Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

#TheKey by Katherine Hughes#BookReview @headlinepg


Today I’m sharing my review for The Key by Katherine Hughes, a book that’s very different to my usual reads, but one I found to a be a breath of fresh air, you can read on for my thoughts, but first the book description….

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It’s Ellen Crosby’s first day as a student nurse at Ambergate Hospital. When she meets a young woman admitted by her father, little does Ellen know that a choice she will make is to change both their lives for ever…

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Sarah is drawn to the now abandoned Ambergate. Whilst exploring the old corridors she discovers a suitcase belonging to a female patient who entered Ambergate fifty years earlier. The shocking contents, untouched for half a century, will lead Sarah to unravel a forgotten story of tragedy and lost love, and the chance to make an old wrong right . . .

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Every once in a while I like to pick up a book thats outside my comfort zone, a book that takes me away from serial killers, murders and mayhem, and when I read the book description for The Key I knew it was one I had to read. I’ve always been intrigued by asylums, I put that down to spending so many years working as a psychiatric nurse. When I think of asylums I conjure up images of wrong doings, barbaric treatments and an environment that was definitely not therapeutic to those living within the walls of such a place. Despite this Katherine Hughes has written a book that’s beautifully told, with a moving and thought provoking storyline, it’s one that pulls at the most hardened heart strings.  

The Key has a dual timeline, alternating between the 1950s and present day. Sarah, historian, finds a stash of old suitcases whilst going through the ruins of the old asylum. She is drawn to one suitcase in particular that contains a 50-year-old secret about the tragic life of Amy, a former patient. Katherine Hughes  manages to convey the attitudes of the staff and the treatment of patients in Ambergate County Lunatic Asylum with such conviction that some readers may find this book an uncomfortable and upsetting read at times. There is no doubt  The Key makes for a heartbreaking read, and more so because of the cruelty of such asylums, the author also highlights  the shocking and unbelievable reasons patients found themselves incarcerated.

The author has done a magnificent job in creating characters that are so well drawn that you can’t help but invest in their story, especially Amy’s it’s a tragic one and all the more upsetting because it’s a very believable one. It’s easy to imagine Amy’s confusion, her feeling of helplessness, but mostly you can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of injustice at the way Amy was treated in Ambergate. This could have been a depressing read, but  the author manages to add some heartwarming moments of friendship, hope and love within its pages. 

Katherine Hughes has written a novel that made for a   enthralling read, at times I found myself quite emotional which is a testament to the author’s writing skills, by the time I reached the last page I felt like I had been alongside Amy in her life journey, a path filled with heartbreak, fear and rejection. The Key is a wonderful told story of  pain, loss,  truth, and redemption. A disturbing yet captivating read that I would highly recommend to readers of historical fiction.  

  •  Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review (6 Sept. 2018)

Buying links:    Amazon UK 🇬🇧         Amazon US 🇺🇸

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Footnote: 

The Key was inspired by the real-life discovery of a room filled with suitcases in a derelict asylum in Willard, New York. I visited the Willard Suitcases website to read more, it’s a fascinating website but also extremely sad, but it does make you realise that The Key although a work of fiction is inspired by real people placed in the most awful situations. 

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**Blog tour** The Murder Of Harriet Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes @Elizjhaynes @MyriadEditions #HarrietMonckton #MustReads

Today I’m over the moon to be on The Murder Of Harriet Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes blog tour. From the award-winning and bestselling author of Into the Darkest Corner comes a delicious Victorian crime novel based on a true story that shocked and fascinated the nation. Before I share my review here’s the book description to pique your interest…..

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On 7th November 1843, Harriet Monckton, 23 years old and a woman of respectable parentage and religious habits, is found murdered in the privy behind the chapel she regularly attended in Bromley, Kent.

The community is appalled by her death, apparently as a result of swallowing a fatal dose of prussic acid, and even more so when the surgeon reports that Harriet was around six months pregnant.

Drawing on the coroner’s reports and witness testimonies, Elizabeth Haynes builds a compelling picture of Harriet’s final hours through the eyes of those closest to her and the last people to see her alive. Her fellow teacher and companion, her would-be fiancé, her seducer, her former lover—all are suspects; each has a reason to want her dead.

