpected way. So the book weaves together conflict and betrayal at the national and personal levels.

I’m a sucker for a good spy story. What inspired you to write this one?

Actually, having grown up in post war Britain and having had a father and uncles, all of whom fought in the Second World War, I’ve always been interested in that period. I also speak German fluently and really like both Germany and its people. But I must say that what inspired me to write the novel was the true story, from which it has been adapted. As soon as I read about this case, in the files released in 2014 by the British National Archive, I knew it would make a great basis for a gripping story.

Of course, my work is fictional, rather than an accurate account of the case, but I hope that I have paid some sort of tribute to the real heroes of the true story. In fact, I was very happy to learn recently that one of the journalists who wrote about the original file release in 2014 is now planning to publish a historically accurate account of the case in 2018. He’s even bought my book to see what I made of the case!

The new WW2 thriller from AP Martin
The new WW2 thriller from AP Martin

Do you have a favorite scene?

I’m not sure that I can pick a favourite scene or event, but I would like to say that what pleases me greatly is how the plot gathers momentum as it progresses and how its various threads come together at the end in what I think is a very satisfying conclusion. Reviewers have said that they’d have liked more and I’m taking that as a compliment!

Those who are interested in finding out more about myself, Codename Lazarus and the actual wartime case that inspired it are invited to look at my website :  www.apmartin.co.uk

It is possible to leave comments and greetings on each page of my website and I’d love to hear directly from readers! I can also be followed on Twitter as @APMartin51

Codename Lazarus is currently available as an ebook only via Amazon Kindle, though it will be released on all other platforms in mid October. It’s also available now as a paperback from Amazon.

Angles, Saxons and Vikings with C R May

If you’re a fan of the TV show, “Vikings” or just enjoy lots of ale drinking, pillaging and cleaving, you’ll enjoy the work of CR May (Cliff, to those of us with his email address.) I first encountered him with “Fire and Steel,” the first book of the King’s Bane series. Book two, “Gods of War” is now available.

Okay, so what’s the CR May story?

I am an English writer of historical fiction, working primarily in the early Middle Ages. One day I was taken aside at work by my boss who told me, ‘foreign

The very busy Cliff May
The very busy Cliff May

exchange brokers don’t read Archeology Monthly. I don’t want to see you doing it again.’ In a moment of clarity/madness I realised that I agreed, resigned on the spot and never looked back.
I have always had a passion for history, and we moved as a family through a
succession of dilapidated houses which I renovated before selling on to pay off
the bills. These ranged from a Victorian townhouse to a Fourteenth Century hall,
and I learned about medieval oak frame repair, lime plastering and childcare on
the way. I crewed the replica of Captain Cook’s ship, Endeavour, sleeping in a
hammock and sweating in the sails and travelled the world, visiting such historic
sites as the Little Big Horn, Leif Ericson’s Icelandic birthplace and the bullet
scarred walls of Berlin’s Reichstag. Now I write, and Gods of War is my eighth
novel, following on from the success of the first book in the bestselling king’s
bane series, Fire & Steel. (You can see his whole Amazon page here.)

Okay, so you’re way cooler than I will ever be, thanks for that. One very specific question about your book: one of the impressive things about the book (and also something that made it a bit of a tough read) is all the authentic old language in it. How did you come to strike the balance you were happy with (it made it cooler, but also really slowed me down and
often frustrated me by distracting from a ripping adventure story)? 

Of course I am aware that a few of the names and terms used in my books are
unfamiliar to some readers, and unfortunately Amazon are not much of a help
here. If the book is downloaded onto an e-reader, it automatically opens at the
start of the first chapter. I always supply a glossary and good quality map in the
front matter of my books, they would be pointless at the end, but unless the
buyer scrolls back before they begin to read, this very useful information will be
lost to them. It’s very frustrating, and quite honestly I don’t know what the
answer is. Really, once a reader knows that an eorle is a hero and a scop a
bard, they will have the knowledge to read any book set in this era. Nobody
would dream of writing captain for centurion, private for legionary or having
Achilles sail a yacht rather than a trireme. Not only would it be anachronistic, it
would look and sound ridiculous.

I realise that I am asking readers to make a little effort at the start, and that it may well cost me sales and the odd bad review, but I hope that most will realise just how much the language adds to the atmosphere of the tale. At the end of the day my ‘writing voice’ is more important to me than wringing every last sale out of a book, but I do hope that most people will make the very small effort required.

