Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Traveling Tuesday: Finland

Traveling Tuesday: Finland

Part of Sweden since the 12th Century, Finland became part of Russia after the Swedes lost the Finnish war in 1809. The Russians allowed the country quite a bit of autonomy until 1899 when they attempted to “russify” the Finnish people. This created ill-will on the part of the citizens of Finland, and in the chaotic aftermath of WWI, Finland declared itself independent. A short but bitter civil war followed, before the country became a presidential republic. Unrest continued between Russia and Finland for nearly twenty years until it erupted into the Winter War in 1939.
The war raged for months with the Finnish troops holding off Stalin’s soldiers much longer than expected. Ultimately, the Russians were able to defeat the Finns and as a result received much more territory than originally demanded in the Moscow Peace Treaty. Resentment toward the Russians continued to build, and when Germany invaded Russia in 1941, Finland came to her aid as part of Operation Barbarossa.

Finland had mixed relations with the Allies, indicating that Finland fought beside Germany against the Soviet Union to protect itself. Many countries understood the need for Finland to do whatever it could to protect her citizens. Others maintained that by allowing German aircraft to use airfields in northern Finland made them no better than any of the Axis combatants.

By 1943, Finland sought a way out of the war and formed a new cabinet that instigated negotiations for peace with the Allies and the Russians. The Finnish government felt that Russian demands were once again unrealistic and broke off discussions in early 1944. Finland then fought against the retreating Germans, but by war’s end were charged reparations for the Soviet Union.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wartime Wednesday: Leprosy and WWII

Wartime Wednesday: Leprosy and WWII

Even today with all the advances in modern medicine, the word leprosy can illicit feelings of fear and/or disgust. Once thought to be highly contagious, the disease is now easily treatable and very rare, typically only found in areas of abject poverty. Named Hansen's Disease for the Norwegian physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen who identified the bacterium responsible for the disease, leprosy has been known for thousands of years.

So what does Hansen's disease have to do with WWII?

A Filipino woman named Josefina "Joey" Guerrero used it spy on behalf of the Allied forces. Orphaned at an early age, Joey was raised by her uncle in Manila. She married a physician, and shortly thereafter gave birth to a daughter. The wealthy socialite was the belle of the ball. Life looked bright.

Then in 1941, Joey was diagnosed with leprosy. As required by the laws of the time, Joey was separated from her family - her young husband and her two-year-old daughter. She never saw her husband again, and only saw her daughter once.

Rather than allow the disease to dictate her actions, Joey used it to her advantage. By this time, her country was suffering under the brutal occupation of the Japanese who imprisoned both Filipinos and Americans. Visiting the camps, Joey brought food and medical supplies to the prisoners. But just as important was the information she carried from the camps to the Filipino Underground, information overheard from the Japanese guards who spoke freely in front of their incarcerated charges.

Because of her disease, Joey received cursory inspections from the guards. As mentioned, leprosy was thought to be highly contagious, and the soldiers were terrified of contracting it. Thus, the notes and messages she carried in her baskets or on her person went undetected.

When the Allied forces captured Luzon in 1944, Joey volunteered to work as an official spy for the Americans, carrying secret messages and mapping minefields. Credited with saving hundreds of lives, Joey was awarded the Medal of Freedom with Silver Palm, the highest award a civilian can earn.

If you want to learn more about this fascinating woman, check out Ben Montgomery's new book The Leper Spy.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mystery Monday: Ada E. Lingo

Mystery Monday: Ada E. Lingo

"A better-than-average mystery in which a girl reporter in a small Texas oil town turns detective and helps find the murderer of wealthy oil man John Fordham and his banker." (Wisconsin Library Bulletin March 1936)

"Gushers gush and revolvers shoot silently and a young society reporter and her boyfriend scour the country in search of a murderer. It's not as hard-boiled as it sets out to be, but it is crowned with excitement and keeps you guessing." (Chicago Daily Tribune, October 1935)

These are but two of the reviews for Ada Emma Lingo's mystery Murder in Texas, the only novel she ever published.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1908, Ada and her family moved to Louisiana so her father could take a job with Oakdale Ice and Light Company. Her mother passed away in 1919, and as a salesman her father was constantly on the road, so Ada was shuffled around between several relatives in Texas until she graduated high school.

Nicknamed Rusty because of her red hair, Ada was an excellent athlete as well as an outstanding scholar. She received degrees in Journalism from the Collect of Industrial Arts and the University of Missouri before obtaining a job with New York World, Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper.

The paper ceased publication in 1931, but by then Ada had married Charles Trabue Hatcher, an engineer and older by eleven years. Unfortunately the union proved to be an unhappy one, and shortly after the birth of their daughter, the couple separated and ultimately divorced. Ada moved back to Big Spring, Texas where she went to work for the Daily Herald as the Society Editor, writing Murder in Texas in her off-hours.