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I’m convinced I have just read a book that’s definitely going to be on my list of “top reads of 2018”of the year. I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Haynes writing and I love a good crime thriller,  but until now I’ve always shied away from historical crime fiction I much prefer to read books written in the “here and now”. I’m thrilled that I decided to put my concerns to one side and pick up The Murder Of Harriet Monckton, what a fabulous book it turned out to be. I will never forget Harriet Monckton’s story as it’s based on fact. This novel is not only fascinating and beautifully written, it’s also one of the most compelling books I’ve read EVER.

Harriet was murdered in 1843 in Bromley, England. Elizabeth Haynes stumbled across some documents whilst researching another novel and this is Harriet’s enthralling story. I must applaud Elizabeth Haynes on her meticulous research into Harriet Monckton and Bromley as it was in 1843, as the reader you not only get a sense of time and place, but the claustrophobic feel of a town that has its fair share of narrow minded bigots.

Drawing on coroner’s reports and witness testimonies, the novel unfolds from the viewpoints of each of the main characters. The Murder Of Harriett Monckton has a rich array of characters, that all draw suspicion, you have Harriet’s fellow teacher and companion, her would-be fiancé, her seducer, her former lover, each one appears to have a very good reason for wanting her dead. Many are seen as upstanding pillars of the community but each and everyone comes under close scrutiny, vividly described by the author each character is brought to life. I found this novel fascinating especially the coroners investigation into Harriet’s death, everything about the investigation felt primitive but incredibly authentic.   

Harriet’s story made for an emotive read, here was a young girl naive in many ways who just happened to be led by her heart and the events that followed shaped her short and tragic life. Once I reached the afterword by the author I find myself becoming very emotional (ok I cried ugly tears), I had become so invested in Harriet’s story like Elizabeth Haynes I too wanted justice for her. To this day Harriet’s murder might remain unsolved, but the author’s gives a satisfying and entirely plausible explanation to her death.

Without a shadow of a doubt The Murder Of Harriet Monckton is a must read, the writing is sublime, the characters are wonderfully depicted, I’m sure Harriet’s story is one that will stay with me for a long time, it’s haunting and moving, and I would like to think Harriet is pleased her story has been told with such passion. In case you haven’t guessed I simply loved this book and I really can not recommend this novel highly enough.

This is going to come as no surprise but I’m giving  The Murder Of Harriet Monckton the very prestigious Gold Star Award Rating. It’s given to a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a read, an original  plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reached the very last page.

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  • Print Length: 437 pages
  • Publisher: Myriad Editions (28 Sept. 2018)

Buying links:    Amazon UK 🇬🇧      Amazon US 🇺🇸

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Elizabeth Haynes worked for many years as a police analyst. Her debut novel, Into the Darkest Corner, won Amazon’s Book of the Year in 2011 and Amazon’s Rising Star Award for debut novels.

Elizabeth grew up in Sussex and studied English, German and Art History at Leicester University. She is currently taking a career break having worked for the past seven years as a police intelligence analyst. Elizabeth now lives in Kent with her husband and son, and writes in coffee shops and a shed-office which takes up most of the garden. She is a regular participant in, and a Municipal Liaison for, National Novel Writing Month – an annual challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

If my review hasn’t convinced you to buy the book, you may want to read my fellow book bloggers fabulous reviews….

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#TheHunger by Alma Katsu #MustReads @Almakatsu @PoppyStimpson @TransworldBooks

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As anyone who follows my blog will know I read and review mostly Crime and psychological thrillers, but once in a blue moon I like to step out of my comfort zone and read something completely different. When I saw the cover for The Hunger with “turn back or you will die” written all over it I knew it was a book I had to read even though I had no idea what it was about. So imagine my dismay when I read The Hunger book description and realised this book was part historical fiction, which is definitely a genre way out of my comfort zone. So I picked up this book with some, ok a lot of trepidation, did I regret it? Read my thoughts further down the post, but first the book description.

Book description

After having travelled west for weeks, the party of pioneers comes to a crossroads. It is time for their leader, George Donner, to make a choice. They face two diverging paths which lead to the same destination. One is well-documented – the other untested, but rumoured to be shorter.

Donner’s decision will shape the lives of everyone travelling with him. The searing heat of the desert gives way to biting winds and a bitter cold that freezes the cattle where they stand. Driven to the brink of madness, the ill-fated group struggles to survive and minor disagreements turn into violent confrontations. Then the children begin to disappear. As the survivors turn against each other, a few begin to realise that the threat they face reaches beyond the fury of the natural elements, to something more primal and far more deadly.

