Wednesday, 29 March 2017
About the book:
John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham is one of the most enigmatic and overlooked figures of early nineteenth century British history. The elder brother of Pitt the Younger, he has long been consigned to history as ‘the late Lord Chatham’, the lazy commander-in-chief of the 1809 Walcheren expedition, whose inactivity and incompetence turned what should have been an easy victory into a disaster.
Chatham’s poor reputation obscures a fascinating and complex man. During a twenty-year career at the heart of government, he served in several important cabinet posts such as First Lord of the Admiralty and Master-General of the Ordnance. Yet despite his closeness to the Prime Minister and friendship with the Royal Family, political rivalries and private tragedy hampered his ascendance. Paradoxically for a man of widely admired diplomatic skills, his downfall owed as much to his personal insecurities and penchant for making enemies as it did to military failure.
Using a variety of manuscript sources to tease Chatham from the records, this biography peels away the myths and places him for the first time in proper familial, political, and military context. It breathes life into a much-maligned member of one of Britain’s greatest political dynasties, revealing a deeply flawed man trapped in the shadow of his illustrious relatives.
I have enjoyed Jacqueline Reiter's blog and Facebook page but I did wonder whether this factual book, so out of my time period of history, would really manage to grab and hold my interest, but from the first page to the last, I was totally gripped by the story of this man whose life is told with the fluidity and readability of a novel, without destroying or demeaning the historical facts and trivialising a serious study.
Who do you think of when you hear the name John or Pitt, or Chatham? Such is the author's passion for the subject that when coupled with the name Reiter, John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, is now almost a household name. A whole generation will grow up knowing of the Pitt underdog, the anti hero, who in Reiter's capable hands, becomes a hero. I have never found another author who so thoroughly makes a historical character their own. It shows a genuine skill and ability to write to make a little known man, long dead, come alive and engender in us readers genuine emotion.
The 2nd Earl of Chatham is a very complex man. Slothful, intelligent, vulnerable, pleasure loving, a keen social animal, always seemingly in the shadow of his younger brother. "John had Pitt the Elder’s name and political principles instilled into him from the cradle, and grew up with the conviction that being a Pitt was something special. John’s importance within the family as the eldest son was never in doubt, and he never forgot that" He seems to have been an attractive and likeable man, who knew how to 'work the crowds' but conversely, never seemed to push himself forward.
Fashionable and elegant, he and his wife were the trend setters of the era and despite her persistent ill health and Chatham's frequent leg problems causing, at times, poor mobility, they managed to be well known and liked in London society. In Reiter's words, "he had always been elegant (in his teens his father called him ‘the powdered beau’), and his Cabinet status gave him added reason to show off. In 1789 his ‘corbeau and blue striped’ coat was acclaimed as ‘one of the handsomest dresses at the Drawing room’; four years later his ‘carmelite [light brown] coloured velvet coat and breeches . . . very richly embroidered with silver’ provoked similar admiration."
No one can read this book and remain untouched by the 2nd Earl of Chatham's life and the tragedies and misfortunes that befell him. The aftermath (and the after myth) of the Walcheren campaign is explored in a realistic but sensitive way and Reiter even manages to make the driest of politics interesting and yet manages to maintain throughout a level that would be suitable for academic study as well as the lay reader. His career was blighted his father's spendthrift ways causing huge debts, by his easy-going temperament and by his bad luck. "He fought as hard as he could against the hand he had been dealt but he was ultimately the victim of his own family’s success."
The author has researched the book with meticulous care for every detail and whilst citations are given, they are never invasive or get in the way of the prose, adding greatly to the enjoyment for the lay-reader. Situations and places are described in such a way to give a real feel for the era and for the places and has encouraged a real interest for the subject and time in British history in this die-hard Mediaevalist.
Helpfully, the book includes three maps - Walcheren (Flushing), Helder and Gibraltar, plus illustrations, an index, an extensive bibliography, and copious source notes (which are discretely placed and do not get in the flow of the narrative.)
The book was thoroughly enjoyable, amazingly informative, interesting, easy to read and understand and I will happily recommend it to both historian and casual reader.
The book is available from Pen and Sword Books and also from Amazon in both Kindle and Hard Cover editions. Read it! It is worth it!
