David Gilman : Vipers Blood (Blog Tour Guest Post) + Competition

viper

Viper’s Blood
David Gilman

With the English army at the gates of Paris, Blackstone faces his deadliest mission yet. The fourth in the grittiest historical fiction series.

Published: 9th February 2017 | Price: £18.99

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Winter 1360: Edward III has invaded France at the head of the greatest English host ever assembled. But his attempt to win the French crown is futile. The Dauphin will no longer meet the English in the field and the great army is mired in costly sieges, scavenging supplies from a land ruined by decades of conflict.

Facing a stalemate – or worse – the English are forced to agree a treaty. But peace comes at a price. The French request that Blackstone escort the Dauphin’s daughter to Italy to see her married to one of the brothers who rule Milan – the same brothers who killed Blackstone’s family. Blackstone, the French are certain, will not leave Milan alive…

 

Competition

 Question: In what Year is did Edward Invade France??

Please Follow the blog and email me @ parmenionbooks@yahoo.co.uk with the answer.

Winner gets a Signed Limited edition HB of Defiant Unto Death

(UK Only i’m afraid)

Guest Post by David Gilman

DAVID GILMAN BLOG POST

 

February 2017

I had spent several years writing the television series, A Touch of Frost and was working on the penultimate episode prior to Sir David Jason retiring from the series. I had a few of my own television projects ideas in mind but for some time had been tempted to write, and tackle, novels. Once I had delivered the script and gone through rehearsals and rewrites my contract came to an end. I had lived in Africa and was keen to explore that fascinating country further with a Young Adult thriller that had a strong emotional basis for a teenage hero, but was also a novel that encapsulated elements like the threats to the environment and tribal people. The result was a full-length novel, the first in the Danger Zone series, called The Devil’s Breath.

An assassination attempt on my teenage hero, Max Gordon, whose scientist father had gone missing in Africa, was the starting point that took him from his school on Dartmoor to the vast expanse of African veld. The book also allowed me to explore the culture of the San Bushman in the Kalahari Desert. So I had a really good mix within the story. (Following publication I was invited by Survival International to the ‘Parliamentary All Party Committee on Tribal Peoples’ where I met two tribal representatives, Roy Sesana and Kgosimontle Kebuelemang.) This first novel also became a recommended book for the government reading scheme for boys even before the manuscript was published. It became the first in a three-book series starring Max Gordon and was followed by Ice Claw and Blood Sun, all of which were published in a dozen languages.

Then it was time to decide whether to continue with Young Adult fiction – a fascinating place to be with many school visits – or to try a different tack. I was about to go back to a life of crime (writing that is) and a novel I had been planning, but then I saw a fresco of a grand looking gent on a war horse in Florence’s Duomo. It was an English mercenary captain who lived and fought in Italy in the 14th century. I was intrigued because I knew nothing about the period. When I pitched the idea to my agent as to whether I should write the crime story or the historical fiction novel she urged me to write the 14th century book. And that was when I created Thomas Blackstone, archer, and later knight and leader of a group of men who fought across France and Italy in one of the most turbulent times of our history. (Although I had no idea where this character was going, development-wise.)

These things tend to take me along as an observer and I simply write down what I see.) I quickly realized that I couldn’t start in Italy and had to double back a bit so that Thomas Blackstone had a backstory.

gilman I was very keen to explore the universal experience of young men going to war for the first time, but who was he before this terrifying experience overtook him?  How did children and young people live in those times? The more I read – and I did a lot of what turned out to be rather daunting research – I began to piece together the story and character of this young man. Blackstone was only sixteen years old when he was called up to fight in 1346. He was a quick-witted young man who cared for his brother, a deaf-mute, and so began his character development and an early emotional complexity in the story. Children were put to work early on in those days and I decided that Blackstone had worked in a quarry since the age of six and then as a stonemason. Now I had a man who had muscle, brains and stamina and like many other village boys he had the strength and ability to draw what became known as the longbow.

And then to war. It was a brutal, unforgiving age with a counterpoint of chivalry. Courtly love, poetry, dance and the ideals of the Arthurian age tempered even the most famous of warrior knights, but if you were a bog-standard soldier you were underfed, underpaid and faced severe punishment for any wrongdoing. Having been a soldier I remembered only too well being cold, wet, exhausted and scared (and I was certainly underpaid) and that, along with the black humour familiar to anyone who works in danger and has experienced violence and death gave my characters a ‘Band of Brothers’ camaraderie.

