How Dare The Birds Sing is a dramatic love story set in WWII that tests the limits of the heart. What served as your inspiration while writing this story?
My belief is—and there are thousands of examples depicted in history—no unbearable life circumstances can prevent human hearts from loving another human being. Just to add one more tale about it served as inspiration to write Lyuba’s story.
Lyuba is an intriguing character that goes through a dramatic change. What were some driving ideals behind her character arc?
There were millions of Soviet girls and women who lived in the same circumstances as my main heroine, Lyuba Zalesskaya. Despite the life of constant fear under Stalin’s oppressive regime once Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, the majority of the population stood up to defend their motherland against the aggressor. So did Lyuba. With her as the example, I wanted to show a few slices of that struggle, especially for readers not closely acquainted with Russian history.
This is a fantastic historical romance novel. What draws you to this genre?
The motivation comes from the realization that although there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of novels devoted to WWII, there are really not too many books that discuss the aspects of war on the Eastern Front and especially the ordeal of the Soviet people in the Wehrmacht occupied territories (at some periods about 70 million people). As with all my books, this one is my way of adding rarely covered details that illuminate an intimate part of the Russian war seldom seen in fiction available to Western readers.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I just started working on another book in which the events evolve against the backdrop of WWII, but since it’s in the phase of research and has even no working title yet, I think it would be premature to talk about it. However, I just recently finished Too Many Wolves in the Local Woods, which goes into publication on May 5, 2020 as a part of a 10-book collection The Road to Liberation dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII.
Are Lyuba and Günter star-crossed lovers? When they first meet in 1933 Soviet Russia, their young love is filled with hope and naiveté until Günter disappears. Her fleeting relationship with him has devastating consequences, forcing her to take a humiliating way out to save herself and her family. This choice unleashes a sequence of fatal events that shatter her life, affecting everyone involved.
In June 1941, World War II comes to Russian soil, hurling Lyuba, along with millions of others, into the inhuman grinder, testing the limits of her strength and resilience of her heart. Will it be strong enough years later to allow her to reveal the ugly secret she has buried from the only person the war has left for her to love?
Skills of the Warramunga follows our well-known team on a mission to rescue an MI6 operative from bandits on the Malayan peninsula. How did the idea for this novel start and change as you wrote?
My third book, Skills of the Warramunga, takes place in Malaya, where I have worked during my career throughout the country. After my first book, The Warramunga’s War, where most of the action takes place during the Second World War, my novels have dealt with the consequences in the aftermath of war. After of World War II, in Malaya many different groups, including communists, bandits, Nazis and others, were trying to gain control of all or part of the Malayan Peninsular from the British. The novel deals with the period when the British created the Malayan Union in April 1946. It showcases the extraordinary tracking skills of the Warramunga aborigines, which I witnessed first-hand during my time at Tennant Creek.
This is the last novel in your Warramunga Trilogy. Did you accomplish everything you set out to do with this set of novels?
Yes, I did. Firstly, I intended to show the effects of war in countries where I had worked and am familiar with. Secondly, I planned to include some of the weird and wonderful people whom I worked with over the years as characters in the novels (with changed names, of course) and to use them to entertain the readers. Thirdly, I wanted to show case the incredible skills of the Warramunga aborigines as I knew them years ago. I think I have achieved all that.
What draws you to the military suspense genre?
I was drawn to the military suspense genre, largely as I had a lot of research and data about the Second World War. My father and his brothers fought in that war, so I have quite a lot of information from them. The war was a violent but intensely interesting time.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
After completing the original trilogy, I decided that I couldn’t let the principal characters just fade away, so I set their next adventure in China in which I have worked extensively over the years.
Early in 1946, former army officer, Jamie Munro, and his half-Aboriginal friend and colleague, Jack ‘Jacko’ O’Brien, who head the Commonwealth Investigation Service in Darwin, are called on to assist in the rescue of Colonel John Cook, a senior operative of MI6, who has been kidnapped by bandits and taken into the jungles of Malaya.
Jamie and Jacko had worked in intelligence operations with Colonel Cook during the desert campaign in North Africa in the Second World War, as the Afrika Corps threatened Egypt.
