An Excerpt from Pegasus Falling

PF-cover-MkIII-600aINTRODUCTION

After recuperating from his terrible ordeal in a Nazi concentration camp, British paratrooper Sammy rejoins his platoon which has been sent to police the increasingly volatile situation in Palestine. There, he hopes he might be able to find his beloved Naomi – the woman who helped him survive in the camp.

Sammy isn’t your average Parachute Regiment captain, and he uses every opportunity (when he’s not searching for Naomi) to take in the local cultural offerings. Whilst sitting in a cafe in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Square waiting for the start of a concert in the nearby hall, he makes a different, all the more unexpected, encounter with another woman from his past. Lesley Carrington, the young, beautiful Foreign Office official who questioned him about his ordeal while he was recovering in Germany, is just as surprised to find Sammy there.

It turns out that Lesley is also heading to the concert at the Dizengoff Hall, so they decide to go together.

The character of Sammy is an amalgam of many soldiers William served with whilst he was in the Parachute Regiment. Like Sammy, William fought in Arnhem (the famous battle for the “Bridge Too Far”) and then saw action in Palestine after the war.

EXCERPT

Tel Aviv, Palestine. 1946

They settled into their seats. The hall felt cool in contrast to the heavy atmosphere outside in the square. The chatter from the largely Jewish audience was, as usual, cacophonous but Lesley seemed not to notice, engrossed as she was in the detail of her programme. Sammy watched her, a soft smile set upon his lips. He recalled their first encounter. Broken by his ordeal and crushed by the loss of Naomi, he had no mind for anything beyond an obsession to find her until he entered an office in Hanover and faced Lesley for the first time. He recalled how she had excited within him a desire, unexpected yet irrepressible, which brought with it a sense of confusion and self reproach. Believing his devotion to Naomi absolute he had tried desperately to suppress these strange and alluring emotions, to rid himself of his infatuation. But the images of their encounter remained with him to remind him how, for one brief moment, he had felt again the touch of intimacy and the brightness of joy when all had seemed so dark. He felt that same contentment now, like the reprise of an enchanting melody and felt again that same desire quicken within him. He sighed softly as he contemplated her beauty. He wanted to touch her, to stroke her hair, to kiss her. She turned to him, smiling and raised her programme.

‘According to this, your Mahler was not exactly a bundle of laughs.’ He held her gaze, smiling wistfully. She tilted her head quizzically. ‘Sammy?’

He nodded slowly. ‘Perhaps not, but wait till you hear his music.’

She studied the programme again then said dismissively, ‘He looks like a Jewish pawnbroker.’

He laughed, snapping out of his reverie. ‘And what does a Jewish pawnbroker look like, compared say, with a Presbyterian pawnbroker?’

She punched him playfully. ‘You know what I mean, don’t pretend to be obtuse. Just look at this picture, look at those awful little specs.’

He nodded. ‘You are right, that is obviously why Ben calls him “Uncle Gustav”.’

Chuckling happily, she found herself warming once again to his boyish humour. She recalled how, while still recovering from the brutal treatment he had received in the camp, he could still crack a joke.

He smiled at her. ‘Happy, pretty lady?’

‘Oh poor Ben, he was so sweet. Yes I am, very happy. This is nice, such a lovely surprise, not at all what I expected when I left Jerusalem today.’

He frowned and a question began to form but a ripple of applause diverted his attention. ‘Look out, here comes the Konzertmeister, we’re off.’

She sat up expectantly. ‘What’s this conductor like?’ she whispered.

‘Bernstein? Young, very energetic. Nice Jewish boy from New York.’

The conductor approached the rostrum to rapturous applause. ‘He’s very popular.’ Lesley looked at Sammy.

‘Well, he’s almost a local boy, keeps a house on the edge of town, I believe.’ His voice dropped to a whisper as a hush fell upon the hall.

Bernstein took up his baton and stood for some moments, posing theatrically, head bowed, hands clasped before him. He looked up suddenly and with a flourish of his baton, swept the orchestra into the frenzied opening bars of Richard Strauss’s Don Juan. Lesley had not heard the music before, Strauss being effectively expunged from the English musical repertoire for the duration because of his perceived allegiance to the Nazis. She sat, transfixed. She had never experienced orchestral sound like this, the belling brass contrasting with tender woodwind melodies and sumptuous strings. She clapped enthusiastically and squeezed Sammy’s arm in her excitement. ‘Wasn’t that wonderful?’ she shouted above the applause.

He looked at her face, so animated with pleasure and he wanted to crush her to him. He simply smiled. ‘And the best is yet to come.’