When time permits I like to broaden my own horizons as a writer and try and squeeze in the occasional standalone novel. It usually takes a fairly long time writing part-time in the hours after the battle of the Master of War series is being waged during the day. My latest standalone is The Last Horseman, a story I had wanted to write for some time. I was fascinated by the multitude of international characters who fought in the South African War, or the (second) Boer War as it became more commonly known. I had visited some of the battle sites and it’s not hard to imagine the hardship undertaken in the conflict.  But I did not wish to have a hero of Thomas Blackstone’s stature who might have come across as a carbon copy. I chose, instead, a man in his late forties, a lawyer in Dublin, an American who represented those who often fought against the Crown. It was these turbulent times that forced him to go to war in South Africa in 1899. Joseph Radcliffe was a man who had experienced war in his youth and had no desire to do so again.  Against his will this anti-war character was obliged to revert to the killing skills he had known years before.

And now it’s time for me to return to Thomas Blackstone. I am about to deliver the manuscript of the fifth book, A Scourge of Wolves.And it’s not all hunky dory for Blackstone or his men. People we grow to love in the series die.

I like to have a strong sense of reality in my books and you can’t have life going on throughout a series without people getting killed. And so far in the Master of War series there have been plenty of shocks along the way.

And, of course, more to come.

END

The latest in David Gilman’s MASTER OF WAR series is VIPER’S BLOOD, the fourth title in the series. See more at www.davidgilman.com

Follow David on Twitter@davidgilmanuk

David Gilman enjoyed many careers, including firefighter, soldier and photographer, before turning to writing full time. He is an award-winning author and screenwriter.

Photograph: Writing Master of War series – Italy.

© Suzy Chiazzari.

 

 

 

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David Gemmell Rhyming Rings (Review)

David Gemmell

David A Gemmell's picture
UK flag (19482006)
aka Ross Harding

David Andrew Gemmell was a bestselling British author of heroic fantasy. A former journalist and newspaper editor, Gemmell had his first work of fiction published in 1984. He went on to write over thirty novels. Best known for his debut, Legend, Gemmell’s works display violence, yet also explores themes in honour, loyalty and redemption. With over one million copies sold, his work continues to sell worldwide.

(Pre order link at the bottoms, 18th May release date)

book cover of Rhyming Rings

Rhyming Rings is a never-before-seen Gemmell novel, discovered in his papers by his widow, Stella Gemmell. Merging autobiographical details of Gemmell’s life as a journalist in South London with a serial killer and a tinge of the supernatural, this is perfect for fans of David’s work, as well as readers of gritty crime novels. Set against the backdrop of a London simmering with poverty, change and racial tension, this taut thriller is a fitting legacy for the great writer.

This book includes a brand new introduction from massive Gemmell fan Conn Iggulden, and an afterword by Gemmell’s friend Stan Nicholls.

An ambidextrous killer is murdering women, leaving virtually no evidence behind, and struggling journalist Jeremy Miller wishes he was covering the case. Instead, he’s stuck with heart-warming local stories about paraplegic teenagers and elderly psychic ladies.

So when his stories and the murder case start to converge no one is more surprised than Jeremy.

Or, it turns out, more at risk.

Review:

Reading this book has been a journey for me, I knew after so long reading a new David Gemmell would be an emotive experience and i tried to take my time with the book and truly read it and let it take me on its intended journey, right through to the afterword which brought tears to my eyes and I only knew the Big man a little, yet his kindness touched me as much as his words always inspired me, his simple encouragement to a new bookseller and reviewer had a profound impact on me.

I think i needed this book, its very easy to become a little jaded in reviewing, so many books and a to be read pile that grows every year and if you are lucky an audience who expects more and more books to be reviewed, only then it takes away the simplistic joy of reading for yourself. When David Gemmell passed away i never wanted to be in a place where there was no new Gemmell on the horizon, that perfection of writing to come, so the final book of the Troy series always sat there on the shelf unread but after this book I think I can finally finish reading the Troy series … silly as it sounds I never wanted to let go that last book, but the words should be read and lived and loved., and finishing this book has left me refreshed and ready for more worlds and time periods, and most of all its reminded me to take time out and go back and read the books i love.

