Sunday, 16 August 2015
Almost everyone in my second world war novel, We’ll Meet Again, has a secret. First and foremost are Lady Prudence Strange and Sheila Phipps, two girls from very different backgrounds who become friends. Their secret is that they work at the Government Code and Cypher School, usually referred to as Bletchley Park. It was here that coded German radio messages were interpreted.
'The enemy uses a very clever machine called an enigma, to encypher their radio messages,’ Prue is told when she first arrives. ‘Our job is to find the key to unscrambling it all. We have a modified Type X machine made to work like an enigma, and other more complicated electro-mechanical machines called bombes, which do the job of checking, but they won't work unless we have a crib to start them off, things like call signs, transmission times, the length of the message and - more often than Herr Hitler would like if he knew about it - the silly mistakes of the German operators. Without those there are 58 million million million possibilities.
'Our work is further complicated because there is no universal setting, every section of the German army, navy, air force and intelligence services, use different settings and they are changed every twenty-four hours. Then we have to begin all over again.'
'Gosh! What a task. Can it be done?'
'Oh, yes we are doing it. In this hut we are dealing with German army and air force signals. Other huts are working on different aspects of decrypting, but you don’t need to know about those. I have only told you this much so that you can understand how vital the work is and how important it is to be accurate and never breathe a word to anyone of what you do. It is painstaking work and needs accuracy, dedication and the utmost secrecy. The enemy must never know how we have obtained our information. In fact, most of our own side don't know either. When we send on the information we to say it comes from a most reliable source. Sometimes we make it look as though it is a report from a spy.'
This is the secret the girls have to keep. Others have their secrets, some in the national interests, some private and mysterious, all of which affect their relationships with family and boyfriends, who do not understand the reason for it.
We’ll Meet Again is out in paperback now. ISBN: 9780 7490 17040.
Thursday, 13 August 2015
Asda is a busy, bustling store and always has an awesome display of books. So it was great to see ‘Lizzie of Langley Street’ on the shelves this month. Lizzie was my first heroine more than a decade ago and Simon & Schuster have brought her back with a new and fabulous cover. ‘Lizzie of Langley Street’ is the first book of my Lizzie Flowers series, with The Fight for Lizzie Flowers following in September. And both covers are super showing period detail that means so much to the reader! The winds of change blow fairly frequently through publishing but it was wonderful to note so many other hard-working historical writers on Asda’s shelves along with their breathtaking covers. Cross-fingers for us all for 2015!
Sunday, 9 August 2015
1932 and the year in which 800m runner Tommy Hampson won one of the four golds for Britain in the Los Angeles Olympics and when, more famously, Aldous Huxley published his controversial novel, Brave New World. His was a repellant vision of the future, that at the time, seemed too far fetched for public consumption. Whoever could have imagined 83 years later, that Huxley’s fictionalized babies fertilised in laboratory bottles, would resemble today’s cloning? Or his sleep-learning to brainwash the young to be obedient citizens, the precursor to George Orwell's spinechiller, Nineteen Eighty Four. Or Huxley's conception of the Talkies to become Feelies, now upon us in our riveting 4D cinemas. And how chilling it is to compare his fictional drug Soma to those used today in our clubbing scene. During this wildly paradoxical decade of the 1930’s, I continue the tale of my Great War cast, the Flowers family, in THE FIGHT FOR LIZZIE FLOWERS, published September. The Flowers, like many others worldwide after the mass slaughter of millions, are trying to balance conscience with survival in a contemporary age. 83 years down the line from Huxley's vision of doom and gloom, we are still trying to improve the world. On the one hand our daily doses of social media and smart phones give us a power that even Huxley could never have conceived possible. On the other, underlying this sophistication and the digital masks we wear, the real problems still exist. How to make money. How to pay bills. How to work faster. How to hold family together. How to live and love and find our individual space. Like us all, Lizzie Flowers is trying - and trying hard to meet the challenge of everyday life. When she thinks she’s a breath away from success, her brave new world starts to tremble, like a distant earthquake. Who of us haven’t felt that same tremor, or waited breathlessly on the brink for the danger to pass? One last word, Lizzie’s journey may be hard, but it’s hopeful too. Huxley may not have agreed with me, but I’m ending this post with an old and rather cliched quote; to every cloud, there is a silver lining. Simple wisdom. But I like it better than doom and gloom any day, don’t you?