It took her ear a little time to attune to Mahler. Gradually, she found herself swaying in her seat to the rhythms of marches, waltzes, ländler, then laying back, eyes closed, drinking in the rich, sensuous orchestration. Bernstein took a rest after the third movement, standing again, head bowed on the rostrum. She glanced sideways at Sammy. He smiled at her. ‘Like it?’ She nodded, sighing. Then suddenly, as she gazed at him, she heard a harp and the strings, following its meter, began to play the most beautiful and poignant love music she had ever heard. She glanced at Sammy again. His eyes were closed and his face bore a quiet, wistful expression. She recalled Ben’s remark, ‘even Vlad the Impaler will look good’, and she felt herself being irresistibly drawn to him. Not to the fearsome, violent man she had first encountered in Germany, a man consumed with hatred and anger, but to a gentle, sensitive man, compelled by cruel and intolerable circumstance to act against his true nature. She turned to face the orchestra again and slowly pushed her hand into his. At first he did not respond, but then gradually his grip tightened and she leaned into him.

Pegasus Falling is available now in paperback and ebook from Amazon.com (www.amazon.com/dp/B007K8QM8E)

IMG_1647Bio: (William’s)

William Edward Thomas was born in West London in 1925.

He left The Brompton Oratory School when he was 14 and started work as a messenger at the BBC. When war broke out, he went to work with his father at a factory in Harrow. While still a teenager, William joined the army and was soon recruited in to the Parachute Regiment. By May 1945, he had been “dropped” in to a number of key battles and become a much decorated soldier. He was still only 19 years old. Following the war, William served in Palestine until 1948.

William has six children. As they were growing up, he was working and studying in shifts as a merchant seaman and an engineer. In his mid fifties, he decided to work full time as a lab technician at his Alma Mater, The Open University and remained there until his retirement. It was during his retirement that he decided to set himself the challenge of writing a novel. The Cypress Branches is the result.

William was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2006. His health has since deteriorated to the point where he can no longer live at home and he is now in full-time care in the town UK of Milton Keynes, where he had lived for 25 years. He is visited by friends and family daily.

INWY-tour_updatedNote: This interview is part of the IT NEVER WAS YOU Blog Tour at  http://acuteanglebooks.blogspot.com/2013/04/inwy-tour.html As part of the tour, Mike Harris is using Rafflecopter to give away a $50 Amazon gift certificate, 3 paperbacks and 10 ebooks. You can enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Links to websites and where we can buy the book

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007K8QM8

Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007K8QM8E

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Pegasus-Falling-Part-Cypress-Branches/book-aRdbIfc_5k6C8d4UwP4BRQ/page1.html?s=k0GahhdxfUuQIFusQO1mFg&r=1

Listen to the music that melted Lesley’s heart:

Interview with Mike Harris

INWY-tour_updated

Mike, thanks for the opportunity to talk with you. I’m thrilled to have you and to learn about you and your involvement in your grandfather’s work, especially Pegasus Falling and It Never Was You, the first two books of the Cypress Branches Trilogy.

It’s a thrill to be here, Susan. Thank you so much for inviting me on to your blog today.

Tell us about THE CYPRESS BRANCHES by your grandfather, William E. Thomas. What is the time, the place, the story, the overarching theme, the main concern?

If you were to categorize The Cypress Branches, it would have to be as an epic family saga, but that doesn’t really do it justice. It has so many elements to it that make it a wonderfully rich read – there’s history, war, politics, comedy and tragedy all mingling and jostling for space within its pages. But at its heart is a beautiful love story – well, several beautiful love stories, really, that have stayed with me ever since I first read it nearly 20 years ago.

William wrote The Cypress Branches as one epic novel. At over 350,000 words, it was far too large a book to publish in its original form, so I have used its episodic structure to break it down into a series of shorter novels.

PF-cover-MkIII-600aPegasus Falling is the first part of what is now the Cypress Branches trilogy. It follows the story of Sammy – a British paratrooper who, after being captured at the infamous battle of Arnhem in 1944, has a violent coming together with his German captors and is sent to a concentration camp for “disposal”. He survives the atrocities of the camp by clinging to a Jewish German hausfrau, Naomi. The two come to rely on each other for strength, but when the camp is liberated they are separated and Sammy sets off to discover what happened to her – a journey which takes him across Europe and into the political hotbed of Palestine.

In part two of the trilogy, called It Never Was You, the story moves on to a new set of characters. Harry is a middle class merchant seaman from the London suburbs. Mary is a waitress who hails from the docklands area of Liverpool. When the two meet and fall in love, they find the collective weight of post World War II societal values and their own prejudices and peccadilloes threatening their relationship.

In Part Three (which is as yet untitled) the stories from both books are tied together as the action moves into the 1950s and 60s. The characters’ relationships become more and more intertwined and we reach a devastating conclusion. Throughout the books, the characters find their lives influenced by the tumultuous events of the mid-twentieth century. Many readers, myself included, are finding that we’re learning a lot more about an era which is too recent to be considered history but too long ago to be remembered by younger generations. It is a fascinating period, one which was marked by seismic social changes and political upheaval, and it makes for an intriguing backdrop to the storylines.