However, she couldn't have had much free time, because she was also pursuing a medical degree. She went through the pre-med program at Baylor University, and then received her doctoral fromTexas University Med School.

Apparently medicine rather held her attention more so than writing, because Ada only wrote one other manuscript that was never published before relocating to Los Angeles where she started her practice and became a renowned cancer specialist. In her later years, she moved to Olympia, Washington where she passed away in 1988 at the age of 79.

In an effort to keep the memory alive of the writers from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, Coachwhip Publications has issue a new edition.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Chaz Powell

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Chaz Powell

Inspiration for Chaz Powell
Last week I introduced readers to the Allison White, one of two main characters in my soon-to-be-released novelette. This week I’m interviewing Chaz Powell, Allison’s former fiancĂ©.

LM: Thanks for stopping by Chaz. Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

Chaz: Well, there’s not a lot to tell. I was raised in Purley, outside of London. That’s where I met Allison. We attended the same church. I was smitten as soon as I saw her. Anyway, we started walking out together, but the war came and I was called up. Because I’ve always been fascinated with flight, I chose the RAF.

LM: Being a pilot seems rather glamorous, but I would imagine it’s hard work. What was your experience like?

Chaz: Being a pilot is far from glamorous. There is lots of training. Before I was even allowed in an aircraft I attended lectures, received vaccinations, learned how to march, salute, and lay out my kit. The lectures covered aircraft recognition, navigation, Morse code, and mathematics. I was also subjected to lots of physical training. But it was all worth it, because there is nothing like flying. There is nothing like the sensation of freedom after bumping along the runway.

LM: Which aircraft did you fly?

Chaz: I received my training in both fighters and bombers. I was assigned as a fighter pilot and flew both Hurricanes and Spitfires. Most of the lads liked the Hurri, but I much prefer the Spitfire.

LM: You veered off course and were shot down over Germany. How did that happen?

Chaz: During any air battle, there is a tremendous amount of smoke and fire in addition to the clouds. When my aircraft was hit, my instrumentation went haywire. I didn’t realize it wasn’t working properly until some of the cloud cover cleared and I didn’t recognize the landmarks below. Then I was hit again and because my ejector seat didn’t function properly, I went down with the plane.

German Nazi Resistance Flag
LM: You landed in Germany near the border of France. How were you able to get back to England?

Chaz: I was one of the lucky ones-I survived the crash. The farm where I landed belonged to a family involved in the Resistance. They used their network to spirit me into France and then across the channel into England. Many people risked their lives to transport me.

LM: Thanks for you stopping by, and thank you for your service during the war.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wartime Wednesday: Escape Lines

Wartime Wednesday: Escape Lines

Chaz Powell is one of two protagonists in my upcoming not-yet-titled novelette. An RAF pilot during WWII, he veers off course during a mission and crash lands in Germany near the French border. He survives the crash but must make his way back to England. He is helped by members of the German Resistance. In researching the Resistance, I discovered there were regular escape lines all over Europe that assisted escaping troops and downed airmen return to Allied countries. Here are just three of the more famous routes:

Pat O'Leary Line: Centered on the Mediterranean Coast, this route was used primarily to bring servicemen from the north of France to Marseille, over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. By crossing the mountains, official checkpoints were bypassed as well as contact with German patrols. The name of the route was taken from the alias of Belgium doctor Albert Guerisse who claimed to be French Canadian Pat O'Leary when he was picked up by the Vichy French Coast Guard during a 1941 mission. Ultimately taking over command of the escape route, Guerisse used the alias for the duration of the war. One report indicates that between 1940 and 1944, over 33,000 successful escapes were made along the Pyrenees (a mountain range over 300 miles long that reaches a height of over 11,000 feet)

The Comete Route: This line started in Brussels went through the south of France into Spain and then
to Gibraltar. Created by a young woman from Belgium named Andree de Jonghe, the line was officially sanctioned by British intelligence in 1940 after Andree showed up at the British consulate with a British soldier. When France came under direct Nazi rule, the line became dangerous to use, and by 1942 it had begun to crumble because of betrayals and arrests.

The Shelburne Route: Created in 1944, Wikipedia claims this route is the only escape line not infiltrated by the Nazis. Perhaps because of its short-lived usage, perhaps because it began so close to the end of the war. From Paris, escapees made their way to the beach at Anse Cochat near Plouha where they were shipped across the English Channel to Dartmouth. The use of this line was suspended when preparations for the D-Day invasion began.