Based on the true story of The Donner Party, The Hunger is an eerie, shiver-inducing exploration of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.

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The Hunger by Alma Katsu is part historical fiction and part supernatural/horror. Based on a true story the author has masterfully blurred the lines between fact and fiction, even the fictional parts seemed very credible which made this book even more chilling to read. Based on the Donner party’s tragic crossing of America in the 1840s, it follows a group of settlers who head across the unrelenting plains in search of new beginnings but find themselves hunted by an unknown prey.

The author has an extraordinary ability to describe her settings, and the difficulties faced by the Donner party with such conviction that I felt like I was there along side them, I felt their fear, despair, and paranoia growing as the ill fated party struggle to survive in a hostile environment. The first half of the book is slow but please don’t let that put you off, as the author builds tension into the plot through her characters, and the threat of the unknown as children start to go missing. Each pioneer has joined the journey for a very different reason and each one has something to hide, which brings an authenticity to the story so the reader feel as if they really know and understand the characters. As the book progresses the characters secrets are revealed fuelling the tension, mistrust and violence amongst the pioneers.

Alma Katsu’s writing is poetic at times as she describes a journey that causes hardship, hunger and madness. The writing is intense and steeped in atmosphere, as the reader the sense of foreboding grows. The Hunger is broken into months which I thought worked very well, it shows how relationships can fracture when faced with adversity and the lengths people will go to to survive.
As each month grows darker, the author describes the decline in the Pioneers,  hunger and fear begin to overwhelm them, with that comes discord within the party with themes of jealousy, lust, mistrust and the forefront.

As the pioneers find themselves stranded, starving and fighting for survival the horror/supernatural aspect of the novel takes over and that’s when The Hunger comes into its own. At this point the atmosphere becomes much darker, the sense of dread more palatable. The author has created a terrifying and deeply unsettling story, reminiscent of The Revenant with a hint of the supernatural, it’s a book that turned out to be a hell of a read considering I picked it up with reservations. Highly recommended.

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I’m sure it will come as no surprise to see I’m giving The Hunger the very prestigious Gold Star Award Rating. It’s given to a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a fabulous read, fantastic plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reach the very last page and plus this one gave me a #Major #BookHangover something I don’t suffer with very often!

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Buying link:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧

Print Length: 384 pages

Publisher: Transworld Digital (6 Mar. 2018)

 

 

 

The Tattooist Of Auschwitz By Heather Morris #Bookreview @BonnierZaffre

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Book description

The incredible story of the Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist and the woman he loved.

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tätowierer– the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever. One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.

His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

This story, full of beauty and hope, is based on years of interviews author Heather Morris conducted with real-life Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. It is heart-wrenching, illuminating, and unforgettable.

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When I picked up The Tattooist Of Auschwitz I knew I would be in for a highly emotional read. A book that deals with the Holocaust is never going to be an easy read due to the atrocities that took place, but despite covering such a difficult and heartbreaking subject this book is so much more than a love story it’s also a poignant reminder of a past that should never be forgotten.

This is a beautiful and haunting book that’s based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, prisoner 34902. A Slovakian Jew who was held during World War 2 in the infamous Auschwitz prison camp and worked as the tattooist who was forced to mark each prisoner with one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust – the blue numbers tattooed on prisoners’ arms. This is the story of one man’s determination to survive and make a life for himself and his wife Gita.

This book is simply written but it is such a wonderfully told story, even though it’s very much a love story Heather Morris doesn’t shy away from describing the living conditions and the treatment of prisoners of Auschwitz, she very much tells the story in line with the facts, there is no way you can “sugar coat” what happened at Auschwitz, in doing so I think it would be a disservice to all the millions who lost their lives and the survivors. This book is a stark and very real reminder of the atrocities that took place at Auschwitz and all the other concentration camps during World War Two.

Despite the ugliness and the gut wrenching setting there is beauty in this book, the resilience that Lale finds deep in himself, his courage and above all his strength of character shine through, as does his love for Gita. The author has done an incredible job of retelling Lale and his Gita’s story, at times I felt I was there alongside him, I felt his despair, his pain and those moments when it would have been easier to have given up than live another day. I found the end of the book very emotional as the reader learns what happened to Lale and Gita in the years after Auschwitz. This is one book that will haunt me for a long time to come, but I think it’s a book everyone should read.  Highly recommended

Buying links:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧       Amazon US 🇺🇸

Print Length: 288 pages

Publisher: Zaffre (11 Jan. 2018)

 

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain #BookReview @panmacmillan 

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Book description

Steeped in history and filled with heart-wrenching twists, The Stolen Marriage is an emotionally captivating novel of secrets, betrayals, prejudice, and forgiveness. It showcases Diane Chamberlain at the top of her talent.

