I have just got rid of that monkey that has sat on my back for...ooh, decades, I guess. The little devil sat heavily there, for that long, whispering into my ear: "Write about the first world war, you wanker. You talk about it often enough. Write a bloody novel..."
So I have.
It's called STARSHINE and it's weighed in at just over 112,000 words. Not, of course, a novel in the Fonthill series - there are at least another two of these, set firstly in the Boxer Rebellion of China and, secondly, in the second Boer War, waiting to be written. No, this one is different and set firmly in what we used to call the Great War.
As I have described in earlier blogs, the experience in those muddy, bloody trenches of my father and his six brothers has haunted me for so long. But my thoughts stayed with Simon Fonthill in those "little wars" of Queen Victoria in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and I had to put those into words first. But now STARSHINE is born.
The title (it may be changed, of course) refers to the starshells that climbed into the skies at night above No Man's Land. For those soldiers who patrolled nocturnally in that dangerous ground between the trenches, the shells were a signal to freeze in case their light revealed them to the enemy machine gunners. For a time, then, those seconds when the lightshells broke and illuminated the battlefield brought the war to a halt. No one moved. For one of my two heroes, the highly sensitive Bertie Murphy, it was God intervening to stop the killing for just a few seconds.
The story switches between the back streets of Aston, Birmingham, where Polly waits for her two lovers to return, to the mud of the Somme and the dreaded Ypres Salient.
It now lies throbbing on the desk of my editor at Hodder Headline. It may die there - times are bad in the publishing industry. We shall see. But the monkey is off my back at last!