Jacqueline Reiter has a PhD in late 18th century political history from the University of Cambridge. Born into a diplomatic family, she has long looked upon history as a fixed point of reference in a peripatetic life. A professional librarian, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children.
Learn more about the author in this really interesting Diana Talks to Jacqueline Reiter.
What other people say:
"To produce a biography of one of history’s peripheral figures requires detective work as much as writing talent. In the case of John Pitt, the biographer has to deal with an extra dimension of complexity. The challenge is to provide an objective portrait of someone, who, as the son of William Pitt the Elder and older brother of William Pitt the Younger, found his life constantly overshadowed by, and unfavourably compared to, his more renowned relatives....
...Although Chatham’s army service is discussed, the expeditions in which he participated are not examined at the level of detail of a purely military history. The political events are related in much more depth, and the book provides a very interesting portrayal of the politics and politicians, as well as the British nobility, during the latter part of the Georgian era."
To read this excellent but lengthy review in its entirety, please click here 1/72 scale plastic Napoleonic figures
© Diana Milne, March 2017
Saturday, 25 March 2017
Hi, Mr S J A Turney. This sounds a bit formal. May I call you Simon? OK.
First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!
Thank you Simon. I really enjoyed this!
(He's not that rotund, is he???)
Turney is an author of Roman and medieval historical fiction, gritty historical
fantasy and rollicking Roman children's books.
He lives with his family and extended menagerie of pets in rural North Yorkshire. A born and bred Yorkshireman with a love of the country, he divides his time between staring at a computer screen while surrounded by the natural glory of the Yorkshire Dales and charging around the world wherever he can find the breathtaking remains of the classical era.
Since leaving school and University, Simon has tried a great number of careers, including car sales, insurance, software engineering, computer network management, civil service and even painting and decorating sales. He has lived in four counties but never strayed far from his beloved Yorkshire.
While struck with ennui at the corporate world in 2003 Simon, a lover of Roman history, decided to combine writing and history with a new look at Caesar's diaries. Marius' Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum - an attempt to create a new fantasy world with a flavour of Rome. Since then, the success and popularity of both has spawned sequels to each work. Simon's portfolio has expanded over the years to include a series set in the medieval era (The Ottoman Cycle), a series of Roman thrillers (Praetorian), and most recently a new series of Roman novels for children.
As well as his website at http://www.sjaturney.co.uk, Simon maintains a website detailing the Roman sites he visits at http://www.roman-sites.com, and a blog at http://sjat.wordpress.com He can be found on Twitter as @SJATurney and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SJATurney/ (His comments make me laugh on FB every day!)
Wednesday, 22 March 2017
One family, two kingdoms, one common enemy ...
This is the true story of Aethelflaed, the ‘Lady of the Mercians’, daughter of Alfred the Great. She was the only female leader of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom.
Born into the royal house of Wessex at the height of the Viking wars, she is sent to her aunt in Mercia as a foster-child, only to return home when the Vikings overrun Mercia. In Wessex, she witnesses another Viking attack and this compounds her fear of the enemy.
She falls in love with a Mercian lord but is heartbroken to be given as bride to the ruler of Mercia to seal the alliance between the two Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
She must learn to subjugate her feelings for her first love, overcome her indifference to her husband and win the hearts of the Mercians who despise her as a foreigner and twice make an attempt on her life.
When her husband falls ill and is incapacitated, she has to learn to rule and lead an army in his stead. Eventually she must fight to save her adopted Mercia from the Vikings and, ultimately, her own brother.
Written by Annie Whitehead, To Be A Queen, is the fascinating story of the most remarkable of Saxon women, Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians and daughter of Alfred the Great. The novel leads us through Aethelflaed's personal journey, from a sheltered childhood in the heart of Wessex to marriage, motherhood, and a remarkable partnership with her brother Edward, who succeeded their father as King of Wessex. Aethelflaed and Edward spearhead the fight against the Danes and the struggle to unite England under one ruler.
A thoroughly enjoyable book, To Be A Queen, draws the reader in from the very first sentence, recounting the story of Aethelflaed's life while telling you the bigger story that is the making of England. Many readers may be familiar with Aethelflaed from the Bernard Cornwell The Last Kingdom series, but Annie Whitehead develops the Lady of Mercia to even greater depths, getting under the skin and into the heart of this amazing woman.