Rhyming Rings is truly such a simple and powerful book and yet takes me back to why I love reading … and the simple answer is David Gemmell .. that’s where my love of reading , my real passion to constantly seek out the next book came from and how can you ever repay that. Stan Nichols and Conn Igguldens words helped remind me of the person behind the words, in many ways this book reminds me of White knight Black Swan, that simple honest yet impacting story… he still stuns me with his writing now, so honest and real.

I don’t want to delve too much into the plot, the blurb tells you pretty much all you need to know, the book is as much a journey of self awareness as it is a crime drama, but done in that unique subtle Gemmell style, there is I feel a little Jeremy Miller in us all, that wanting to belong yet feeling outside the group, the degrees of self doubt and angst and the inexperience of youth not knowing when to shut up and listen. The use of the polar opposites in Mr Sutcliffe and Ethel offer that counter point of experience and understanding, that stillness and reflection or maturity.  All of this is wrapped around a very cleverly put together crime drama, set in 80’s London, and while the book may be set in the 80’s it does not feel dated, it reminds me a bit of life on Mars in that it feels fresh and right, it feels like the author lived through those times and is just now retelling them, its a story that has not dated at all.

For me i think this is a book to be experienced as much as read, but i acknowledge my fan status and love of the mans work, please do try this, see the style and quality, and if you have never picked up his other work i hope this leads you into the worlds of David Gemmell, because they are a true joy to read.

(Parm)

 

Series
Drenai
1. Legend (1984)
aka Against the Horde
2. The King Beyond the Gate (1985)
3. Waylander (1986)
4. Quest for Lost Heroes (1990)
5. In the Realm of the Wolf (1992)
6. The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend (1993)
7. The Legend of Deathwalker (1996)
8. Winter Warriors (1997)
9. Hero in the Shadows (2000)
Drenai Tales (omnibus) (1991)
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Sipstrassi : Jon Shannow
1. Wolf in Shadow (1987)
aka The Jerusalem Man
2. The Last Guardian (1989)
3. Bloodstone (1994)
The Complete Chronicles of the Jerusalem Man (1995)
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Sipstrassi : Stones of Power
1. Ghost King (1988)
2. Last Sword of Power (1988)
Stones of Power (omnibus) (1992)
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Lion of Macedon
1. Lion of Macedon (1991)
2. Dark Prince (1991)
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Hawk Queen
1. The Ironhand’s Daughter (1995)
2. The Hawk Eternal (1995)
Hawk Queen (omnibus) (2014)
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Rigante
1. Sword in the Storm (1998)
2. Midnight Falcon (1999)
3. Ravenheart (2001)
4. Stormrider (2002)
Tales of the Rigante (omnibus) (2001)
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Skilgannon the Damned
1. White Wolf (2003)
2. The Swords of Night and Day (2004)
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Troy
1. Lord Of The Silver Bow (2005)
2. The Shield of Thunder (2006)
3. Fall Of Kings (2007) (with Stella Gemmell)
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Novels
The Lost Crown (1989)
Knights of Dark Renown (1989)
Morning Star (1992)
White Knight, Black Swan (1993) (as by Ross Harding)
Dark Moon (1996)
Echoes of the Great Song (1997)
Rhyming Rings (2017)
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Ben Kane: Eagles in the Storm (Review)

Ben Kane Image result for irish flag (1970 – )

Ben Kane's picture

Ben Kane is a bestselling Roman author and former veterinarian. He was born in Kenya and grew up in Ireland (where his parents are from). He has traveled widely and is a lifelong student of military history in general, and Roman history in particular. He lives in North Somerset, England, with his family.
 Eagles in the Storm  (2017)
(The third book in the Eagles of Rome series)

book cover of Eagles in the Storm

AD 15. The German chieftain Arminius has been defeated, one of the lost Roman eagles recovered, and thousands of German tribesmen slain.

Yet these successes aren’t nearly enough for senior centurion Lucius Tullus. Not until Arminius is dead, his old legion’s eagle found and the enemy tribes completely vanquished will he rest.

But Arminius – devious, fearless – is burning for revenge of his own.

Charismatic as ever, he raises another large tribal army, which will harry the Romans the length and breadth of the land.

Soon Tullus finds himself in a cauldron of bloodshed, treachery and danger.

