1939 A View from the Hill

29/01/2014

Nicholas Leech only joined the Royal Air Force to get away from his family...

So why was he now running for his life through a forest in France? This was definitely not part of the plan...
           ...So why was he hiding on a French hillside waiting to kill a train?
                          
...So why was he lying in a stinking muddy ditch, talking with a dead man?

"1939 A View from the Hill" takes the reader from the tranquility of the rolling hills of Devon, to one man's fight for his life in the wartorn heart of France.

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I had not intended writing a book about the Second World War, in fact I had already begun a different book that came about from a conversation with my husband, which took place several years earlier. So when the inspiration came to write about Nicholas, I tried to ignore it. But the ideas were literally bombarding me day and night and I knew that if I did not take up the challenge straight away, it could be lost.

Having set my first book in The United States, I was determind keep this story, or at least part of it, local. So the fictional village of Marleham is located on the side of a range of hills that are close to my own home near Exeter. The research for much of the book was also kept close to home; for the descriptions of wartime Exeter and The Blitz, I have used the memories of my mother, who lived in Exeter throughout the war. Some of the places she went to then have long gone; it was her that as a child, ran up the stairs at Deller's Cafe on a Saturday afternoon with her own mother. The highstreet as she knew it has changed in places beyond recognition, but other places have escaped the change in time and it was my mother who played with her friends in the Alphin Brook, and swung upside down from the railings above Clarke's Pond.

Francis Huish from the book was my Great Uncle. Some of what I wrote about him is taken from what I have been told about his life, the rest was from my imagination. The sad fact is that there is no one left alive who knew him, because he died when he was twenty five and was buried with his fallen brothers in a cemetery in north eastern France.

The characters of Nicholas and Joan, and their families are entirely fictional, but they were so insistant that I should write their story, that I sometimes wonder where that inspiration came from, on that Sunday morning three years ago.

 

Frances.