Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Excerpt: Red Poppies

Wounded Canadian being carried into the receiving room at a Can

She had to admit, she’d shed more than just a tear that night and fallen onto her bed thoroughly exhausted. The bed itself was little more than a narrow camp bed, with a couple of army blankets to keep her warm, but it was a better condition to sleep in than those who slept on the floor on pallets who were at risk of being woken by rats that often found their way to the encampment. Though the relative few she saw, were nothing compared to the ones the soldiers themselves described in the trenches as being as 'fat as cats'.

She had drifted into a deep sleep of dreams of her homeland and family when she heard a soft female voice beckon her.
“Och, Adele, wake up. We’re expecting another few ambulances full of injured men. I’ve brought ye a cup of tea before they arrive.”
imagesEIHQLYFQFor a moment, she thought she was still dreaming, until she opened her eyes and saw Morag, a young Scottish nurse from Dundee, holding out a tin mug of tea in her hand. Adele sat up and took it gratefully from her, it would be many more hours before she’d have the chance of another.
Thanks so much, you’re very thoughtful.”
Morag smiled. Even in the dimly lit tent, where there were only a couple of lanterns lit, she could see the young woman’s dazzling smile. She was the sort of person who lit up a room with her presence, always positive, forever cheerful, an asset to be around.
Morag sat in a chair sipping her own tea, it would be hard work for her too later. Harder in some respects as she had to run hither and thither, looking for this and that for the medical team, whilst they only had to attend to the task-in-hand.
The nurses, though, sometimes did the doctors' jobs if they were not around and were well-experienced. She knew that herself from the time she’d spent as a nurse back in Merthyr. The ward sister there could diagnose as well as any of the doctors, and more often than not, was correct with her diagnoses.
At first light, the ambulances arrived and the stretcher bearers brought in the casualties to the clearing station. Adele had had hardly any time to draw a breath for the first half hour or so, the large tent was in chaos as the injured were sorted into those requiring immediate surgery and those that could afford to wait. All the other casualties were in another tent. Some could wait, others were already dead by the time of arrival or else on the brink. Often Adele heard one or another of the men cry out with delirium, their limbs shivering, lips trembling. Shell shock, they called it. Some of the poor men would never be the same again. Fortunately, for some, with the right help, support and guidance, they became physically whole again, though they’d never forget the mental anguish, ever.
Worst of all were the firing squads—who on the command of a senior officer would shoot a deserting soldier, as they brought shame on the army and could prove a security risk if they fell into enemy hands. Adele often wondered if those poor men were just shell-shocked and refusing to take any more, their bodies shutting down, their need to escape, their only outlet from a hell on earth. Life in the trenches was arduous. Often they were stuck in inches of wet muck with no means of washing, changing or drying their clothing. Although they were told to change into clean socks and dry their feet, it didn’t always happen that way and as a result, many soldiers developed something known as ‘trench foot’, a painful condition. The constant mud and rain had exacerbated the condition for many. Often the foot would crack and change colour, then swell up as blood vessels and nerves were damaged in the process. If untreated, then gangrene could set in resulting in amputation to save the soldier’s life. One soldier arrived at the clearing station and his toes fell away when his socks were removed, the stench being unbearable. Adele had to inform him that his limbs had to be removed as soon as possible.
images6KVD8ABOThe sounds and smells they endured as they worked at the encampment was like nothing she’d ever witnessed before. Here, there wasn’t much cleaning up of areas, like at the hospital. It was very rough and ready, often a quick sweep and mop of the floor were all they had time for. No time to disinfect operating tables as time was of the essence, a delay could mean the difference between life and death. Often wounds were already infected from mud and manure from the fields, the medical staff were really up against it.
One young man lay on a gurney whimpering in the corner of the tent. There was no time to attend to him. Adele wished she could split herself in two, realising that a lot of her decisions meant the difference between life or death. She was in the midst of suturing a wound when the young lad cried out, “Mam! Where are you?”
Morag left the operating table as Adele was able to manage alone for a while. She knelt beside the gurney and took the lad’s hand. He wanted and needed his mother, but she was in a distant land. Adele watched Morag stroke the soldier's head and softly kiss his cheek. A smile appeared on his face, he held out his arms as if he was embracing someone, and then he was gone, in the belief his mother was him. If there’d have been time, Adele would have wept, but there were many more casualties to attend to and she just didn’t have the time to spare. No time to ponder her decision on whether she’d have saved the lad if she’d operated on him first. Only God knew the answer to that.
Adele didn’t have the time either to dwell on her dry mouth, aching back and limbs, and her growling stomach. Something spurred her on, propelling her to get through the day’s work. James Bellingham was beginning to leave more and more cases in her capable hands to work at another hospital over the Belgian border in Northern France. That one was in a large ch√Ęteau that had been taken over for the war effort. The men were transported there by ambulance and even trucks after their operations. If then found to be chronically unwell, they were shipped back to Britain, where special hospitals were set up to deal with the aftermath of burns, amputations and shell shock.
At that time, there was also pioneering plastic surgery being carried out at various British hospitals. Some of the men had received horrific burns to their faces and other parts of their bodies, making them barely recognisable to their families and friends.
The first time James had left her alone with the nursing team, she had trembled from top-to-toe, but a professionalism had taken over, along with a comforting word from Morag. After a couple of minutes of adrenaline coursing through her veins, she had calmed down, realising she was doing the best she could under the circumstances. James, who checked out her work when the casualties arrived at the hospital, informed her he was very pleased with her work indeed, which gave Adele an immense feeling of satisfaction.
It wasn't planned that she would head a surgical team but there was little choice as one of the senior surgeons had fallen ill, so it was either in at the deep end or let the men die. There was no other choice.
Apart from a quick cup of tea and a small corned beef sandwich, it was 4.30 p.m. before Adele got to go off duty, when another surgeon, who had rested most of the day, took over for another long shift.
The cost of this war was high and seemed totally futile to Adele.

