October 4, 2016


The Britain of summer 1922 was, in some ways, similar to the island in The Tempest:

“the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears..”

abbsThe sounds and sweet airs might have been provided by Haydn Woods’ A Brown Bird Singing or, if you were more disposed towards the art of Edith Sitwell, William Walton’s setting of her poetry – Façade. The discordant sounds of the thousand twangling instruments could have come from several sources; possibly the thousands of impoverished ex-servicemen sold short by the country they had fought for; perhaps, however, the isle which was most full of noises was that of Ireland, and in particular the newly formed Irish Republic.

wilsonSir Henry Wilson was a former General in the British Army, and his contribution to events in The Great War divides opinion. Some have him firmly in the ‘Butchers and Bunglers’ camp, a stereotypical Brass Hat who send brave men off into battle to meet red hot shards of flying steel with their own mortal flesh. Others will say that he was part of the combined military effort which defeated Germany in the field, and led to the surrender in the railway carriage at Compiègne in 1918. Whatever the truth, Wilson was never a field commander. He was much more at home well behind the front line, hobnobbing with politicians and strategists.

When the war ended, he was promoted to Field Marshall, and made a baronet. With Ireland beset by all manner of plots and factional fighting, he resigned his army post and was elected as MP for the Ulster constituency of North Down. He had made it very clear that he despised the Irish Republican movement, and had written in June 1919 that “Ireland goes from bad to worse” and that “a little bloodletting” was needed. His view of the British government’s attempts to deal peaceably with the Irish Problem is summed up by his belief that such peace moves were a “shameful & cowardly surrender to the pistol” by a “Cabinet of Cowards”. Ironically, his own demise was brought about by the pistols of two IRA killers.

In the early 1920s, there was one common activity which retired army generals shared, and it was to travel far and wide across the country, sanctifying by their presence the hundreds of war memorials bearing the names of the 704,803 men who had perished while under their command in the recent conflict. Thus, on the morning of Thursday 22nd June, 1922, Wilson had traveled by cab to Liverpool Street Station, where he had been invited to unveil the memorial to the men of The Great Eastern Railway who had died in the war. Having done his duty, and addressed the crowd of relatives and well-wishers, he returned to his house in Eaton Place in London’s Belgravia.


As the taxi pulled away, Sir Henry was attacked by two men, Reginald Dunne and Joseph O’Sullivan. He was shot nine times, and the killers made their escape, only to be arrested shortly after. Newspapers made much of the possibility that Sir Henry had drawn his ceremonial sword in his own defence, and had cried, “You cowardly swine!” as he was attacked, but only he and his assailants could verify that, and they are long gone from us.


 Wilson’s murder outraged popular opinion in England, and polarised views on the situation in Ireland. It was a widely held belief that the murder had been carried out on the orders of the Republican firebrand Michael Collins. Collins himself, incidentally, had only a few more weeks to live, as in the August of 1922, he was murdered, probably by rival Irish factions. Wilson’s funeral was a public affair attended by Lloyd George and the cabinet. French Generals Foch, Nivelle and Weygand came to pay their last respects, as well as many of his former British army colleagues including French, Macready, Haig and Robertson. The Field Marshal was buried in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral.

 And Sir Henry’s killers? They were duly tried and convicted of his death and hanged at Wandsworth prison on 10th August 1922, and buried in the prison grounds. As befits the adage that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, the remains of both Dunne and O’Sullivan were repatriated to the Irish Republic and given a heroes’ burial in 1967. A final irony in a case that is positively dripping with it, is that both men had fought for King and Country, with great gallantry in the war that had made Sir Henry Wilson such a prominent public figure.




ON MY SHELF …October 2016


Author Emma Kavanagh

The Missing Hours by Emma Kavanagh
No-one can doubt the Welsh author’s background training to write taut crime thrillers. For many years, after gaining her doctorate in Psychology, she trained police firearms officers and military personnel to cope with the aftermath of that crucial moment when the trigger is pulled. In this novel she tackles the story of a woman psychologist who, with her husband, ran a consultancy advising the families of kidnap victims. Selena Cole’s husband is dead, killed in a Brazilian terrorist attack. Now, she goes missing from a children’s playground, while supervising her young daughters. When she returns, 24 hours later, she has no recollection of where she has been or what has happened to her. DC Leah Mackay and D.S Finn Hale must investigate if there is any connection between Selena Cole’s disappearance and a murder. This novel came out in hardback and Kindle earlier in the year, but you can check out the soon-to-be-released paperback version here.

ahx_smallHouse of Bones by Annie Hauxwell
Hauxwell’s flawed heroine Cathy Berlin returns in a mystery which has its roots in an incident in the colonial Far East in 1961. Berlin is not in good shape.

“The blanket of fog shrouding London was a perversion of the season. It drifted in dense clouds across the capital as Catherine Berlin followed a hearse through the grand arch of the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium. She wondered how long it would be before she passed under it feet first.”

