Book Review: “Araña”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Jennifer R. Povey (https://www.jenniferrpovey.com) published the novel “Araña” in 2019. Ms. Povey has published more than two dozen novels. 

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘PG’ because it contains some mature situations. The story is set in a far future. The war between Earth and Mars is over, but there are lasting effects. 

Porta Rican José Marin is a veteran of the war. He was one of the elite combat soldiers fitted with the Web. it gave him enhancements during the war, but now he is suffering from side effects. Removing the web will kill him. In desperation for a new start, he joins the crew of the Endeavor, Earth’s second starship. 

Endeavor is about to set off on its maiden voyage. Just a safe scientific and shakedown cruise. Those plans are set aside when a distress call comes in from Atlantis, the first starship. 

The Endeavor heads out after Atlantis. They encounter the Ky’iin and come under their fire. The Endeavor jumps out of danger and encounters the Verr. They are friendly but are facing extinction. The Glyn offers some help, but they need the Ky’iin. Meanwhile, the Ky’iin have followed Endeavor’s trail back to Earth. There is war at first, but a truce is finally negotiated. The Ky’iin arrive at the Verran world to offer their help. 

The encounter with aliens is not so much the story as efforts made to save the Verr. There are different Verr factions and not all want to be saved. The Endeavor and her crew face multiple challenges. 

I enjoyed the 7.5+ hours I spent reading this 257-page science fiction novel. The story seemed slow to me. It also was a little choppy. I did not find it a very engaging story. There is also a touch of LGBT romance. I am not a fan of the chosen cover art. I give this novel a 3.8 (rounded up to a 4) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Interview with Author A.D. Enderly

I read and reviewed the science fiction novel Complex: A Dystopian Thriller earlier this month. Since then I was able to contact the author A. D. Enderly. He graciously agreed to an interview. 


Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?


Enderly: I’d always been an avid reader and had tinkered around with creative expression in the form of poetry, but the revelation didn’t really hit until I was about 18. I was a freshman in college and a friend of mine had turned me on to Dave Barry. I enjoyed how he blended humor with factual information and began to toy around with some of these “essays” myself. Now mind you, this was 25 years ago, so I can’t honestly recall the topics…but I do remember the reception. I shared them with friends and family and they enjoyed them – even laughed. This to me, was gold. It didn’t necessarily confirm that I wanted to be a humor columnist, but it did herald the value in writing. 


Myself: You began your writing career a little earlier than most of the authors I have spoken with. What is the first piece that you remember writing?


Enderly: Yikes. This would maybe be in middle school, where I wrote a story about a mythological creature cursed to stand on its head. I remember reading it years later, and the notable point wasn’t its quality (or lack thereof) but the creativity. Kids can be so effortlessly creative. 

 
Myself: I agree about kid’s natural creativity. It seems that the public education system works to suppress that independent thinking. What is your academic and work background?


Enderly: I studied English at the University of Kansas, with an emphasis on Creative Writing. I studied Spanish all throughout as well, because as it turns out I have a love for languages! I graduated in ’99 and after that played in a band for about 6 years, both writing lyrics and music. After this, I worked a slew of different jobs, from taking insurance claims in Spanish, installing POS systems in Pizza Huts in the South, waiting tables, to being both a freelance and full-time copywriter at an ad agency. Now I manage restaurants and write in my spare time.


Myself: You have quite a varied career. What part of the world do you currently live in?


Enderly: I live in a suburb of Kansas City, on the Kansas side. An interesting point of note about the city – prior to about 2000, the downtown area was a dead zone. But around this time it experienced a revitalization, beginning with the arts community. I have a good friend who’s a sculptor (think giant bronze statues) and he was a part of this rejuvenation. Now, (minus Covid) the city is alive with people, art, ideas, which had earned it the moniker the Paris of the Plains. I realize some would snicker at this cynically as it’s obviously not remotely like Paris in reality, but I think what the nickname speaks to is the fact that it’s a place where art and ideas are blooming.


Myself: It’s interesting that you come from suburban Kansas City. I was born there and spent the first few years of my life in Argentine, KS. I did not know that it had developed into a center for the arts. Do you think that living there has affected your writing?