The work has a theme song, the beautifully lyrical and solemn Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony that many of us remember Bernstein conducting at Robert Kennedy’s funeral. Tell us about this leitmotif and the themes in PEGASUS FALLING.

I had no idea the Adagietto was played at Robert Kennedy’s funeral! (I’m a Brit, so I hope I’m allowed to not know that!). I’m not surprised, though. It is one of the most romantic, beautiful and poignant pieces of music I have ever heard and it never ceases to move me.

By coincidence, it is Bernstein who conducts the orchestra in the scene that features the music in Pegasus Falling. The scene takes place in the Dizengoff Hall in Tel Aviv and I believe William attended concerts there himself when he was a paratrooper stationed in Palestine. He must have seen the young Bernstein conduct and he was obviously impressed by what he heard, because he owned a huge vinyl collection of Bernstein’s recordings.

Mahler’s music is not only important to the book, it is also very important to William. And not just Mahler – he is a huge music fan, particularly of classical and jazz (although he also has a penchant for The Eagles!). He is now severely incapacitated by Alzheimer’s disease, and one of the few ways we are still able to communicate with him is through his music collection.

In Pegasus Falling, the music has a profound effect on Lesley Carrington, and it can have quite an astonishing effect on William too. Often, when one of his favourite pieces is played to him, his eyes will open and he’ll raise his hand as if conducting the orchestra. It is through music that we as a family still feel able to reach him through the fog of Alzheimer’s.

The musical theme continues through the other parts of the trilogy too. The title of book two, It Never Was You, is derived from the famous Kurt Weill song. The main character, Harry, is an accomplished pianist (as was William) and the song features in a key scene, as well as reflecting one of the overarching themes of the trilogy – that of unrequited love.

When will all three volumes be available?

The short answer is “as soon as possible”! Pegasus Falling was released in March last year. It took me three years, working in fits and starts between work contracts, to get it ready for publication. I wanted to release part two as quickly as possible, so I took time out of work last year to speed the process up, but it has still taken a surprisingly long time – over a year. I wasn’t prepared to rush it and risk launching a book that wasn’t ready.

INWY-Cover-MkI-600But I am happy to report that, as of this week, It Never Was You, part two of the trilogy, is available as an ebook. The paperback will follow very shortly. After a short period of intense marketing, I’ll be knuckling down and trying to complete the third book before the end of this year. I’d love for the trilogy to be completed before the year is out, but again I’m not going to cut any corners to achieve that goal. The most important thing for me is to make sure I do William’s work justice.

All I can say to readers who are waiting patiently for the conclusion is, keep a look out on my blog where I’ll be posting updates on progress. And if readers really can’t wait, drop me an email and I’ll sign you up to the newsletter – that way, you’ll be the first to know when and where the third installment will be available.

You sent me an excerpt and introduced me to Sammy, obviously the main character. Why is he different from other men? What drives him?

When I first read the books, Sammy was the character who stood out from all the others. His story is an incredible one, and to this day, having read the story over and over, I still find it difficult to pin him down.

As a reader you jump from being frightened of him to loving him, and back again – and many of the other characters, Lesley and Naomi included, feel the same way.

Sammy is a Captain in the British Parachute Regiment. He is not your average soldier – he is a research fellow at Cambridge University, leaving his studies into genetics to take up the fight against Fascism. He is a very intelligent and well-read man, and can’t abide the “bullshit” (his word) * that goes with army life. The close camaraderie and unconventional discipline in the parachute regiment suits Sammy – he is not one for standing on parade and barracking the troops. Instead, he treats his fellow soldiers as friends, regardless of rank, and shows a distinct disdain for his superiors who insist he acts otherwise.

In battle, as well as in life, he chooses which rules to follow, depending on whether they fit in with his own world view. If they help to make the world a better and fairer place, they’re worth following. Otherwise, you can forget it. It is this bloody-mindedness which both gets him into trouble with the Germans in the first place, and helps him to survive.

On the surface, Sammy is a brute – he is described as having a pugilist’s nose, and his training and experiences have left him with an intimidating physique and formidable demeanor. There is, however, a softer, more humane side to Sammy. His treatment of Naomi when she comes to him in the camp is heartbreakingly compassionate. He is willing to defend his friends and those he loves by any means, even if he finds himself at odds with their political point of view.

Both women in the book fall in love with this gentler, more sensitive man, and in the end, I think it is this man that the reader comes to recognize as the true Sammy.

How did the war change the main characters?

William’s own experiences in the parachute regiment changed him profoundly, so this was always going to be a major theme throughout the books.

Sammy, a quiet, bookish research fellow from Cambridge, is turned by training and a need to fight for what he believes in, into a brutish thug. When he is liberated from the concentration camp he finds it very difficult to adjust to life. His battle scars run very deep indeed.