Red Poppies is now available in Kindle format on Amazon!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Red Poppies: WW1 Historical Fiction now out on Kindle!

Red Poppies for KIndle
Red Poppies my WW1 historical fiction is now available on Amazon. Here's the link:
It's 1916 and Adele Owen from Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, is standing at the graveside of a dear family member, whilst another was recently killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
It's a time when the Suffragettes are campaigning for 'Votes for Women', and although they are making their mark, women have a long way to go to compete with the men of Great Britain. It's a man's world and women usually have to accept their lot in life, or do they?
Adele is a young nurse who has lofty ambitions -- she yearns to become a doctor during a time when it's quite unusual for women to take up the profession. She has the dilemma of telling her parents of this decision, coupled with the fact she will have to go to London to train.
Once there, at the Royal Free Hospital, she faces opposition from the young men, who are her contemporaries. They think an ex-nurse from a valley town isn't good enough to become a doctor in training, doing all they can to put her off. But unknown to them, Adele has already caught the eye of an eminent surgeon who sees something stoic and worthwhile in her. So much so, he offers to mentor her and plans to take her to the Front with him to work at a casualty clearing station in Ypres, Belgium.
Once there, she is thrown in the deep end, amongst the explosions and horrors of war, not to mention her involvement with shell-shocked soldiers, some of whom, signed up underage to take the King's shilling.
Adele leaves an admirer behind in London, a well-respected physician of his day, who writes to her whilst she's overseas. This will eventually put her in a difficult position where two men vie for her attention. But which one will she choose?
And will she survive the Third Battle of Ypres? Otherwise known as the Battle of Passchendaele...

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Who is Jack the Ripper? It is a question that has held a long fascination. The identity to the perpetrator, of a series of gruesome murders, targeting female prostitutes in London’s East End in 1888, is one of the great mysteries. The police had several suspects, including murderers, and insane butchers, but none could be proved. Some of the more recent theories include that the murders involved some sort of cover up involving a royal conspiracy. In fact, almost every figure from the Victorian age has been named as a suspect at one time or another. They include the portrait artist Walter Sickert and Lord Randolph Churchill, the father of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Liverpool cotton Magnate, James Maybrick has been named and even author of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Lewis Carroll have been put forward as the elusive Jack the Ripper. All these theories are intriguing. However, the links between these suspects and those horrible sexual lust murders of at least five women in the parish of Spitalfields are tenuous at best. One would think that all the theories involving suspects who were barristers, doctors, actors, writers, and artists, that the reading public would have had enough but the appeal in trying to solve this very cold case and unravel this secret seems to be growing. A novel and imaginative approach is to imagine the perfect suspect. A suspect whose life’s circumstances and connections to the murders would make anyone, from a learned historian, to the amateur sleuth, sit up and take notice.

