#BlogTour ~ The Archers – Ambridge at War by Catherine Miller @SimonSchusterUK @RandomThingsTours

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Archer – Ambridge at War by Catherine Miller.

The Archers was published in hardback on 29th October 2020 by Simon and Schuster.

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the beloved radio show, Ambridge at War takes readers back to before it all began . . .
 
It’s 1940 and war has broken out. It is midnight at the turn of the year, and Walter Gabriel speaks the same line that opened the very first radio episode –  ‘And a Happy New Year to you all!’ For Ambridge, a village in the heart of the English countryside, this year will bring change in ways no one was expecting.
 
From the Pargetters at Lower Loxley to the loving, hard-working Archer family at Brookfield Farm, the war will be hard for all of them. And the New Year brings the arrival of evacuees to Ambridge, shaking things up in the close-knit rural community.
 
As the villagers embrace wartime spirit, the families that listeners have known and loved for generations face an uphill battle to keep their secrets hidden. Especially as someone is intent on revealing those secrets to the whole village . . .

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A big thank you to Anne Cater and the publisher for my review copy of the book and for inviting me to take part on the blog tour.

Ambridge at War is my first foray into The Archers and is the perfect introduction into the village life that has captured the hearts of many listeners. This is set just after the start of World War 2 and 10 years before the very first episode was aired.

As I didn’t know too much about the families, I loved delving into village life (and scandal) which had me captivated from the first page with an introduction to Alec Pargeter of Lower Loxley, hardworking farmers Dan and Doris Archer to the unfortunate widow Kitty Dibden-Rawles, left alone with daughter Caroline and almost destitute by her gambling husband.

We follow the villagers over a year, from the beginning of 1940 as they deal with WW2 and wonder how long the war will go on for, rationing and evacuees coming into the village from the big cities. the main talk of the village appears to be regarding a mysterious person who is targeting their neighbours with poison pen letters that seem to be hitting the mark and are very close to the bone. I really enjoyed this part of the story along with the added twists as I tried to figure out who it was why and why they would do this? I’m glad to say that it was not what I expected and opened my eyes to characters and their motivations along with how their lives were completely changed due to the effects of the war.

I’m hoping there are more in this series as I became quite attached to this close knit group.

To follow the rest of the blog tour…

About the Author

Catherine Miller is the author of 18 novels under her own name and other pseudonyms. Born to an Irish family in London, her career took her from producing radio commercials to being a voiceover agent for various stellar actors.

Nowadays she writes all day at home in Surrey, occasionally lifting her head to raise her daughter and feed the dogs.

#BlogTour ~ City of Ghosts by Ben Creed @ed_pr @welbeckpublish

Welcome to my spot on the blog tour for City of Ghosts by Ben Creed.

City of Ghosts is published on 15th October 2020 by Welbeck Publishing.

The first in a trilogy, City of Ghosts is set in the Leningrad of 1951 where the shadows of the war and the threats of Stalinism loom large.

When five blackened corpses are found neatly arranged between three parallel railway lines, even Revol Rossel – once a Conservatoire-trained violinist, now a humble state militia-cop – is sickened by the gruesome scene.

Whether victims of the MGB or a crazed yet methodical killer, these bodies soon lead Rossel back into the dark and ruthless heart of the Soviet classical music establishment, a place where his dreams were shattered and his ghosts barely laid to rest.

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A big thank you to Megan Denholm at Ed PR for my copy of the book and for inviting to take part on the blog tour. I am happy to host an extract on my blog today!

Saturday 13 October, 1951

They lay as straight as scaffolding, stark in the glare of the train engine’s headlight. A quintet of bodies on the snowy tracks, parallel and neat. Feet together, arms straight, with their heads turned delicately to one side. As though Death had asked them all to form an orderly queue, and each damned soul had politely obliged him. 