Enderly: Undoubtedly. But not in the way some would assume like there’s this sort of midwestern plainspokenness about my writing because I don’t know that’s the case. More than anything, it’s the place that has a hand in the friendships, the encounters, and other exposures that have shaped me and thus my writing.


Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?


Enderly: Oh man, they are multifarious! I find so much fascinating and fun. Right now I’m really enjoying driving RC cars…crashing them and fixing them, that is. I (obviously) love to read and write. But a lot of my writings lean toward the what-if, the philosophical, and the metaphysical. I’m deeply interested in the links between physics/physical laws and the metaphysical ones (ie conservation of energy and Karma – there’s some convoluted connection in there, but that’s for another time).I enjoy repairing things, the occasional woodworking, and also inventing. I’ve got a few ideas I’m working on currently but they’re just rough sketches at the moment. I still make music (I play the bass), and occasionally you’ll find me recording some new music and catapulting it out into the ether when I get the time. 

My kids always keep me busy, and I enjoy teaching and coaching them (when they choose to listen). I like to take them camping, canoeing, etc…life is a full, wonderful thing. A little too full to list everything here.

Myself: You seem to have a very full life. What else would you like to share about yourself?


Enderly: I’ve probably over-shared by now 🙂 


Myself: What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?


Enderly: Scruffy. It was a chapter book I checked out in second grade and it moved me to tears. 


Myself: Did you read much growing up?


Enderly: All the time. I’ve always loved reading. 


Myself: What book that you read as a child stands out in your memory? 


Enderly: I already mentioned Scruffy, so I’ll move forward in time a little. Around fourth grade, I read The Westing Game, and I absolutely loved the mystery aspect of it. Also around this time, my older brother (2 years older) was reading John Bellairs’ books, which are paranormal mysteries for kids. I got hooked on these…which naturally led me into loving Stephen King and Dean Koontz around high school. 


Myself: I’m a Dean Koontz fan too. What have you read recently?


Enderly: I just finished Silversands by Gareth Powell and am about to start Shogun by James Clavell. I try to read one non-fiction for every 3 fiction. It’s the non-fiction that inspires my ideas more than anything. More recently, books like Range (David Eppstein), The Biggest Bluff (Maria Konnikova), and Newjack: Guarding Sing-Sing (Ted Conover) are ones that come to mind.    


Myself: That is a diverse reading list. I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction books as well. What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?


Enderly: Favorite genre still has to be Sci-fi. Favorite book of all time? It’s a fight between Dune and Brave New World. But I’m always finding new authors, which is the beauty of books. There are so many good authors out there spinning lovely and different tales. Recently I’ve been enjoying Chuck Wendig’s writing (Wanderers). My favorite author was Stephen King for the longest time, and I still adore The Stand and the Dark Tower series. Don’t know that I have a favorite character though.


Myself: I enjoyed the Dune novels and The Stand. Where is your favorite place to read?


Enderly: Any place that’s quiet. 


Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?


Enderly: I prefer paper. I also devour podcasts…but not audiobooks. Is that strange? 


Myself: Nearly all the authors I have spoken with prefer paper. I too listen to few audiobooks but to several different podcasts. So from my point of view that is not strange at all! What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?


Enderly: Whatever sparks my imagination. These days I recommend podcasts and particular episodes that interesting that others might find interesting. Just this morning I recommended a Ted talk episode to a barista regarding the (super) power of sleep because of its timely correlation to daylight saving time. 


Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?


Enderly: Some innate thing. I know that growing up, total immersion in these imaginary worlds contributed to my development and I believe it still does. It builds a muscle. Maybe I can both inspire others, make them think, but also get them totally immersed in this world, which is an act of imagination and empathy. 


Myself: I agree that inspiring imagination is important. What are your ambitions for your writing career?


Enderly: Right now, to just widen my readership. And continue to write and publish. Two books a year is my goal but for someone with work and four kids, this is a tough proposition. I’d probably settle for one/year. 


Myself: One novel a year would still be quite an achievement. Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?


Enderly: I write my first draft by hand, and I cannot express how different it is from writing on a computer. There’s some connection between my hand, the pen, the scratch, the feel of the paper that’s all very tactile and it enhances my sense of creating and stimulates my brain more than just typing away at a keyboard ever can. I love it. But back to your question – I love ideas, which is probably why I write within the SF&F genres. In these playgrounds, you can test out new ideas and really flesh them out, see if they ring true.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?