To give an example, what about location? Researchers, for most of the suspects listed, have had a hard time placing them anywhere near Spitalfields and even in London. My perfect suspect would have not just been able to reach Spitalfields to commit these ghastly crimes but they would have lived there. I would place my suspect living near enough to the murders so that they could commit them in a moments notice but still at a safe enough distance that they could escape, to hide, without fear of being discovered. Choosing such a place, within the maze of streets, alleyways and courtyards that made up this London ghetto takes some thought.

Dorset Street
A great location would be Providence Row night refuge. This was a homeless shelter, situated at the other end of Dorset Street, and the street that the final Ripper victim, Mary Kelly was killed. The refuge was about 80 meters from where her body was found. What makes this place ideal is that it was run by Catholic nuns and was seen as a model shelter. It’s residents needed references to get in and because it was situated in the heart of Spitalfields, surrounded by dozens of illegal brothels, and overcrowded tenements, overrun by every sort of criminal, the chances that the police would search these premises is next to none. Another great thing, about the Row, was that it was probably unique in having an open door policy at night. This meant that a resident could leave anytime, after dark, and return with no questions asked. It would be perfect for the suspect as a base of operations for his nocturnal murderous exploits.

Victorian Gladstone Bag and equipment

But what about the suspect himself? Many people back then and people now, believe that the Ripper must have had some sort of medical ability. An attacker, who easily removed their internal organs, quickly overcame all the women. It would a tricky job, in the dark, which is why people think he must have had some knowledge of anatomy. My perfect suspect would have some. In fact, because I can be generous, I will not just make him someone who trained as a doctor, I will have a student of surgery. I will give him several years training at a very fine institution; a medical college that promoted practical work on cadavers over theory. I will let him keep the tools of his trade. I will say my suspect had a dissecting scalpel and I will make sure it is sharp enough to shave with.

Having the location of the suspect and his ability figured out, I should think about his motivation. It should be a strong motive and sets him on a course of destruction. First, though I need to have him be able go unnoticed. Maybe I could make him a police officer? No, on second thought, scrap that. An officer could not freely be at the scene of all the murders. It would be bound to raise questions. I could make him a foreigner who is visiting the area, but that won’t do either. I need him to know the streets well and the language. To be fair, for these most English of crimes, I will make him an Englishman, and I have it that he is a vagrant. That way he will have an intimate knowledge of the streets, having wandered them and slept on them. He would also go unnoticed amongst his many thousands of homeless companions.

Getting back to his motive, I will have that he was in a relationship with a prostitute just beforehand. She will have been one who he trusted. One who showed care and affection to him, but I will have it that, without warning, she betrays and abandons him, leaving him heartbroken. My suspect will already by a troubled man, who has had at least one mental breakdown before hand and suffering from some traumatic incident in his childhood. The prostitute who has made him bitter could by why he is in Spitalfields. He is wandering the streets to try to find her. See, that makes it, at least in his eyes a tragic romance, and everyone likes a love story.

Because I am limited only to my imagination, I will make him a very literate man. A rare thing in the city of London at the end of the 19th century. That way he can write down what he was thinking and we can read it. Imagine being able to read the confessions, first hand, of Jack the Ripper himself? I will bless him with a flair for the dramatic. I will have it that he even writes dreadful things that seem to describe the murders themselves. His writings will be no-holds-barred. He writes poems, for example with scary titles, like ‘The Nightmare of the Witch Babies’ in which he describes hunting down and disemboweling prostitutes. To add a touch of horror, I will have him describe his joy at ripping into the victim’s uterus just so he can find if they have a featus and kill that too. Just to spice things up a bit, I will make it that he has a secret drug habit, one that lets his imagination go full throttle. Opium will do best. All the great writers back then were on the stuff. With his opium at hand and some talent, he would write lines, something suitable poetic and old fashioned, like the following.