Fair enough. What is it about this time period you find so fascinating?

Although historically a ‘Dark Age’, the centuries either side of the year 500AD have always held a fascination for me. At the beginning of this period the Roman
Empire still stretched unbroken from the border of present-day Scotland to
what is now the desert of Iraq. By 600AD that Empire had been swept away
and replaced to a large degree by the countries we see today.

One of those countries was my own, and what a tale it is. It was a time when a strong sword arm could win you a kingdom and a charismatic man could rise from obscurity to found his own dynasty through determination and the luck of the gods. It was, in a way, Europe’s ‘Wild-West’, when land and wealth were up for grabs and even the lowest born could rise to the very top of society.

What is your favorite scene in the new book?

The Ghost Army chapter is a particular favourite. I got the idea from a description in Herodotus’s collection of books from the fifth century BC known as The Histories. In one passage he describes how a nomadic steppe people called
the Scythians would ring the burial mounds of their kings with spectral
horsemen. The image was just too striking not to use, and I ferreted it away
until the opportunity to weave it into a novel presented itself.

Gods of War, the second in the "King's Bane" series
Gods of War, the second in the “King’s Bane” series

It also gave me the chance to put some distance between Eofer, his war band and
ourselves. I always try to treat my characters as human beings like you or I,
essentially identical to the way we are today with all of our strengths and faults,
only lacking the technology we now take for granted. This scene suddenly hits
you, bang, and it is immediately obvious that we dealing with the deep past,
and a religious belief system which is totally alien to us.

If folks want to find you (and they jolly well should), where can they do that?

You can discover more about me and my work on my website: http://cliffordmay.com
All of my books are available on Amazon in e-book and paperback. You can also find my author pages on Goodreads and Facebook.

And on Twitter @cliffordrmay

Irish Intrigue–L D Beyer

The “Troubles” in Ireland make for great drama. As someone whose maternal relatives are “Scots-Irish” (a lovely way of saying Orange as hell) I have mixed feelings about the whole thing, but it’s not my fight, and a good story is a good story. That’s where L D Beyer comes in. He doesn’t always write Historical Fiction, but in this case it’s a good one: The Devil’s Due.

Okay, so what’s your story?

I like to think of myself as a reformed corporate drone who, after twenty-five years of missed family events, one day rose up and reclaimed my soul. Before I escaped, my career primarily involved relocating my family every few years—so much so that my kids began to secretly suspect that we were in the Witness Protection Program. I have yet to set the record straight.

I’m the author of three novels, two of which are part of the Matthew Richter

LD Beyer, man of mystery and author of an exciting tale of the IRA
LD Beyer, man of mystery and author of an exciting tale of the IRA

Thriller Series. My first book, In Sheep’s Clothing, was published in 2015 and reached the #1 spot on three separate Amazon bestseller lists.

I’m an avid reader and, although I primarily reads thrillers, my reading list is somewhat eclectic. You’re more likely to find me with my nose in a good book than watching TV.

I live in Michigan with my wife and three children. In addition to writing and reading, I enjoys cooking, hiking, biking, working out, and the occasional glass of wine.

So what’s The Devil’s Due about?

A country at war. A man on the run. A woman left behind. Can an innocent man ever go home?

Guilty of a crime he didn’t commit, IRA soldier Frank Kelleher flees through the streets of war-torn Ireland with both the British and the Irish Republican Army trying to put a bullet in his head. He makes his way to America under an assumed name and with a forged passport, as the war in Ireland rages on. Settling in a new land, he finds he can’t let go of his past. Haunted by the fiancée he was forced to leave behind, by the deaths of three friends at his own hand, and by the country he was forced to abandon, Frank struggles to make his way in 1920s New York.

As much as he can’t let go of Ireland, he finds that Ireland can’t let go of him—and his past has a way of finding him, thousands of miles and an ocean away. He dreams of going home, but knows that it could get him killed. Then an anonymous letter brings news about his fiancée Kathleen and he realizes that he no longer has a choice. A cease-fire is declared and Frank sails home with dreams of finding Kathleen, putting his past behind him, and starting a new life.