His mission to retrieve his legion’s eagle will be his most perilous yet…

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Review

Ben Kane is one of a select few authors, who writes books that sit in the category of “Must” read. The problem this creates for him and similar authors is that they have to compete with themselves and my ever increasing expectations. Now i’m utterly unqualified to know if Bens research is 100% accurate, i wish i could retain all the detail, but i do know the work he puts into ensuring it is, i do know when a book feels authentic and impassioned, and this like all his other work sits firmly in that category, this is a writer who has put himself in the kit and walked the miles to understand the pain of the legionary.

Once for our roman and Germanic friends time moves on, Arminius still hungers for Roman blood, but it will not be so forthcoming, not under a real General such as “Germanicus”, the legions are taking the fight well and truly to the Germanic tribes, the sneaky tricks of his traitorous actions are well known and less and less likely to defeat any further legions. Those few few men to survive the bloodbath that Varus led them into are eager for revenge, none more so than Centurion Lucius Tullus, Vengeance burns through him, drives him to greater and greater acts of martial heroics, desire for perfection from his troops and defeat for any and all barbarians. He wants Arminius’ head on a spike and he wants his legions eagle back. Opposite him is arminius, with an equal burning passion to tear down anything Roman that treads in his world, but also to make himself King or even Emperor of the Germanic Tribes, he is a man of both and neither world, more Romanised that he cares to admit.

This book takes you on many journeys from so many perspectives: You have both the opposing perspectives of Arminius and Tullus, riven by rage and a desire to destroy their opposing enemy. The difference being Arminius will do at any cost, no matter who he destroys in the process, Tullus only seems to be hell bent on destroying himself as he tries to come to grips with his foe, its his love for his men that pulls him back from the abyss. Tullus men bring the humour and the boots on the ground squaddie view, the everyday, among the destruction, the distance of orders and yet the close proximity of the action to give a uniquely close perspective of the fighting. There are some real laugh out loud moments in this book from characters like Piso, likewise there are some truly shocking irrevocable moments startling in their waste and pointlessness. I  loved this book, there are some startling shocks in there that make it very real. At times its light, at times its dark, its melancholy, its brilliantly funny and poignantly thought provoking… its got so much packed into it and is a real winner, this years bar met and exceeded Ben, bravo!

Highly recommended

(Parm)

Series
Forgotten Legion Chronicles
1. The Forgotten Legion (2008)
2. The Silver Eagle (2009)
3. The Road to Rome (2010)
Forgotten Legion Chronicles Collection (omnibus) (2012)
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Hannibal
1. Enemy of Rome (2011)
2. Fields of Blood (2013)
3. Clouds of War (2014)
The Patrol (2013)
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Spartacus
1. The Gladiator (2012)
2. Rebellion (2012)
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Pompeii (with Stephanie Dray, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter)
A Day of Fire (2014)
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Eagles of Rome
The Shrine (2015)
1. Eagles at War (2015)
2. Hunting the Eagles (2016)
3. Eagles in the Storm (2017)
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Novellas
The Arena (2016)
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David Gilman: Vipers Blood (Review)

David Gilman UK flag

David Gilman's picture

David Gilman has had an enormously impressive variety of jobs – from firefighter to professional photographer, from soldier in the Parachute Regiment’s Reconnaissance Platoon to a Marketing Manager for Penguin South Africa.

He is also a hugely successful television screenwriter. For the last six years he has been principal writer on A Touch Of Frost. He has lived and travelled the world gathering inspiration for his exotic children’s adventure series along the way.

Now, David is based in Devon, where he lives with his wife.

book cover of Viper's Blood

Buy a Signed Limited HB

and

Buy a Signed Limited HB edition of Defiant Unto Death

A gripping chronicle of pitched battle, treachery and cruelty’ ROBERT FABBRI.

Edward III has invaded France at the head of the greatest host England has ever assembled. But his attempt to win the French crown is futile. The Dauphin will no longer meet the English in the field and the great army is mired in costly sieges, scavenging supplies from a land ruined by decades of conflict.

Facing a stalemate – or worse – the English are forced to agree a treaty. But peace comes at a price. The French request that Blackstone escort their King’s daughter to Italy to see her married to one of the two brothers who rule Milan – the same brothers who killed Blackstone’s family to revenge the defeats he inflicted on them. Blackstone, the French are certain, will never leave Milan alive..