Revol Rossel, lieutenant in the Leningrad militsiya, drew on his cigarette, blew out a ring of grey smoke and observed the crime scene from a distance with studied impassivity. It was a habit now, that face. An expression that so far, even though he was thirty-four years old, had kept him out of the camps. ‘Every man must have one face for the world and another for himself, Revol,’ his father had once told him, with a stoic wink. At the time, neither his father nor Rossel had properly understood what a sound piece of advice this was, the kind that could help any Soviet citizen live a little longer. Especially one who lived in Leningrad, a city for which Stalin was known to harbour misgivings. 

As Rossel watched on from the front passenger seat of the Moskvich, he could hear the car’s engine wheezing. Away to the left and across a deep field of snow, a black steam engine wheezed and stood still. Behind the engine and its cargo, the track was flanked by trees for kilometre after kilometre but here, before him, it was crossed by another line of rails, forming a small clearing.

‘Come on, then, gentlemen. Time for us to take our bow.’ 

The car doors beat a tattoo of slams as Rossel and his fellow cops got out. They moved together, lifting their knees high to make progress in the deep drifts. Under their regulation coats, sporting the insignia of their respective ranks in the militia, they wore a variety of pullovers, trousers and thick underwear. Standard uniform alone was no match for a winter’s night. A few hours ago, the radio had said it was minus twenty-seven. ‘Cold enough to turn good hot Russian piss into icicles,’ as Sergeant Grachev had put it the last time he had regaled them all with another story of how he had slaughtered members of the 33rd Waffen SS en route to Berlin. 

Next to the steam engine stood two men, frozen and forlorn. Rossel looked to the right at the second track. It met the main line at a forty-five-degree angle, turned and ran parallel for a few dozen metres, merged at a points system and veered off again into the pines. 

One of the two men next to the train moved forward to meet them – the train driver, Rossel guessed. He wore a thick, quilted coat over his overalls and a large fur hat that seemed to almost swallow up a shrunken head, and he reeked of burnt coal. 

‘What kept you?’ the driver grumbled. 

Rossel ignored the question and looked over him at the other man, from the local militia. This must be the one who had phoned in. He was short and thin and looked like a frightened animal – in his early twenties, practically a boy. The youngster and the driver had sullen faces. They’d been quarrelling, no doubt about it. Rossel guessed the driver had wanted to shunt the corpses out of the way, to hell with it, and get going again; the lad would have been too terrified to touch a thing – a policeman from the sticks refusing to budge until someone else took command. 

‘What kept you, eh?’ repeated the train driver. 

Rossel looked at him and returned fire. ‘Driving nearly fifty kilometres at four in the morning in a blizzard so thick it would turn a snow fox blind. That may have had something to do with it,’ he said. 

It had been snowing for three days and it was only mid October. Nothing like it since the winter of ’42, according to survivors of the Siege of Leningrad. Once the militia officers had got outside the city, it had been more like skiing than driving.

To follow the rest of the blog tour…

About the Authors

Ben Creed

Ben Creed is the pseudnoym for Chris Rickaby and Barney Thompson.

Chris found his way into advertising as a copywriter and, after working for various agencies, started his own called Everything Different.

Barney is a classically trained musician who studied under the legendary conducting professor Ilya Musin at the St Petersburg Conversatory for two years. He is fluent in Russian and is now an editor.

#BlogTour #Extract ~ The Peacock Room by Anna Sayburn Lane @BloomsburyLane @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Peacock Room by Anna Sayburn Lane.

The Peacock Room is published on 1st October 2020.

A literary obsession. An angry young man with a gun. And one woman trying to foil his deadly plan.

When Helen Oddfellow starts work as a lecturer in English literature, she’s hoping for a quiet life. But trouble knows where to find her.

There’s something wrong with her new students. Their unhappiness seems to be linked to their flamboyant former tutor, Professor Petrarch Greenwood, who holds decadent parties in his beautiful Bloomsbury apartment.

When Helen is asked to take over his course on the Romantic poet William Blake, life and art start to show uncomfortable parallels. Disturbing poison pen letters lead down dark paths, until Helen is the only person standing between a lone gunman and a massacre.