When he arrives, he learns that the Ireland he was hoping to find—a united people finally free—was only a dream. With British soldiers withdrawing, long-standing feuds resurface, and Ireland is pushed to the brink of civil war. As tensions mount, he also learns that his sins will not be easily forgiven, and that he and Kathleen will never be safe until he clears his name.

If the looming war doesn’t kill him, trying to right the wrongs of his past just might.

So what is it about this time period that grabs you?

The story is based loosely on family legend for my grandfather who served in the Irish Republican Army during the War for independence. Growing up, I heard the stories of how he had been forced to flee Ireland below a false passport because both the British and his own comrades in the IRA had put bounties on his head. Like most legends, I’m sure this one grew over time and with each retelling, especially when my Irish uncles were drinking!  I spent some time in Limerick and Dublin, meeting with researchers and historians and I was happy to learn that while my grandfather had indeed served in the IRA, the circumstances surrounding his decision to emigrate after the war were not quite as dramatic as the legend would have you believe.

Exaggerated or not, though, I always thought the legend made for a great story line!

Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene or event in the book?

The Devil's Due available in Kindle and Paperback
The Devil’s Due available in Kindle and Paperback

I really like the first three scenes because they set the stage for the drama that unfolds.

Unjustly accused of being a traitor by his own friends and facing an almost certain death, Frank Kelleher manages to escape before the executioner’s bullet finds him. When he learns that the enemy is hunting him too, he sees his options quickly slipping away. Suddenly a fugitive, he faces a brutal choice: stay and die or leave everything that he knows and treasures behind. But can he give up his name, his country, his dreams and the woman he loves? And what awaits him if he does?

 

Where can people find you and your book ?

Readers can find The Devil’s Due and my other books on Amazon and Goodreads and I do share my views of the world on the occasional Facebook, Twitter or blog post. You can find out more by clicking the links below, they’ll take you directly to his pages:

The Devils Due on Amazon: 

Goodreads: 

Facebook:

Twitter (@ldbeyer): 

Website: http://ldbeyer.com/

 

A new short story: On the End of Magick

Every once in a blue moon I post one of my short pieces on the old blog. In this case it’s a little experiment in which I tried to write in the voice and tone of one of my favorite books: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you haven’t read it or seen the terrific mini-series based on it, quit mucking around with me and indulge yourself. It’s wonderful and a very impressive piece of work.

Meanwhile, this little effort is in this year’s anthology from the Naperville Writers Group. Rivulets 28 will be out October 1. If you enjoy this story, buy a copy and help some local writers gain recognition.

It is a sad fact of modern British life that there is no more magick. I am not referring to the kind of “magic” where your seldom-spoken-of uncle pulls sixpence pieces from behind your ear, or hooded priests commit dark acts on barren moors or in dark pine forests to summon slimy-tentacled gods. Both of those are, sadly, in abundant supply to this minute.

When I refer to magick, I of course refer to that ancient art unique to Britain, usually involving the help of faeries, sprites and other “small folk.” After a brief resurgence in the early half of the 19th century—where rumours abound that it helped defeat Napoleon and saved our Blessed Island from defeat and shame, demonstrations of the Art became all the rage in the parlors of Whitehall and Mayfair, then disappeared again forever. Those fantastic beings were never again spoken of seriously, except as the stuff of myth.

It is, indeed, gone, never to return. In point of fact, it ended at precisely 10:43 on the evening of October 20, 1854, in the drawing room of Lord and Lady Winthrop. I was there, and these many years later I have never forgotten. Nor have I spoken of it until now……

I hope you enjoy this tale. You can read the whole darned thing here.

19th Century Scottish Mysteries with Lexie Conyngham

One of the beauties of historical fiction is finding yourself in a different time and place and totally making yourself to home. Just like in life, that rarely involves huge battles and famous people, sometimes you’d just like to live in a time when people don’t tread across your yard staring at their phones while looking for invisible creatures. A good writer can make you feel at home anywhere, even in a Scotland older than Sean Connery.

Lexie Conyngham, What’s the deal on you and the Letho of Murray series?

A very old photograph of Lexie Conyngham, apparently
A very old photograph of Lexie Conyngham, apparently

I’m a historian living North East Scotland, in the shadow of the Highlands. My Murray of Letho novels are born of a life amidst Scotland’s old cities and universities and hidden-away aristocratic estates, but I’ve been writing since the day I found out that people were allowed to do such a thing.