One mistake, one fateful night, and Tess DeMello’s life is changed forever.
It is 1944. Pregnant, alone, and riddled with guilt, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly gives up her budding career as a nurse and ends her engagement to the love of her life, unable to live a lie. Instead, she turns to the baby’s father for help and agrees to marry him, moving to the small, rural town of Hickory, North Carolina. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows her no affection. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry but see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain. When one of the town’s golden girls dies in a terrible accident, everyone holds Tess responsible. But Henry keeps his secrets even closer now, though it seems that everyone knows something about him that Tess does not.

My Review

As anyone who follows my blog will know I mostly read crime and psychological thrillers but every once in a while I like to move away from the “dark side” and pick up a book that’s very different to my usual read. I’m a huge fan of Diane Chamberlain and have been for a number of years I love her style of writing and I always find I quickly get immersed her books once I start reading them.

The Stolen Marriage is a very compelling historical novel with an element of mystery thrown in, set in the 1940’s in Hickory, North Carolina, like many towns of that era the author depicts a authentic picture of a small town steeped in racial prejudice, a polio epidemic and the hardships faced by people during World War Two. One moment of madness leads to Tess finding herself trapped in a loveless marriage to Henry, as she tries to adjust to married life she realises there’s a lot more to her new husband than meets the eye. When a polio epidemic strikes the town Tess, who has a nursing degree, ignores Henry’s wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Tess begins her story in crisis and self doubt but as The Stolen Marriage progresses she grows stronger through adversity.

The Stolen Marriage is an eye opener and thank goodness the 1940’s are well and truly behind us. Everything was so different then, interracial Marriage was prohibited and punishable by up to ten years in prison, and a woman working, unthinkable! these views sound unbelievable but unfortunately they were alive and kicking in the 1940’s, for me this novel gave an authentic insight into an age where things were so different. Diane Chamberlain has created a host of characters some more likeable than others, Henry Kraft was a character that I found hard to like, but I was surprised by the last third of the book I actually ended up feeling a great deal of empathy for him.

Diane Chamberlain has once again written a fascinating novel and one I’m sure her legions of fans will love. If I had one small criticism I thought the first half of the book was very slow, but in saying that the author uses this time to develop her characters. The one thing I really enjoyed about this book was the author’s attention to detail I really felt the town of Hickory came alive, it almost felt like I was stepping back in time to a town steeped in prejudice, snobbery and old fashioned views. It’s also obvious the author has spent a lot of time researching polio, and has written a very credible story. All in all I found this novel to be an throughly enjoyable read.The Stolen Marriage is a book that I would definitely recommend to those who enjoy a historical novel with some mystery thrown in.

Buying links:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧       Amazon US 🇺🇸

Print Length: 384 pages

Publisher: Macmillan; Main Market Ed. edition (5 Oct. 2017)

**Blog Tour** The Lighterman by Simon Michael #AuthorInterview @simonmichaeluk @urbanebooks #Giveaway

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I’m delighted to have been invited to take part in Simon Michael’s blog tour to celebrate the launch of The Lighterman, the third in his series of 1960s London thrillers featuring barrister antihero Charles Holborne. The Lighterman is published by Urbane Books and was released on the 8th June 2017. 

Matthew over at Urbane Books has kindly given me a paperback copy of The Lighterman as a giveaway, you will find the details on how to enter at the bottom of this post.

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imageThe first two novels in your series, The Brief and An Honest Man, both take place over the space of a few weeks in the early 1960s, but in The Lighterman you go back in time even further, to the 1940s. Why did you do that? Did you always intend to write historical thrillers?

As the series has progressed I have come to know Charles much better. Although when I wrote The Brief I knew he was an East End boy made good and he had been in a bit of trouble with the law in his past, as the series progressed what was a line drawing filled out to become a more three-dimensional portrait in my head. I began to understand his family dynamics better, his psychology, his hang-ups. There’s a major reveal coming in Book 4, and I wanted my readers to understand and believe in it. That entails revealing some of what happened to Charles as a teenager, which takes us back to 1940 and the Blitz. I also have a deeper understanding of how plot and character grow out of the fertile soil of place and history. People have commented that London has become an integral part of the stories; I would go further: I think London is a character in the series in its own right.
So, to answer your question simply, in one sense all stories are “historical” in that all characters have a background and past which dictate how they act in the present. If you want to create real characters, they can’t just arrive on the page in the present moment.