The story moves at an incredible pace, examining all aspects of Aethelflaed's personal and public life. Where this book shines is in the personal relationships that Aethelflaed develops through the years. In her teen years, she is sent to Mercia, to a loveless marriage and an older husband, Ethelred, a stranger who himself is unsure how to treat this teenage girl, his wife. Aethelflaed is always close to her brother, Edward, from childhood playmate to fellow warrior and overlord.
He [Edward] raised his eyebrows. "Hate? Not I. I will not cower before him nor cringe when he rants, that is all. You are kinder to him than I, it is true, but I do not hate him. I have no time for things like that."
She nudged him. "Feelings, do you mean?"
"Waste of time. They are not real."
"Well, if it was not feelings that drove you to fish me from the water, I thank whatever it was."
"I am here to look after you while my father cannot. As one day I will look after Wessex as my father has not. You are my sister. What else is there to know about why I saved you from drowning?"
She was not persuaded and carried on as if he had not interrupted. "And whatever it was, it must be akin to the thing that drives you to giddiness every time that Gwen walks by."
"Ah, Gwen." he lay down on the grass and put his hands behind his head. "You have hit upon something there."
Teasel nudged him. "So you are not always thinking only of kingship. Not when your thoughts are on Gwen. But beware; Mother will not like it if she hears what you are about."
To Be A Queen has you hooked from the very beginning. Aethelflaed is a strong, sympathetic character, whose life and loves - and sense of adventure - make for some fascinating reading. She is all-too-human, struggling through misunderstandings, making mistakes and suffering insecurities; attributes which make her all the more endearing to the reader. She does, however, have an admirable inner strength, which drives her to carry on even under the direst circumstances.
The story stays true to the historical fact, filling in the details where the historical record is lacking. The incredible depth of research that has been done by the author shines through on every page, from the building of burhs, through the battles and to the advance of the Danes and alliances of the Saxons and Welsh. Such research helps to transport the reader back in time, to the sights, sounds and smells of Anglo-Saxon England. Mercia, Wessex and even Wales, are described in great detail, the difference in landscapes flashing by as we ride from Winchester, to London, to the mountains of Wales.
Annie Whitehead has managed to tell one of the greatest stories in English history, that of the making of England, from the point of view of one who was there, Aethelflaed was right in the middle of the decision-making and the action. To Be A Queen tells the story of how she grew from being a young, teenage bride, to a formidable and confident opponent of the Danes. It is a story that is gripping to the very end, it will have you in tears at one moment, while egging the Saxons on to victory at the next.
It is, quite simply, a book that is not to be missed.
Amazon author page;Website; Blog; Twitter; Facebook; @anniewhiteheadauthor; To Be A Queen; Alvar the Kingmaker; 1066 Turned Upside Down
Sharon has been writing a blog entitled 'History...the Interesting Bits' for a little over 2 years and has just finished her first non-fiction work, 'Heroines of the Medieval World', which looks into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history and will be published by Amberley in September 2017. It is now available for pre-order from Amazon.
Saturday, 18 March 2017
Hi Karen, I wouldn't have discovered your wonderful, quirky-humoured mystery books if you had not entered (and won) a recent Review Blog prize draw, starting us both talking. Now I am hooked and I am reading them as fast as I can buy them and I thought it was a good idea to talk to you here and introduce you to a much wider audience.
First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!
MY QUESTION FOR ME? What would I do for a Klondike bar?? Do an open mike comedy night.
(She is serious, folks! Has anyone heard her sing? Maybe we should just club together and buy her one!)
What would I do with it once I got it???-eat it of course!
If your latest book HOLMES IN AMERICA- was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
I would put Ricky Gervais in the lead role because Nigel Holmes is as politically incorrect as he is!
What made you choose this genre? I have always loved mysteries and I love comedy so I thought I would combine them.
How do you get ideas for plots and characters? In my head, really, and people have given me some really neat ideas that I might use.
If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
I have got a few romance/romantic suspense stories in progress.
Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
It was a huge drift. I was home sick and very bored. I started writing what is now 'Dead on Arrival' in 2005 and just kept going - it's like potato chips; you can't just eat one!
