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Daily Archives: March 24, 2012

Author Spotlight no.070 – Stephen L Wright

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the seventieth, is of Stephen L Wright.

Steve, who writes under his full name, Stephen L Wright, was born in Yorkshire, England; his father was a Methodist minister, so the family also lived in Derby and Kingston upon Hull.  He left school at 18 and went to college to train as a teacher.

His degree from the Open University came later, as part of a career working with or for young people; as well as teaching, Steve also worked on the government’s Youth Training Scheme in the 1980s and currently works as a Youth Officer in the Fire & Rescue Service. He still has a few more years of working ahead of him, but is looking forward to retirement!

Steve has always been interested in history, but his interest in World War II arose through his uncle, S/Sgt Billy Marfleet, who was a British Glider Pilot. He died when his glider crashed into the Channel on the night of 5/6 June 1944 – the start of the Normandy Landings. Steve wanted to know more about Billy’s experiences as a Glider Pilot, so he started researching. The result was ‘One Night In June‘, which he wrote with Kevin Shannon, and which tells the story of the operation in which Billy was involved.

Steve has also written magazine articles and is currently working on his next book.

As a dad and granddad, Steve has a lot of family time but he is also an improving golfer and banjo player.

And now from the author himself:

My interest in, and knowledge of wartime Airborne Forces, continued to grow and I began to read as much as I could find about Operation VARSITY. There wasn’t a great deal of information on this pivotal event, and the only book on the whole operation was in German. So, I continued my research, contacted archives and veterans and ‘The Last Drop; Operation Varsity March 24-25 1945′ is the result.

I call ‘One Night In June’ a labour of love, because it is family-related and it provided a lot of information that my family, particularly my mother who is Billy’s youngest sister, didn’t previously know. I would say the same about ‘The Last Drop’ because, although not family-related, it has brought me great satisfaction and encouragement, as well as a feeling of privilege to be entrusted with the stories from the men who took part in the operation; as long as the book is ‘out there’, their experiences will continue to live.

In compiling ‘The Last Drop’ I used an anecdotal format, only using editorial when necessary so that the greater part of the book is told ‘through the eyes’ of the men who were there as paratroopers, gliderborne troops, glider pilots and members of RAF and US Troop Carrier crews.  I received more than fifty accounts from American, British, and Canadian veterans and was granted permission to use others published in books. The stories add poignancy and vividness to the account of this operation. Many of the stories came via email or letter, but I did speak to a number of my contributors on the telephone or in person. As well as personal accounts I also drew on war diaries, unit histories and after-action reports.

Operation VARSITY was the last major airborne offensive of World War II and remains the largest and most successful single-lift airborne operation in history. It was conducted by the British 6th and the American 17th Airborne Divisions, which some three months earlier had been through the hell of the Ardennes. The goal of the operation was to protect the ground troops that would cross the River Rhine by amphibious means. It was a daylight landing on top of heavily defended and fortified positions. Paratroopers and gliders descended through a hail of fire. Once on the ground many had to resort to hand to hand fighting to gain their objectives. All this took place in the fog of a smokescreen created to cover the ground troops who were crossing the river. Casualties, as will be imagined, were not slight and acts of valour were witnessed across the battlefield. The end of the day saw all objectives won and the awarding of two Congressional Medals of Honor, a Victoria Cross and a Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.

Thank you, Steve. You can find more about Steve’s books via… Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. :)

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with editor and publisher Kim Maya Sutton – the three hundred and nineteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can read / download my eBooks from Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo (Amazon to follow). And I have a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org.

 

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Short Story Saturday 007: ‘Claws’ by Stephen Booth

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday and the seventh review in this new series. This week’s review is of ‘Claws’ by crime novelist Stephen Booth. It is the longest of the stories I have reviewed so far at, I estimate, c. 15,000 words.

Amazon.co.uk’s description of Stephen’s book reads: “Derbyshire Police Detective DC Ben Cooper is on assignment to the Rural Crime Squad to investigate wildlife crime. On the wild Peak District moorlands, Cooper steps into the middle of a conflict that has been raging for years over one of the most prized landscapes in the National Park. Many lives are at stake. And, in this battle, not all the victims are human.”

The shortest hooks are often the most catching and this story’s, ‘The bones were tiny’, certainly grabbed me.

I’d not read the back cover blurb or Amazon’s description before starting the book and you would have thought that the title and seeing a bird on the front cover should have given it away, but my first thought that they were children’s bones and although I soon learned of the true origin, the story was so compassionately narrated that I felt equal affinity to them, and compelled to read on.

Having read Stephen’s writing before, and met / interviewed him, I know his work to be dark (which I love, and write) yet he gives a light touch to his characters. There is a warmth to even the strangest of creatures, in this case bird collector Kevin Hewitt, and although he is the antagonist in ‘Claws’ there are instances where I felt sorry for him. Only just. :)

A good story entertains and educates and it ticked both boxes for me. Although I have been to the Peak District a few times I know little of the area and the policing that is involved. I was carried along with the description of the procedures rather than bogged down by them and found it really interesting.

My favourite line of the book was at the end of chapter 1: “She did speak to us,” said Cooper. “Around here, that means we’re practically best friends.” It shows the skill of such a writer to create subtle humour within their characters, and the rapport between DC Cooper and his colleague PC Tracy Udall would make me want to read other books featuring them, which I’d say is the success of any piece, especially such a short one.

And the downside? There wasn’t one, it’s an easy read, although I did spot a typo on page 38. :)

‘Claws’ is one of a series of Crime Express, priced at an RRP of £4.99, of a similar stature to ‘Quick Reads’. Others in the Five Leaves Publishing’s Crime Express range include Ray Banks’ ‘California’, Danuta Reah’s ‘Not Safe’, Rod Duncan’s ‘Mentalist’, John Harvey’s ‘Trouble in Mind’, and Charlie Williams’ ‘Graven Image’. ‘Claws’ is available from Westlea Books in various formats, as a paperback from Amazon.co.uk (£3.69), and as an ebook from Reader Store and Smashwords ($0.99), Amazon.co.uk (£0.72) and wherever good books are sold (as the saying goes). :)

Stephen’s website is http://www.stephen-booth.com and he’s prolific on Twitter and Facebook.

A former newspaper journalist, Stephen Booth is the creator of two young Derbyshire police detectives, DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry, who have so far appeared in 11 crime novels, all set in England’s beautiful and atmospheric Peak District. The Cooper & Fry series has won awards on both sides of the Atlantic, and Detective Constable Cooper has been a finalist for the Sherlock Award for the Best Detective created by a British author. In 2003 the Crime Writers’ Association presented Stephen with the Dagger in the Library Award for “the author whose books have given readers most pleasure”. The novels are sold all around the world, with translations in 15 languages, and are currently in development as a TV series. The most recent title is The Devil’s Edge. His other books include Lost River, The Kill Call, One Last Breath, and Blind to the Bones.

Biography taken from my interview with Stephen last October – which you can read here.

UPDATE FROM STEPHEN VIA TWITTER: “15,000 words is spot on, Morgen. That was the specification for a Crime Express title, though it’s been extended since.” Woo hoo! :)

If you’d like to submit your story (50 to 2,500 words) for review take a look here. I am also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays (which are usually later podcasted).

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with writer, editor and publisher Kim Maya Sutton – the three hundred and nineteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. And I have a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org.

 

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