Chicago in the ’60s with Mike Kerr

Even though I have left Chicago’s winters behind for the desert, I will always love that city. There’s something about that town that has made it a focus of history, commerce, architecture and writing for almost 200 years. One of the most tumultuous and fascinating times was the late 60s. Issues of class, race, politics and crime threatened to make the place unliveable. Mike Kerr captures that feeling in his new novel, “The Legman.”

Mike, like me you just fled Chicago winters for the desert sun of Las Vegas. In fact, we just met in person at the Las Vegas Writers Conference. What’s your bio?

A biography is an accounting of one’s life. The accounting of my life can be summed up as follows: Life’s a hallway, not a ladder, something you go through, not something you climb up. Each part, potentially, as good as any other. I’m born, raised and educated in Chicago. One type of education was a bachelor’s in Medical Laboratory Sciences and a master’s in Gerontology. These gave me a good basis for understanding forensic science and population studies. Another was learning that, in the city, where politics is the fifth major sport and, when necessary, a blood sport, the mayor appoints the Police Commissioner and the political machine gets the judges elected. When you control the cops and the courts, you decide justice, unless and until, it’s too much. That’s where I write, Chicago stories on that true-to-life edge.  

Your work really feels like Chicago. What is “The Legman” about?

The Legman is historical fiction told in a mystery/thriller style. Chicago, 1969. Unprecedented gang violence. Crumbling of a once-mighty political machine. The mayor, desperate as neighborhoods fold and the ghetto extends, calls for an all-out war with “extreme measures”. The century-old neighborhood of Austin is caught in the cross-hairs of a dangerous scam that explodes into a national incident. The city wants to bury it. It’s too personal for a white Irish 4th-generation Chicagoan and journeyman reporter who teams with a black female artist and academic to find answers amid growing fears of a predator whose horrific past goes deep into the city’s dark history.    

When we lived there, we lived in the Western Suburbs along with a lot of the SouthSide diaspora, but for real Chicagoans, everything is personal. What is it about this story that resonated with you?

The milieu of the story is very real and very personal to me. I lived these times. More broadly, as I think all the born-and-raised believe, Chicago is a living breathing character.. It’s a family member. I’m intrigued by all of the family history, the famous, the infamous and that which came and went in a blaze of glory marked by great passions and danger. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses is the promise of a big city, not small-town or rural America. The trouble is, someone is always already there. They don’t want to move over or give anything up. Those are epic battles that go to the heart of survival and just being human. 

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

The scene that I read over and over is one of family. Micky, the protagonist, devastated by an horrific incident, visits his parents. His six siblings all change their plans to be there with him. A powerful man, a combat trained and experienced man, he’s capable of great violence and he’s ready to kill. His pain erupts like he’s been gored. The father takes him in his arms, kissing him like he was still a little boy. The others rush in. It’s a military phalanx each protecting a piece of the other. The strength of this family, despite any and all flaws, goes the core of who this character is. 

Shameless plug time. Where can we learn more?

My Amazon author page

You can find me on Goodreads

And on Facebook

Mike is also part of a growing Las Vegas literary scene with Coffee House Tours.

We interrupt Mike’s interview for a shameless plug. Acre’s Orphans has won a much coveted “Discovered Diamond” award for historical fiction. You can read the review here, or just take my word for it and buy the book.

The US Civil War Through British Eyes- John Holt

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that one of my least favorite periods to read about is the American Civil War. (Or, as it will be known in the future, Civil War 1.0) The reasons are long and boring, and will annoy perfectly nice people, so I won’t go into them. I am always interested in the outsider’s view of any historical event, so when I found an Englishman with a fascination for the “war between the states,” I was willing to suck it up and learn more. John Holt’s latest book is “The Thackery Journal.”

What’s your deal, John?