‘Swiftly he followed her
Ha! Ha!

Eagerly he followed her.
Ho! Ho!;’
‘Lo, she corrupted!
Ho! Ho!’
‘And its paunch was rent
Like a brasten [bursting] drum;
And the blubbered fat
From its belly doth come
It was a stream ran bloodily under the wall.
O Stream, you cannot run too red!
Under the wall.
With a sickening ooze –
Hell made it so!
Two witch-babies,
ho! ho! ho!’

I will have him write about how he came to decide to kill these women. I will give him military airs, as if he thinks he is like some great knight or soldier, who thinks it his duty to kill Prostitutes. I will have him grow to despise this profession and write that they are worse than any disease he witnesses in his medical training. He will write horrible things about them, but since he fancies himself a writer, I will make his prose suitably intelligent and elegant. Something like the following would be just about right.

 'These girls whose Practice is a putrid ulceration of love, venting foul and purulent discharge- for their very utterance is a hideous blasphemy against the sacrosanctity [sacred ways] of lover's language.’

 When he writes of his decision to slay them he will say of himself,

 ‘He proceeds without hesitation and without remorse, "more than an executioner might feel," in a career of bloodshed, … he foresees the necessity for further murders on his part; this belief that he can commit the crime and yet escape its infamy, the necessity of engaging boldly in bloodshed. His natural disposition is that of a soldier, bold, decided, instant in action, accustomed to go straight and openly to his object. Moral scruples cannot restrain him; he has completely set them aside, has resolved to jump the life to come.  The murder is done, and he ceases to waver. …He faces all the sequel of his crime as a commander, once having decided to give battle, accepts and meets all the chances of the battle. Thenceforward he sets his face towards crime as he was accustomed to set it towards fight;’’

 He will be boundless in writing. He will write about killing them in his poems, essays and plays. Without seeming to sound absurd, I will even have him write all about it in short story, where his ‘hero’ talks about how he psyched himself for the kill. Being a 19th century kind of guy, when spiritualism was all the craze, I will have his story be suitably dark and gothic,

 ‘No; the first step includes all sequent steps; when I did my first evil, I did also this evil; years ago had this shaft been launched, though it was but now curving to its mark; years ago had I smitten her, though she was but now staggering to her fall …When at length, after long wandering, I retraced my steps, I had not resolved, I. had recognized that I could resolve no longer… I swear I struck not the first blow, Some violence seized my hand, and I drove the poniard down. Whereat she cried; and I, frenzied, dreading detection, dreading, above all, her wakening, struck again...There was a buzzing in my brain as if a bell had ceased to toll. How long had it ceased to toll? I know not. Has any bell been tolling? I know not...Or—was it the cathedral bell?... Silence now, at least; abysmal silence; except the sound (or is the sound in me?), the sound of dripping blood; except that the flame upon the altar sputters, and hisses.’

 I am almost done with my perfect suspect, but the problem is he is too good. It would seem foolish if the police could not eventually find this man. He needs some sort of alibi, a way to cover his tracks. I will make it that people think he was gentle. I will say he was looked like a religious man, an almost holy man, as if he could have been a priest. Lastly, I will have him taken from the streets and far away right after the last murder. A naive editor could rescue him, from homelessness? An editor who sends him to some remote monastery in the hopes he can be rehabilitated from his drug habit and become a writer. He could live out the rest of his days, in seclusion and under his editor’s watchful eye. He will live just long enough to gain a reputation as a literary figure, and odd genius and then die quickly and be buried at a small funeral. 

Finally, as icing to the cake, and to do justice to such a well-known crime, I will make it that many years after his death he achieves fame. His name will be widely known long after the crimes and when most people who were involved in trying to catch the Ripper are long dead. To provide some added sinister irony I will assign great people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior, and J.R.R Tolkien who will praise him and I will make his poetry a thing to study at prestigious universities today.