Review

Book four in the Master of War series and the bone crunching intensity of this series shows no signs of abating. Blackstone and his men leading the way, first at Reims and then onward towards Paris, the war of muck, mire and attrition takes its toll on all and truce is finally in the air. Tasked with taking the kings daughter to his deadliest enemies  the Vipers of Milan, Benarbo and Galeazzo to see her married to Galeazzo’s son and thus provide the funds to secure the release of the King of France, this sale was vital to the stability of Europe. Yet to Thomas Blackstone it was a means of access to the man or men who arranged the death of his wife and child. Revenge is in the air, will Blackstones rage cloud his judgement, can his friends survive to aid him in his wrath?

As ever David Gilman provides us with a well researched book set right in the heart of the action of 1300’s war torn Europe. There is no pretension to pomp and parade, even royalty is down in the mud and the damp, their only concessions to rank being the ability to get dry and eat better food than their men. With Gilmans writing, you can feel the ooze of the mud, the bite of the cold, most of all you can feel the weight of the sword and armour, the draw and weight of the bow and the rushing death of the arrow storm and the disregard of mortality.

But if you mistake this book and series for just the hack of the sword you would be missing out on so much more depth. Blackstone is a complex man, with a deep loyalty to his men and to his King. His honour is something he holds dear, but not so dear that he would get his men killed needlessly for it. He wages war for soldiers and men, he will not stand for the rape and murder if innocents, his punishments are swift and they are brutally final. He is a no nonsense man who holds his emotions close, his feelings for his men expressed in bluff soldiers conversation and friendly abuse, his love for his son threatening to overwhelm him while at the same time he knows he must raise him to be hardy enough to survive this brutal world and so appearing at times the cold father. All this is reflected upon as is Blackstone’s battle with his own guilt and grief over the death of his wife and child, he may have dragged himself from the bottle, but for a man like him, facing all that emotion is not an easy task…. and i pity the person in front of him when he is having a bad day dealing with it all.

A truly excellent book and part of an excellent series.

(Parm)

Series
Danger Zone
1. The Devil’s Breath (2007)
2. Ice Claw (2008)
3. Blood Sun (2009)
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Master of War
1. Master of War (2013)
2. Defiant Unto Death (2015)
3. Gate of the Dead (2015)
4. Viper’s Blood (2016)
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Novels
Monkey and Me (2014)
The Last Horseman (2016)
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Anthony Riches : Betrayal (The Centurions 1) Review

Anthony Riches UK flag

Anthony Riches's picture

Anthony Riches began his lifelong interest in war and soldiers when he first heard his father’s stories about World War II. This led to a degree in Military Studies at Manchester University. He began writing the story that would become Wounds of Honour after a visit to Housesteads in 1996. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and three children.

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Betrayal  (2017)
(The first book in the Centurions series)

book cover of Betrayal

Rome, AD 68. Nero has committed suicide. One hundred years of imperial rule by the descendants of Julius Caesar has ended, and chaos rules. His successor, Galba, dismisses the incorruptible Germans of the Imperial Bodyguard for the crime of loyalty to the dead emperor. Ordering them back to their homeland, he releases a Batavi officer from a Roman prison to be their prefect. But Julius Civilis is not the loyal servant of empire that he seems.

Four centurions, two Batavi and two Roman, will be caught up in the intrigues and the battles that follow – as friends, as victims, as leaders and as enemies. Hramn is First Spear of the Bodyguard. Fiercely proud of his men’s honour and furious at their disgrace, he leads them back to the Batavi homeland to face an uncertain future. Alcaeus is a centurion with the tribe’s cohorts serving Rome on the northern frontier – men whose fighting skills prove crucial as Roman vies with Roman for the throne. A wolf-priest of Hercules, he wields the authority of his god and his own fighting prowess. Marius is a Roman, first spear of the Fifth Legion: a self-made man who hates politics but cannot avoid them in a year of murderous intrigue. Aquillius, former first spear of the Eighth Augustan, like Hramn, is in disgrace for refusing to dishonour his oath of loyalty. But their paths will lead them to opposite sides of an unforgiving war.

And Civilis, Kivilaz to his countrymen, heroic leader, Roman citizen and patriotic Batavi, will change both the course of the empire’s destiny and that of the centurions.