I was born in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, during World War 2. Clearly the world had a lot to contend with at that time, so my coming offered some welcome relief. Whether I had a major influence, or it was pure coincidence, I shall never know, but the war ended shortly after my birth. I have always been a half glass full kind of person, and I’m quite positive in my approach to life. I was brought up on a diet of Rock ‘n’ roll, and only two TV channels. How did we ever manage I wonder? Programmes like Bilko, and Tony Hancock helped I guess, and probably accounts for my sense of humour. As a youngster I wanted to become a doctor, however there was problem, a major problem. I hated the sight of blood, so eventually I became a land surveyor, and spent 24 years working in local government. I then set up in private practice, carrying out property surveys, and preparing architectural drawings. I guess, like a lot of people I had always wanted to write. In fact for several years I used to write articles for a couple of blues magazines (sadly no longer in operation). But I wanted to write a novel. The opportunity came about in 2005, whilst on holiday in Austria. That was the catalyst that lead to “The Kammersee Affair” published in 2006. It is a story of the search for hidden nazi gold; a story of blackmail, murder and revenge. Over the following years eight more novels, and three novellas, were produced.

I get it. After years of writing articles, scripts and standup, I told myself I’d never be a “real” writer til I did a novel. Sounds like you’ve caught up. What’s The Thackery Journal about?

As the first sounds of gun fire echoed through the land, young men rushed to enlist, to fight for a cause that they believed was right. Shop assistants, bank clerks, farm labourers. All believing that the South would win. Right was on their side, and besides it would all be over by Christmas. 

Two life-long friends enlist on opposite sides of the conflict. Both believing that right was on their side, and both hoping that they would never meet each other on the battlefield. Their lives become inextricably entwined as the war nears its end culminating in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. On the night of April 14th 1865 Lincoln attended a performance at The Ford Theatre, in Washington. A single shot fired by John Wilkes Booth hit the President in the back of the head. He slumped to the floor and died a few hours later without regaining consciousness. Was Booth a lone assassin? Or was he part of a much wider conspiracy? Was he part of something even more sinister? Was he part of a plot hatched by Lincoln’s own generals to replace Lincoln with General Ulysses S. Grant. A plot financed by stolen Confederate gold bullion.

What is it about the story or time period that intrigued you?

I have always been fascinated by the American Civil War. A Civil War is the worst kind of war that there could be. A war that divides the Country and splits communities: a war that puts brother against brother, and father against son.  A war that splits families; and makes enemies of long-time friends. A war where in reality there are no winners. Indeed, a war where there could be no real winners, and where everyone loses something. The effects would be felt long after the war ends.  Could reconciliation and forgiveness really take place? How long would the wounds, mentally and physically, take to heal? Could communities divided by war, be re-united by peace? Even now statues of Confederate Generals are being torn down because of what they are perceived to stand for.

But that in itself is hardly a reason for writing the book. If the truth be known, I never actually considered writing a Civil War novel at all. But sometimes, instead of the author being in command of what he, or she writes, it is the writing itself that takes charge. It will suddenly go in a totally unexpected direction, and you are forced to go with it to see where it leads.

Somewhere along the line I got side-tracked. During my research into “The Kammersee Affair” (a story of hidden gold bullion) I found an item on the internet about a consignment of Confederate gold that had gone missing as the Civil War was coming to an end. The gold had, apparently never been found. I thought perhaps I could make up some kind of a story. The gold had obviously been stolen by someone, and I got to thinking how that person would feel as his pursuers caught up with him. Very quickly I had the makings of a fairly well developed final chapter. That chapter is now the last chapter of “Thackery”, and largely unchanged from when it was first written. It was also obvious that the gold had been stolen for a reason. I wondered what that reason could have been. Then I had an idea.

What’s your favorite (or favourite, if you insist) part of the book?

That’s a difficult one, there are so many. But if I must choose one I think it would be the very last scene of the novel. Oddly enough, it is the one that was written first. Jason Thackery is a hunted man, wounded and alone. His pursuers have tracked him down and are closing in. Thackery is afraid and knows exactly the fate that awaits him. His thoughts turn to the past, to his mother, to his friend, who, even now, is waiting to take him prisoner. There is no escape, no way out. There is no one to save him.

Where can we learn more about you and your work?

