Red Winter: Why This, and Why Now?

By Julia Underwood Sometime last year I read an article about the Russian Revolution and it struck me how much the dispossessed Russians lost in the struggle. They often fled the country with nothing and looked forward to the bleak prospect of an uncertain future, rather like the refugees of today. As 2017 marks the centenary of the turmoil of the revolution, I decided to write a novel about it. This involved weeks of research, which I found fascinating and enlightening. My invented family, the Cookes, with five children, an English patriarch and Russian Mama, a Russian nanny, and an English governess, live in a large mansion in St.Petersburg, manned by a small army of servants. Their life takes them from a whirl of luxury to poverty and near-starvation in those turbulent times until they are free to flee the country. The terrible loss of life during the Great War, […]

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Scandals, Intrigues, Family Feuds, Murders, Hatred, Love and Envy: Episode 11

Today, it’s hard to believe that Twelve Shades of Black (no traces of grey…!) , a series of interviews with six black men and six black women living in the townships outside Johannesburg during the apartheid era, could have upset so many white South Africans. But it did! It did so because the book depicted those who were interviewed simply as people, and that concept was threatening to many whites. It’s hard, too, for outsiders to understand how successfully the apartheid government used the concept of fear in order to divide the races. Whites were terrified of blacks. When white people heard that the Belgian photographer Sylvie van Lerberghe and I were going into the townships to research this book they were horrified. Two blonde women daring to embark on such a mission! Were we crazy, they asked? We’d be raped, or probably murdered… Instead, we were to find generosity, […]

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Two Detectives. Two Homicide Cases. All Hell Is Going To Break Loose.

By B. R. Stateham You haven’t met homicide detectives like Turner Hahn and Frank Morales. Turner looks like a 1930’s movie star. Frank looks like something bred in a genetics lab which went terribly awry. But they are partners in Homicide. Partners and friends. Together these two take on the homicide cases no one else want to touch. The hard stuff. The unsolvable ones. The ones which dig too deep into the politics of the powerful and greedy. In A Taste of Old Revenge, Case Number One has a murdered Nazi concentration camp survivor, a pair of sneaky FBI agents, two unseen Israeli Mossad agents, and some thugs from a nasty organization called Odessa. In Case Number Two, a college kid is viciously gunned down in a convenience store, there’s millions in stolen money from Iraq, and someone has swiped an AI program which is going to revolutionize the computer […]

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Murder and Mayhem on the Mean Streets of Westminster

By Rafe McGregor  The Architect of Murder was conceived while I was conducting some unrelated research and came across a reference to the strange will of Cecil John Rhodes, the British Empire equivalent of Bill Gates.  Although I spent many years in South Africa, I knew very little about Rhodes so I turned my attention to his life and death.  When I discovered that the richest man in the Empire had a will that wasn’t just idiosyncratic, but actually sinister, I realised I was on to something.  You know those Rhodes Scholarships?  There’s a conspiracy theory behind them, and each step has documented evidence.  Yes, really. Because I was writing in the twenty-first century, the first thing I had to do was Google and Wikipedia Rhodes’ will to see if anyone else had already used the idea.  I found one possibility: a science fiction novella by John Crowley called Great Work […]

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Earl of Shadows by Jacqueline Reiter

In August 2003, I was a year into my PhD, plugging through the archives to find evidence for an argument that was still little more than a collection of theories. It was the hottest British summer on record; I remember trying not to fall asleep at my desk while attempting not to drip sweat all over the 200-year-old documents laid out before me. One of those documents pulled me right out of my heat-induced daze. It was a letter written to a close friend by John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, talking of his feelings over his dismissal from the post of First Lord of the Admiralty at the end of 1794. I had heard of Chatham, of course; he was the son of William Pitt the Elder, and the brother of William Pitt the Younger (Britain’s youngest prime minister at 24, under whom Chatham served as a cabinet minister). […]

