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Archive for the tag “Second World War”

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big news today! My new novel, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, comes out.

Published by Headline Books in the UK, Europe and Commonwealth, and by TSAP in the USA and some other territories, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET is my fifth Lavender Road novel, and like its predecessors it can be read as a stand alone, or as part of the series.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET is mainly set in London in 1944, and as well as the inevitable problems of war, one of the themes this time is about someone (Louise Rutherford) trying to become a better person. That is never an easy thing to do, especially perhaps in wartime, and when Louise finds that she has to join the ATS, the Women’s section of the British Army, things become even more difficult for her.

I love writing about the Second World War. For me it is a fascinating period of history. So much happened in those eventful years, even for those who weren’t actually fighting. With almost constant Luftwaffe bombing, plus Hitler’s V1 and V2 revenge missiles, people on the Home Front were also in considerable danger. I have always been impressed by the extraordinary courage and resilience that people showed at that time, and I think, more than anything else, that is what has always drawn me to the period Putting characters in difficult circumstances is always interesting, and for the posh, pretty, somewhat self-centred young widow, Louise, the grim realities of as ATS training camp come as a nasty shock!

I very much hope you enjoy reading THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, and as always, if you have the time or the inclination to pop a review of this or any other of my books on Amazon, that would be great. It all helps enormously!

To find out more about any of my books do visit the Books page above.

All best wishes, and Happy Reading,

Helen

To celebrate the launch of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET in the USA, all the American eBook editions of Helen’s books have been given a new look covers.

us covers launch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Win! Win! Win!

As you may know my latest Lavender Road novel, LONDON CALLING, came out in paperback last week.

london-calling-high-qualSet right in the middle of the Second World War, LONDON CALLING follows the lives of a number of people living in street in London.

Lavender Road is a perfectly ordinary south London street. But in wartime ordinary people find themselves doing extraordinary things, and now, in LONDON CALLING, actress Jen Carter  and nurse Molly Coogan are about to take on their biggest challenge yet.

*To celebrate the paperback publication, my publishers, Headline, are offering 10 free copies of LONDON CALLING.*

All you have to do to be in with a chance is pop over to my /helencareybooks facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/helencareybooks and write a brief comment under the competition post about why you would like to win a copy.

GOOD LUCK and HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

For more info on LONDON CALLING or to look at my other books, visit my books page above, or my website, or Amazon

 

Lauren Bacall – the passing of an era

There are lots of wonderful aspects to researching the Second World War, the stories of the indomitable spirit that people showed even in the worst of time, the grim humour and the accounts of extraordinary courage and derring-do.

I never know quite where my research will lead. But I do know that one of the most amazing things of all is talking to people who were actually there at the time. And one of the saddest things is that so many of the people I have spoken to during the course of my research have since died.

A few years ago I found myself talking to Lauren Bacall.Lauren_Bacall_Harper's_Bazaar_1943_Cover

I was in Italy researching my Lavender Road series. We were staying in Roncade, a small town in the Veneto. It was New Year’s Day and most of the cafés were shut. But there was one place open, so we went in for a coffee before leaving for our flight home. The café was called Il Grillo, not, as we thought, something to do with the cooking methods employed there, but after its owner, whose nickname was ‘il grillo’ (the Italian word for a cricket.) He was indeed a very lively (and amusing) man! He was fascinated to hear about my research and told us proudly that Roncade was a famous place because not only did Ernest Hemingway pass through the town towards the end of the war but that Lauren Bacall was also a frequent visitor and had, over the years, become a personal friend.

Apparently misinterpreting my somewhat bemused expression as one of scepticism, he took out a mobile phone and dialled a number. A moment later he handed me the phone and, to my astonishment, there was Lauren Bacall on the other end, apparently quite happy to have been woken up in the middle of the night in Los Angeles to wish me Happy New Year! She couldn’t have been more charming.

At the beginning of the war, at the age of seventeen, (rather like my Lavender Road character Jen Carter,) Lauren Bacall took acting lessons at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she was classmates with Kirk Douglas. To make ends meet, she was, at the same time, working as a theatre usher and a fashion model. In 1943 she was chosen to appear on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. The following year she appeared for the first time as a leading lady in the Humphrey Bogart film To Have and Have Not and her career was launched.

But now, like so many of the icons of the wartime years, she has passed on, leaving the world a less glamorous, less stylish and, perhaps, a less wonderful place.