Amazon.co.uk – https://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Holt/e/B003ERI7SI/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/John-Holt/e/B003ERI7SI/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/John-Holt-Author-553064201380567/

We interrupt John’s interview for a shameless plug. Acre’s Orphans has won a much coveted “Discovered Diamond” award for historical fiction. You can read the review here, or just take my word for it and buy the book.

Dream Review for Acre’s Bastard

I know that as a grown-ass man I shouldn’t care about reviews. In my stand-up days I learned that if you believe the good reviews, you also have to believe the bad ones. I recently got one, though, that means an awful lot. Mariah Feria published it in an online magazine that I enjoy (and has published some of my short stories) Storgy.com. Read the whole review here


Acre’s Bastard is certainly an accomplished piece of fiction. Turmel makes it clear that he is not done with this story, and especially not with the characters themselves. 

Mariah Feria, Storgy.com

Truthfully, I wouldn’t have dared write a review like this for myself. She enjoyed the parts of the book I enjoyed (the lepers! She liked the lepers!) and correctly pointed out the weaknesses (Mark Halpern I’m not. Description isn’t my strong suit, but I’m working on it.) Since I am neither related to her nor owe her money that I know of, I’m going to assume she means what she says and that makes me feel good.

The best part, is she told Twitter something that is the highest compliment my work can get: “I don’t usually read historical fiction but may need to reconsider.” Yeah, baby.

If you haven’t yet begun reading about Lucca’s adventures, may I suggest this is a good time to begin. Then don’t stop. Acre’s Orphans picks up the next day… why shouldn’t you?

A Russian Family Caught Up in Revolution- Julia Underwood

We all have the historical era we find fascinating, and one of mine is the Russian Revolution. I have no family connection, I’m not Russian, and there were more guns than swords, which usually counts me out. Still, I can’t get enough whether it’s writers from that time (I’ll fight anyone who won’t let me include Mikhail Sholokov on that list) or just people chronicling it from afar. Enter Julia Underwood and Red Winter…

What’s your story?

My father was an Army Intelligence Officer stationed abroad, so I was sent to a boarding school in the English countryside at seven years old. I was the one who was always in trouble for telling stories after lights out. Those epic tales of children in dire peril kept other girls awake and gave them nightmares, and I’ve been at it ever since, on and off.

Life got in the way, of course. As a teenager I wanted to save the world and be a doctor. Unfortunately, equal opportunity was still a distant dream and, although I had the qualifications, I didn’t get a place in a teaching hospital, the preference being for young men with sporting credentials. I ended up in medical research – not at all the glamour I’d envisaged. When I gave that up, I did many jobs, working in advertising, as a statistician, and in marketing and publishing. I also ran a restaurant – talked into this by a friend. Never again, I said, but I later ran a pub with my husband. I have lived in Germany, Austria, Jamaica and France.

 It wasn’t until my children had left home that I finally began to write full-time, joined a writing group and let fly with my imagination. I sold an article to The Lady very quickly, which gave me a false sense of competency, but I persisted. I have now published three full-length novels, three murder mystery novellas and many short stories. My latest novel is Red Winter, the story of a family caught up in the Russian revolution.

Now we’re talking. What’s Red Winter about?

An Englishman, Jonathan Cooke, is the third generation of Cookes to run the Russian arm of his family’s business from St Petersburg. Married to a Russian woman of aristocratic origins, they are wealthy and have five children. Their eldest daughter, Sophie, marries Anatoly Andropov (Tolya), an aspiring doctor. The story follows her and her family through the horrors of the First World War and on to the revolution and the brutality of the Cheka, the Bolshevik’s secret police. The family eventually flee to England with little more than what they stand up in, although Sophie remains in Russia with two small children, almost starving, not knowing if her husband is alive or dead.

What is it about that time period that fascinates you so much?

I was reading an autobiography by someone who recalled, in a short chapter, meeting a Russian émigré family who had lost everything in the revolution. I was struck by the horror of their plight at having to leave all they possessed in a country where misery and death had changed everything beyond recognition. I found the concept fascinating and, after a lot of research, I invented the Cooke family and set about writing their story with all its drama, sorrow and, ultimately, their happiness.