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Scandals, Intrigues, Family Feuds, Murders, Hatred, Love and Envy: Episode 10

To Cassie Stacton, her beloved grandmother, Laura Conway, is a woman of enormous integrity. Scrupulously honest herself, she demands absolute truth from her family and friends. As Laura’s retrospective opens, Cassis is worrying lest Laura be offended by the white lies which she has been forced to tell her over the past eight months.    But, then again, she thinks – what else could she have done ? In her role as director of one of the country’s top ten television programmes, the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, Cassie has also been to Berlin, to work on a Continental edition. And while she was there she has stumbled across Laura’s long-missing bureau. Buying it from its current owner, she has brought it back to England so she can present it to Laura at her coming retrospective. Laura, she thinks, will be over-joyed.   But, at the moment of unveiling, the piece de resistance, the prize of […]

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Scandals, Intrigues, Family Feuds, Murders, Hatred, Love and Envy: Episode 9

The Image of Laura is partially based on the true story of a young English girl who went to Berlin in the early 1930s.   Travelling with her was her most prized possession: a hand-carved bureau made by the master craftsman, Edward Barnsley. Forced to flee from Berlin when the Nazis came to power, she had to leave the bureau behind. After the war friends visiting her old apartment found almost all her possessions intact: only the bureau wasn’t there. When I, too, went to Berlin and saw the building in which she had lived – one of only two houses in that street which had survived the Allied bombing – The Image of Laura took shape in my mind. Like Laura Conway in my story, the real owner of the bureau had gone to Berlin to study photography.   The development of the 35 mm Leica camera in 1925 and the illustrated news […]

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Scandals, Intrigues, Family Feuds, Murders, Hatred, Love and Envy: Episode 8

In the Charente region of south-west France people will tell you  that, for one month after Easter, ‘The Moon is Red in April.’   The action of this novel does later shift to the Charente – but not before Ellen Nagle, Richard’s O’Shaughnessy’s Irish sweetheart, arrives in Paris in pursuit of him. Dressed  as a man, with her hair cut short, Ellen has travelled on horseback  from County Cork to Dublin – a 200-mile journey which has taken her two weeks to complete – sold her jewellery and, posing as a potential recruit for the Irish Brigade, wangled a passage on board a ship bound for Brest.   From there she has ridden to Paris, arriving smelly and dirty with torn clothes at the grand house where Richard is staying with the Cantillon family.   Confronted not  only with Richard but also with Catherine Cantillon, it is then ‘that Ellen, who had never been […]

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Character Development and Language in Historical Fiction: A Guide

By Richard Blake How do you develop characters in historical or any other fiction? How do you use language? My answer to the first of these questions probably says as much about me as about the question. But here it is: At all times, and in all places, interesting people are motivated by sex and power and money. This is a partial truth, I agree. Ignore it, though, even in romantic fiction, and you will fail as a writer. The world is stuffed with nice people. The world would collapse without them. But hardly anyone wants to read about them. My advice is to stick to sex and power and money. No doubt, the immediate objects and the means of pursuing them will depend on local circumstances. The Ancients, for example, saw boys as well as women as legitimate targets of their affections, and power and wealth were often achieved […]

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Another Man’s Face, by Andrew Puckett

What’s it like to lose your wife and son… and also your face? And then to discover that the car accident wasn’t an accident, but a deliberate attempt to kill you? Robert Aspinall wakes up in hospital with no idea of who he is, or why he is there.  It’s down to his brother Simon to break the appalling news to him. Simon has always been there to help Rob, but the task of persuading Rob not to kill himself, while working with the police to find the killer looks like being too much for him. Luckily help arrives in the form of a short, fat, bald, elderly priest, who turns out to have remarkable powers of persuasion – and also detection. But in the end, will Rob have to courage to accept another man’s face? Get your copy of Andrew Puckett’s fast-paced medical thriller, guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings, here!

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