And Sammy is not his real name, after all. It’s Stanley Adam Malcolm Parker. His platoon buddies coined his nickname from his initials (S.A.M.), but after the war, Sammy finds it difficult to go back to using his own name. At one point, Sammy explains to a friend he hasn’t seen since before the war, “young Stan Parker is dead. He died in Matthausen. The man who came back was a different person.”

Naomi, the woman who Sammy meets in the camp, is irrevocably changed by her terrible experiences at the hands of the Nazis. Before the war, she was a quiet housewife and mother from Dresden. The war takes away from her, not only her husband and children, but also her home (Dresden was almost entirely obliterated by the RAF in a bombing raid in February 1945, just months before the war ended). She also loses her dignity, forced as she is to act as the camp commandant’s mistress in order to stay out of the showers.

How did you first become involved in promoting your grandfather’s work?

My grandfather wrote The Cypress Branches a little over 20 years ago now. As so many do, he wanted a project to keep himself entertained when he retired. But whereas many sit down to write their memoirs, instead William set about producing an epic work of fiction. It took him two years to complete and became an obsession for him, writing at every given opportunity, stopping only to eat and read what he’d written that day to his wife (my grandmother), Sheila. I remember clearly watching him and hearing him at the typewriter, completely absorbed in his work and his characters, and I was astonished when I first saw the fruits of his labours.

Unfortunately, shortly after finishing his magnum opus, William’s health started to deteriorate, and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. His illness meant that he could not pursue his dream of getting his book published, as I and many others who had been lucky enough to read the book had urged him to do.

It was by chance one day that I spotted an advert for a print-on-demand publishing service on the London Underground which got me thinking – perhaps there was something I could do to help. In order for William to see his book in print (and for it to still mean something to a man who’s short-term memory was fading fast), I chose to publish a hardback version of the entire work myself. At this point it was very much a family project, but I knew that the book could have a much wider appeal, so when the hardback was finished, I set about turning the huge novel into a series of smaller paperbacks.

So, William’s obsession became mine and the rest, as they say, is history.

IMG_1647Bio: (William’s)

William Edward Thomas was born in West London in 1925.

He left The Brompton Oratory School when he was 14 and started work as a messenger at the BBC. When war broke out, he went to work with his father at a factory in Harrow. While still a teenager, William joined the army and was soon recruited in to the Parachute Regiment. By May 1945, he had been “dropped” in to a number of key battles and become a much decorated soldier. He was still only 19 years old. Following the war, William served in Palestine until 1948.

William has six children. As they were growing up, he was working and studying in shifts as a merchant seaman and an engineer. In his mid fifties, he decided to work full time as a lab technician at his Alma Mater, The Open University and remained there until his retirement. It was during his retirement that he decided to set himself the challenge of writing a novel. The Cypress Branches is the result.

William was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2006. His health has since deteriorated to the point where he can no longer live at home and he is now in full-time care in the town UK of Milton Keynes, where he had lived for 25 years. He is visited by friends and family daily.

INWY-tour_updatedNote: This interview is part of the IT NEVER WAS YOU Blog Tour at  http://acuteanglebooks.blogspot.com/2013/04/inwy-tour.html As part of the tour, Mike Harris is using Rafflecopter to give away a $50 Amazon gift certificate, 3 paperbacks and 10 ebooks. You can enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Links to websites and where we can buy the book

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007K8QM8

Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007K8QM8E

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Pegasus-Falling-Part-Cypress-Branches/book-aRdbIfc_5k6C8d4UwP4BRQ/page1.html?s=k0GahhdxfUuQIFusQO1mFg&r=1

Listen to the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, theme music of the Cypress Branches and the music that melted Lesley’s heart:

REESE’S LEAP: An Excerpt

17661508

Reese’s Leap

Prologue

 July, 1912

Run, baby girl! Mama screams from her grave. Run!

And I be fast, too—lickety-split like she always say—rocks and shells cuttin’ at my feet as I claw my way up the hill. My breath all hitched and raggedy when I make the rise and creep under them trees that’s always so sweet and piney smellin’.  My thinkin’ trees, Daddy calls ’em.

Through the branches I can see him and Willie bein’ marched down to the cove with the others—Willie spittin’ and fightin’ good as any man though he ain’t but six, Daddy gone all quiet as he peeks back to where I’m hid, his eyes catchin’ mine like they do, tellin’ me to stay put, stay quiet. That he’d be back for me.

Run, girl!

Ain’t but a half hour since they come poundin’ at the door—the one Mama always said ain’t nothin’ ever come through but bad news—Daddy awake first, slippin’ that old suspender over his shoulder as he picked his way past us in the dark.  Willie still hard asleep on the cot, but me, I saw Daddy’s back go stiff, his eyes turn hard when he opened up—the faces of them mainland men all twisted and ugly with meanness, lookin’ me over like they ate somethin’ bad. It was then Mama told me to git.