Enderly: The first big influences were Stephen King/Dean Koontz. For a while there I was writing horror short stories. Then it was books like Lord of the FliesBrave New World1984 that influenced the genre…but I would say my style of writing was most greatly influenced by reading William Gibson. I love how you’re just thrown and have to figure it all out. There’s such a minimum of exposition that I feel gives his books a lasting power in that you can read them and infer more and more meaning on subsequent reads.

 
Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Enderly: It’s the genre with the most ideas 🙂 

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from? How did you come up with the plot in Complex?

Enderly: Oh my god, where to start. This world has existed in my mind for about 6 years. I would write little snippets but didn’t fully begin in earnest until late 2017. My goal at the time was to build a world in which I could write multiple stories/books that were not only in a series but some on parallel tracks that touched on other series. The plot for Complex changed over the course of time…but man it was hard to wrangle with all the POVs.

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Enderly: Very loose outline. There are some things I know I want to happen for the dramatic effect, but if you do this too much then the characters lose their agency. Just like use, they need a bit of freedom to make their own trouble. 

Myself: Do you ever find yourself ‘becoming’ one of your characters as you write?

Enderly: do. This is more noticeable for me when there’s an especially touching, poignant, or inherently sad moment. When you’re lost in the flow and this event happens and you find yourself moved to tears or a sudden upwelling of love, or whatever the emotion may be. Most of writing is a mental stimulant for me, but these moments go deeper, they originate in the heart.

Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?

Enderly: Sometimes at home, but mostly at a coffee shop. I suspect my brain needs some low level of peripheral stimulation to be able to focus on writing. Or maybe I’m just addicted to good coffee.

Myself: Good coffee is certainly important. What is your schedule like when you are writing?

Enderly: Always in the morning. The day proceeds and fills your mind up with junk and other concerns. The morning is a clean, clear slate. 

Myself: About how long does it take you to complete the first draft? How long do your revisions take?

Enderly: The first book took two years, then another 6 months to edit. The current book I’m on will take 1 year total for both. 

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?

Enderly: A lot of the ideas in their raw form come from the non-fiction I consume…these days, much of that is from podcasts. But something more specific, like the historic gods of the people of Nepal, I’ll obviously have to research more closely.

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Enderly: I know it’s terrible, but I still use Word for the final draft. Recently, I’ve been writing my first drafts on a reMarkable e-ink tablet…which I LOVE.  

Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Enderly: The hardest thing is getting started…and getting used to very negative criticism. The easiest thing is continuing. When you’re in a flow, the world doesn’t exist. Only the one in your head. 

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Enderly: Just write. Don’t stop. Like anything else, you will fail. Get up and continue to write, again and again. The process of iteration, of repetition, is one of honing, of style, ideas, craft. 

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Enderly: Complex is my debut novel. 

Myself: What are you currently working on?

nderly: The direct sequel to Complex and also a book on a parallel track that touches some of the same characters and concepts, but occurs in a parallel world. It’s tentatively titled The Runner of Bloodroot Row.

Myself: I’ll be looking for both of those novels. What else would you like to share?

Enderly:  I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks for inviting me!

Myself: I really appreciate you taking the time to do the interview. I find it so interesting how the authors I interview are so similar on one level and yet worlds apart on others. How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Enderly: Email is always a great way since life is inherently busy. My email address is contact@adenderly.com

Book Review: Bletchley Park’s Secret Source: Churchill’s Wrens and the Y Service in World War II

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author, biographer, and obituarist Peter Hore (https://www.peterghore.co.uk) published the book Bletchley Park’s Secret Source: Churchill’s Wrens and the Y Service in World War II on March 23, 2021. 

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘G’. The book tells the story of the British Wrens who worked in the Y Service during WWII.

The part that Bletchley Park played in WWII is now well known. Their ability to decrypt Axis messages gave the Allies a huge advantage. This book looks at the source of many of those messages. Specifically, that is the Y Service or Radio Intercept Service. The Y Service was the code name for the British radio intercept stations. Most were located along the British coast, but some were located in remote spots around the world. 