Beyond teaching and research, my days are spent with wool, wild allotments and a wee bit of whisky – and I’m fitting this interview in after a morning baking multiple batches of muffins for a church sale! (Editor’s note… that may be the single most Scottish sentence written since Robbie Burns declined killing that mouse.)

In a nutshell, what’s Death in a Scarlet Gown about?

It’s set in 1802. St. Andrews in Fife, an ancient Scottish university, is
wracked by murder. A vindictive professor, an uncouth student, and a man seeking ministry lie dead, but who wanted to kill them? Charles Murray, a student with enough problems of his own, is drawn into the mystery, where neither innocuous accidents nor good friends are all they seem. Death in a Scarlet Gown is the first in the Murray of Letho series, set in Georgian Scotland.

As a graduate of St. Andrews myself, I loved going back through the history of
that little grey town by the cold North Sea which its alumni miss so much.
Though the university is much bigger now, the centre of the town has not really
changed much in two hundred years! The later books are mostly set in Edinburgh and other parts of Fife, and in one case my hero heads off for India, but in the next Murray book I hope once again to return to St. Andrews (which of course is an excuse for  a ‘research’ visit).

Whatever you have to tell yourself, Lexie. What is it about this time period that fascinates you?

I was living in Edinburgh when I first started to write the series, and working
in Edinburgh’s New Town which is a Georgian architectural wonderland. I’d had a Georgian dolls’ house when I was a teenager for which I tried to make furniture, and the styles and fashions had always fascinated me. When I started to look into the people of the period I was hooked: think somewhere between Jane Austen, Walter Scott and (the much-later of course) Dorothy L. Sayers for culture and manners. There was so much going on, too: the Napoleonic Wars, the aftermath of the Jacobites, massive advances in science and medicine, the British involvement in India, the madness of King George III: there’s almost too much!
Without spoilers, what’s one of your favorite scenes in the  book?

About halfway through there’s a nice little fist fight, which like all

Death in a Scarlet Gown is the latest in the Murray of Letho series.
Death in a Scarlet Gown is part of  the  the Murray of Letho series.

unprofessional fist fights does not go smoothly. Writing action scenes doesn’t
come naturally to me, and I greatly admire those who can convey the detail of a
fight without losing the force of the action, but I think this one went quite
well in the end. Though the conflict is based on a massive misunderstanding, it
says a good deal about the characters involved without much in the way of
dialogue, and is, I hope, also quite funny, though I don’t generally do much
slapstick! I prefer one-liners. There’s one terribly sad scene, too, and while I
was quite pleased with it, it is too sad to be a favourite. It still makes me
cry.

Where can people find you and the Murray of Letho series?

Where can people find you and your book (links to Amazon page, Goodreads,
Twitter, Blog whatever)
You can find the books on Amazon

on Smashwords:

and on Kobo:

I have pages on Goodreads and Facebook:

Find my blog at www.murrayofletho.blogspot.co.uk, and there’s a Pinterest page
for each book in the series, too: https://uk.pinterest.com/lexieconyngham/

The Crusades and the Envoy of Jerusalem- Helena P Schrader

Most of you know by now that I have a fascination with the Crusades. No surprise, then, that I look for fiction about that time period. That led me to Helena P Schrader’s book, Defender of Jersualem, and its sequel, Envoy of Jerusalem. While our books are very different (as, I suspect, are our feelings about the period in general) it’s an epic tale about an interesting character.

Helena P. Schrader earned a PhD in History with a ground-breaking biography of

Helena Schrader is the author of the "Jerusalem" series
Helena Schrader is the author of the “Jerusalem” series

the mastermind behind the coup attempt against Hitler on July 20, 1944. She has published numerous works of non-fiction and fiction. As a novelist, she has focused on historical and biographical fiction. She is a career diplomat currently serving in Africa.

So your first book starts a few years before mine, and the new one ends after. What’s your series about?