There’s more of ’em movin’ up the hill with their torches now, puttin’ fire to houses I been in and out of my whole life,  laughin’ as they step ’round Sally’s baby plopped down in the dirt, flappin’ her hands and cryin’, all big-eyed scared.

I look to the graveyard where our people is buried—a hundred years’ worth maybe. Mama laid out just last winter, not a week after bakin’ me my nine-years cake.  Places in there I know to hide, places I can stay ’til Daddy and them come back, feedin’ myself on fish and berries, lyin’ in the sun.

Hide! Mama beggin’ me now, but my feet don’t listen, my eyes still caught on Daddy and Willie and the man pushin’ ’em hard toward the boats—Willie cryin’, which he don’t hardly do no more, even when the cat up and killed her kittens for no reason other than they’s gettin’ on her nerves.

I’m turnin’ to make for the graveyard like she say when I’m took up sudden from behind, a big man-hand slappin’ hard over my mouth, hot words whisperin’ in my ear.  I kick the air, claw to get free—Mama’s voice fadin’ into Willie’s cryin’ and the hoarse shouts of ugly men, my heart like to burst ’til the darkness take me down.

 

Wednesday

 

Subject: Island Women Week

From: a.jackman@cambridgebooks.com

To: Nora2736@yahoo.com, paddlechick@hellerfamily.net, Lily@kilabukdesign.com, shelleybelly@aol.com, wildyogathing@yahoo.com

Okay, this is my final email before I see you all on Saturday—promise. And Shelley, what’s this shit I hear about you bailing on us to “work on the relationship”? Damn, girl, how can this new man, whom none of us have even met, be worth giving up an entire week on the island? Seriously, put the boy-toy on hold and get packing. Remember our deal? Everyone comes back. Once an Island Woman, always an Island Woman.

Just got off the phone with Margot about the cell service, and yes, it still sucks. And since there’s no electricity for charging out here anyway, what do you say we leave the damn things home this time? Lily’s idea, actually, and I think it’s great. Just putting it out there…

On the plus side, brother Drew has had the propane tanks filled; the gas lights that were on the fritz last year have been replaced; and while the broiler on the stove still goes out any old time it wants, Frosty Frieda and that temperamental pilot light of hers are finally gone, replaced by a brand-new gas fridge. We’ve got a couple new carts for lugging stuff this year, too—the larger ones that can carry two of the water jugs at once, which means fewer trips from the well up to the Birches. I can hear you all groaning now; just think of it as your aerobic exercise for the week (except for Margot, who will probably hike ten miles and kayak around the island twice each morning before the rest of us are even up).

More good news! As of this week, there are new futons in two of the bedrooms and a new sleeping hammock on the south-facing porch. And we finally tossed the moldy-smelling mattress that was in the Twig and brought in two singles. Still a squirrel problem down there (who wouldn’t want to make their nest in that sweet little cottage, right?), so I’m thinking Brit and Lily should take that since Lily’s bringing Gus again. The scent of a dog always keeps them away.

Reminders:  It can go from hot to chilly and damp in a matter of minutes out here. Remember last year? So think layers. A bathing suit, if you absolutely must. We’ll be totally alone and I, for one, plan to give these lobstermen an eyeful!

As far as dinners go, Saturday night I’m making that Thai Chicken Salad you all liked so much. Margot’s taking Sunday, which leaves the rest of you to work out your place in the rotation.  Remember you’re responsible not only for the meal, but the wine and munchies for cocktail hour (see my last email). There’s that supermarket just off the highway and the little gourmet place for provisioning, or you can wait and make a trip later on in the week. As always, bring your own stuff for breakfasts and lunches, etc.

What else?  Books, of course. Wine, wine, and more wine. Is there ever enough? And we can always use more candles and lamp oil.

High tide on Saturday is just before two, which is when I’ll be at the boat ramp. Please be on time. Seriously. Maneuvering a boat full of people and gear to the island is a lot easier if you don’t have to pick your way through rocky ledges in an ebb tide, especially if the fog starts rolling in.

I’m sure you’ll let me know if I’ve forgotten anything. Remember, this week is yours to do whatever, without the distraction of men and other assorted children—hah! Oh, and a caveat to that long list of things I just suggested you bring? Remember it’s a good half-mile slog from dock to house, and the only person schlepping your stuff will be you. Guaranteed.

Have to run; got a new author coming in for a reading.

           

Island Women rule!

Adria

 

17661508Do you have any current or upcoming promotions, appearances, or releases you’d like readers to know about?

The Reese’s Leap Book Launch was held Thursday night at RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, NH and was a real blast! Here’s the line-up through the next few weeks: tonight, April 6, I’ll be reading and signing books alongside fellow novelist Jen Blood as part of the monthly “Lit: Readings and Libations” program at the Slainte Wine Bar & Lounge in Portland ME (http://www.slaintewinebar.com/). On Monday evening, April 8, I’ll be on the Literary New England Radio Show on Blog Talk radio (http://www.litnewengland.com/).