Review

Anthony Riches Books are one of those rare treats i look forward to every year, his writing stands out from the crowd with a style that engages you as part of the story not a voyeur. His, unlike the majority of Historical Fiction is told from the common view, the everyday grunt and how he is impacted by the decisions and machinations of power.

Betrayal is different, in that by its nature it has to have some level of focus on those pulling the strings of political power, but also while the arc of this story must keep us close to those movers and shakers the author keeps us close to what matters, the men of the legion, the Centurions and most of all the action.

In this book and new series Anthony Riches takes on not only one of the most action packed and climactic years in Roman history, but also focuses on a people who gain many mentions in historical books, and also in films when they need to pull out a person of exceptional fighting ability. The Batavi, a people who were for many years Romes shock troops used to break the line, or operate behind the line. This first book in the series starts with the expulsion of the Batavi Imperial bodyguard, an honour they had held for a century, Galba has taken power and changes are afoot, not all is right and happy with the empire. before long Vitellius has been acclaimed Emperor by the Legions of the Rhine and Otho has deposed Galba. Among all of this are the seething animosities of the legions and the distrust and they hold for the Batavi and sins of the past, and the Centurions are determined to right what they deem to be the wrongs of Rome, while the Batavi will look to ensure the future of their people and align themselves with another potential Emperor rising in Judea… all this leading eventually to the Batavian Revolt.

Anthony Riches while adopting a slightly different style in this series manages to make this book a deeper plot whilst retaining the true soul of his style, that action packed true storyteller, in with the muck, spears and swords. Always writing where the action is thickest and the intrigue is dirtiest, coupled with impeccable research and attention to detail.

I loved this book, I loved the brilliant graphic novel snippet that the author produced pre release and know that this series has so much more to give, for those who have not read anything by this author start now, he is one of the best in the genre and you will find it very hard to get more bang for your buck elsewhere.

(Parm)

Series
Empire
1. Wounds of Honour (2009)
2. Arrows of Fury (2010)
3. Fortress of Spears (2011)
4. The Leopard Sword (2012)
5. The Wolf’s Gold (2012)
6. The Eagle’s Vengeance (2013)
7. The Emperor’s Knives (2014)
8. Thunder of the Gods (2015)
9. Altar of Blood (2016)
The Empire Collection Books I-3 (omnibus) (2017)
The Empire Collection Books 4-6 (omnibus) (2017)
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Centurions
1. Betrayal (2017)
2. Onslaught (2017)
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Mary Gibson: Bourbon Creams and Tattered Dreams (BLOG TOUR)

marybiog

Mary Gibson was born and brought up in Bermondsey, south east London. In 2009, after a thirty-year career in publishing, she took the opportunity of early retirement to write a book of her own! The result was her début novel, Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts, which was inspired by the lives and times of her grandparents in World War One Bermondsey. The novel went on to become a top ten Kindle best seller and has been selected as one of twenty titles for World Book Night 2015.
Her second novel, Jam and Roses, about three sisters living in the Dockhead area of Bermondsey during the 1920s, was published in paperback in May 2015, having been a Nielsen Top 20 hardback bestseller. Her third novel Gunner Girls and Fighter Boys which is set in Bermondsey during World War Two, was published in November 2015.

Over 250, 000 copies of Mary’s books have been sold to date and she is delighted to have signed a new two book contract with Head of Zeus

Mary’s fourth novel, Bourbon Creams and Tattered Dreams, was published in January 2017 and is set in Bermondsey during the 1930s.Mary now lives in Kent and is writing her fifth Bermondsey novel.

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Frank Rossi promised Matty the world. The Cockney Canary would become a world famous movie star. As his wife, she would be one half of a power couple, feted and adored by all. But the Wall Street crash puts paid to that and as Frank becomes more violent and unstable, Matty knows she must escape and so she flees at dead of night.

Once home in Bermondsey, she goes into hiding and starts desperately looking for work. But only the hated biscuit factory, Peek Frean’s, is hiring. Then, as a secret from her past comes back to hurt her, Matty learns that Frank is on the move, determined to find her and get her back.