It was early 2016, just a year before the centenary of the revolution, so this seemed the perfect moment to write the story. It was published by my digital publisher – Endeavour Press – just in time, in October 2017.

Never underestimate the power of Serendipity. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

What is your favourite scene in the book?

This is a difficult one. There are so many scenes I am proud of, where the emotion of the action stirred me. Sophie’s marriage to Tolya; when her first baby is born in the field hospital at the Crimean Front; when the Cheka tear apart their home in St Petersburg; when Sophie faces the Bolsheviks in Moscow; when she arrives in London with her children after finally being allowed to leave Russia. I can’t say more without spoiling the story.

Where can people learn more about you and your books?

I have a Facebook Author Page here

You can find it on Amazon

and on Goodreads

Don’t forget to support the authors we showcase. Of course, you could give some love to my novels as well. Acre’s Orphans is available on Kindle and Paperback. And if you enjoy what you read, spread the word with a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Goodreads.

Acre’s Orphans is a “Discovered Diamond” Award Winner

There aren’t a lot of indie-press awards for historical fiction that carry any cachet. One of the few is Helen Hollick’s “Discovering Diamonds” blog. I’m proud to announce that Acre’s Orphans has won the award.

Acre’s Orphans is an award winner


“These characters breathe life from every page and made me care about what happened to them. I highly recommend this book!”

Kristen McQuinn, Discovered Diamonds reviewer

My thanks to Helen Hollick and her team for supporting independent historical fiction. Blessings upon you all.

Count of the Sahara didn’t win one. Acre’s Bastard got a lovely review but missed the top designation, so a) I might actually be getting better at this book-writing thing, and b) If you haven’t yet read Lucca’s second adventure, what’s stopping you?

You can buy the award-winning (actually multiple award=winning now) Acre’s Orphans here.

A Young Woman and the Pony Express

With email and social media, it’s easy to forget just how hard it used to be to get information from one place to another. As the US expanded, it fell on live human beings and their horses to help get information where it needed to be. That leads us to Lizzi Tremayne and her tale of the Pony Express, “A Long Trail Rolling.”

Lizzie, you have quite a background. What’s your deal?

My writing has been called unpretentious, eminently readable Contemporary and Historical Fiction… by a horse vet!  It always gives me a giggle. I write awarded rural fiction about the Old West, Tsarist Russia, Scotland, and Colonial New Zealand, as well as veterinary fiction and non-fiction. I write these stories because they’re the sort I love to read.

I grew up riding wild in the Santa Cruz Mountain redwoods of California, graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in the Equine Track, practiced in the California gold mining country of Placerville, then emigrated to NZ a few years later. I’ve been here ever since and raised a family near Waihi. My partner is a techie in the big smoke and we live on a trout river in a beautiful green valley so I have no excuse NOT to write, when I’m not vetting or marketing my Equi-Still horse stocks and equine dental instruments. I’ve written for many horse magazines and veterinary journals over my 30 years in practice. When I’m not writing, I’m swinging a rapier or shooting a bow in medieval garb, riding, driving a carriage or playing on my hobby farm, singing, or looking into a horse, zebra or rhino’s mouth.

So, straight from the rhino’s mouth, what’s A Long Trail Rolling about?

Aleksandra flees through 1860s Utah disguised as a Pony Express rider, trying to keep her father’s killer from discovering their family secret. Xavier, runaway heir to a California rancho, usually keeps the world at arms-length, but it doesn’t take long to discover his new rider-recruit is a girl—one he wouldn’t mind letting get close. The cards are stacking up against them. Can they learn to trust in time to escape the Indians on the warpath, evade the killer, and win through to safety?

I can guess (what is it with girls and horses?) but what is it about this story that inspired you?