Where can we find you online?

My website, www.DarcyScott.net, contains all kinds of information, including audiofile excerpts and a link where readers can order personalized books. My FB address is www.Facebook.com/Author.Darcy.Scott, and I tweet @Darcy_Scott.

And where can readers buy your books?

At select independent bookstores in Maine and New Hampshire, and online at Amazon in both softcover and Kindle. It’s also available in Nook, and all the other e-formats.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Darcy Scott, authorRich Beauchesne photo 2009DARCY SCOTT is a live-aboard sailor and experienced ocean cruiser who’s sailed to Grenada and back on a whim, island-hopped through the Caribbean, and been struck by lightning in the middle of the Gulf Stream. Her favorite cruising ground remains the coast of Maine, however, and her appreciation of the history and rugged beauty of its sparsely populated out-islands serves as inspiration for her Maine Island Mystery Series, which includes 2012’s award-winning Matinicus and the newly released Reese’s Leap. Book three, Ragged Island, is currently in the works. Her debut novel, Hunter Huntress, was published in June, 2010 by Snowbooks, Ltd., UK.

Darcy Scott: An Interview

17661508Reese’s Leap is the second book in my Maine Island Mystery Series (and sequel to Matinicus), which features the hard-drinking, womanizing Gil.

Darcy, it’s wonderful to have you back talk about your spectacular new book, REESE’S LEAP, starring that loveably besotted dendrologist, Gil Hodges. I drank in the book, couldn’t put it down. Then I re-read the prologue. Haunting, lyrical, scary, profound. The courage you took to write it will impact my own career—you broke lots of rules and came up with your own.

Thank you! The prologue actually grew out of a conversation I had with one of my early readers about an infamous time in Maine’s history. I can’t really elaborate without giving a lot of things away, but it proved to be a wonderful tie-in to one of the central conflicts of the story. It’s told from the point of view of a young child going through a terrifying experience. I could see the scene perfectly in my head, but it took a while to get it down on paper the way I wanted it.

Can you give us a quick synopsis of REESE’S LEAP?

Reese’s Leap is the second book in my Maine Island Mystery Series (and sequel to Matinicus), which features the hard-drinking, womanizing Gil. In this story, five complicated, high-powered women arrive for their annual all-female retreat on the rugged, 200-acre enclave of Mistake Island, Maine—only to find themselves reluctantly putting the partying put on hold when Gil and his novelist buddy, David Duggan, end up stranded there in the fog.  Gil is secretly pleased at the layover, of course—all those women, after all—but things begin to change when a ruthless stranger appears out of nowhere, insinuating himself into the fold and bent on a twisted kind of revenge. Ultimately, it falls to Gil to keep the women safe, despite their dawning awareness that not everyone will make it off the island alive.

reeseshiressmallThe setting of REESE’S LEAP is magnificent. I read that there are over 4,600 islands off the coast of Maine. Is Mistake Island one of them?—Gil Hodges waxes poetic when he speaks of its wilderness.

The island does indeed exist, but “Mistake” is not its real name. Other than that, everything depicted in the book—from its deeply forested interior and sheer 40-foot drop-offs, to the total lack of amenities—is true to the real thing. It’s an amazing place; you can sense the power, both physical and spiritual, as soon as you step on the island. The fact I’ve spent considerable time there myself helped me tremendously in writing about it.

Tell us about how the storyline of REESE’S LEAP. How did it grow in you? How long did it take you to write it?

I caught the first glimmers of the story while I was on one of those all-female retreats I describe in the book. Take a bunch of women itching to raise some hell, put them in a rambling, hundred-year-old lodge with no electricity, phone service or other connection to the outside world, throw in a three-day fog, and the imagination can’t help but run a little wild.

When I was finally ready to begin the project, it took about three years to do all the research, get through a few drafts, send it out to my early readers and then incorporate their excellent feedback into the final version.

Gil is a force of nature and I absolutely love him. Although sometimes exasperating in MATINICUS, I found him, if anything, more lovable in REESE’S LEAP. I LOVE that he swills beer and eats pie at the same time. I’m crazy about his syntax, his yearning, his sense of hopelessness and best of all, he never, ever gives up. Back in the day, we used to call that existential. Without giving any of the story away, tell us how he grows from the Gil in MATINICUS to the Gil in REESE’S LEAP.

You’re right. Gil has changed since Matinicus. When we first meet him in that story, which takes place three years prior to Matinicus cover lo res - Version 2the start of Reese’s Leap, he’s cocky and cavalier about just about everything. But what happens there leave him deeply shaken, filled with a deep sense of guilt he can’t get rid of. When we meet him in Reese’s Leap, it’s clear the experience scarred him, but at the same time it helps him get through what happens in the new book. Somehow, his optimism and joie de vivre remain intact.