With Jacko’s half-sister, Sarah, a full-blood Aborigine from Tennant Creek, they arrive in Kuala Lumpur to find that they not only have to contend with the impenetrable jungle of the Malay peninsula, but also with a murderous and subversive organisation of Fascist criminals whose aim is to disrupt the creation of the Malayan Union by the British Military Authority, set to take place on 1st of April 1946, foment an uprising and take over control of the country.
All the inherent bushcraft skills of the Warramunga are needed to rescue Colonel Cook as well as prevent catastrophic mayhem on the Malayan peninsula.
Black Nation is a fictionalized account of the real and deadly West African Genocide and a Nigerian youth who struggled through it. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this story?
This story, as you rightly said, is a fictionalized account of the real and deadly West African Genocide and a Nigerian youth who struggled through it. In Nigeria, youth corps members are young men and women—not boys and girls—fresh graduates. After graduation, you will be called to serve the nation for a year. Well, I was, like the Protagonist, once a youth corps member myself and I think I got the inspiration when I served Nigeria as a youth corps member. The inspiration or rather “inspirations” behind the story came from many sources but chiefly from my personal experience of the upheavals in Nigeria. To be precise, I served Nigeria as a youth corps member at the very period Boko Haram menace started. We conducted the general elections. I saw the irregularities. I saw the rigging of the election and struggled in vain against it. I even appeared in a law court to testify against the riggers (I mean the ruling party then) but saw there how the monster-judges do turn justice upside down! It was a terrible experience. I don’t like remembering or talking about it!
Chinedu is an interesting and well-developed character. What were some ideas you wanted to capture with his character?
Well the main idea is that Black is evil. People in the Western world do refer to Africans as “Black people”—and many Africans are indeed proud of that! But intelligent Africans—like the Protagonist—believe that such a categorisation is an insult, indeed a blatant one—although they also believe that there are indeed many ugly things here that keep making the continent to look “black”. If you read the book, you will learn more.
This novel does a great job of showing how a country’s politics and government can affect average people throughout the country. What were some themes you wanted to capture in your story?
The number one theme is CORRUPTION and the damage it can cause. It is a cankerworm that has eaten very deep into the fabrics of Nigeria. If you visit Nigeria now, you will from time to time hear politicians boasting of dealing with (or having dealt with) some “corrupt people” or “criminals” or “cultists” out there. But, as someone pointed out recently, it is always laughable when Nigerian politicians declare endless “war” against criminals and cultists, considering that there is a nexus between “do-or-die” politics and organised crime in our country. Over the years, many violent cults and criminal gangs owed their origins to political campaign organisations. It is also a fact that many of the notorious criminals in Nigeria usually graduate from motor parks to political thuggery before eventually venturing into the more “lucrative” business of armed robbery.
At every election cycle in Nigeria, there is often space for thugs, hoodlums and cultists. Wraps of Indian hemp and other dangerous substances are almost always freely distributed among the waiting “army” of violent men that take over campaign trains, brandishing machetes, clubs and other weapons. When the illustrious “guest” finally arrives at the scene, the entire wagon of these street urchins is usually herded into vehicles that move to the campaign grounds for the usual show of strength with their opponents.
Yes, it is not an overstatement to say that Nigerian politicians—and their followers—are criminals. These people keep disfiguring the face of the African continent; they keep painting the continent black—they keep demonising her!
There are other themes I do not wish to comment on but I must also mention Islamic Jihad. Of course, usually, nobody likes to talk about this. Yet, it has caused—and continues to cause—the deaths of thousands of people in different countries of the world in recent times. In Nigeria, over twenty thousand people were murdered within six years or so after the emergence of Boko Haram and today people are still dying in the hands of jihadists in the country; yet, no one cares to protest—certainly because here the majority of those in government—certainly over 75 percent—are Muslims. There is also usually no international outrage against these killings—certainly because it is happening in a “dark” continent. It is a tragedy for the nation; a tragedy for the world.
I thought your book was thought-provoking and informative. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
Ha-ha! Well, I can’t really say. As you know, human beings are diverse in their behaviours and our judgements are always clouded with emotions and prejudices. If what I want readers to take away is, for instance, that Islamic terrorism is evil, you will still see millions of people out there who will disagree with you and believe that Islamic terrorism is, in fact, a virtue! Many people will not understand you even if you utter a million words, while others will understand you even when you haven’t said anything.
