Auntiewrites Blogs Winter Downs @GraffMarni @penkhullpress #crimefiction #ww2crime
Please welcome Jan Edwards, whom Auntie M first read about on the wonderful UK Blog Gaslight Crime, to describe her new release, Winter Downs, the first in a new series:
Many readers have asked about the inspiration for Winter Downs, and, more specifically, why the county of Sussex, England in WW2, was the chosen setting.
Put simply, Winter Downs sprang from a Sussex childhood littered with abandoned airfields, pillboxes and dugouts, along with anecdotes swapped by parents with friends and relations.
Forgetting that, just like walls in the 1940s propaganda posters, small children also have ears, and the old timers would talk about how Mr ‘V’ was jailed for sheep rustling for the black market; How Mr and Mrs ‘W’ were interned for most of the war; How sad it was that Mrs ‘Y’s only son was shot down over France, before the Battle of Britain. And…
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Review of Winter Downs
Eliminate The Impossible – Sherlock Holmes is the latest project from MX Publishing that brings you Volumes VII and VIII bringing forty-eight more stories to the world’s largest collection of new Sherlock Holmes Stories.
(Part VII includes my story ‘The Curious case of the Sweating Horse’)
Learn all about the Kickstarter for this project (and take part) HERE
What is it all about? I can do not better than to repost the words of Steve Emercz:
“The MX New Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories” collection has over 100 of the world’s leading Sherlock Holmes authors participating.
The anthology includes only traditional stories set in the original Sherlock Holmes period. Between them, these authors have sold millions of books, and they come together for a common cause – Undershaw.
This is Volumes VII and VIII – forty eight new stories specially written for Halloween.
“No historical material here. This is all new, and it’s beyond impressive, in quantity (more than 60 stories in three handsome volumes) and in consistent quality. Here are some — most — of the best, most dedicated Holmesian authors working today”
Sherlock Holmes Society of London review of Volumes I-III
The authors are donating the royalties to projects at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former home, Undershaw. The building was in terrible disrepair and was saved from destruction by the Undershaw Preservation Trust (patron Mark Gatiss). Today the building is the new home of Stepping Stones (a school for children with learning difficulties) and has being lovingly restored to its former glory.
Royalties will go to Stepping Stones for specific projects such as the new literary program.
“We’re really proud of the MX Collection of Sherlock Holmes stories and excited about the Kickstarter campaign. The collection has brought so much attention to our school and the young people. We now have lots of great writers and artists working with kids really inspiring them to take on the challenges the world has for them” Melissa Farnham, Headteacher, Stepping Stones
The stories in the first three books were broken into volumes of approximately twenty stories each, 400 pages each, relating to a period in time: Book 1 – 1881-1889, Book 2 – 1890-1895, and Book 3 – 1896-1929. Book 4 was the 2016 Annual, Book 5 the Christmas special and Book 6 the 2017 Annual.
Volumes 1-6 of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories
The books are being produced in traditional hardback with dust jackets, as well as paperback editions. Backers of the project will be getting first edition pre-publication copies ahead of the public release. The list of participating authors by volume includes:
VOLUME I: John Hall, Hugh Ashton, Adrian Middleton, David Marcum, Jayantika Ganguly, Denis O. Smith, Amy Thomas, Kevin David Barratt, Luke Benjamen Kuhns, Summer Perkins, Deana Baran, Shane Simmons, C.H. Dye, Mark Mower, Derrick Belanger , Daniel D. Victor, Steve Mountain, Stephen Wade, John Heywood, Will Thomas, Daniel McGachey, Martin Rosenstock, Craig Janacek, (and a poem from Michael Kurland).
VOLUME II: Ann Margaret Lewis, Vincent W. Wright, William Patrick Maynard, Matthew Booth, J.R. Campbell, Robert V. Stapleton, Sam Wiebe, Jeremy Branton Holstein, Bill Crider, Peter Calamai, Lyndsay Faye, Marcia Wilson, Jack Grochot, Bert Coules. Christopher Redmond, Mike Hogan, Carl Heifetz, Wendy C. Fries, Dick Gillman (and a poem from Carole Nelson Douglas).
VOLUME III: Geri Schear, Paul Gilbert, Stuart Douglas, Lyn McConchie, Phil Growick, Seamus Duffy, Leslie Coombs, Mark Alberstat, GC Rosenquist, Iain McLaughlin and Claire Bartlett, Andrew Lane, Peter K. Andersson, Matthew J. Elliott, Jim French, Tim Symonds, Bob Byrne, James Lovegrove, Larry Millett, Kim Krisco, C. Edward Davis, Joel and Carolyn Senter (and two poems from Bonnie MacBird). The editor is an experieced Sherlockian author, David Marcum (Papers of Sherlock Holmes Vol 1&2, Quantity of Debt, Tangled Skeins).