For someone who has his own particular moral code, Charles does a lot of lawbreaking in The Lighterman! Aren’t you worried that some of your readers will dislike him?

The reviews seem to suggest that the aspect of the series which appeals most to readers is Charles’s personality. My favourite, from one woman reviewer, is that she thinks she is “a little bit in love with Charles Holborne”. So I realise it’s very important not to make Charles dislikeable. At the same time, it’s his flaws that make him interesting. He went through the War, lived rough on the Blitzed streets, and grew up in an era when women with careers were oddities, men were expected to be the breadwinners and they weren’t supposed to speak about “feelings”. On top of that Charles has been damaged, and he carries that damage into his relationships with women. But as long as the reader sees that he is trying to overcome his deficiencies, that he’s essentially “a good guy” – even one who makes mistakes – I think (hope!) readers will see him as a complete person. As for his lawbreaking, he does it to save lives and to protect the innocent from the machinations of corrupt and venal men with power. I think most readers will forgive that.

You have mentioned Book 4. How many more are there to be in the series?

Charles is involved in a long-running battle with the Kray twins. They didn’t go to prison until 1968 and left a legacy that lasted some years after that. So I have at least a further five years to cover, and the undermining of The Establishment which occurred during the late 60s is a fascinating period in its own right. Books 4 and 5 are part-written. My guess is that there are at least another four books to come, but we shall see.

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About the author

Simon Michael is the author of the best-selling London 1960s noir gangster series featuring his antihero barrister, Charles Holborne. Simon writes from personal experience: he was a barrister for 37 years and worked in the Old Bailey and other criminal courts defending and prosecuting a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy during what was often considered the “Wild West” of British justice. The 1960s was a time when the Krays and the Richardsons and other violent gangs fought for control of London’s organised crime, and the corrupt Metropolitan Police beat up suspects, twisted the evidence and took their share of the criminal proceeds. Simon weaves into his thrillers genuine court documents from cases on which he worked and the big stories of the 1960s.

Simon was a successful author in the 1980s, published here and in the USA, and returned to writing when he retired from the Bar in 2016. The first two books in the Charles Holborne series, THE BRIEF published in September 2015 and AN HONEST MAN published in July 2016, have both garnered rave reviews for their authenticity and excitement. The theme of Simon’s books is alienation; Holborne, who dabbled in crime and in serious violence before becoming a barrister, is an outsider both in the East End where he grew up and in the Temples of the law where he now practices, where he faces daily class and religious prejudice. He has been compared to Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, honourable men surrounded by corruption and violence, trying to steer an honest course.

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Links: Website   Blog     Facebook     Twitter    Goodreads    Amazon Author Page

Book Trailer Facebook 

 

Book description

The Lighterman is the third book in the bestselling series of legal thrillers starring barrister Charles Holborne. Simon Michael’s follow up to the bestselling The Brief and An Honest Man, continues the adventures of criminal barrister Charles Holborne.

When Charles Holborne’s cousin, Izzy, is accused of murder, Charles must dig up the secrets of the past to defend him. But brutal gangland leader Ronnie Kray will stop at nothing to get his revenge on Charles for the events of An Honest Man. Can Charles save his cousin…and his own life?

Simon Michael brings the past vividly back to life across a beautifully rendered 60s landscape, and delivers a gripping piece of thriller fiction that will excite any fan of the Britcrime genre.

Amazon UK 🇬🇧       Amazon US 🇺🇸

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I have one paperback copy of The Lighterman by Simon Michael, unfortunately this is open to UK residents only. Winner will be notified within 24 hours of winning. To enter just leave a comment in the post telling me which era you would loved to have been part of?

All entries will be put into a hat and I will get the ever suffering Mr book review cafe to pick a winner.

You can follow the rest of the tour…..

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**Blog tour** Reconciliation For The Dead Paul E. Hardisty @orendabooks @Hardisty_Paul

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Today I’m delighted to be the next stop on the Paul E Hardisty author of Reconciliation For The Dead blog tour. 