Chino returns from the University of Nigeria and prepares for his journey to Negro State in northern Nigeria where he has just been posted for the National Youth Service Corps. The next day, he goes to the North with a patriotic zeal to serve his fatherland even though his parents, out of fear, object to his mission. Months later comes the time for the general elections. Youth corps members are employed by the Independent National Electoral Commission as ad hoc staff members but then, the election is being rigged in favour of the ruling party. Chino faces the challenge of defying and resisting the riggers but realises his loneliness. The opposition he encounters, from the riggers and even from his very colleagues, terrifies him and changes his political mentality altogether. Then it dawns on him that the world of politics is a world driven by propaganda, in which public perception is king, and what we perceive to be reality may be radically different from what “the people” perceive and the truth may be stranger than fiction. Now, at the end, following the rigging of the presidential election in favour of President Taminobi’s ruling party, the brutal slaughtering of his colleagues and innocent citizens by both the angry thug-supporters of the opposition party presidential candidate—Mohammadu Dauda—and the terrorists named Kokoko, a genocide never before seen in the nation’s history apart from the Biafra saga, as well as his unjust imprisonment, leaves him sorrowful, devastated, and a changed man.
It is a common notion that Africa has, and indeed ought to have, learned much from the west. This is not wrong; all cultures rightly learn from each other. But less is said of what there is to learn from Africa: from her stories, myths, music, proverbs, insights – and more. Here an acclaimed African scholar steps into the gap by uncovering for us something of the great legacy of African thought and practice in ways that will astonish many. Written with verve and authority and directed above all to students and sixth formers, this book will also delight and often surprise those who know something of Africa as well as those hitherto ignorant. Ruth Finnegan OBE FBA is Emeritus Professor The Open University, Foreign Associate of the Finnish Literature Bureau, and International Fellow of the American Folklore Society. An anthropologist and multi-award author, she has published extensively, chiefly on Africa, musical practice, and English urban life. Recent books include How is Language?, Fiji’s Music: Where Did It Come From?, her edited Entrancement: The Consciousness of Dreaming, Music and The World, and two prize-winning Africa-influenced novels Black Inked Pearl and Voyage of Pearl of the Seas.
The Warramunga’s War follows two friends conducting counterespionage operations during WWII. What was your inspiration for the setup to this riveting story?
My initial inspiration was based on my father’s war diaries. He was involved in the Second World War initially fighting in the Syrian campaign and later in the desert war. After I retired from a 55-year career in the resources industry, working in all parts of the world, for the first time in my life I had time on my hands. I had met and worked with many unique characters in different countries throughout the years and thought it would be fun to write a series of novels starting with the desert war, where most of the characters would be based on those weird and wonderful people I had worked with over the years.
All the different localities in which the action takes place are known to me intimately. I was familiar with the Warramunga aborigines from the early part of my career when I worked in the Tennant Creek area in the central Northern Territory.
Jamie and Jacko are intriguing and well-developed characters. What were some ideas that guided their development throughout the book?
One of the most enduring lessons I learnt, when working in remote or foreign regions, was the value of friendship and teamwork. As they are involved in many different situations, I have attempted to develop the principal characters along these lines. Friendship, teamwork, loyalty and trust are always important. Each of them are based on multiple characters I have worked with around the world.
The historical figures and scenes in the novel were well executed. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure things were accurate?
Apart from my personal knowledge of the localities where the action takes place, my research has included diaries, well-known history, reference books in libraries, and references online. I spent more time on research than I did in writing the novel as I wanted to be sure the historical events were accurate.
What can readers expect in book two, The Warramunga’s Aftermath of War?
I worked for a major resources company in the Philippines during the 1970’s and became aware of some of the tragedies which occurred in the aftermath of war. There were several groups (who I would describe as cockroaches) who were taking advantage of the general chaos created by the war. Fighting had been extremely intense in the Philippines and many people were orphaned, displaced or homeless. There were instances of trafficking of children in the aftermath of war, and my second novel deals with this aspect.