Most of the staff responsible for capturing and taking down the messages were young WRNS. The WRNS pronounced ‘wrens’ was the Women’s Royal Naval Service. WWI saw the creation of the WRNS but it was disbanded after the war. In 1939 the WRNS were revived at the beginning of WWII. 

Intercepted Axis messages captured by the Y Service as well as from hundreds of civilian volunteers. The messages were then forwarded to Station X – Bletchley Park for decoding. 

The book talks about the Wrens’ recruitment and their struggle with uniforms in the early days of the way. Wrens with language fluency were recruited for Special Duties at the intercept stations. Some lived with civilian families or in hotels. Others in a Wrennery – a dormitory for the Wrens. Some stations were in or near large towns while others were on the remote coastline of Brittain. 

The book follows the wartime career of a few individual Wrens. Most made it through the war, but the Wrens did suffer casualties. The book tells how girls in their late teens and early twenties left home for months. They worked in isolation because of the Official Secrets Act. The Wrens received little recognition for their years of service. They were significant contributors to the Allied success in WWII. This book gives them their much-needed recognition. 

I enjoyed the 8 hours I spent reading this 324-page WWII history. This was a very interesting book. I learned a lot about the Y Service. I like the selected cover art. I give this book a 4 out of 5.

If this book interests you you might also want to read Codebreaker Girls: A Secret Life at Bletchley Park, Code Wars: How ‘Ultra’ and ‘Magic’ Led to Allied Victory, or listen to the Bletchley Park Podcast.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 520 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: The Bounty

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Authors Janet Evanovich (https://evanovich.com) and Steve Hamilton (http://authorstevehamilton.com/) published the novel The Bounty: A Novel. It was just released last week on March 23, 2021. Ms. Evanovich has published more than 30 novels. This is the 7th in her ‘Fox and O’Hare’ series. Mr. Hamilton has published 16 novels on his own. 

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of violence. The story is set across Europe and North Africa. The main characters are FBI agent Kate O’Hare and criminal Nick Fox. 

Earlier O’Hare had tracked down the charming international criminal Fox and arrested him. After negotiating a deal he now works with the FBI to close other cases. O’Hare has reluctantly become his handler. While their relationship began as adversaries, a bit of romance has emerged. 

The two find themselves pitted against The Brotherhood. They are a clandestine group with ties back to the Vatican Bank priests who helped the Nazis during WWII. They are now searching for a lost train carrying $30 billion in gold. O’Hare and Fox find themselves in a race to follow the clues and find the treasure before The Brotherhood. With Interpol penetrated by the Brotherhood, they find themselves on their own. They reach out to their only reliable potential allies, their fathers.

Clues lead them from one tight spot to another. The Brotherhood always seems to be just half a step behind them. Every encounter exposes them to more danger. 

I enjoyed the 6+ hours I spent reading this 316-page mystery novel. The pursuit of clues reminds me a little of Robert Langdon’s The DaVinci Code. While not the most exciting mystery, it was enjoyable. I do like the chosen cover art. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Interview with Author Robert Webber

(See my other Author Interviews) – I read the WWII spy novel Winston’s Spy late last summer and published a review of it in September 2020. Since then I have been able to contact the author Robert Webber. He graciously agreed to an interview.

Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?  

Webber: I think I have always felt that I had a book inside me.

Myself: What is the first piece that you remember writing?  

Webber: When I was about ten-years-old, I won a competition in a local newspaper for a short story about the Zulu wars and then started writing a novel called ‘Death Defying Death’ which, of course, never saw the light of day!

Myself: Your writing career began a lot earlier than most authors. What is your academic and work background?   

Webber: I spent much of my life in sales and marketing but entered the world of academia whilst I was living in Finland… I am now working at a University in England as a senior lecturer of business strategy. I hold a doctorate.

Myself: We have somewhat similar backgrounds. I was not fortunate enough to earn a Phd, but I was an instructor in Computer Science at St. Edward’s University. What part of the world do you currently live in?    

Webber: Northamptonshire, England.

Myself: Do you think that living there has affected your writing?    

Webber: Not especially, my current writing was more influenced by the time I spent living in Finland.

Myself: Why do you think Finland influenced your writing?