So kind reader, there you have it.

It would make a great story; an amazing story. There is only one small problem with this suspect. One that I cannot fix, that nobody will able to fix, even with all the imagination in the world. This suspect happens to be real and what I have told you, his background where he was, his skills, his scalpel, what he wrote, his rise to fame. It all happened. His name was Francis Joseph Thompson.

Francis Joseph Thompson as a young man

Richard Patterson at the birth place of Francis Joseph Thompson in Preston, Lancs.

Richard Patterson
Born in Melbourne in 1970, Richard Patterson independently determined that Thompson may be the Ripper in 1997.  Patterson's continued research has made him a guest speaker at the 2005, UK Jack the Ripper Conference, held in Brighton. Has has been invited to speak again on his book and his latest findings at the 2016  Conference to be held in London. He has had articles published on the theory in newspapers, magazines and journals. He authored the Francis Thompson page on the Ripper Casebook, the world's most visited Ripper website. His research into this suspect has made news headlines around the world. Media interest includes, The UK Express, The Lancashire Evening Post, The UK Daily Mail, The UK Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor Magazine, The New York Daily News, The UK Sun, The UK Daily Star, The, The UK North West Tonight News & Sydney’s 2UE Radio Station, The Echo, and The Northern Star. Patterson's research relies on press reports, police documents, letters, biographies, uncut-volumes, and the first hand examination of historical and artifacts relating to the case. These include the Ripper’s infamous ‘Dear Boss’ letter of which Patterson personally handled, at London’s Kew Archives. He also visited the Burns Library at Boston College in the US, where Patterson read Thompson’s notebooks of 1888, and many other original documents including Thompson's private letters.His self published, 2016, book, 'Francis Thompson - A Ripper Suspect'  has now been signed to the publisher's Austin & Macualey. There is much more for a reader to examine including article and images and film on the theory at the website to his book and theory at:

Further info on Francis Joseph Thompson here: 

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Four Kindle romance novels for just 99p each!!

Four Kindle romance novels for just 99p each!!
1. It Happened One Summer
Sandy Perkins is grieving for a lost love when she encounters new boss, the handsome, Matt Walker. Matt poses as an awkward customer at the charity shop where Sandy is manageress, instead of revealing himself to her as the new area manager. This initially makes Sandy distrust him, after all, he was trying to catch her out. The charity is in danger of closing down due to a severe lack of funding. Can the pair find a way to keep it going? And will they be able to work together to thwart the evil stalker who is making Sandy's life a misery?
"A great poolside read!"
2. Return to Winter
When Stephanie Baynham comes home to Wales , the lover she ran out on nine months ago, Dylan Pryce-Jones, is waiting at the airport for her. Will he understand why she left him without warning, during the afternoon of Matt and Sandy's wedding celebration? Later, she returns to her apartment and finds a threatening message scrawled on her mirror: "You're Dead!" Could her life really be in danger?
"Excellent dialogue and unpredictable action!"
3. Watching You
Following the reading of her father's will, Angeline Hamilton is devastated to discover that not only has she lost her inheritance, but she has lost Tarrington Manor -- her beloved family home. She ends up working for the new owner, Sebastian Tremaine, finding herself unwittingly attracted to the very man she should resent. Her confusion over the unexpected romance soon gives way to fear. But who is it who wants to see her dead? Soon she's embroiled in secrets, seduction and a simmering love affair. Stalked by evil, Angeline and Sebastian try desperately to hold onto their new found love...and their lives.
"A real page turner!"
4. The Sicilian's Proposition
Journalist, Joanne Smith, encounters Sicilian millionaire, Dante Alphonso, while conducting an interview for 'Life Today' magazine. Dante has been well known to the media for years, where constant scorn has been thrown upon the playboy lifestyle of his younger years. He detests that reputation as he would much prefer to be known for his charity work rather than his previous hedonistic lifestyle. He plans on proving to Joanne that he's not the man the media make him out to be. Will she believe him? And what's the secret Joanne has kept to herself all these years? Sparks are sure to fly under a hot Sicilian sun...
"A steamy summer read!"
Purchase here!
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