Friday, August 18, 2006

Ashland, a Book Tour, and a Long Overdue Pardon

from Jacqueline

Amid my post on airport security last week, I forgot to say why I was actually in Ashland, Oregon, home of the world-famous Shakespeare Festival. It was my pleasure to be the guest of the mystery book group in Ashland (also home to over 100 book groups), along with the library and others. I had never been to Ashland before, so this was something of an adventure - particularly after the adventure at the airport. I was there to speak to members of the book clubs, who had dragged themselves away from good old Will to listen to me. What hospitality! Not only was that a lovely evening, but on the Saturday I was treated to a boat-trip down the Rogue River - actually, a very fast, waterlogged boat-trip down the Rogue River in one of those hell-boats driven by water-cowboys who do wheelies anytime the passengers look like they might have dried off. Then there was Shakespeare, being taken to see a gorgeous production of A Winter's Tale. I'd already been treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the festival which made the play even more enjoyable.

It's full-knotted-stomach week, with my new book being published on August 22nd. The book tour is more or less set in stone, and you can read all about it by going to the following link:

I'm already a bit nervous, but unlike Cornelia, I do not upchuck, no, instead my old ticker tends to play up a bit - and that's what happened this week. After two days of a racing heart, extra beats - and more worrisome - missing beats (you begin to wonder if it will start up again, bit like driving an old VW Beetle) my husband said, "You don't look so good," and dragged me off to the emergency room. Wired for sound with an irregular beep in my left ear from the heart monitor, I could summon only two words: "Oh, shit." Funny thing was when the doctor asked if I had been under any stress lately, and I said, "No, not really." The he asked me if I was sure. I framed an honest reply in my mind. "Well, I've been back to England - my mother had a stroke a few months ago and I'm trying to get back as often as possible. My horse is in the equine hospital - I was told to put her down last month and this is my best shot at finding a cure for her. Then I was flying last week - I am scared of flying, which is a bit tricky as I'm about to start a 14-city book tour, and of course I have a new book to write on a bit of a tight deadline and I am really nervous about whether anyone will like this book, and ... Instead I replied, "I guess there might be a few things."

But don't worry, all's well now, and I have a little stash of tablets to get me on an even keel if it happens again - and I'm taking my yoga and meditation tape on the road with me.

Those of you who have read my first novel, MAISIE DOBBS, will know something about the military practice of executing "deserters" in the Great War 1914-1918. Some 306 men and boys were "shot at dawn" for their so-called crime. Often that desertion was as a result of shell-shock, fear or, through sheer exhaustion, falling asleep at their post. When I made my pilgrimage to the battlefields of The Somme a couple of years ago, I visited what is now a small restaurant and guest house, where the owner has had the cellar excavated, along with the subsidiary trench that led from the cellar. (You can read about it at: In the war the cellar was used as a first-aid post for a while, and later, sadly, to incarcerate an 18-year-old soldier awaiting death. During the Battle of the Somme he had been found, not with his battalion on the front line, but, having seen his pals blown apart, and become completely shell-shocked and disoriented by the battle, was back behind the line wandering around half clad and half out of his mind. He was labeled a deserter.

Now that young man is among the 306 soldiers who are being pardoned by the British government ( And not a moment too soon. Now their names will appear on war memorials in the towns from which they marched to war. Now poppies will be laid in their names on November 11th at 11 o'clock in the morning. It's late, far too late, but finally the powers that be have done something right.


  1. Congrats on the new book, and good luck on the book tour. Baldacci did quite a successful "train tour" I'm told, so if the flying becomes insurmountable, there's always the rails. . . . Very interesting sidenote about the pardon of "deserters." I always remember that scene Hemingway wrote about desertering officers being lined up, and his protagonist jumping in the river to escape. Too bad he didn't take 306 friends with him.

  2. Jackie,
    I hope you can look after yourself on this tour. I'm already hopping from foot to foot in anticipation of your new book. I even check the bookstores to see if anyone has jumped the street date of the release and are displaying copies. :-D I've read and reread bits of all of your books so far, and will do so again. You write and evoke the WWI and post-WWI era with convincing clarity and credibility. I still cry when I read Maisie's breakdown scene on her return to the site of the tragic casualty clearing station. I don't suppose there is a story/mystery of past and present regarding Andrew Dene and the war is there? I feel his story needs to be told a bit more, and would look forward to how you treated it. :-D But that's just me.
    I wrote a story a few years back for the anthology Strange Pleasures #3. It's called The Devil's Bowl and, in 2500 words, it deals with a returned soldier's survival guilt and what might be a real supernatural encounter at the climax. Not syrupy, but it helped clear feelings about WWI that abound in my soul - not sure why.
    The Great War was a hodgepodge of the 'old' and the 'frighteningly new' - it's terrors and horrors for all alike had never been encountered before. Especially the new machine guns. Chemical and bio warfare has been around for thousands of years in all cultures, but the machinery for multiple personal deaths had never been so indiscriminate and highly efficient. The ever improved bombs were not far behind. And in spite of the Christmas Peace in December 1914, 'human inhumanities and cruelty to each other' strode alongside 'great courage and fortitude' onto the battlefields of France and Europe. There were also disparately, stupidity and intelligence, life of a sort and much, much death.
    I've read the first chapter of your book on your website, Jacqueline, and I for one, can't wait to finish reading it.
    Look after yourself and take it easy for a bit.
    PS: We're heading to California on Tuesday, Anaheim to be accurate, for the World Science Fiction Convention.

  3. Breathe deep, take some calming music with you, and have a great time on the tour. I'll be there with tea and chocolates if you need them!

  4. from Jacqueline

    Thanks for your responses one and all - and thank goodness, James, there are a few train journeys amid the on-off planes schedule.

    The issue of the "deserters" is one that haunts me. Those executions were finally outlawed in 1929, by Ernest Tuttle, the MP for (I think) Whitechapel. Although "British" he was born in America, then his parents returned to the UK - a little factoid that's always interested me. Apparently over 3000 men were branded deserters, with those 306 being the unlucky "examples" who were shot at dawn.

    I think you have to train for book tours, a bit like an athlete for a big event, as they do really take it out of you. It's like a race from one day to the next, and I confess that I once woke up and couldn't remember which city I was in - a not uncommon problem, I'm told. But it's lovely to see the readers of one's books, those people who take time out of their day to come to hear a reading and buy a book. And of course, the booksellers are so welcoming - who could not be grateful for such an opportunity? But I'll do my best to take it easy between the busy bits!