Webber: In Finland, there is a word “SISU” that defines the Finnish attitude to life. The term does not directly translate into English but is loosely explained as bravery, resilience, hardiness. The Finns are justifiably proud of sisu and often use it to describe their national character. When I was living in Finland, this trait fascinated me – I met many Finns who, despite physical or social handicaps, were determined to live life to the full and succeed in whatever they attempted. I became fascinated by Finland’s heroic achievements in their “David and Goliath” struggle in the Winter War, as this truly epitomised sisu.

Myself: I have not heard of the Finnish term sisu before. Your explanation is very interesting and I can see how it motivated you for your book series. How do you relax? What are your hobbies?    

Webber: A moment to relax… that would be nice! Actually, I relax by writing, but am also interested in photography, cookery and the theatre.

Myself: What else would you like to share about yourself?    

Webber: I regret not having come to writing earlier.

Myself: What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?    

Webber: The first book I remember was either A A Milne’s ‘When We Were Very Young’ or ‘Now We Are Six’ – I loved the simplicity of the rhyme and the wit of the writer. I think it a shame that youngsters today do not bother reading poetry.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?    

Webber: Yes, I was an avid reader.

Myself: What book that you read as a child stands out in your memory?    

Webber: The Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge, in later years ‘Reach for the Sky’ by Paul Brickhill.

Myself: What have you read recently?    

Webber: Mainly research for my own writing, but the occasional dabble into Michael Dobbs or Peter Mayle.

Myself: What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?    

Webber: Political, espionage, humour, I have a wide range of genres that I enjoy.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?    

Webber: Bed mainly, although when researching, mainly at my desk.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?     

Webber: I’m old school, I’m afraid… paper, and much to my wife’s chagrin, I do not throw books away!

Myself: I have amassed quite a few books myself, though most of those I’ve read in recent years have been ebooks. What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?    

Webber: At the moment, my own… but also cookery books.

Myself: What type of cooking books? Do you favor a particular cuisine?    

Webber: It depends on the recipient and how skilled they are in the kitchen, but my true love is French cuisine. My mother taught Cordon Bleu cookery, so my tastebuds became accustomed to the flavours of France from an early age,

Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?     

Webber: Relaxation and a desire to inform about the least remembered aspects of WW2

Myself: I am glad you chose the WWII era for your novel. What are your ambitions for your writing career?     

Webber: Retirement from my day job… yes, I would like to make money from my writing, but also leave a legacy for future generations.

Myself: Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?    

Webber: I enjoy writing, I enjoy researching what I write, I enjoy the creativity.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?     

Webber: Not especially, none of my family wrote, but we did have an English teacher at school who wrote novels under a pen-name, but I never found out what it was (and he was not allowed to say!)

Myself: Why did you set your first book Winston’s Spy in WWII era Europe?    

Webber: In honesty, Winston’s Spy was always going to be the precursor for The White Rose, which I have been mulling around in my mind for nearly twenty years. I needed an introduction to start writing about the Winter War in Finland, so I developed the main characters in Winston’s Spy for the later books in the series.

Myself: I don’t think many people associate the war between Finland and Russia as part of WWII. I doubt there are many who have even heard of the Winter War. I look forward to learning more in your next novel. How did you pick the genres for your stories?    

Webber: I grew up at the time when WW2 was still remembered, and I was fascinated by the courage and determination of the era. I agree that not many people have heard of the Winter War (before living in Finland, I certainly had not!), which is a shame – but I can’t entirely agree that it falls outside WW2. Quite apart from the timeline, the war with Finland influenced Russian strategy both in its pact with Nazi Germany and later coalition with the Allies. Post-WW2, Finland became a crucial, if passive, player in the Cold War.

Myself: I think you and I are much of the same generation. Where do your story ideas come from?    

Webber: My books are always grounded in historical fact, but expanded into fiction by an overactive imagination.

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?     

Webber: The main plot is invariably set by historical fact, but of the fiction element is initially quite well planned out, but allowed to develop as the writing happens, so quite often I do not end up where I thought I would!

Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?    

Webber: I converted the garage at my home into an office and writing space… mainly so that I could get some peace and quiet to develop my thoughts.

Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?     

Webber: Haphazard at the moment, as it has to fit around my ‘day job’, but when I am writing more intensely (weekends and holidays) structured… I am definitely a morning person.