Bourbon Creams and Tattered Dreams. The new novel by Mary Gibson
Order Kindle Edition Today | Available from 1st November 2016

Parmenion Books Blog guest post By Mary Gibson

My Bermondsey

Bourbon Creams and Tattered Dreams is the fourth in my series of novels set in Bermondsey, the village-like, working class, riverside area in south east London where I was born and grew up during the nineteen fifties.  The story takes place during the nineteen thirties depression era when life was particularly tough in Bermondsey, an area already blighted by poverty. The heroine is Matty Gilbie, a character who first appeared in Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts and who we left on the brink of music hall stardom, debating whether she should leave Bermondsey and go to America to pursue a career in the ‘talkies’. Matty is unusual in being able to escape the life of a factory girl, as for most in Bermondsey at that time there was little other choice.

But if there was little choice, there was certainly variety. Crammed within Bermondsey’s densely packed 1300 acres, factories abounded: Crosse & Blackwell’s pickles, Southwell’s and Hartley’s jam, Lipton’s tea, but there was also Pearce Duffs custard and blancmange; Peek Frean’s and Jacobs biscuits; as well as Shuttleworth’s chocolate factory . No wonder the place was called London’s Larder! There were also numerous smelly industries. Breweries, heavy with malty aromas – Courage’s beer; Sarson’s vinegar; vile smelling tanneries such as Garner’s and Bevington’s; the Alaska fur factory. The bone yard stench of Young’s glue factory vied with sweet California Poppy from Atkinson’s cosmetic factory next door and the grammar school I attended was situated between the two. We always prayed that the wind would be in the right direction!

But my heroine Matty’s escape is short lived, and after some success on Broadway and in the talkies, she is forced to flee her mobster boyfriend, returning to Bermondsey with her dreams of screen stardom in tatters. There she finds herself exchanging tinsel town for biscuit town! For the only place Matty can find work is in Peek Frean’s biscuit factory, which occupied such a vast tract of land along the railway viaduct in Bermondsey that it became known as ‘biscuit town’.

As with all my novels, much has been inspired by my own family history and the personal anecdotes of many elderly relatives and friends. I first decided to write about Bermondsey when I realized that the once tight knit community I grew up in had vanished forever.  ‘You never know what you’ve got till it’s gone’; so goes the saying, but I think that sometimes you can know what you’ve got just at the point of losing it. During the nineteen eighties my parents were part of a reminiscence group called ‘Bermondsey Memories’. A group of academics conducting a study about building ‘communities’ in the modern world came to interview my parents. The academics were looking for answers in the history of Bermondsey, but all my parents could tell them was that times were hard in those days, growing up between the wars, and people naturally helped each other. Ironically, the very things that had potentially caused most misery in the lives of Bermondsey people: the poverty, poor housing, lack of health care, had proved to be the source of their community spirit. But when your birthplace becomes the subject of an academic study, you know it is fast fading into history and I wanted to capture that lost world before it was totally forgotten.

Each of my novels focusses on a different Bermondsey factory and a different decade during the first half of the twentieth century. The first, Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts, begins in 1911and was inspired by my paternal grandmother’s early life. She worked as a powder packer in Pearce Duffs custard factory at the time of the famous Bermondsey women’s strike of 1911 when thousands of women walked out of the factories, dressed in their Sunday best, one sweltering day during what became known as the ‘Summer of Unrest’. I also drew on many of my grandfather’s experiences in the Royal Field Artillery during World War I driving a six horse gun team. He was, like most returning soldiers, reticent about the war, but he did share how deeply affected he was by the plight of his horses, and I included this in the novel.

My parents left me a rich archive of written and oral memories as well as video diaries and photographs and this was the starting point for much of my writing. But my own historical  research took me deep into the fascinating story of how Bermondsey changed from being one of the most notorious slums in London to a virtual socialist utopia by the end of the nineteen thirties. This was due largely to the pioneering work of its Independent Labour Council under the leadership of Bermondsey’s visionary MP, Dr Salter and his wife Ada. I have woven much of their municipal pioneering into my second novel Jam and Roses, in which I drew on my maternal grandmother’s life, working in Southwell’s jam factory in the Dockhead area and struggling with extreme poverty through the twenties.

In Bourbon Creams and Tattered Dreams the Salter’s vision of new housing estates replacing old Victorian slums and a health care system which would become the envy of every borough in Britain was becoming a reality. And my heroine, Matty Gilbie, eventually plays her part by joining the work of the Bermondsey Borough Council film department, which produced their own health education films and screened them in the streets from a mobile cinema, which had been converted from an old disinfectant van! But already there were dark clouds of economic depression and the prospect of war looming.