It was really the Pony Express, in the 1860s, which intrigued me, and I’ve always loved history. Just about any history, but especially history of the areas where I’ve been. I grew up in a California endurance and horses were my life. My biggest goal (other than getting into and out of veterinary school at UC Davis) was to ride across the whole USA. There was an opportunity to do it when I was ten, but financially, it was beyond my reach… and I wasn’t old enough to do it on my own. J I couldn’t understand the part about not being old enough, at the time, however, as it’d never held me back before. So, instead, I got hooked on the Pony Express, or the “Pony”, as it was called back in the day.

So, some forty-something years later, it wasn’t a huge surprise to me when my first novel had to be about the Pony. With a girl rider, no less—one I flattered myself by thinking was more than a little bit like the girl I was, or would have been in Aleksandra’s situation. There’s no historical precedent for a female Pony rider, but in light of the modern discoveries of women who fought as men during the American Civil War during the same time period, I took that license. It’s all in the Author’s Notes, as always when I vary from the historical record as I understand it. As a historian, that’s non-negotiable. Always.

Without giving away the goods, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

It would have to be the stable scene… the rough form of that scene was the first part I wrote… and that was before I even started “writing” or called myself a writer—that time long ago when “being a writer” was just a whisper in the dark. The snippet was written as homework before my very first RWNZ local branch meeting, where the topic was “writing sex scenes”. We were to write a 500 word sex scene…(blush) when all I’d done was write veterinary articles for horsey magazines and technical articles for vet journals. It was a stretch, but I managed it.  And I kinda liked it.  I liked it enough to begin a story from it after I got home. It was this, my first novel, A Long Trail Rolling, which won me the RWNZ Pacific Hearts Award and the following year, the RWNZ Koru Award of Excellence (New Zealand Romance Writer’s equivalent of the RWA’s Golden Heart and RITA Awards). It’s all been up from there!

You have a big social media presence. How can folks find you?

Lizzi’s website and blog

Lizzi’s VIP Club     

BookBub

Horse and Vet Books website

Facebook

Amazon author page

Apple Books (iTunes)

Barnes & Noble

Books + Main Bites

Instagram

Kobo

Pinterest

A quick note to please support the authors who appear in this blog. Buy a book and tell a friend. Of course, that also applies to my own work. The two-book Kindle set of Lucca Le Pou Stories is available on Amazon for $7.49

The French and Indian Wars with Jean M Roberts

The early history of white settlers in North America was violent and tempestuous. We often think of it as a straight line from Eric the Red to the Founding Fathers but it wasn’t nearly that simple. One of the most violent periods were the French and Indian Wars. Jean Roberts tells the story of her family during that time in Blood in the Valley.

The Jean M Roberts story. Go…

Thank you for this opportunity to tell you and your readers a little something about myself and my book, Blood in the Valley. I am proud to say I am the author of two works of historical fiction, but it was a convoluted road that led me to writing. I’ve always loved history, in fact I wanted to be a history major but was talked into getting a degree in nursing instead. So, for a long time, I was a nurse who loved to read history books. I joined the United States Air Force soon after graduating from college and was stationed in England for many years. I married an Air Force pilot and we spent 20 odd years traveling around the world, and visiting my favorite historical places in Europe. When my husband retired from active duty, we returned to my hometown in Texas. I currently work as a nurse for a non-profit. I have one son, who is serving in the U.S. Army. I’m sorry I have no pets.

About ten years ago I got sucked into genealogy, a highly addictive pastime, and thought I might want to become a professional genealogist. But I realized what fascinated about my ancestors were not names and dates but their stories. Who were they, how did they live, what were their life experiences? I got this crazy notion that I could combine my love of history and genealogy into an actual book. I had no idea how to write a book, but I’d read so many, I felt certain something besides ink must have rubbed off all those pages I’d turned. And so it seems it had.

I’ve been doing some research into my family as well. I know how addictive that can be. What’s Blood in the Valley about?

Blood in the Valley is the story of my ancestor Catherine Wasson Clyde. She was born in New Hampshire in 1737 but moved to the Mohawk Valley of New York in 1753. Her family settled in Schenectady just before the onset of the last of the French and Indian Wars. (Picture Last of the Mohicans.) The book follows Catherine’s life through the American Revolution and resumption of peace in 1783. Catherine’s husband, Colonel Samuel Clyde, participated in some of the most brutal fighting during the war. Together they and their family struggled to survive as their world devolved into a state of chaos and guerrilla warfare.