Marmite? Love it or hate it? MAKES NASTY HACKING SOUNDS—UM HATE IT. (No need to be polite, Karen, say what you really think!!!)
Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
My 'Please don't annoy the author' mug, full of coffee or tea. 70s Classic rock or oldies.
I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Stand up comedian. I am also an author/book promoter.
Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Both coffee and tea-sorry can't choose. Red as it is bold and vibrant like my characters
How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way? I write by the seat of my pants -my characters write it I am just the typist
If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose? COMIC SANS MS
Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be? Romeo and Juliette.
Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!? I had it planned in my nano last year - Playing Dead - that the thugs would abduct my protagonists, but one of them took off and made a deal with the badasses.
How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred? Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes.
Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
Your answers have been as fun and funny as your books, Karen, so now I will tell people a bit about you:
Karen Vaughan lives in Peterborough Ontario with her husband Jim and a cat named JJ. She is the mom of a 26-year-old daughter and four grown stepchildren, a newborn granddaughter and a 6-year-old grandson named Izak who could very well be smarter than a fifth grader. DEAD COMIC STANDING is her second novel. Her first novel DEAD ON ARRIVAL garnered praise from friends, family, and online gamers. She also enjoys doing crafts and other hobbies. Her third book and sequel to DEAD ON ARRIVAL is called OVER HER DEAD BODY. DAYTONA DEAD is the third in that series and was released in May 2013. Other than writing Karen loves to read, do crafts and play online games. Currently, she hosts an internet radio show called WRITERS ROUND TABLE since January the 14th, 2014. She has a quirky sense of humor and shows this in her mysteries and her side hobby of stand-up comedy. DEAD MEN DON’T SWING AND JAMAICA DEAD WERE PUBLISHED in January 2015. LEFT FOR DEAD AND HOLMES IN AMERICA WERE PUBLISHED IN 2016. Karen is currently working on her 7th book in the Laura and Gerry series DEAD TO WRITES.
© Diana Milne January 2017 © Karen Vaughan February 2017
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
If you are not fortunate enough to win it, you can buy it here The Sixpenny Tiger
About the book:
When Sally Golding achieves her dream job, to work caring for children in a 'home', she becomes deeply involved with the children. One in particular, Davey, touches her heart. The older brother to John, he is often blamed for John's misdeeds by his housemother, Marjorie, who seems to have taken a great dislike to him. Davey's problems become much worse when Marjorie marries his father, Tony Adams and the boys go home to live with them. Marjorie subjects Davey to violent abuse; Davey dreams of finding Sally and her becoming his mother.
But Sally has problems of her own. Now in an abusive marriage, she needs all her strength to cope. And Joe, who is in love with Sally, is struggling to keep his life together having lost her to Evan, her husband.
However, fate has things in store for all of them. Will Davey manage to escape from his personal hell? Will Joe finally achieve his dream to be with Sally? And what of Marjorie - what is it that happened in her life to make her the way she is with Davey?
This story shows the great power of love - and that of forgiveness.
It is always a puzzle to me why Jeanette Taylor Ford's writing is not better known and more widely read. With her brilliantly thought out storylines and believable characters she should be topping the Indie charts every week. This book, The Sixpenny Tiger, is no exception and gripped me from page one, conjuring in me every emotion known to the human psyche. Any book that can raise genuine feeling for a character has to be considered by me to be story telling at it's best.
The story is prefaced by a beautiful and meaningful poem by the author, another discipline in which she excels.
The book reads easily and freely and makes the reader keep the pages turning. Although the style at times seems almost lightweight, this seeming naiveté is deliberately used - the book is in the third person so consequently the simplistic style and language mask, as intended, the horror and fear the boy endured and keeping it as 'his' story. Using her unique style, Taylor Ford vividly describes the pain of a child, Davey, who feels he is to blame for the actions and failings of his or her adults and the words "he felt as if he was dead and nothing mattered" so accurately sum up the utter desolation of a child after abandonment. Unfairly accused of things his younger brother has done and even more unfairly charged by his father of looking after the younger child, a burden with which an older child is often lumbered by a well meaning but misguided adult, Davey suffers silently and copes as best he can.