This is an island  mystery and although comedic, is also dark and tragic. Again, without giving the story away, whose tragedy is it?

Good question. Each of the characters has a lot invested; those that survive the experience lose much, though in different ways. I better leave it at that.

A phenomenal narrative voice, Gil tells the story in first person, present tense, and this works so well.  Had you tried writing it in past tense?

I’ve always felt that telling a story in the present tense gives it a real feeling of immediacy—something that’s all-important in Gil’s adventures. I’ve written books in the past tense before (my first novel Hunter Huntress, for example) but I knew as soon as Gil blasted his way onto the scene at the start of Matinicus, that present tense was the only way to go. The first person felt right, as well. When I’m writing Gil, it’s if we’re one and the same person. He’s a kind of male alter-ego, I guess. To write him any other way wouldn’t feel authentic.

Believe it or not, when I first began Reese’s Leap, it wasn’t going to be a “Gil Hodges” story at all; in fact, I thought his story began and ended with Matinicus.  Instead, I envisioned this book as a murder mystery set on an island where a group of women friends were holding an annual retreat. But I found I missed Gil. He kept intruding in my thoughts; I kept thinking about how he might deal with  particular situations. Then I realized that, given his womanizing tendencies, this book was the perfect vehicle for him. The problem was how to get him on the island, considering men weren’t allowed—an element of the story I wanted to keep because it added tension. Once I figured out how to do that, the book came alive for me, and the Island Mystery Series was born.

All the other characters are integral parts of the story, most of them complex, many with a dark side. They tell their story using an indirect third person. It lends texture and complexity to the novel and the voice of the whole is so rich. But this must have been difficult to write at first.  Tell us about the experience of writing Reese’s Leap.

My problem here was that the Island Women (as they call themselves) are all very strong characters, and I had to figure a way to keep the focus on Gil for a number of reasons. That’s when I came up with  the idea of using the third person for the women’s voices, which set Gil apart. It was a bit of a tip-toe at first, but I got used to it.

Tell us more about the women on Mistake Island.

Well, they’re smart, complicated, and quite a mix: the fiery red-head Brit, subdued Nora, Margot the exercise addict, the very spiritual Lily—all of whom there at the invitation of their hostess and defacto leader, Adria Jackman, whose family owns the island. The same group vacations together there every summer, always the same week in July.  They’re a tight bunch, which isn’t to say they don’t have their conflicts.

You have a lot of threads going all through the novel; did you use any kind of outline to keep things straight?

Yes—an eight foot scroll tacked to my wall which proved invaluable when I began moving plot elements around. And I did a lot of that in this book.

You live on a sailboat during the summer months. Does that mean you do your writing there?

Most of it, yes. My afternoons are devoted to writing, my husband’s off at work, and the quiet of being alone on the boat and the meditative sound of waves lapping the hull makes for very productive creative time.

When did you first realize you had a gift for writing?

I started writing short stories when I was a teenager, but then life got complicated (as it has a way of doing), and I didn’t write anything again until I was in my thirties—which was also when I finally got around to going to college. I won a writing contest my second year, and it was then I started playing with the idea of making writing my career. Still, it took a while.  I didn’t start my first novel until I was 40.

Who are your favorite authors?

Right now? Tana French, Dennis Lehane, John Green, and I just discovered Lou Berney’s novel Gutshot Straight which was a hoot. I also have a real thing for the Brit mystery writer, Sophie Hannah.

Do you have any current or upcoming promotions, appearances, or releases you’d like readers to know about?

The Reese’s Leap Book Launch was held just last night at RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, NH and was a real blast! Here’s the line-up through the next few weeks: tomorrow night, April 6, I’ll be reading and signing books alongside fellow novelist Jen Blood as part of the monthly “Lit: Readings and Libations” program at the Slainte Wine Bar & Lounge in Portland ME (http://www.slaintewinebar.com/). On Monday evening, April 8, I’ll be on the Literary New England Radio Show on Blog Talk radio (http://www.litnewengland.com/).

Where can we find you online?

My website, www.DarcyScott.net, contains all kinds of information, including audiofile excerpts and a link where readers can order personalized books. My FB address is www.Facebook.com/Author.Darcy.Scott, and I tweet @Darcy_Scott.

And where can readers buy your books?

At select independent bookstores in Maine and New Hampshire, and online at Amazon in both softcover and Kindle. They’re also available in Nook, and all the other e-formats.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Darcy Scott, author<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Rich Beauchesne photo 2009 DARCY SCOTT is a live-aboard sailor and experienced ocean cruiser who’s sailed to Grenada and back on a whim, island-hopped through the Caribbean, and been struck by lightning in the middle of the Gulf Stream. Her favorite cruising ground remains the coast of Maine, however, and her appreciation of the history and rugged beauty of its sparsely populated out-islands serves as inspiration for her Maine Island Mystery Series, which includes 2012’s award-winning Matinicus and the newly released Reese’s Leap. Book three, Ragged Island, is currently in the works. Her debut novel, Hunter Huntress, was published in June, 2010 by Snowbooks, Ltd., UK.