I think most Americans do not realize how the war affected the lives of ordinary civilians and other noncombatants. The Mohawk Valley was decimated by the war. Raiders swept down from Canada and laid waste to the settlements; killing women, children and the elderly. Many were taken as captives back to Canada, never to be seen again.

Is it safe to assume that your family inspired the book?

The Colonial period of American history is of particular interest to me. My first book is set in the 1650s when the fledgling colonist still saw themselves as Englishmen. By the time of the revolution, the colonists, or at least many of them, had transitioned into Americans with only nominal ties to England. I love the idealism and drive of the period. Daily life remained fairly primitive, at least by our standards, but the thoughts and ideas that spurred on the war were progressive and fearless.

The main character in this book is a woman and the story of the war is told through her eyes. Her husband was gone for months at a time, either fighting or as a state representative in the New York Assembly. The running of the farm fell squarely on her shoulders, and she had nine children to boot. She was an exceptionally strong woman.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

My favorite scene in the book is an intimate moment between Catherine and her husband as he prepares to go to war. The Canajoharie District militia was scrambling to confront British Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger and his army. If they could not stop him, St. Leger would march straight through New York and cut the colonies in half. Samuel gives Catherine his will and tries to talk to her about what she should do if he does not return or the Americans lose the battle. As the wife of an Air Force fighter pilot, I think I was able to put a little bit of myself into that scene. Anyway, it makes me cry when I read it.

How can folks learn more about you and your work?

By now, you’re all dying to get your hands on a copy of the book and can’t wait for this interview to end. Blood in the Valley is for sale on Amazon in both e-book and paperback format. If you have Kindle Unlimited it’s yours for free. My blog, The Family Connection, has several articles about the book, events that took place during the time period and bios of many of the main characters. It can be found at . You can follow me and my pithy comments on Twitter at @jroberts1324, on Instagram @jeanie1701 where you may be forced to view my brother’s photos of birds. I have an author page on Goodreads as well, it can be found at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17599776.Jean_M_Roberts.

I hope that some of ya’ll will check out my book(s) give it a read and leave me some kind words in a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Remember good reviews are the life blood of Indie Authors! Thank you again Wayne for letting me ramble on about my book.

De nada. But now I get to put in a shameless plug for mine.

Acre’s Orphans is out in the world! You can order Paperbacks on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters. The e-book is Kindle only Please help me launch it successfully by buying now. And any time you read a book like Blood in the Valley (or one of mine,) please leave an Amazon or Goodreads review. It’s like applause for  the author.

Italians in Australia Between the Wars- GS Johnston

As the last few veterans of the Second World War disappear, along with the civilians who lived through those times, their stories are going with them. That time frame has been reduced to a few tropes we are all familiar with–Nazis, brave Brits hiding in the underground, American farm boys in the bloody South Pacific… all make for great drama. But it was a World War. It impacted people around the globe in ways large and small, and that brings us to an untold story from Australia, and the author GS (Greg, to be clear) Johnston and his novel Sweet Bitter Cane: An Italian-Australian World War II Saga

Let’s start with the easy stuff. What’s the GS Johnston story?

G’day from Australia.  I’m kind of borderline shy/wild which is a great thing for a writer – going in opposite directions at once.  I write because it sparks joy in me, to put it in current parlance.  Whilst writing is hard work, the odd thing is that only the writing makes it better.  At the moment I live in Australia’s capital city, Canberra.  I was born and grew up in Tasmania, surrounded by Tasmanian Devils.  Of all the things I learnt in Tasmania, there are three main things – I call them the three Ws.  The importance of water, wilderness and words. 

What’s “Sweet Bitter Cane” about?

