The Somme Legacy by M J Lee **Blog Tour Interview **

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Martin Lee, (M J Lee) author of The Somme Legacy to Books, Life and Everything today. Celebrating its digital publication on February 9th, Martin kindly answered my questions. First though, a little information about The Somme Legacy which is the second book in the Jayne Sinclair genealogical mystery series. 
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From the author of the best selling, The Irish Inheritance, comes a gripping new book revealing family secrets hidden in the fog of war.

July 1, 1916. The Somme, France.


A British Officer prepares to go over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.


March 28, 2016. Manchester. England.


Genealogical investigator Jayne Sinclair, a former police detective, is commissioned by a young teacher to look into the history of his family. The only clues are a medallion with purple, white and green ribbons, and an old drawing of a young woman.


Her quest leads to a secret buried in the trenches of World War One for over 100 years.


Who was the real heir to the Lappiter millions?


From the author of the best selling, The Irish Inheritance, comes a gripping new book revealing family secrets hidden in the fog of war.

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Welcome to Books, Life and Everything!


Hi, Marianne, great to be here today.



 Would you like to start by telling us a little about yourself and how you started as a writer?


I’ve been writing most of my adult life. I spent my early years doing historical research at a University until the money ran out (thank you Mrs Thatcher).
Then I was a social worker for a short while before realising I wasn’t very good at solving my own problems never mind solving those of other people.


Finally, I discovered a career working in advertising as a copywriter. If companies wanted to pay me to sit and dream all day long and occasionally write a few lines, I was more than happy to oblige. The career took me all over the world finally ending up as the Chief Creative Officer of an agency in China, which, through happenstance, led to my first book, Death in Shanghai.


What is it about the historical crime genre which attracts you?


Great question. I think I’ve always be attracted to the moral element of crime fiction. In an increasingly grey world there’s a wonderful sense of right and wrong that we can return to in crime fiction. Plus I think it’s able to tackle some of the outstanding issues of the day -  child abuse, violence against women, guilt, despair, rage, alienation in our society - in a way that doesn’t talk down to people but engages them in a story.


Putting it all in the past allows a certain distance, a perspective that is missing from modern police procedurals.


But I also love the history side of it. Bringing a period to life in the mind of the reader. In my latest book, the Somme Legacy, that involved understanding the Suffragette movement and the mores of the day, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the laws of inheritance and the treatment of mental and physical illness in the post WW1 period.


Writing the book as a mystery set in the past, allowed me to tackle all these subjects in an interesting and informative way (I hope) whilst, at the same time, solving a mystery.


 How do you set about researching?


I’m quite methodical, probably because of my research background. First, I read general books of he period to understand the social and political context of my story. Then I focus on memoirs written by participants of the events of the day. For the Irish Inheritance, this involved reading the witness accounts of the Easter Rising held in the Military Archives in Dublin. Finally, I look at original documents - newspapers, legal documents, government papers. For the Somme Legacy, I discovered some wonderful surveillance pictures taken of the female Suffragette prisoners in Holloway and Strangeways Prisons. This was probably the first time any government had taken covert photographs of activists in order to document and classify them. It shows just how scared the government was by the activities of Mrs Pankhurst and heir hunger strikers.


This is the second in the Jayne Sinclair genealogical mystery series. Do you look on it as a standalone story, a continuation of the first or a bridge to a possible third book featuring Jayne?


Its all three.
It is a standalone story in that it has a beginning, a middle and an end for one mystery. But Jayne develops as a character in the story. Personally, I hate it when characters become locked in time and never change. The fault for Miss Marple for me, was that she was always a little old lady from a small English village. She never changed or developed. Finally, there is a third book which I am editing as we speak but I can’t give too much away about the story except to say that Jayne is threatened as never before.


What was your inspiration for The Somme Legacy and which came first, the plot, the characters, the settings or the historical period?


They all work together to evolve the story, I think. I remember the book started as a vague idea of a young man who wants to discover his lost inheritance.  This led me to researching the laws of inheritance and uncovering the Bona Vacantia principles and website. The plot and setting began to unfold - the Battle of the Somme and an aristocratic family member marrying beneath himself. Then I wanted Rose to be more than a wallflower - to have a life and ideals and principles herself. That period from 1910 to 1930 is a time when the old values and mores of society were tested to the extreme, particularly by women. And so The Somme Legacy began to take shape.


But it’s not a logical nor a linear process. It’s like moulding a piece of clay until it begins to look like an object and eventually becomes a pot with a form and function.  A lot of decisions, memories, feelings and research is involved in the process.



I believe you are interested in genealogy yourself. Have you drawn on any of your own family research for this book?


I love genealogy and the insights that family history can bring to our present. I come from an Irish family with a strange division. One grandfather was a member of  the IRA in the Irish War of Independence, and the other was in the British Army. My soldier grandfather was wounded twice on the Western Front. It was when he was recuperating from one of these wounds that he met my grandmother, a nurse in Ireland.


All families have amazing stories. That’s the great thing about writing genealogical mysteries, I’m never short of source material.


Can you give any hints about any upcoming books you have planned? (alternatively, is there anything else you'd like to tell the readers)


I’m currently editing the third novel in the Jayne Sinclair series which will come out in July 2017. I also have the third novel in my Danilov series coming out on March 22nd. Plus I have a new historical novel, not a crime story though, coming out in May. This one is set in Singapore in the period leading up to the Second World War and the fall of that City. As Churchill said,  ‘the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.’

A busy time for me, but I can’t imagine doing anything else but writing. It’s the best fun you can have with your clothes on.


Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Martin.

My Thoughts 

    This is an intriguing story that does keep you turning the page to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Lappiter inheritance. I particularly liked the interweaving of the past with the present through Jayne Sinclair's investigations and as someone who enjoys delving into the family tree, I could really appreciate Jayne's unravelling of the clues. Jayne's character was well drawn with an interesting back story and a refreshingly different role for her as investigator.

    The historical context of the Great War and the fighting at the front at the Somme was evoked in a credible way. It was believable that Jayne would feel drawn to Rose Clarke as a suffragette and would be intrigued to uncover the truth behind Rose's romance with David Russell. In fact, Rose's story was poignant and the treatment she received at the hands of the Establishment was at times horrifying, as were the lengths that people would go to maintain their position in society. The story was well balanced between plot and character and as the momentum of the story gathered pace, it took me along with it to the very last page.

In short: a satisfying historical mystery with layer upon layer of intrigues and conspiracies.

     

                                                            About the Author


Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.
He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.

Whilst working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarter of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in 1920s and 30s.

When he's not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.

You can connect with Martin on  Twitter and on his Website, 
 and at Goodreads.

Amazon UK 

Amazon US 
 

 Thanks to Martin and Jenny at Neverland Tours for a copy of the book and a place on the Blog Tour. 

                                              Check out the rest of the Blog Tour!



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