Review of Reese’s Leap

17661508REESE’S LEAP by Darcy Scott is about five longtime friends who meet for their annual, all-female retreat on a remote Maine Island. They are forced to put the party on hold to host the hard-drinking, bachelor botanist, Gil Hodges, who just happens upon them one afternoon and winds up stranded there by fog for what could be days. A hopeless womanizer, Gil is secretly pleased to be there but soon finds the island’s deeply forested interior deceptively bucolic and the women a bit too intriguing for comfort. It stirs his glorious if libidinous memory and his profound regret for his past.

When a ruthless, diabolical stranger appears out of nowhere, insinuating himself into the fold and bent on a twisted revenge, fear blooms as basic necessities on this rustic island mysteriously begin to disappear. And when a spare cell phone and their means of escape to the mainland also vanish, it falls to Gil to keep the women safe, despite their dawning awareness that not everyone will make it off the island alive.

The book is lyrical in its sense of place and dark in its depiction of the human condition. It has a complexity born of many rounded characters following their own arc—for instance, Gill Hodges, a Don Quixote with the besottedness of Falstaff, the buoyant volubility of Augie March, and the tenacity of Jack Reacher. Gil is a lovable main character, fascinating to watch. I wouldn’t get near him, not for anything; but just watch him in a crisis, how he always kicks the ball in a different direction.

Like MATINICUS, the book’s predecessor, the voice and technique of REESE’S LEAP are unique. The book is often savage and raw, not a cozy. It’s a fast-paced knuckle-biting mystery, but it is also a book about secrets and an almost insurmountable dislocation born of catastrophic events and the impossibility of knowing the truth of the past or the mystery of the present.

And if in his loss and misery, Gil Hodges has a hint of growth beyond his days-old stubble, the novel contains no easy answers.

REESE’S LEAP is master stroke from a very talented writer. It is haunting; it is scary. The storyline is taut, the characters, surprising and unforgettable, and if you love mystery, and clean, lyrical prose, you won’t want to miss it.

The Reese’s Leap launch is tonight, April 4, at RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, NH. Friday night, April 6, Darcy Scott will be reading and signing books alongside fellow novelist Jen Blood as part of the monthly “Lit: Readings and Libations” program at the Slainte Wine Bar & Lounge in Portland ME (http://www.slaintewinebar.com/). On Monday evening, April 8, she’ll be on the Literary New England Radio Show on Blog Talk radio (http://www.litnewengland.com/).

Her website, www.DarcyScott.net, contains all kinds of information, including audiofile excerpts and a link where readers can order personalized books. Her FB address is www.Facebook.com/Author.Darcy.Scott, and I tweet @Darcy_Scott.

REESE’S LEAP and MATINICUS are available select independent bookstores in Maine and New Hampshire, and online at Amazon in both softcover and Kindle. They’re also available in Nook and all the other e-formats.

Review: All The Blue-Eyed Angels

13498427ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS by Jen Blood is popular lit at its best.

It took me a day to devour it, the first book in a pentalogy, and I have to tell you that there’s nothing else with quite the allure of the story of Erin and Stein and Diggs and Jack, nothing with its particular brand of humor, its touching love story, its sense of place, nothing with its sometimes lovable, often grizzly cast of minor characters, nothing that compares with the action and exhilaration that Jen Blood packs into this character-centered story.

Investigative journalist Erin Solomon returns to her roots, a small fishing village on the coast of Maine. With the help of her trusted dog Einstein and her lifelong more-than-friend Diggs, she risks everything to uncover the truth behind a tragedy that has haunted her since childhood—a fatal fire that destroyed the fundamentalist island community where she and her father lived for the first ten years of Erin’s life, a fire immortalized in Erin’s memory and the beginning chapters with such fury that I thought my kindle was going to explode.

Toward the end of the book, Erin discovers that honing in on the culprit only uncovers the hint of a more powerful devil behind him, someone elusive and hidden and unnamed, someone controlling the strings. Call him the angel of death or the puppet master, this embodiment of evil is unstoppable and cries out for more from Erin and her loyal companions—more strength, more questing, more pain. And while the ending swept me away in its bone-chilling action and I felt a sense of closure, ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS also compelled me to read the next book in the series.

So if you like mystery with sometimes dark and graphic detail, an intricate plot, a love story that is elegiac in its beauty, even as the story’s action is unrelenting; if you long for smooth, clean writing with a unique sense of humor, then ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS is for you.

ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS is free for Nook for a limited time.

The Erin Solomon Mysteries are available on Smashwords and Amazon.