As Berlin struggles with her drug addiction, she tries to clear her mind to understand the links between a seemingly motiveless murder, a rich Chinese student with powerful friends, and a decidedly bent Peer of the Realm. The author was born in London’s East End but emigrated as a teenager with her parents to Australia. She has worked as a nurse, a taxi driver and a lawyer, but left the judicial world, to settle as a private detective and screenwriter. She lives in Castlemaine, Victoria, but is regularly in Europe – whether to go on vacation, or because research beckons her here. House of Bones is out now, in Kindle and paperback.

sg-macleanThe Black Friar by S. G. MacLean
Maclean takes is back a good bit further than 1961, and we are in the London of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate. It is 1655, and Cromwell’s rule is threatened by a variety of political and military plots. When a body, clothed in the robes of a Dominican monk, is found walled into the ruins of a monastery, investigator and soldier Damian Seeker soon learns that the corpse is that of an elusive secret agent who worked for John Thurloe – Cromwell’s spymaster. In a city divided by warring religious zealots, and with Royalists conspiring to restore the Stuart monarchy, Seeker must also discover  the fate of a number of abducted children. Shona MacLean, who is the niece of Alistair MacLean, Scotland’s most successful thriller writer and author of Where Eagles Dare, also manages to give a couple of celebrity ‘walk-on’ parts to Andrew Marvell and Samuel Pepys. The Black Friar is available from 6th October.



We’re delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for Kate Moretti’s The Vanishing Year. Here, she gives us her view on a subject close to her heart!

Top Five Villains in Crime Fiction

Writing a complicated layered antagonist, particularly in crime fiction, is no easy feat. They have to be sympathetic. You have to understand what they want and why and it has to run deep enough that, as a reader, you just know nothing will stand in their way. A flat villain whose desires are hidden or, worse, unrelatable produces someone cartoonish and while it maybe serves the plot, it certainly never evokes fear in a reader. There are some authors, particularly in the past fifty years, who have completely nailed the art of the complicated, and therefore sometimes terrifying, villain.

Mrs. Danvers

Mrs. Danvers is an antagonist so creepy that I paid homage to her in my new novel The Vanishing Year. She was so devoted to Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winters, that she almost convinces the second Mrs. de Winters to jump out the second story window of Manderley. She’s described as having a “skull face”, severe, dressed in black and is often portrayed by the terrified Mrs. de Winters as lurking in dark staircases and corners. When Mrs. de Winters descends that staircase, wearing the same dress Rebecca wore the year before? Positively evil.

Annie Wilkes

Annie Wilkes is Stephen King’s worst nightmare: an avid fan turned bedside nurse turned psycho in King’s own Misery. Annie Wilkes is so terrifying, only because she’s so innocuous. Kind of homely, a little unrefined, almost pathologically cheery. In the book, she loses her mind at profanity, preferring “cockadoodie”, even as she’s severing Paul Sheldon’s thumb. It’s the off-set of these two traits: this sing-songy voice and this absolute psychosis that make her a villain with admirable depth.

Nurse Ratched

The head nurse at Salem State Hospital in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is almost the villainous opposite of Annie Wilkes. She has no sugary coating, no false sweetness. What she does have is pure unadulterated power and she wields it to terrifying results. Anti-psychotic meds, shock therapy, even lobotomies are never off limits. Possibly the only villain in this list to get her just deserts, the end of Cuckoo shows her as impotent and powerless after Randle McMurphy is killed. The inmates no longer fear her.

Patrick Bateman

American Psycho reads like one long (run-on sentence) commentary on eighties yuppie culture. Bateman is the epitome of the eighties yuppie and his own self-hatred for it makes him a terrifyingly real villain. The sheer depth of his insanity is cause alone to fear him, regardless if his crimes actually happened or were mere fabrications, as has been interpreted. There are numerous frightening things about Bateman: his rampant hatred of women, his obviously absent moral compass, his disdain for literally every human being in his life, to the point where he interchanges them all. But what truly brings Bateman into the realm of villain is his obvious unraveling throughout the novel. He goes from self-aggrandizing to narcissistic to erratic to completely unglued. It’s this descent into madness that truly grips a reader.

Tom Ripley

In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tom Ripley murders two men, simply to serve his needs (in the continuing series, he murders or is responsible for the death of over ten people). He wants Dickie Greenleaf’s lifestyle. He’s a con artist and a sociopath, who uses murder only as last resort. This alone, while frightening, isn’t enough to land him on any great villain list. What really gives Ripley depth is his humanness. He’s so much like a boy next door, so agreeable, so smooth. He’s well read, enjoys gardening. He’s so delightfully bland. Except when something stands in his way. He’ll beat you to death and dump your weighted body in the water, row away and feel no remorse. It’s this nuanced portrayal of Tom Ripley that really makes him truly a fantastic anti-hero. As readers, we wanted him to get away with it.

The Vanishing Year is published by Titan Books


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