A Message From An Old Soldier
I was at a Creative Writing Class, listening to another author read from his work, when my attention was distracted by the lady sitting directly next to me. She grabbed my notebook and wrote, “There’s a man standing between us…” She went on to give a very accurate description of my grandfather, someone she could not possibly have known anything about. Naturally, I saw nothing of her vision, but the depth and accuracy of the information she wrote down overwhelmed me. You’ve probably guessed by now that she was a psychic medium. She then gave me a message from the man she saw which, later, had a very positive personal meaning for me. But that is something private.
It wasn’t the first time my grandfather had come to me in a psychic way. Back in the 1960s I was learning to fly as a part of my training to be an air traffic controller. One dark winter evening, a group of us young trainee pilots were drawn into a séance. We sat around a table, holding hands while one person spelled out a Ouija message. When my grandfather’s name came up, I was so shocked I broke the connection and stopped the event. No one else present knew anything about him, so why did his name arise? I learned nothing that time and fifty years would pass before he next came to me.
Why am I telling you this? Well, my grandfather, John Arthur Hough, was a territorial soldier with the York and Lancs Regiment in Doncaster. He was one of the first to go to war in 1914. He was twice badly injured and carried shrapnel in his chest to the end of his life. Unable to return to his job in a Yorkshire coal mine, he travelled the country during the 1930s depression, looking for alternative work. By the time of WW2, he was working at Devonport Dockyard, a long way from his home in the north. I believe that the trauma of my grandfather’s experience in The Great War affected his relationship with his son, my father. It’s a well-known story and happened in many families. It, in turn, impinged upon my father’s relationship with me. That message – the one I’m not revealing to you – related directly to something I had to do, or not do, to help my father.
Looking back, later, on that experience in the writing class, I decided to find out more about the war in which my grandfather fought. I gathered together relevant books and on-line material and spent weeks studying it. Like many people, my pre-conceived view of that war was centred around the trenches, but there was far more to it than that. Much of what I learned was a revelation to me. That I had known so little was, in itself, a sobering discovery. What could I do about it? Well, that research became the starting point for two novels set in 1914: In Foreign Fields and In Line of Fire. The first book was published in 2014 by Cloudberry Books, and the second will be published in 2015.
The main characters in my books are quite positively NOT based upon my grandfather. I cannot bring myself to make up fictitious stories about him because that would mar my distant memories of him. ‘Distant’ because he died when I was only fifteen. Rather, the stories are a tribute to him, a private and personal tribute. Maybe it’s my way of saying, “I understand what you wanted from me.”
When I look back on my novels, I am always struck by the way in which personal events have manifested themselves in the stories. I don’t knowingly write about myself or people I know, but the influence is quite positively there.
In Foreign Fields is set in August 1914. The Great War is only just beginning and already things are looking bad. The British Expeditionary Force is retreating in disarray from the Battle of Mons. But, in the midst of the confusion, two British officers on a top secret mission are moving forward, ready to cross the German lines. To complete his assignment, Captain Victor Wendel knows his life will depend on his cunning and ingenuity as much as his courage. He doesn’t, however, know that he is also at the mercy of a double agent. Lieutenant Charles DeBoise, a reluctant recruit to British Intelligence, is sent after Wendel to assist him and warn him. Will he reach Wendel before the double agent sabotages the mission? And will they be able to complete their task before it’s too late?