It is the passing of an era. And it is the job of us novelists to try to capture some of that history, some of those people’s lives, some of that spirit and humour, to enable our readers to transport themselves, albeit briefly, back into those extraordinary times.

historical novels – how accurate are they?

I was talking to an elderly lady yesterday who complemented me on the accuracy of my wartime novels. ‘It must have been especially hard for you to get them right,’ she said. ‘As you weren’t there at the time.’ And that made me start thinking about how ‘right’ historical novels ever really are.

Clearly all historical fiction is fabricated in some way. Hilary Mantel was not present in the Tudor court (as far as we know), nor did Steven Saylor ever don a toga and wander the streets of ancient Rome. Mary Renault was never pally with Alexander the Great, and I wasn’t even a twinkle in my mother’s eye during the Second World War.

So would it have made any marked difference to my novels if I could remember cowering under a Morrison shelter as a child?morison shelter

Personal memories are clearly useful, but we also all know that memory can be faulty. People often ‘remember’ things that other people have told them, or that they have read about. Our recollections are always in some way overlaid by our own ‘world view’. My sister’s memories of our childhood often don’t correspond with my own (I’m quite sure I never pretended to be a puppy living in the wardrobe!) I have equally found in my own research that people’s retrospective view often varies wildly from letters and diaries written at the time. For example, the post war mantra of ‘We all pulled together’ sits oddly with numerous diary gripes about petty theft, looting and prejudice.

Received wisdom and the wisdom of hindsight is often a problem for historical novelists. I believe that a crucial part of the writer’s job is to re-explore the era and to re-examine what people really were feeling, thinking and doing at the time the novel is set. The most effective way to do this is to study the history, investigate different reports of specific events, read diaries, letters, magazines, newspapers, listen to old radio shows (I still giggle at the idea of the indefatigable Sandy Macpherson and his everlasting organ!), and yes, if possible, to talk to people who were there.

When you pull all this information together you get a real feel for the specific era you are writing about, but of course, even then, it is still only background material. The key skill of any successful novelist is the ability to create three dimensional, empathetic characters and to weave them into a plot which will not only transport readers to the time and place of the story but will also give them a compelling reading experience.

So, yes, when writing any type of fiction it’s clearly vital to get it as ‘right’ as is humanly possible, but I don’t believe it’s necessary to have ‘been there at the time’ in order to create a sense of authenticity. If that was the case the number of historical novels on our shelves would be very limited – and science fiction novels nonexistent!

Research – reality or virtuality?

Twelve years ago, when my editor, Rosemary Cheetham at Orion Books originally asked me to write a series set in the Second World War in London, I was delighted because I was actually living in London at the time. Plus I had countless museums, libraries and World War Two ‘attractions’ within easy access. The research would therefore be relatively easy, I thought. And relatively speaking it was. I had great days out at the Imperial War Museum (wading through French naval history books in search of ships moored up in Toulon harbour in Nov 1942), at the Florence Nightingale Museum (where I found a terrifying wartime matron on whom I based the character of the indomitable Sister Morris) and the Concert Artists and Actors Club in Soho where I met the wonderful Mary Moreland, who had sung and danced her way through the war.

Twelve years on and I am once again researching the Second World War, this time for the fourth novel in the Lavender Road series. This time things are completely different. I am not living in London but nor do I need to take lots of days out on research errands. This time (unlike twelve years ago) I have Google, Wikipedia and the internet. At the click of a mouse I have the whole wartime world and its dog at my fingertips.

It’s so much easier. Or is it?

As always, the problem with research is knowing what you need to know. The amount of information I found last time was daunting enough, this time it is overwhelming. One click leads to another and soon I am awash with detail, recollections, personal histories, eye witness accounts, reports, military lists, lists of battles, bomb sites, casualties, I could go on and on (and often do …!)

How can I possibly remember it all, let alone include it in my book?

The truth is I can’t. Nobody could (at least not if the resulting novel was going to be remotely readable).

The trick is not to worry about forgetting things. Just having known them briefly is often enough – enough to add a tone of authenticity. A tiny appropriate detail here or there adds so much more than reams of facts. Atmosphere, a sense of reality, of being there, is what historical novelists should be striving for. My method it to take an overview of the period, enough to let me find a really compelling story, and then I can focus in on the details I need. Which is why I am off to Italy tomorrow (at least that’s my excuse!) to find the one thing the internet can’t give me – a real sense of the place and the people.

It is important to get the details as correct as humanly possible but even the most meticulous and comprehensive research won’t make up for a lacklustre story or unbelievable characters.

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