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DUNKIRK

dunkirk promo pic

Today, as I know that many of my blog followers are interested in the events of World War Two, I am writing about Dunkirk, and to bring you news about a fabulous offer:

The DUNKIRK WEEK WWII EPIC BOOK SALE which starts today, 21 July, for one week only (21 – 27 July).

To celebrate the opening of Christopher Nolan’s movie Dunkirk this Friday, more than 50 authors of the Facebook Second World War Club have joined together to offer you their WWII novel at a reduced price, most at 99¢/99p.

The novels range from military war tales, home front drama and sagas, harrowing accounts of the Holocaust, gripping spy thrillers, moving wartime romances, and much, much more.

lav rd headline

UK Edition

It is a great opportunity to stock up your Kindle with a fantastic range of wartime novels, and if you don’t already have my novel LAVENDER ROAD, this is your chance to pick it up at the bargain price of 99p (UK edition), 99¢ (USA edition)! So do share the news with your friends, the offer closes 27 July.

LAVENDER ROAD final 1

USA Edition

For me, Dunkirk a particularly fascinating wartime event. Instead of remembering the poor military planning, horrific defeat and catastrophic losses of both men and equipment as British and French troops rapidly became encircled by advancing Nazi battalions on mainland Europe, the word ‘Dunkirk’ (in British minds at least) generally conjures up the dramatic rescue of the survivors by a fleet of naval and small private vessels, and has entered the collective consciousness as an amazing example of British resilience, courage and resolve.

It was indeed an extraordinary and magnificent effort. On the first day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the week, a total of 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats.

The drama of the Dunkirk rescue, and the heroic involvement of so many civilians who risked their lives to pilot their tiny craft over the English Channel has inevitably made it the subject of numerous films and books.

It gave me, in LAVENDER ROAD, the opportunity to have one of my minor male characters to show unexpected grit and resolve, not to mention courage. When the novel opens Alan Nelson had been turned down by the military for a trivial medical reason. As a result he had lost his confidence and the respect of his wife, and had become a figure of fun for one or two local boys who felt he should be doing something for the war effort, instead of tinkering about on little canal boat he kept on the river in London.

But when the call for boats comes, Alan Nelson rises to the occasion.

Here is the scene from LAVENDER ROAD when his wife, Pam, first finds out what he has done.

For the hundredth time, Pam glanced irritably at the clock.

Where on earth was Alan? She needed his help in dealing with Sheila over the road. The news from Dunkirk was appalling. German planes were machine-gunning the exposed men on the beaches. German artillery was pounding the small town and the adjacent sand dunes where the shattered forces waited for their chance of rescue. Mercifully the brave rearguard of the Allied troops was still valiantly holding off the German tanks. But that small fragment of good news didn’t help Sheila Whitehead. Sheila was convinced her Jo was trapped on a Dunkirk beach, dying or about to die. She wouldn’t or couldn’t stop crying. She wouldn’t or couldn’t listen to reason.

In desperation Pam had called the doctor. But when he had eventually come, he had been typically unhelpful, saying carelessly that everyone was living through difficult times. There was nothing he could do.

If only Alan had been there. Doctors always took more notice of men. And, give him his due, Alan had a good way with people like that. Quiet but firm.

Pam checked the clock again. Where was blasted Alan? She had promised to go over to Sheila’s again in a few minutes and she didn’t think she could face it alone.

When she heard the knock on the door she dimly assumed it must be Sheila and was astonished to find young Mick Carter standing awkwardly on the step.

He looked odd. Flushed and unusually scruffy even for him. He was breathing hard.

Pam wondered for a second if he was ill but then she realized he had been running.

‘What?’ she asked harshly as the hairs on her arm began to prickle. ‘What is it? What do you want?’

‘I-it’s your husband, Mrs Nelson,’ he stammered out. ‘It’s Mr Nelson.’

Pam’s mouth dried as she stared into the dirty, freckled face of Alan’s former tormentor. ‘What about him? What’s happened to him? What have you done to him?’

‘I haven’t done nothing,’ Mick said, momentarily aggrieved. ‘He’s done it. He’s gone, and he wouldn’t take me with him.’

Pam swallowed and tried to breathe normally. ‘What do you mean he’s gone? Gone where?’

Mick shuffled his feet. ‘Gone to France.’

‘To France?’ Pam repeated blankly. ‘To France?’

Mick nodded. ‘On his boat. To rescue them soldiers what are trapped. He heard it on the radio they needed help getting them off, smaller boats and that.’