In 1927, when the armaments race in Europe was already beginning, Dr Salter made a chilling prophecy. He declared that when the next war inevitably came ‘Bermondsey will be an area of smashed buildings, wrecked factories, devastated houses, mangled corpses, and bodies of helpless men, women and children…’ Fourteen years later during the Blitz he was proved tragically right. This was the Bermondsey I chose to explore in my third novel Gunner Girls and Fighter Boys, where I drew heavily on my father’s own war diaries of his time in the RAF in the far east and on his letters home to my mother, who was a gunner girl in the ATS.

When World War Two ended, Bermondsey was a scene of devastation. Of its 19,500 dwellings only 730 escaped bomb damage and 50% of its population was gone – lost to bombs and battles or evacuated, never to return. It was a common saying when I was growing up, that what Bermondsey Borough Council’s slum clearance programme had begun, the Luftwaffe had finished.

As a child my playgrounds were the numerous bomb sites littering the riverside borough. Shells of wrecked houses made for dangerous ‘camps’ and the deep, concrete tanning pits of ruined leather factories made for deadly hiding places. It is this chilling territory I am now exploring as I write my fifth, as yet untitled, Bermondsey novel.

The closure of the docks in the late sixties sounded the death knell for Bermondsey factories and within a decade most of them had either closed or moved out of London. The docks had fed the industries and the industries had fostered a community, unchanged for hundreds of years. Only as it disappeared did I realize its worth, the close knit, supportive way of life, based upon shared work, shared hardships and extended families all concentrated in a small area at the heart of London was gone forever. This was the vanished way of life which I hope I have managed to capture in my novels

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Ian Ross: The Mask of Command (2016) Review

Ian Ross

Ian Ross lives in England, and has been researching and writing about the later Roman empire and its army for over a decade.
The ‘Twilight of Empire’ series is a sequence of novels set in the early 4th century, a dramatic and violent era which saw the rise of the Emperor Constantine and the transformation of the Roman world.

Publisher website

Author Web site

The Mask of Command (2016)
(The fourth book in the Twilight of Empire series)

book cover of The Mask of Command

 

When a treacherous act of murder throws the western provinces into turmoil, Aurelius Castus is ordered to take command of the military forces on the Rhine. But he soon discovers that the frontier is a place where the boundaries between civilisation and barbarism, freedom and slavery, honour and treason have little meaning.

At the very heart of the conflict are two vulnerable boys. One is Emperor Constantine’s young heir, Crispus. The other is Castus’s own beloved son, Sabinus. Only Castus stands between them and men who would kill them.

With all that he loves in danger, Castus and a handful of loyal men must fight to defend the Roman Empire. But in the heat of battle, can he distinguish friend from enemy?

Review

This is book four in the excellent Twilight of Rome series a series that focuses on a very much ignored part of the rich and varied Roman history (4th Century), I’ve always been surprised that there are not more books based around this transitional period. Constantine and his tenure is such a rich tapestry of events, a new religion, vast changes in the empire and the armies that control those huge tracts of land, This is a time when the Auxiliaries are the army, the empire is the sum of its parts rather than the sum of its core.

Our Core character Castus has come a long way from the bruiser on the frontline. Over the course of this series his bravery and his dependable honest character has won him Imperial Patronage. This while a personality that has won him renown with the Emperor doesn’t win him many friends at court, the roman court is after all filled with greed, envy and treachery, none of this is set to make Castus’s task of of intermediary to the Germanic people an easy role.

As with all of this series i find the books initially a slow burn, even knowing the characters well as i now do, Ian takes his time to build you back into the Roman world, to acclimate you to the time period and the situation, and then he starts to turn the screw and ratchet up the pace. By the time he hits the last quarter of the book it is at a pace that makes the book very hard to put down, as Castus world turns to crap very quickly, his life seems to be a parallel for the story of the empire at the time.

As with this whole series the research is exemplary (well to my untrained eye), the attention to detail is first class, and yet not thrust down the readers neck, its subtle and yet intricate, and the battles are a joy to read.

Another absolute winner…

(Parm)

Series
Twilight of Empire
1. War At the Edge of the World (2015)
2. Swords Around the Throne (2015)
3. The Battle for Rome (2015)
4. The Mask of Command (2016)
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