No matter which escape line was used individuals were given clothes, identity papers, and food before setting off on their journey. Guides took them to a location where the next guide would pick them up. Members who participated did so at great risk to themselves and their families.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Allison

Do you ever get so involved in a book's character that you wonder about their backstory? I do, so I thought I take a few minutes and sit down with Allison White, the main character my upcoming post-WWII novelette being released by Celebrate Lit Publishing this spring. For those of you who read Love's Harvest, you may remember Allison. She was the young woman who befriended Rosa Hirsch, the German widow who fled to England in 1940 with her mother-in-law Noreen.

Inspiration for
Allison's character
Linda: Allison, it's a delight to have to stop by the blog today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Allison: Sure. It's a pleasure to be here. I was born on December 25, 1920 in Cotswold, England. I don't have any siblings, and unfortunately I lost my mum and dad in the Blitz, but I have a wonderful circle of friends, and Rosa's mother-in-law, Noreen treats me like a daughter.

Linda: Noreen is a basket-weaver and makes gorgeous willow baskets. What sort of creative activities do you like to do?

Allison: (laughing) Noreen tried to teach me to weave, but it was a disaster from the start. The only basket I made had a definite lean to it. Not unusable, but not my finest work. Then Rosa tried to teach me needlepoint and sewing, but those didn't work out well either. I finally found my niche in the kitchen. Apparently the chemistry of baking is a fit for me. I don't want to toot my own horn too loudly, but my bread and biscuits are lovely. Smooth texture and good taste. Rose usually has me make all the sweets.

Member of the WLA
Linda: I love to bake also. During the war, you worked for the Women's Land Army What was that like?

Allison: Brilliant. I loved it. I didn't want to be trapped inside a factory. Dark, dank, and dangerous. Sure, those girls made more money, but in the Land Army I didn't have to fear for my life. The days were long, especially during planting and harvesting seasons. We sometimes worked fourteen or sixteen hours days. But the weather was lovely, and we were making a real difference. Feeding the masses, you know. I learned to love farming thanks to the Land Army.

Linda: Is that why you chose to stay on at the Quincey's farm after the war? What sort of work are you involved in there?

Allison: With my parents gone, I have no family to speak of. There are a few cousins in Scotland, but I haven't seen them since I was a youngster. Rosa and Basil have been my family. It only made sense to stay with them. They still need help on the farm. Mr. Sullivan oversees the animals, and I handle the produce side of things. Although I must say I've seen enough potatoes to last a lifetime!

Linda:  Many young women your age don't go to university, yet you attended University of Manchester. Can you share about your experience?

Allison: My parents were keen on education, and they didn't care that I was a girl. They wanted me to get a degree, so I could be whatever I wanted. There were lots of rules, more so it seemed for the girls. Curfew and the like. But meals and laundry services were provided for us, and classes were wonderful. Lots of debate and discussion. I learned to think for myself at university. And I met lovely people, but the war changed all that. I had to do my bit, so I dropped out and joined the WLA.

Linda: How has your life changed since the war?

Allison: In many ways it hasn't. Many items are still rationed, although not as many on the farm. And even if something is available it's difficult to find. Shoes for example. I've patched my oxfords countless times. I'll be glad when I can find a new pair. But the country is moving on. We survived, so nothing seems so bad, although it's sad to see the families who have lost their boys and men. Some women lost husbands and sons. Before the war I never would have been promoted to manage anything, even part of a farm. Basil has given me a opportunity I probably would never have had. And Mr. Sullivan is coming round to working with a woman.

Linda: Thanks for stopping by and sharing a bit about yourself.

Allison: Thanks for hosting me. Folks should keep an eye on your blog and your Facebook page for information about our book coming out in the Spring. The publication date will be set soon, and a title will be forthcoming.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy Boxing Day

Happy Boxing Day! 

Never heard of it, you say? The origins of the holiday and its name are a vague, but several websites I looked at indicate that it began in England sometime in the Middle Ages. In the countries (most of which are or were part of the UK) where it’s celebrated, it’s a “bank holiday” – a day when banks, government offices and the postal service are closed.

Some historians believe the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but given the following day off and presented with gifts [boxes]. Others think it started because the alms boxes in churches were opened and the contents distributed to the poor. Regardless of how the day started, over the years it has developed into a time of charity, a time when service and tradespeople are typically given tips and bonuses for their work during the past year. It has been expanded to include giving to non-profit and needy organizations.

When I decided to blog about Boxing Day I recalled an episode of the TV show M*A*S*H during which the 4077 gives medical treatment to a British regiment who talk about the tradition of enlisted personnel and officers trading places on Boxing Day. I did quite a bit of research but found only two references to this custom. The first was in a blog by a man who tells a story about his son’s army regiment participating in the tradition, and the other is an episode of The Nanny during which Mr. Sheffield refers to the custom and suggests that he and Niles switch roles.

The lack of evidence makes me wonder just how “traditional” this tradition is. What do you know about Boxing Day? Do you have traditions of your own?