The description of the back ground life and times of the era, late 1960s and early 1970s, are very well researched, realistically portrayed and accurate forming a reliable backdrop on which we can see the story unfold. Wait till you get to the description of a loaf of bread! The 'golden brown and crispy' top of the cottage loaf will have your mouth watering! I could almost smell it!
Adult emotions and lives are equally as well described and the characters very well portrayed. Without giving too many spoilers, by the end of the book, the reader understands why Marjorie acted the way she did and throughout this charming book, a feeling of hope persists, even in the darkest moments.
I think this quote, near to the end of the book, sums it all up perfectly:
“Well love, you will be with me until you grow up and leave to live a life of your own. But the tiger will remain with me for ever because it will always remind me of you and how I love you and you love me, even when I am very old! That tiger represents how love can help us overcome our problems; we just have to believe.”
What other people said:
By Sue Harris on 21 Sept. 2015. Format: Kindle Edition
At the core of the story is the sensitive issue of child abuse, where the main character, young Davey finds himself an innocent victim of a sustained and unjustified campaign of physical abuse.
Jeanette takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, with unexpected twist and turns. Davey remains positive, believing in the love and compassion of the one person in his life who he knows can, and will, help him. A deeply moving read with a highly charged and complex story-line, delivered with skill and empathy.''
About the author:
"Jeanette Taylor-Ford is a retired Teaching Assistant. She grew up in Cromer, Norfolk and moved to Hereford with her parents when she was seventeen. An undiagnosed Coeliac, Jeanette was a delicate child and missed great deal of schooling, but she had a natural ability to write good stories, even at the tender age of nine or ten. When young her ambition was to be a journalist but life took her in another direction and her life’s work has been with children – firstly as a nursery assistant in a children’s home, and later in education. In between she raised her own six children and she now has seven grandchildren. Jeanette took up writing again in 2010; she reasoned that she would need something to do with retirement looming, although as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, she is kept busy. She lives with her husband Tony, a retired teacher and headmaster, in Nottinghamshire, England.
In Jeanette's words: I am a born story teller. From my school days I have loved making up stories. One teacher I had said he always left my work until last to mark because he knew he would get a good read from me after he'd ploughed through all the bad work! I loved doing bedtime stories with my children and, in my last position as a Teaching Assistant, from which I am now retired, my favourite thing was reading to the children when I got the chance, also helping them to make up stories of their own. Those who have read my stories have enjoyed them, so I finally decided to inflict them upon the world in general. Some of them are ghostly tales, combined with loveable characters and interesting situations which make them ghost stories with a difference. However, I also write children's stories and other genres, which are not yet published
Click on this link for Jeanette Taylor Ford's other books please.
You may read my 'Diana Talks' interview with Jeanette Taylor Ford by clicking here: Diana talks to Jeanette Taylor Ford
© Diana Milne, March 2017
Saturday, 11 March 2017
Rod is a multi talented man. Not only is he a superb actor, he is one of the geniuses behind Wild Wolf Publishing and is also an established author in his own right (or should that be 'in his own write'???)
It is a pleasure to be able to talk with you Rod...
First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it! What scares you most? The possibility that there is absolutely nothing after death. I’m not a religious person, but I desperately hope that there is something after death.
Rod Glenn was brought up in the north east of England and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with wife, Vanessa. His writing is of a dark nature with darkly humorous undertones. He also an actor, some roles include The Hippopotamus, Wolfblood, Outside, The Fairy Flag, The Hollow Crown and Ripper Street.
The King of America
Sinema: The Northumberland Massacre
The King of America: Epic Edition
The Killing Moon
Sinema 2: Sympathy for the Devil
Holiday of the Dead (contributor)
Radgepacket Vol. 1 (contributor)
P.O.W. Wartime Log of F/Sgt T D Glenn (contributor)
Sinema 3: The Troy Consortium
Wild Wolf's Twisted Tails (contributor)
Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 2 (contributor)
*From above. On 23rd April, which is St George's day and my birthday (and the birth and death day of some bloke called Shakespeare) my 'Diana talks' is called
'Diana talks to herself...'
In this fascinating discussion (?) I explore the reasons why I have never written commercially and why what Rod says above is all a part of it.