As Helen knows too well, even dead poets can be dangerous.

THE PEACOCK ROOM is the intriguing follow-up to the acclaimed thriller UNLAWFUL THINGS, which introduced the literary sleuth Helen Oddfellow.

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Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part on the blog tour and for providing me with an extract of the next book in the Helen Oddfellow series.

He weighed the weapon in his gloved hand, the heft of it reassuring. A proper gun, a man’s gun. No questions, he’d been told by the guy in the south London pub. You don’t want to know where it came from. He could guess, though. It smelled of grease and sweating hands, drugs gangs securing their turf and swaggering kids trying to impress each other.

He examined the black casing, then arranged on the table a bottle of isopropyl alcohol, a toothbrush and a soft cloth. He wanted it properly clean, a fitting tool for the work he had planned. He didn’t want its history in here, stinking the place out with desperation and petty crime. Disgusting. He frowned at the particles of grit gumming up the trigger mechanism, the dirt embedded in the grip. If he could, he would have bought a new gun, box fresh and shining with a gleaming mahogany stock.

Bring me my bow of burning gold.

It would have to do. He put down the cloth, peeled off the plastic gloves and threw them in the trash, reached automatically for his bottle of hand sanitiser. The clean, cool scent soothed him.

It had been surprisingly difficult to get hold of a gun. He was used to the US, where you could pick up a semi-automatic and enough ammunition to take out a junior high along with a quart of milk. Guns were harder to come by in England. But not impossible, if you had cash and connections and knew your way around the Dark Web.

He needed to practise. Eight rounds in the magazine, and he didn’t know if he’d have time to reload. They all had to count. His face relaxed into a smile as he ran through the targets. Who to take out first? There would be so much choice. Personal, or political? He could pick them off, one by one.

He picked up the gun.

There was a shooting club along the coast, where guys in grubby khaki T-shirts with beer bellies blasted away at clays. He’d been down a couple of times, used the range and had some beers in the grim little bar. It had been useful. And on Sunday mornings, the noise from the range was good cover for his own practice. He could hear them now, the crack of shotguns echoing over the marshes.

He loaded the pistol and stashed it in his inside jacket pocket. He hated to think where it had been kept before. Stuffed down a pair of sweatpants, probably, nestling against pimpled buttocks.

Then he took a walk along the seashore, to the clump of scrub and bushes where he’d set up his targets. No-one came down this end of the beach, except a few lonely fishermen when the tide was high. He arranged the cardboard figures with painted faces. He’d taken more time on them than perhaps was necessary, considering what he was about to do.

He stood with his back to the trees, lifted the pistol and lined up the sights. He squeezed, firm but gentle, like he’d been taught. He had a good eye, a steady hand. By the time he’d finished, eight cardboard heads hung in tatters.

He walked forward to collect them, satisfied. At the top of the shingle shelf, he saw what he first thought was a body, prone on the beach. Shit. He broke into a run. Had he hit someone?

As he approached, it leapt up, a bundle of ragged clothes and a wild head of hair. The guy looked terrified, his eye fixed on the gun.

Rags flapping, the figure turned and hared along the beach, scrambling up the bank and disappearing into the distance. The gunman stood and watched him go. A tramp, maybe. A hobo. Nothing to worry about. He gathered up the cardboard figures and carried them back to the caravan

To follow the rest of the blog tour…

About the Author

Anna Sayburn Lane


Anna Sayburn Lane is a novelist, short story writer and storyteller, inspired by the history and contemporary life of London. Unlawful Things is her first novel.

She has published award-winning short stories in a number of magazines, including Mslexia, Scribble and One Eye Grey.

Her Mslexia award-winning story Conservation was described by judge and Booker-longlisted author Alison MacLeod as “a powerful and profound contemporary piece in which one man’s story stands for an entire nation’s… it’s a punch to the heart, a story that will haunt and touch its readers deeply”.

She has told stories at London club The Story Party and One Eye Grey’s Halloween event, Moon Over the Lido.