Sweet Bitter Cane is the story of a young woman, Amelia, who in the aftermath of World War One immigrates from Italy to Australia, by marrying by proxy an Italian man she’s never met, Italo.  He’s a sugarcane farmer, in the remote regions of Far North Queensland.  When she arrives in Australia, she finds Italo not to be the man she’d imagined from his photo – he’s older and highly distracted by running his cane farm.  But she finds herself attracted to a young shell-shocked WWI veteran, Fergus, who is Irish-Australian.  As the story of these three people plays out, fascism’s rhetoric rises amongst the Italian population.  The unions of the British-Australian farmers, envious of the Italian’s success, had blocked the Italian workers from working.  When Italy entered WWII, the Italians in Australia were indiscriminately classified as Enemy Aliens.  The men were immediately interned into concentration camps.  But it was soon apparent that what was driving the internments was not fascism, per se, but old grudges.

My high school was built on land confiscated from Japanese Canadians who were interned, so this happened all over, with different targets in each country. What is it about this story that appealed to you?

I like to find untold stories and the fact that this untold story involved a woman was a bonus.  As I started the research, it was evident that the stories of migrant women who had worked on the sugarcane fields had not really been written.  The story had a very long gestation.  I first read of the internment of Italians in 1989.  Over the years I’ve heard small bits about this, but it wasn’t until a few years back that my neighbour told me the story of her parents who had been cane farmers and were both interned.  She had a folder of documents which really gave me a heads up with the research.  And also having access to her memories made the writing a lot easier. 

Tease us a bit. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

There are many, but one of my favourites is inspired by a fortunate piece of research.  I was tracing the journey my character Amelia would have taken on the ship from Naples to Brisbane.  In a fortunate break, I found a film an Italian man had made in 1925 of the same route to Australia.  So whilst it was a couple of years later than mine, it was the same journey – fantastic to see so much of the past.  But when they were leaving the Bay of Naples, there was a shot from the boat looking back at the land.  Vesuvius had this long dark plume of smoke trailing high into the sky.  It seemed such a perfect image for Amelia to have as her last glimpse of Italy in 1920 – Was Italy snuffed out by WWI, the smoke the only residual of its fire, or was Italy about to ignite again and explode?

Where can we learn more about you and your work?

My website is www.GSJohnston.com

Facebook GS Johnston Author

Twitter @GS_Johnston

Instagram

Not to barge in on Greg’s interview, but Acre’s Orphans officially launched January 28th! You can order Paperbacks on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters. The e-book is Kindle only Please help me launch it successfully by buying now. And any time you read a book  like Sweet Bitter Cane (or one of mine,) please leave an Amazon or Goodreads review. It’s like applause for  the author.

A Real-Life British Adventurer During the Napoleonic Wars – Tom Williams

As someone who writes business books (and damn fine ones like The Long-Distance Leader, for example) I understand the need to escape by writing historical adventure. Enter Tom Williams, who after a long career of being respectable now writes a series of adventures set during the Napoleonic War. The “Burke, His Majesty’s Confidential Agent series” is the result.

So, Tom, what’s your deal?

I’m an old, old man, living in London yet still somehow able to drag myself out of the house to street-skate and dance tango. I write stories set in the wars against France in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, which you’d think I could remember, but I can’t quite. I have to read up the details in books.

I’ve written about the mid-19th century too. One story, set in London in 1859, describes an area that my grandfather patrolled as a policeman only a few decades later. (I told you I was old.)
All of my stories are set in different countries, which has given me the opportunity to travel to Borneo, Egypt, Belgium, Argentina and Spain and call it work. I have set one story in India, but I have yet to get there. One day, I hope.

The series looks like a lot of fun. It starts with “Burke in the Land of Silver,” so what’s the story?

Burke in the Land of Silver is the first of the stories I’ve written about James Burke, a spy in the time of Napoleon. He was a real person and the first story is quite closely based on truth. It’s set around the British invasion of Buenos Aires in 1806. I love Buenos Aires, so I was really happy to set a story there.