Myself: How do you fit writing in to your daily schedule? (i.e. balance work, writing and family)    

Webber: Ever since I wrote my thesis for university, I have been an early riser… I am responding to this email at 3.30am, and that’s when I tend to do much of my writing so that I can fit day job, and family around my writing ambitions. If I ever get to retire, I will focus on writing in a more structured way.

Myself: About how long does it take you to complete a first draft? How long do your revisions take?    

Webber: Usually, about three to four months.

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?    

Webber: A lot! I am typically researching my next book while I am writing the current one

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?     

Webber: MS Word, and I have just bought Grammarly to see whether it improves my writing.

Myself: I have been using Grammarly as well. I think it has helped me improve my own writing. What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?    

Webber: Hardest? Remembering what I had thought was a good storyline the next day, and scheduling sufficient time to hit my personal deadlines, and the easiest, is really allowing the book to flow from brain to paper.

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?    

Webber: Enjoy writing… if it becomes a chore, give it up!

Myself: What novels/works have you published?    

Webber: I have had several academic papers published, plus a textbook ‘An Introduction to Franchising’. Winston’s Spy and The White Rose have been published. The third Carlton Chronicles novel Teddy’s War is due out in the summer. 

Myself: What are you currently working on?    

Webber: Carlton Chronicles IV, The Stockholm Protocol is nearing completion. I anticipate it will be out around Christmas 2021. I am researching the fifth book in the series.

Myself: What else would you like to share?    

Webber: I really do regret not having started writing earlier… I seriously wonder whether I shall ever get all the books that I would like to write finished before I drop dead!

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?   

Webber: Email is the best option robert@robwebber.co.uk, although I do also have a Carlton Chronicles FaceBook page (https://www.facebook.com/carltonchronicles) and a website (https://www.robwebber.co.uk)

Podcast: Bletchley Park

Updated 3/26/21

Image from theirApple Podcasts page

(See my other Podcast related posts) – As I have mentioned many times in my Blog, I listen to many podcasts, particularly those that focus on the WWII era in history. One of the podcasts I have been listening to for some time is the Bletchley Park Podcast. Bletchley Park is, of course, the home of British codebreaking in WWII. 

At the date of this posting, there more than 220 episodes (150 hours of content) available. They range from 30 to 90 minutes in length, with most coming in at around an hour. August 10, 2012, saw the publication of the first episode. New episodes appear about every two weeks. 

If you are interested in the WWII period of history you will find this podcast of interest.

If this podcast interests you you might also want to read Codebreaker Girls: A Secret Life at Bletchley Park, Code Wars: How ‘Ultra’ and ‘Magic’ Led to Allied Victory, and Bletchley Park’s Secret Source: Churchill’s Wrens and the Y Service in World War II.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 520 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “Hitler and His Women”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Phil Carradice published the book “Hitler and His Women” in 2021 (May 30). Mr. Carradice has published more than 50 novels and non-fiction books. 

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘R’ because it contains mature situations. The book tells of the important women in Adolf Hitler’s life. 

Contrary to what many think of Hitler, he came across as charming to the women he came into close contact with. He flirted and exchanged gossip with them. When Hitler was young he had an abusive father and a mother who doted on him. Many German women supported Hitler and the Nazi party as they rose to power. In his early years, he appears to have enjoyed affairs with many young women. When the Nazis began to control Germany they forced women to abandon the professions and workplace. Instead, they were strongly encouraged to become good German homemakers and mothers. 

At the height of his power, Hitler enjoyed a near-rock-star devotion by the women of Germany. There are several women who were close to Hitler. Some were romantic connections, but many were just dedicated to him and the Nazi party. His long-time mistress and eventual wife Eva Braun is among the most well-known. Less well known is his apparent affair with his 17-year-old half-cousin Geli Raubal. There are many other women discussed in this book. Among them are Mitzi Reiter, Henny Hoffmann, Zara Leander, Magda Goebbels, and Hanna Reitsch. There were also the English aristocrats Unity & Diana Mitford.

I enjoyed the 8+ hours I spent reading this 224-page WWII history. The book paints a different image of Adolf Hitler. It surprised me at how many women fawned over him. I was also somewhat surprised at how many women were dedicated Nazis. I like the chosen cover art. I give this book a 4.5 (rounded up to a 5) out of 5.