“Defender of Jerusalem” and “Envoy of Jerusalem” are two parts of a biographical novel about Balian d’Ibelin. Some readers may remember that Balian was the hero of Ridley Scott’s film “The Kingdom of Heaven.” Indeed, it was the Hollywood film that sparked my interest in this particular period in history. After seeing the film (while working on a completely different project), I started wondering how much of it was true. A quick check revealed that Balian d’Ibelin was not only a historical person (who did some of the remarkable things portrayed in the film), but also that he (the historical Balian) was a more important historical figure than the film character made him out to be. My curiosity ignited, I did more research and was soon intrigued and captivated by the man, his age, society, and his contemporaries–such as his royal Byzantine wife, the Leper King, the near-pirate Reynald de Chatillon, Richard the Lionheart, and Saladin. While I follow the historical record and alter no known facts, the books go beyond those facts to give the reader insights into a whole cast of fascinating historical characters and a complex society at a critical moment in history.

The Second Crusade in particular was a bit of a mess. What is it about that period that fascinated you?

Balian lived in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the decade immediately before and after the devastating battle of Hattin. That was the battle in which the Muslims under the Kurdish leader Saladin virtually obliterated the Christian fighting forces in the Holy Land. This victory paved the way for the capture of Jerusalem and occupation of the rest of the kingdom, triggering the Third Crusade.  The Saracen leader Saladin – in contrast to what Hollywood would have you believe – was a devout Muslim, who had declared jihad against the crusader states and vowed to drive them into the sea.  He was opposed, not by fanatics ala “The Kingdom of Heaven,” but by ethnically diverse states with Christian – not a Muslim – majorities.  Furthermore, these states were highly urbanized, economically dynamic and characterized by a sophisticated legal system and flourishing culture.  Although almost obliterated after Hattin, these states recovered and re-established themselves to survive another hundred years.  Saladin failed to destroy them in part because of the strategic genius of Richard the Lionheart – but even more because of the tenacity, resilience and courage of the natives and lords of Jerusalem–led by Balian d’Ibelin.  Indeed, while the King of Jerusalem was taken captive and later marginalized and deposed, Balian fought his way off the field at Hattin, commanded the defense of Jerusalem, and ultimately negotiated the truce between Saladin and Richard the Lionheart.  He was referred to as “like a king” by Arab sources, and his descendants would marry royalty and be regents more than once.  This was an exceptional man who proved his worth both as a warrior and a diplomat. His story is relevant today because we again find ourselves confronting jihadists and so forced to define who we are, what our values are, and which of our values we can sacrifice for security and which we must be prepared to defend with our lives.  These books are as much about who we are today as about Balian d’Ibelin, the Leper King or Saladin.

What are your favorite parts of the story?

The first book in the series
The first book in the series

There are no spoilers in books based on history. Everyone knows the plot and the ending – or can find out – without reading the books. And there are so many great scenes in both books because history is so full of surprises and moments of great drama!  Balian arriving in Jerusalem unarmed on a safe-conduct from Saladin to remove his family–only to be tumultuously received by a population expecting him to take command the defense, is one such historical moment,  or the (true!) moment when Saladin’s banners are tossed down from the walls of Jerusalem just as Saladin says he won’t negotiate for a city he already holds. But if I have to choose one scene from “Defender of Jerusalem,” a scene that is based more on my exploration of historical events and personalities than the naked facts, it would be the moment after Balian leads a break-out at Hattin and crashes over the steep slope to the Sea of Galilee–only to realize that barely 3,000 men are with him and on the plateau behind him the king, the bulk of the army and the True Cross are being slaughtered or captured.  He realizes that the kingdom is lost, but 3,000 mostly wounded and desperate men are looking to him for leadership. He doesn’t have time to grieve; he has to keep leading. As for “Envoy of Jerusalem,” my favorite scenes are those in which two worlds clash—not Christian vs Muslim, but native of the Holy Land vs. crusader, i.e. the scenes in which Balian and Richard the Lionheart confront one another with incomprehension at first, but gradually with greater and greater respect and trust.

 

The story of Balian concludes with Envoy of Jerusalem
The story of Balian concludes with Envoy of Jerusalem

Interesting.  One of the things that I find interesting is the tension between those Franks who came from Europe on Crusade and those living and making their lives in “Outremont.” 

Defender of Jerusalem is available in paperback or ebook format on Amazon by clicking here.

 Envoy of Jerusalem will likewise be available for order in both formats from online or local retailers.

Find out more about the about the crusader states, Balian and his contemporaries at: http://defenderofjerusalem.com or follow my weekly essays on the same topics at:http://defendingcrusaderkingdom.blogspot.com

For more about Helena P. Schrader’s full range of books go to: http://helenapschrader.com