I’d written a book set in Borneo in the 1850s (The White Rajah) and publishers had told me that it was “too difficult” as a first novel so I was looking for something more mainstream. I kept bothering friends to suggest interesting historical figures and an Alaskan woman I’d met dancing in Argentina (as you do) suggested that I look at Europeans who had been involved with the wars of independence and the opening up of South America to European colonisation. I came across references to James Burke and the more I found out about him, the more I thought he was an ideal hero. Dashing, clever, brave, apparently irresistible to women (he had affairs with a queen and a princess amongst others) and someone who seems to have had a very successful career as a spy, he was almost impossible not to write about.

SOLD! I’m a sucker for real-life people with exciting lives. It’s like when I discovered Byron de Prorok and it became The Count of the Sahara. What’s your favorite scene of derring-do?

There’s an episode where Burke crosses the Andes. He left it rather late in the year and nearly died in the snow up there. I’ve read a lot about it but I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like, so I went to the Andes rather too early in the year when there was still snow around and took a horse up to something over 3000 metres. I have never been so cold, but it was a staggering experience and I hope I caught some of it in the book. The Andes really are beautiful.

Where can folks learn more about the Burke stories, the White Rajah and more?

Tom’s blogs appear regularly on his website, http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk where you can also find details of all his books. You can follow him on Twitter as @TomCW99 or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams).

Not to barge in on Tom’s interview, but Acre’s Orphans is out now. You can order Paperbacks on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters. The e-book is Kindle only Please help me launch it successfully by buying now. And any time you read a book  like The Burke serie (or one of mine,) please leave an Amazon or Goodreads review. It’s like applause for  the author.

A Unique Look at Apartheid- Susan Wuthrich

Few periods in history or topics for discussion make people as uncomfortable as Apartheid in South Africa. A new story from English/South African/Swiss/Kinda Canadian author Susan Wuthrich tackles it head on.

Full disclosure, my family was almost part of post-colonial African history. My father got it in his head to homestead in a very apartheid-like Rhodesia in the mid-sixties, (a combination of itchy feet and a need to improve his luck) just before all hell broke loose. We were refused our visas at the last minute (probably by someone who saw the writing on the wall and saved us from ourselves) and we stayed in Canada. Needless to say, I was intrigued by Susan’s story.

So, what’s your deal?

     I began life in Toronto, Canada. My mother had married a Canadian and left England as a war bride in 1947.  When the marriage failed, we returned to the UK where my mother remarried.

     Fast forward to1966. I was 18 when my then boyfriend and I decided to emigrate. We could have gone anywhere, Canada, Australia or NZ, but we were broke and decided on South Africa as it was the cheapest fare. I lived there raising a family for the next 25 years.

     Many people have asked, how I could have stayed in that country during such tumultuous times. The answer is simple; although Apartheid is an ugly concept, and I’m not making excuses, it was in fact just another era and racial discrimination was rife throughout the world, (and I think still is to a certain extent), the USA included.      These days I am retired and live in a quaint Swiss village with my second husband.

What’s the novel about?

Initially, Portrait of Stella is set in England and tells the story of Stella’s daughter, Jemima, who finds out everything she thought she knew about herself was a lie. She is denied a passport on the grounds her birth certificate is false and there are no records of her existence. Through clues pertaining to the past, Jemima traces her late mother’s footsteps across the globe in search of her real identity.

What is it about that time period that intrigued you?

After much research, and through my mother I gained first-hand knowledge of life in the armed services in WW2. My own experiences of life during the Apartheid regime in South Africa,1960’s-1990’s gave me the impetus to write the story. I have combined the two eras to bring an unusual family/saga mystery to fruition. Although my book is a work of fiction, I have endeavoured to show what life was like for white non-racists living in South Africa during those years.

What’s your favorite (or favourite) scene in the book?

There are a few twists in the tale, but my favourite is when Jemima, who had always believed she was an only child, comes face to face with a sibling she had no idea existed. There is also a scandalous mystery surrounding her father.

Of course there was. How can we learn more about your work?

Portrait of Stella is on Amazon: amzn.to/2IPL82H

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35853641-portrait-of-stella

Twitter: Susan Wüthrich @Sue_Wue

Facebook: Susan Wuthrich Author