VOLUME IV: Derrick Belanger, Deanna Baran, Daniel D. Victor, Mark Mower, Craig Janacek, Jayantika Ganguly, Denis O. Smith, Matthew Booth, J.R. Campbell, Bonnie MacBird, Arthur Hall, Bob Byrne, Andrew Lane, Roger Johnson, Hugh Ashton, David Stuart Davies, Vincent W. Wright, Daniel McGachey, Nicholas Utechin, Jeremy Holstein, David Marcum, and Marcia Wilson.
Volume V : Bob Byrne, Derrick Belanger, Amy Thomas, David Marcum, Denis O. Smith, C.H. Dye, Marcia Wilson, Julie McKuras, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Bert Coules, John Hall, Jim French, S.F. Bennett, Narrelle M. Harris, William Patrick Maynard, Vincent W. Wright, James Lovegrove, Arthur Hall, Nicholas Utechin, Mike Chinn, Tracy J. Revels, Roger Riccard, Wendy C. Fries, Paul D. Gilbert, Jan Edwards, Molly Carr, S. Subramanian, Peter K. Andersson, Matthew J. Elliott, Hugh Ashton, and Mark Mower, with a poem by Ashley D. Polasek and forewords by Jonathan Kellerman, Roger Johnson, Steve Emecz, Melissa Farnham, and David Marcum.
Volume VI: Bob Byrne, Julie McKuras, Derrick Belanger, Robert Perret, Deanna Baran, G.C. Rosenquist, Hugh Ashton, David Timson, Shane Simmons, Stephen Wade, Mark Mower, David Friend, Nick Cardillo, Roger Riccard, S. Subramanian, Carl L. Heifetz, Geri Schear, S.F. Bennett, Jennifer Copping, Jim French, Carla Coupe, Narrelle Harris, Arthur Hall, Craig Janacek, Marcia Wilson, Tracy Revels, Molly Carr, Keith Hann, David Ruffle, David Marcum, Thomas A. Turley, Jan Edwards, C. Edward Davis, Tim Symonds, and Daniel D. Victor, with a poem by Bonnie MacBird, and forewords by Colin Jeavons, Nicholas Utechin, Roger Johnson, Steve Emecz, Melissa Farnham, and David Marcum.
Volume VII – Eliminate the Impossible: 1880-1891 features contributions by: Mark Mower, Jan Edwards, Daniel D. Victor, James Lovegrove, Gayle Lange Puhl, Thomas Fortenberry, Mike Hogan, Thomas A. Turley, Adrian Middleton, James Moffett, Hugh Ashton, Geri Schear, S. Subramanian, John Hall, Jayantika Ganguly, S.F. Bennett, Steven Philip Jones, Jim French, John Linwood Grant, Mike Chinn, Robert V. Stapleton, Charles Veley and Anna Elliott, and Shane Simmons, with a poem by Jacquelynn Morris, and forewords by David Marcum, Lee Child, Rand Lee, Michael Cox, and Melissa Farnham.
Part VIII – Eliminate the Impossible: 1892-1905 features contributions by: Deana Baran, Tim Symonds, Sandor Jay Sonnen, Ben Cardall, Andrew Lane, Michael Mallory, Wendy C. Fries, Aaron Smith, Arthur Hall, Robert Perret, Nick Cardillo, Paul D. Gilbert, Cindy Dye, Tracy Revels, Derrick Belanger, William Meikle, Marcia Wilson, David Friend, Roger Riccard, Craig Janacek, Jeremy Branton Holstein, Will Murray, David Ruffle, Daniel McGachey, and David Marcum, with a poem by Christopher James, and forewords by David Marcum, Lee Child, Rand Lee, Michael Cox, and Melissa Farnham.
Winter Downs blog for Ali The Dragon Slayer.
First posted June 4th here
Alison Drew: I’m beyond thrilled to be on the blog tour today for this wonderful book .. it’s a little piece of ‘home’ for me x
Bunch Courtney stumbles upon the body of Jonathan Frampton in a woodland clearing. Is this a case of suicide, or is it murder? Bunch is determined to discover the truth but can she persuade the dour Chief Inspector Wright to take her seriously? In January of 1940 a small rural community on the Sussex Downs, already preparing for invasion from across the Channel, finds itself deep in the grip of a snowy landscape, with an ice-cold killer on the loose.
The most commonly asked questions any author can usually be simplified as why, where and who – so here goes: What is Winter Downs about? In January of 1940 a small rural community on the Sussex Downs, already preparing for invasion from across the Channel, finds itself deep in the grip of a snowy landscape, with an ice-cold killer on the loose. Bunch Courtney stumbles upon the body of Jonathan Frampton in a woodland clearing. Is this a case of suicide, or is it murder? Bunch is determined to discover the truth but can she persuade the dour Chief Inspector Wright to take her seriously?
