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Peter Turnham

Location: On top of the English Cotswold Hills, near Cheltenham

Bio

An accidental novelist, I was always very active but a ruptured Achilles tendon incapacitated me for several months. For some reason, I decided to write a book, which seemed a ridiculous idea for a dyslexic who only read factual and scientific publications, and didn’t read novels. Perhaps surprisingly, I find the whole process of creating a believable and generally fast-moving storyline totally fascinating. So far, I have published three books, with another one on the way!

Current project

My current project is a sequel to my latest book “None Stood Taller” which is set in time between March 1941 and 6th June 1944.
The new one continues from the morning after D-Day, with most of the same characters who, after having provided critical intelligence to enable the D-Day landings, suddenly have another secret project to complete.

Writing sample

Chapter One
Stepney London March 1941
I stepped outside the front door to see if there was any sign of Linda, but it was virtually dark; the road was deserted. I was becoming increasingly concerned; we should have made our way to the shelter of Stepney Green Tube Station an hour ago. Finally, I could just make out a lone figure in the fading light running towards me.
“Your Mum’s here, boys,” I shouted.
“When are we going to the station, Aunty Lily?” asked little Adam.
“We’re going now boys; quickly, get your things together.”
Linda burst through the door, breathing heavily. “I’m so sorry Lily, it was a broken gas main; there was nothing I could do, the bus just had to wait.”
“You’re here now, we must go to the Tube Station right away.”
“I know, but thanks for waiting, I couldn’t bear being parted from them down the Tube.”
As I stood by the front door waiting for her, it was eerily quiet; nobody wanted to be walking the streets during the blackout. Suddenly the velvet silence was broken; starting slowly, the wailing sound gradually became faster and louder. The air raid warning siren instantly filled you with fear, my
heart jumped in my chest. I stepped back through the door to be met by Linda and the boys coming towards me.
“Oh no,” Linda gasped, “they’re so early tonight; what do we do?”
“It’s too late, I think we’d better stay here,” I replied, trying not to frighten the boys.
Following such a terrible journey home, Linda was already stressed; I could see it in her eyes. She was much more than just my next-door neighbour. Our husbands worked in the Docks together before they both joined the Navy; the four of us were the closest of friends.
“We’ll be fine, they won’t bomb the Docks again tonight,” I said as calmly as I could manage. “Now, who wants to help me make a nice cup of tea?”
“I will, Aunty Lily,” said Johnny.
“Can I have a biscuit, Aunty Lily?” asked Adam.
“You’ve been good boys this afternoon; you must ask your Mum, but I think you both deserve a biscuit.”
“Can we, Mum, can we?” they asked in unison.
“Of course you can, but only two each.”
“You sit down and get your breath back, Linda,” I said, trying to appear unconcerned.
I made the tea while the boys stared at the biscuit tin in eager anticipation. All the while, my concentration was elsewhere, listening for the sound of approaching bombers and exploding bombs.
As Londoners, we had lived under the threat of falling bombs from day one of the Blitz. We were all terrified, but by March 1941 everyone knew exactly what to expect. It seems incredible to me now when I look back but somehow, we tried to continue as normal during the Blitz. That perception of normality was an illusion which shattered the moment I heard the first sounds of distant explosions. Linda looked at me with wide eyes as the explosions grew louder. A mother’s dread when her children are in harm’s way is like no other fear a woman can feel.
“What do we do, Lily?” she asked in a raised voice.
“We’ll be fine, but just to be sure, let’s all sit under the
stairs.”
Linda’s under-stair cupboard was like mine next door, just
large enough for us all to get into. Like everyone else she had
cleared away some items previously stored there, just in case.
The boys were only four years old and didn’t fully realise what
was happening, so we tried to make it feel like a game for
them.
We searched around the confinement of our under-stair
hideaway, looking for something to amuse them. Linda put a
coat over the floor mop so it looked like hair spilling out over
the collar. I put the handle of a tennis racket up one sleeve and
we pretended the mop man was chasing the boys. The drone
of distant bombers grew ominously louder, so we used the
mop man to full advantage, making as much noise as possible.
It sounded like the Docks again; the explosions were
making the windows rattle. I blamed the mop man for shaking
the windows – Johnny and Adam thought it was a brilliant
game and pulled at the sleeves excitedly. A stick of bombs fell
close enough for us to hear them whistle through the air – it
was terrifying. For a moment we sat there on the floor, frozen
in silence, just looking at each other with fear in our eyes.
Linda instinctively grabbed Johnny while I held Adam as
tightly as I could.
An explosion blew out the rear windows and we heard
some crockery on the dresser crash to the floor. The boys were
now screaming in terror. Then we heard the whistle of falling
bombs again. In those final few seconds, we both knew what
was going to happen.
There was a tremendous explosion, shaking the house to
pieces. Things came crashing down onto the stairs above us. As
terrifying as it felt, it wasn’t a direct hit and for that awful split
second, I allowed myself to think we were safe. Then I realised
I could still hear a falling bomb! That was my last memory.

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