Reconciliation For The Dead is published by one of my favourite publishers on the planet Orenda Books, Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction. This book is available in both kindle and paperback  and you don’t even have to wait to get a copy as it’s already been published

To celebrate the occasion author Paul E. Hardisty has written a fascinating guest post, so without further ado…….

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Engineering a Novel By Paul E. Hardisty

I was trained as a scientist and an engineer. In these disciplines, we are taught to apply scientific principles and mathematics to understand the forces, flows and stresses that govern a problem, and optimise a design to deliver the desired outcome. Over years of training and practice, this structured way of thinking becomes almost second nature, a part of you.

So, when I approach the writing of a novel, it won’t be much of a surprise when I say that I use the same approach. Even though it is a work of art, I engineer the novel.

First, I need to understand the problem. What is it that I am trying to accomplish with the book? Where do I want to take the reader, and why? What do I want to have the reader see, feel, think, experience, and what images do I want to leave them with? In other words, I need to have a firm idea, in my own mind, of the purpose of the book. For me, entertaining the reader is important, but it is not enough. I also want to inform, or evoke certain emotions, and to challenge the reader to consider other viewpoints than perhaps they might have had going in. In my new novel, Reconciliation for the Dead (third book in the Claymore Straker series), set in apartheid-era South Africa, the goals were to show readers how Clay became the man we meet first in Yemen during the 1994 civil war in The Abrupt Physics of Dying, and then in its sequel The Evolution of Fear. I also wanted to expose the reader to a little-known conflict, and illustrate why apartheid, and the ridding of that scourge from the earth, is still relevant today.

When I know where I want the book to go, I need to determine how to get there. For me, this means developing, or designing, the full narrative arc of the book, before I start writing. This arc is made of up a series of inter-connected and inter-dependent scenes. And if these pieces are not joined together well, the thing will fail when put under stress. Sometimes, I think of it a bit like a bridge, with each span and beam holding up the others. Sometimes, these designs can be quite complex, and in their own way, I hope, beautiful. In the first two books of the series, I used a simple time-forward structure, with events largely unfolding in un-creased chronological order. In Reconciliation for the Dead, I needed a more complicated structure. The core of the novel is a flashback to Clay’s time in the war as a young paratrooper in the early 1980’s. Interspersed within this are snippets of transcript (recreated) from the 1996 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where Clay gives testimony, having returned to South Africa fifteen years after the war. This is buttressed on either end (by prologue and epilogue) with short scenes that take place after Clay has finished testifying, and is in Mozambique contemplating his future. You can call it a prequel set within the envelope of a sequel.

Once the structure is designed, I can start writing (building). I find that knowing where I want to go, what I am trying to say, and how I am going to get there, gives me a sense of certainty every morning when I sit down to write. Each day I plan to work on a specific span or section. Because I know where it fits in the whole structure, its unique role, and how it fits with the others, I can focus on the prose itself, and try to create the most beautiful and powerful imagery I can. Bit by bit, day by day, the whole structure rises, until one day, I have a first draft.

Then comes what I call the testing and infilling stage. The main structure is there, and (hopefully!) has achieved its overall objectives. Now, I weave in any additional detail and context that is required, not only to strengthen the whole, but to make the parts stand strongly together. This is where expert editorial support and review from others can be so helpful.
I have always felt that in science and engineering, there can be beauty. As I write a novel, I always get a strong sense that art and science are really not so far apart.

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Canadian by birth, Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels.

In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia with his family.

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Book description

Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier.

It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make.

Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed. Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.

Amazon UK 🇬🇧        Amazon US 🇺🇸

‘A solid, meaty thriller – Hardisty is a fine writer and Straker is a great lead character’ Lee Child

‘A trenchant and engaging thriller that unravels this mysterious land in cool, precise sentences’ Stav Sherez, Catholic Herald

‘Just occasionally, a book comes along to restore your faith in a genre – and Paul Hardisty does this in spades’ Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review

This is a remarkably well-written, sophisticated novel in which the people and places, as well as frequent scenes of violent action, all come alive on the page…’ Literary Review

‘Hardisty doesn’t put a foot wrong in this forceful, evocative thriller … the author’s deep knowledge of the settings never slows down the non-stop action, with distant echoes of a more-moral minded Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne’ Maxim Jakubowski

My thanks to Karen over at Orenda books who publishes the most amazing books, Anne cater who organises such brilliant blog tours for Orenda books, and Paul Hardisty for his guest post.

As my post doesn’t include a review you may want to check out some of my fellow bloggers reviews who are on the blog tour.

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