You can access more of my book reviews on my Blog ( https://johnpurvis.wordpress.com/blog/).

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

If you enjoyed this book, Nazi Wives: The Women at the Top of Hitler’s Germany may also interest you. 


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 520 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Author Interview with Susan Elia MacNeal

Photo from http://susaneliamacneal.com

(See my other Author Interviews) – Over the past three years I have had the opportunity to read and review Prisoner in the Castle and The King’s Justice by author Susan Elia MacNeal. She is a NY Times, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today best selling novelist. She is a Barry Award winner in 2013 in the Best Paperback Original category for her first novel Mr. Churchills Secretary. She has also been nominated for theEdgar Award

A few weeks ago I reached out to her for an interview and she graciously consented. She has published nine novels with a tenth pending. These are all in her “Maggie Hope Mysteries” series. She has also published two non-fiction books Infused: 100+ Recipes for Infused Liqueurs and Cocktails and Wedding Zen: Simple, Calming Wisdom for the Bride. 

Myself: What is your academic and work background?

MacNeal: I was an English major at Wellesley College, where I did my senior honors thesis on the lesser-known gothic thrillers of Louisa May Alcott. Worked for the novelist John Irving and his wife, Janet Turnbull Irving a Canadian literary agent, then moved to New York to work as an assistant at Random House. Then climbed my way up the publishing ladder. Eventually I decided I wanted to write instead of edit.

Myself: Your background is very different from the other authors I have interviewed. With nine novels in the Maggie Hope series already published and your awards, I would say that your writing career is already very successful.  What part of the world do you currently live in?

MacNeal: Brooklyn, New York! Park Slope, actually, where it seems everyone’s a writer. 

Myself: Do you think that living there has affected your writing?

MacNeal: Maybe it normalizes writing as a career in some way? Although my husband is a TV puppeteer and director, so “normal” isn’t really a concern, usually….

Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

MacNeal: One of the editors I worked for had season tickets to New York City Ballet and I went and fell in love! So NYCB and the ballet and modern dance scene is definitely a reason to stay in New York for me. In the pandemic, I’ve focused on cooking—a lot of writers like cooking and baking and I think it’s because, unlike a novel, you can start and finish something in a reasonable time frame. There’s closure. And dinner!

Myself: What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?

MacNeal: I was told I was reading Mother Goose by age three. Now that I’m a parent, this seems petty early, but that’s the way I heard it.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

MacNeal: All. The. Time. The library was my absolute favorite place.

Myself: What have you read recently?

MacNeal: Just finished Phillip Roth’s THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA, which maybe was or was not a great choice given the current political situation. But it’s a fantastic novel and certainly thought-provoking.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? 

MacNeal: Much, much prefer paper books to eBooks! But here’s my reading hack—I download those free first chapters to my iPad and use time on the subway, bus, doctor’s office, what have you to decide what actual physical book to buy or take out from the library.

Myself: That sounds like a good way to evaluate your next read. Do you listen to audiobooks?

MacNeal: Started audiobooks in the pandemic and love to walk in our local park and listen! I don’t love fiction (feel like I might miss something somehow?) but I love listening non-fiction, especially authors reading their own work. Faves are: Trevor Noah’s BORN A CRIME, anything by Mindy Kahling, and everything by Carrie Fisher. Just hearing their voices read their own words makes me so happy. 

Myself: What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?

MacNeal: This year we gave lots of copies of Anne Louise Avery’s new novel REYNARD THE FOX, which is a magical mix of GAME OF THRONES meets WIND IN THE WILLOW. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

Myself: Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

MacNeal: My characters are pretty demanding of me—they want to be known and tell their stories. I’m serious—I feel like a conduit most of the time. Some are more polite about it than others.

Myself: That is an interesting point to view for an author. None of the other authors I have interviewed have expressed anything like that. How did you pick the genres for your stories?

MacNeal: My first novel MR. CHURCHILL’S SECRETARY had a mystery and an international political plot, so I guess my style’s a bit of mystery and thriller combined? But with cozy-type characters? I really don’t know. Honestly, “genre” seems to be more about where books are placed in a bookstore than something I really think about.

Myself: I enjoy novels set in the WWII era. That is what drew me to read Prisoner in the Castle. Where do your story ideas come from?

