Today I welcome fellow Crooked Cat author Cy Forrest, whose novel, The Punished is published on Wednesday! (Why not drop in on the Facebook Launch event at 9pm on 13 Sept?)
The Punished is set in the Dorset village of Tyneham, which was taken over completely by the Army during World War II and remains deserted to this day. Tell us more, Cy!
the surviving school room in Tyneham
Tyneham in World War Two – What Was It Like To Actually Be There?
Bringing extraordinary events to life in fiction is not a particularly English thing to do. Great English writers Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy did not make readers sweat in the way Scots, Irish, Welsh, American and mainland European writers did.
For example, Scots writer James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) makes you feel dread when the editor’s narrative ends and the confession begins. Space stops me describing the Protestant Reformation here, but Hogg’s juxtaposition of the two accounts is the most extraordinary effect I’ve experienced in fiction. It actually changed the way I viewed the world. I’ll certainly never watch a game of tennis again without thinking about the Protestant Reformation, and maybe that’s a good thing.
I wanted to bring Tyneham ghost village to life for readers. The video gaming industry has been bringing events to life for gamers for decades, and those people are no longer readers. I don’t think the novel is dead yet, but the James Hogg effect is something I’ve been working on for the last four years in an effort to show that historical fiction can be exciting.
I have a family link to the occupation of Tyneham and rare insight. My aim was to bring these three bare historical facts to life:
Wikipedia: ‘The M.S. Factory, Valley was a Second World War site in Rhydymwyn, Flintshire, Wales, that was used for the storage and production of mustard gas.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._S._Factory,_Valley
December 2nd, 1943. 28 Allied ships in the Port of Bari were destroyed in a German raid and gallons of mustard gas released across the city causing an estimated 2000 deaths. Wiki: ‘The release of mustard gas from one of the wrecked cargo ships added to the loss of life. The British and US governments covered up the presence of mustard gas and its effects on victims of the raid.’
December 17th, 1943. 255 people were removed from their homes in Tyneham, or as Wikipedia dispassionately puts it, ‘225 people were displaced.’
These are the facts, but the real people behind them and the legacy have been relegated.
England, 1943. The British Army occupies the tiny village of Tyneham and captures Jack after his one-man-stand fails. Commanding Officer Hulford-Prandy forces the eighteen year old to handle BLISS, a deadly chemical weapon.
Jack falls for radar operator Gin, but so does Hulford-Prandy who inveigles Gin into the Special Overseas Executive, sending her to destroy a munitions factory in France and making sure she’s captured. Jack never gets over his loss.
Forty years later, City high-flyer Alexis is cornered by three veiled women at her mother’s funeral. They want to know what happened to her mother, Gin, during the war. Alexis doesn’t know. She doesn’t know why Gin gave her up for adoption, nor why the name of her biological father is a secret, but when she’s scattering Gin’s ashes in the ghost village of Tyneham, as requested by Gin, she meets a loner, Aidan, who knows everything and claims BLISS is still in the soil.
His dire warning sends her fleeing back to London where her boss tells her not to wear tights, slashes her bonus and praises the willingness of a young intern. Summoning her mother’s wartime spirit, Alexis confronts the bully.
She uncovers the truth about Gin and returns to Tyneham where Aidan’s made a huge discovery about BLISS. She follows him into occupied territory demanding the truth, and the American bullets start flying.
I hope you have the chance to look further into what lies behind my writing and, hopefully, you can enjoy my novel for the roller-coaster ride it is. Many thanks to Tim for letting me borrow you all to tell you about The Punished.
Here are the universal links to it on Amazon:
Many thanks for sharing this fascinating story with us, Cy. Good luck with your launch: I hope The Punished is a big success!