The Warramunga’s War is a sweeping narrative of the friendship that forms between a young Australian army officer, Jamie Munro, and an educated half-caste Warramunga aboriginal NCO, Jack ‘Jacko’ O’Brien, during the Syrian campaign against the Vichy French in World War II. Jacko rescues a wounded Jamie after which they are conscripted in Cairo by MI6. Here, Jamie and Jacko learn about the seamy side of war in counterespionage as they track down German spies. The principal fictional characters interact with actual historical figures and events throughout the story.
As the desert war escalates to the west of Cairo, the MI6 team confuses the enemy with misleading radio messages using German codes and using local entertainers as undercover agents. On one of his day leaves, Jacko meets a beautiful young Syrian-French girl and a strong romantic bond forms between the two during his time in Cairo.
Following the end of the desert war, Jamie and Jacko are assigned to wartime intelligence work in Southeast Asia. After the end of the Pacific war, they initiate the Darwin operations of the CIS, the Commonwealth Investigation Service. On the trail of two suspected wartime German agents, they discover the agents have formed a dangerous criminal gang with an individual they had known during their time in Cairo. The tracking skills of the Warramunga are needed to finally catch up with the murderous gang in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.
Legend of the Storm Hawks by L.H. Leonard is a culmination of fantasy, prophesy and politics. It’s a story filled with intrigue as the characters embark on a journey backed by prophecy and tinged with uncertainty. The characters are rich and well crafted. Nigel is a politician holding so many strings that it is almost inevitable when it all unravels. Sethlyan has been told he and his brothers, Aengus and Gaven have significant roles to play when the time comes but really, his gifted wife Isobel and their impossible family is his main focus. All these men have interests to protect and for each noble intent, there exists a force intent on blocking its fruition. Politicians, religious leaders, and clan leaders are each looking out for their own interests and although there are attempts at alliances, not many interests align. Before there are any resolutions there is betrayal and there is war. There is also what looks like the fulfillment of prophecy. Men thought dead are still alive, babies are being borne of women who should not be fertile and one religious zealot has managed to find broad-based support for his cause. Still, the cycle has to continue. No one knows how it will all play out, despite the supernatural gifts some of them possess.
I enjoyed everything about Legend of the Storm Hawks. The setting was unique and captivating and breathed life into the characters as well as their station in life and their heritage. The themes of family, politics, and xenophobia are presented interestingly considering the time period is closer to medieval than modern. The point is that anyone can relate to the different struggles the characters go through to protect themselves and their families.
The story is consistently engaging as each event led seamlessly, and sometimes surprisingly, into the other. The plot is complex, and one can appreciate how the author fits it all together, but not so complex that I couldn’t follow it; the depth of Game of Thrones without the overwhelming complexity.
My only concern would be the wait for the next installment since the anticipation of seeing what happens next is not about to wane. The characters really grow on you and you want to see what happens next, even if everything seems to be at a standstill, for now. Legend of the Storm Hawks will effortlessly suck you into it’s world and leave you wanting more.
Pages: 562 | ASIN: B0826XRYCY
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I enjoyed the illustrations throughout the The Haunting of Smock Hill. What was the art collaboration like for this novel?
I have an ongoing creative relationship with, I believe, one of the greatest artists ever. She goes by Ergoshwampy and we have collaborated on my last six books. When I get an idea for a drawing I relay to her what I am thinking and leave the complete design up to her. She never disappoints when it comes to the artwork. She also designs the covers for the books as well and again, I let her know what I am thinking of for the cover and she wastes no time in coming up with a fantastic cover.
The plot and it’s twists were really engaging. What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this story?
The challenges were trying to make sure I had the historical information as close to accurate as I could get. The coal industry in the late 19th and earyl 20th century did not have a lot of information. I managed to get a lot from the Smock Historical Society. As I started out writing about a haunting I had an idea as to what it would be like if someone was using modern technology for their own reward and how that same technology could be their downfall. The ending I left open in case I want to continue the story.
Do you plan to write more stories about the town of Smock Hill?
Yes, I do plan on writing more. This was my third storyline that takes place in Smock. My first was a four part series on an old Tai Chi instructor who mentors a young boy back to health using Tai Chi and Qigong along with other Chinese health practices.
A Dark Spirit has apparently returned to the former mining town of Smock, Pennsylvania, terrorizing the residents. Julia and her cousin Edward try to find out why it has come back and how to defeat it before the residents flee. What is this Dark Energy? What sinister reason does it have for returning?