To celebrate the publication of Flight of the Shearwater. I am delighted to share an awesome guest post by crime author Alan Jones who has moved over to historical fiction! I hope you enjoy it
The Gathering Storm: Book 1 in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy, a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.
Kiel, Northern Germany, 1933. A naval city, the base for the German Baltic fleet, and the centre for German sailing, the venue for the upcoming Olympic regatta in 1936.
The Kästners, a prominent Military family, are part of the fabric of the city, and its social, naval and yachting circles. The Nussbaums are the second generation of their family to be in service with the Kästners as domestic staff, but the two households have a closer bond than most.
As Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party claw their way to power in 1933, life has never looked better for families like the Kästners. There is only one problem.
The Nussbaums are Jews.
The Sturmtaucher Trilogy documents the devastating effect on both families of the Nazis’ hateful ideology and the insidious erosion of the rights of Germany’s Jews.
When Germany descends ever deeper into dictatorship, General Erich Kästner tries desperately to protect his employees, and to spirit them to safety.
As the country tears itself apart, the darkness which envelops a nation threatens not only to destroy two families, but to plunge an entire continent into war.’
Flight of the Shearwater: Book 2 in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy,a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.
With Poland divided between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Union of Soviet Republics, the increasingly confident Third Reich flexes its military muscles northwards into Denmark and Norway, while the rest of Europe watches anxiously over its shoulders.
General Erich Kästner, in his key role in the Abwehr, is fast becoming aware of the mass expulsion of Jews and other minority groups from Germany and from northern Poland, to the new ghettos of the Generalgouverment area of southern Poland, and has an inkling of what the National Socialists’ have in mind for Europe’s Jews.
As Holland and Belgium fall, and the British are routed at Dunkirk, barely escaping across the channel, the seemingly impregnable France collapses under the Wehrmacht Blitzkrieg, sealing the fate of millions of Jews, now trapped under Hitler’s rule.
The Nussbaums, thwarted in their attempts to escape to Denmark, desperately seek other routes out of Germany but, one by one, they are closed off, and they realise they have left it all too late…
WHY GIVE UP A LIFE OF CRIME?
Going straight, I think they call it.
On the back of three crime books which had moderate success, especially Bloq with over 150 reviews on Amazon UK, the sensible thing for me to have done would have been to write another crime book to capitalise on the momentum I’d built up, and give readers who’d enjoyed the journey with me from The Cabinetmaker and Blue Wicked, to Bloq, something to chew on.
But the kernel of a story needled away at the back of my mind. Since reading Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank at the tender age of 10 or 11, I’d always been equally fascinated and appalled by the Holocaust. I have also sailed for many years, mainly on the west coast of Scotland and in the Irish Sea, and I was fascinated of the early days of leisure sailing and indeed, the last few years of working boats that used sail as their main method of propulsion.
After a bit of research, I found the ideal location in Kiel, northern Germany; it was the centre for German sailing, it was the venue for the Olympic sailing regatta and it had the largest naval base in Germany.
At first I wondered if I could write it as a pithy crime story, but I didn’t think I could do it justice, so the frightening prospect of giving up crime writing for something a little tamer, perhaps, a little less violent, certainly a little less punchy, reared its ugly head.
Then I realised that it wasn’t necessarily true. When I embarked down the road of Historical Fiction, I had already read widely in the genre, and I knew that the violence, the sex, the evil deeds and in some cases, the drugs, were just prevalent in historical fiction as they were in crime fiction, but the difference lay in the detail that surrounded the story.
Crime stories are whittled down – they’re lean, efficient, and to the point. It’s one of the reasons crime fiction fans love them so much. Historical fiction is generally twice as long, and has the space for backstory, side story, politics and religion, and social commentary about the era they are set in, be it stone age, medieval, regency or twentieth century.
The Gathering Storm is set right at the start of the build up to the second world war, in 1933, just before the Nazi Party grabbed power. It tells the story of two interconnected but very different families, and the effect on them both of the draconic changes the National Socialists impose on Germany, with the complicity of a large proportion of the population.
It does contain crime. Apart from charting what is widely regarded as the biggest crime that has ever been committed, the biggest mass murder in history, there is also a significant thread of a criminal investigation that runs through the second and third books of the trilogy, although the seeds of the ‘crime’ are sown in the first book. Two of the nastiest detectives imaginable end up being main characters in the trilogy.
But I wondered if many of my readers would be interested.
I offered ARCs to a number of crime fiction readers who’d been big fans of Bloq to see if the trilogy could ever appeal to readers of crime; as it happened, one of them volunteered to be one of my beta readers.
Although a fair number of them declined, citing size, historical detail and pace as the main stumbling blocks, a number accepted the challenge and to my surprise, a few of them loved the books.
For those of you who have read my earlier books and fell in love with any of the characters; John McDaid or Francis Hare from The Cabinetmaker, Eddie or Catherine from Blue Wicked, or Bill or Anna from Bloq, I can promise you similarly rich characters including those you might have hated, like nightclub owner Aleksander Gjebrea, the thugs who brutally murdered Patrick Hare, or Jacko or Spencer, the psychotic pair who took delight in torturing anything that breathed on the streets of Paisley and Renfrew.
I’ll not hide from the length of the books – each of them is the equivalent of four or five average-sized crime books. But for those of you who have ever binge-read a favourite series, reading them all back to back, it is no different, except that there is no conclusion to the story every eighty-thousand words.
And for those of you who have read them, books like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the other two in the Millennium series bridge the gap at double the size of a normal crime fiction novel, and half the size of the books in the trilogy.
So, if you fancy something different for a change, for the price of a crime book, you can get a story that will last you four times as long and it might just put you in the mood for more…
I have to admit that this isn’t my normal read but I am very kin to read it!