MacNeal: I love finding some little-known aspect of history and then trying to unravel the knot of “what really happened.” My current work-in-progress is based on real people who were footnotes to footnotes of history. But I just felt their story needed to be told!

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

MacNeal: Outlines are great because they’re like a security blanket that you can also kick off when it’s not really serving your story…. I make fairly detailed outlines and then usually don’t follow them. My character outlines are more important. If you know who your characters are, you’ll know how they’ll react in any situation.

Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?

MacNeal: I write cross-legged on the sofa in our living room. Seriously. My dream is to someday have an office. Although probably I’d still work cross-legged on a sofa. But at least I’d have a door to close! To make up for lack of space and silence, I’ll often housesit for friends. Does anyone out there need a house-sitter/novelist? I’m great with cats and dogs, not so much with plants.

Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?

MacNeal: Pretty much every day. Starting a novel, it’s more about the research and then, slowly, becomes more about the writing. I wish I could transition to writing faster, but can’t until I know my characters.

Myself: What are you currently working on?

3MacNeal: THE KING’S JUSTICE (Maggie Hope #9) came out in paperback on February 27 and THE HOLLYWOOD SPY (Maggie Hope #10) is scheduled for July 6. And I can’t say too much yet, but I’m starting my first stand-alone novel, which is pretty darned exciting.

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch? 

MacNeal: You can follow me on my website (http://susaneliamacneal.com).The best place is Twitter, where I’m @susanmacneal. Love interacting with readers and authors and talking about books!

Myself: Thank you Susan for making the time for this interview. I will be looking forward to both The Hollywood Spy on July 6, 2021 and that unnamed work. 

Book Review: “Radio Operator on the Eastern Front: An Illustrated Memoir, 1940-1949”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Authors Erhard Steiniger & Anthony Tucker-Jones (http://atuckerjones.com) will publish the book “Radio Operator on the Eastern Front: An Illustrated Memoir, 1940-1949” in 2021 (May 14). Mr. Steiniger has three books to his credit and Mr. Tucker-Jones has a dozen.


I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of violence. The book follows the life of Erhard Steiniger as he lives through the war years.


Steiniger lived I the German-speaking Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia. After Germany took over, he was drafted on October 12, 1940. After arriving in the Wermacht he received training as a radio operator. He was assigned to the 151 Infantry Regiment, 61 West Prussian Infantry Division. His primary service was on the Eastern Front ranging over Estonia, Latvia, and Russia.


After capture by Russian troops in 1945, he served as a POW in Russia. In 1949 he was finally allowed to return home. He tells tales of his time in combat and how he survived. He also tells of atrocities he saw carried out by both the Russians and Czechs.


I thoroughly enjoyed the 6+ hours I spent reading this 320-page WWII history. It is primarily a biography of Erhard Steiniger. The book includes several photos of Steiniger and his comrades. It was a little different to read of the war from the Axis point of view. I like the selected cover art. I give this book a 4.4 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 520 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

TMFM – Soviet DShKm 38/46 Heavy Machine Gun

This is a Soviet DShKm 38/46 Heavy Machine Gun. This particular gun is the infantry model. The wheels and armor plated shield identify it as such. The weapon (DK) was first produced in 1930 and had a 30 round drum magazine. An upgrade in 1938 allow for a belt feed mechanism. It received the DShK 38 designation because of this improvement. It was the standard heavy machine gun used by Soviet troops during WWII. The weapon serves in both infantry support and in anti-aircraft roles.

The DShK 38 was modernized in 1946 and redesigned the DShKm 38/46. The gun shown above is in the “Cold War to Global War on Terror” Gallery at the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin, TX. Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces used various models of the DShK during the Cold War. Many parties in the Middle East have them and they are still in use.

The DShKm fires a 12.7mm x 108mm cartridge and has a maximum range of 2000 yards. The unit with wheels and shield weighs 346 pounds. It is capable of firing up to 600 rounds per minute [1]. it is roughly equivalent to the US M2 .50 caliber Browning machine gun.

Per TMFM signage for this exhibit – “This particular weapon was captured during the Persian Gulf War (1991) by the 149th Aviation Battalion of the 49th Armored Division, Texas National Guard.

REFERENCES

1 – Signage for the DShKm at the Texas Military Forces Museum


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 520 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.