For a second Pam stared at him in disbelief. She couldn’t take it in. Alan. Alan gone to France. To Dunkirk. In his little boat. The Merry Robin. He had never taken it further than Henley before. And that was years ago. One summer holiday for a week. Soon after they were married. It had been a kind of honeymoon. They’d made love every night in that little cabin.

Even as she quickly blocked that thought from her mind, it occurred to her that Mick Carter, of all people, was an unlikely recipient of Alan’s plans. ‘How do you know this?’ she snapped at him.

Mick shuffled his feet. ‘I was on the boat,’ he admitted.

Pam stared. ‘On Alan’s boat?’ She felt her mind spin. Trying to breathe slowly, she steadied herself on the door frame. ‘What were you doing on Alan’s boat?’

‘Mam threw me out the other night and I hadn’t got anywhere else to go. It was cold.’ He bit his lip. ‘I had to sleep somewhere, didn’t I?’ He shrugged bravely even as his chin wobbled. ‘Anyway I was still there this afternoon when Mr Nelson turned up.’

Pam was just trying to absorb the fact that Mick had been sleeping on Alan’s boat when to her utter astonishment, the boy burst into tears.

‘He wouldn’t take me,’ he sobbed. ‘I wanted to go, Mrs Nelson. I could of helped. But he said I was too young.’ He sniffed violently as the tears dripped unhindered off his nose and plopped on to the path. ‘He said there would be much more useful things I could do for the war than getting myself killed crossing the Channel. But I don’t know what they are, Mrs Nelson, them useful things. Nobody wants me to do anything.’

Pam was hardly listening. ‘Alan said that?’ she said tremulously, as tears threatened her own eyes.

Mick nodded and scrubbed at his eyes. ‘And now the boat’s gone, I’ve nowhere to go. I don’t know what to do, Mrs Nelson. I can’t go home because my mam won’t have me.’

Pam found she was shaking all over. ‘You’d better come in,’ she said. ‘You’d better come in. I think we both need a cup of tea.’

Those of you who have read LAVENDER ROAD will know whether Alan comes back safely or not. For those of you who haven’t, I won’t spoil the story!

There will be plenty of other stories in the film, and of course in the other fabulous books in the special DUNKIRK offer. So don’t miss the opportunity to treat yourself to a few Kindle bargains.

HAPPY READING!

All best wishes, Helen

 

The special 99¢ one week only US Amazon.com kindle version of LAVENDER ROAD can be found here.

For UK, Europe and Commonwealth the 99p (or equivalent) deal can be found here.

And click here to see all the other books in the DUNKIRK EPIC BOOK SALE, 21 – 27 July …

As part of the DUNKIRK Promo there are also some great giveaway prizes, including the Grand Prize of a paperback copy of Joshua Levine’s Dunkirk: The History Behind the Motion Picture. No purchases are necessary to enter the draw.
We’re also bringing you:

1. A two-part blog series about Dunkirk. You can read these excellent blog posts by two of our authors, Suzy Henderson (The Beauty Shop) and Jeremy Strozer (Threads of War), here: https://lowfellwritersplace.blogspot.co.uk/

2. Readings by The Book Speaks podcast of excerpts from All My Love, Detrick by Roberta Kagan plus another novel, both of which are part of the Dunkirk Week Book Sale: https://thebookspeakspodcast.wordpress.com/

3. Our authors’ pick of the Top 40 WWII Movies: http://alexakang.com/40-recommended-wwii-films-english/

 

OTHER NEWS:

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, Helen’s latest novel in the LAVENDER ROAD series is now out in hardback and eBook versions (US edition / UK edition). The paperback edition will be published in October.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET final 2

USA edition

The Other Side of the Street HB

UK edition

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VICTORY GIRLS

churchill ve dayToday is an exciting day for me because my publishers are announcing the title of my next novel.

It will be called VICTORY GIRLS.

VICTORY GIRLS will be the final book in my Second World War Lavender Road series.

The series started with the outbreak of war on the 3rd of September 1939 and, six books and a million words later, I have brought it to what I hope is a suitably celebratory close, at the end of VICTORY GIRLS, on VE Day, the 8th of May 1945.

I won’t give away the VICTORY GIRLS’ storyline here, but, suffice it to say, like its predecessors, it contains a good wartime ration of excitement, history, love and adventure, all combined with a light sprinkling of humour!