Where is simple. Sussex was the county in which I was born. A farm on the edge of the Sussex Downs and to my mind it is simply the most beautiful place on earth. Oddly, though, when you add East and West Sussex together, it is one of the largest counties, it is one of those least known in the UK and many mistake it for Essex! To be fair that may be because there are so very few towns of any size until you reach the coastal strip. It is rich in folklore and folk people and in 1940 was poised on the leading edge of the war waging just 30 miles away across the English Channel. The South Downs are spinal cord of chalk hills stretching from the Kent shores into Hampshire. Much of it was made a National Park just a few years ago (map) to preserve its beauty from the scourge of the housing developers.
Walk the fields in that area you are sure to find one of the many pill boxes and dugouts; hurriedly constructed preparations against the expected invasion in WW2. By the 1960s these historic and ominous structures were little more than a magnet for children at play. I had not realised the influence their presence had on me until it came to writing a crime novel.
My sleuth, Rose ‘Bunch’ Courtney, was based loosely on the daughter of a local land owner that I knew in passing a very long time ago. She was one of those self-assured young women as much at home mucking out horses as dancing at the Ritz. Had she been of the right age in those days of hardship she would have had the resources required to dabble in amateur detection. I knew many country folk like the Jenner brothers whilst growing up in a farming community. The old countrymen they were based on are all gone now, but hopefully I have done them, and their long vanished Sussex accent, justice in fictional form.
It was in the course of researching the world of farming folk of the era that I read how many of the large country houses were requisitioned by the Government in 1939 – and voila! Setting, sleuth and era all came together as Winter Downs.
The Winter Downs cover, designed my Peter Coleborn, was based on a propaganda poster urging women to Join the Land Army! An issue that was high on the rural Sussex agenda, and of course the addition of the snow, the planes overhead and rolling hills said all that needed to be said – yes we did consider adding the odd corpse or two, but that seemed a little like over-kill…
Once I had the time and place I could dive into research mode! I love digging out all of those snippets that were forgotten, or in some cases papered over. For instance a comment was made at my writing group that nobody carried a gas mask. I hit the internet, and the books, and came across many references to the fact that though films of the era – fact and fiction – assured viewers that everyone carried a gas mask everywhere because that was the law, nothing could be further from the truth. Millions of masks were issued through 1939 and 1940 but carrying it with you was never made law and by January 1940, when Winter Downs is set, less than 20% of people bothered taking their gas mask anywhere.
Writing Winter Downs was a lot of fun to write. I really have come to be very fond of Bunch and Wright. Onwards and upwards now to finish book two in the series!
As soon as I heard about this book I knew I was destined to read it! I am Sussex born and bred so could easily visualise the scenes and my mother was actually in the Land Army in the relevant time period so I feel I had an advantage. Whether that enhanced my enjoyment I’m not sure because it is such an endearing story so from the outset you instinctively go back to that era of the 1940’s.
Jan’s descriptive writing forms the basis for the tension and bleakness of war, the cold sometimes lonely downs and the austerity that was around, Winter Downs is the perfect title and I think you will agree the cover is simply stunning.
Two sisters, totally different in character but with a deep bond .. Bunch and Dodo find themselves in the middle of a mystery. After finding the body of a local man known to them Bunch is determined to prove that he wouldn’t/didn’t commit suicide and that something more sinister has taken place.
Due to lack of police or suitable funding because of the war, Chief Inspector Wright is adamant it is an open/shut case of suicide and the matter should be dropped.
So begins the search for a possible killer. Bunch and Dodo are already having to adapt to a completely alien way of life after the soldiers took over their house and they had to relocate to grandma, add in rationing, black-outs and the uncertainty of war. Dodo has already lost her husband in the fighting so Bunch is incredibly protective, this all results in the need for an answer. If it was murder then there could be further danger imminent.
I enjoyed finding out about these two women as their individuality emerges, Bunch is the feisty one of the two and I admire her determination to discover the truth. It kept me hooked as the puzzle deepens and I really couldn’t see how there was going to be a satisfactory ending.
The setting is beautifully described and for anyone who doesn’t have knowledge of Sussex it is a charming county steeped in history, yes I may be biased but it was so refreshing to read and absorb my local dialect which reminds me of my grandparents!
Anyone who likes historical fiction with a strong mix of characters will relish this story. Eerie, chilling and riveting I wholly recommend it. I’m already looking forward to more from Jan. I think this is a book that will stay with me long after finishing it and I’m likely to re-read and discover even more from it.
My thanks go to Jan for my copy of Winter Downs and for inviting me to participate in the blog tour. I read and reviewed voluntarily.