VICTORY GIRLS will be published in April next year (2018), and it is heartening (to me at least!) that interest in the Second World War seems to be stronger than ever.

You only need to look at current blockbuster film releases to see that. The recent film ALLIED with Brad Pitt had a massive budget (even though sadly it didn’t receive quite the success and publicity it deserved due to his marital breakup). And now we have two more huge films to look forward to, CHURCHILL and DUNKIRK.

Dunkirk featured in the first book of my series, LAVENDER ROAD itself, when one of the characters, at huge personal risk, takes his small river boat over the English Channel to help rescue the encircled British troops from the French coast.

Winston Churchill, always present in the background of the Lavender Road books, makes his first actual appearance in LONDON CALLING, as he lies ill with pneumonia in Tunisia at the end of 1943. He also figures in the upcoming VICTORY GIRLS, both at the Rhine Crossings, and in the VE celebrations.

Having covered almost the entire war in my six novels, I can imagine how Churchill (and everyone else) felt when peace in Europe was finally declared. In an odd way I feel as though I have vicariously lived through it all too! Not just Dunkirk, the Blitz, and subsequent relentless bombing of London, but also the trauma of evacuation, the fear for friends and loved ones, SOE operations in France, the sinking of the French fleet in Toulon harbour, torpedo attacks in the Mediterranean, the Sicily landings, POW camps, D Day, V1 and V2 rocket attacks, not to mention the day to day privations of rationing, shortages, love and loss, and the constant presence of danger.

But of course it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The aspect of my research that I found most amazing was the extraordinary courage, resilience, acceptance of adversity and gritty humour that people showed, people of all nationalities, and from all walks of life. And that’s what I have tried to show throughout the series, that when the chips are down people do what they have to do to survive, to cope, and to to overcome. I think we must all hope that some of the same attitudes of strength, tolerance and resilience will prevail today in our current troubled times.

 

 

Helen’s most recent novel, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, (Lavender Road Book 5) is now out in Hardback (UK) and eBook (UK AND USA). It will be published as a paperback on 19th October 2017.

The Jubilee and Dunkirk spirit

Sixty years ago Princess Elizabeth’s honeymoon in Kenya was cut short when her father died and she returned to the the UK as Queen Elizabeth II (but was only actually crowned a year later in June 1953).

Whatever your views on monarchy you have to admit that she has done well to stick it out through thick and thin for sixty years!

But sticking out out is what the British royal family does. During my research for my first wartime novel, Lavender Road, I discovered that people who lived through the war had been impressed that King George VI and the royal family (including the two young princesses) stayed on in London right through the Blitz. As we all now know from the film The King’s Speech, the Queen’s father King George VI had terrible problems with public speaking. Nevertheless, despite his stammer, people admired his courage in trying to give them moral support during those dangerous times. In Oct 1940, right in the middle of the Blitz, even the fourteen year old Princess Elizabeth made a radio broadcast (her first of many) to reassure the evacuee children of Britain.

Some of the other European royals weren’t quite so gritty. Historians believe that when Mussolini fell in 1943, the vacillation of the Italian King, Victor Emmanuel, not only prolonged the war but also caused immeasurable suffering to his own people. His chronic indecision about what to do allowed the Nazis to occupy Italy, which meant the Allied forces had to fight the whole way up the peninsula. And in May 1940 the King of Belgium let the side down in a big way by surrendering his country far too soon, thus causing the Allied troops to be encircled at Dunkirk.

In fact, as well as the Jubilee, this weekend is also an anniversary (the 72nd) of Dunkirk. As 750,000 Nazi forces poured into Belgium, Allied forces frantically retreated to the coast where they became stranded due to the lack of vessels to evacuate them from the beaches. While their rearguard forces fought a valiant defensive action to hold the Germans at bay, a call eventually went out for private boats to come and help. And suddenly what had seemed like a crushing defeat turned into one of the most amazing and spectacular rescue efforts ever as hundreds of tiny inadequate vessels ploughed across the English channel, braving bombs and heavy machine gun fire from the Nazi air force, to rescue their compatriots. And what’s more, some (like my character Alan Nelson in Lavender Road) went back more than once, risking their own lives in their determination not to leave anyone to the mercy of the Nazis.

And so was born the concept of the Dunkirk spirit. Whether it was partly due to the continuing presence of the King in London we will never know, but I am quite sure that the Queen believes it was, and it is her innate Dunkirk spirit that has helped her weather the storms of the last sixty years!

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