Blurb: Margate 1920. The Great War is over but Britain is still to find peace and its spirit is not yet mended. Edward and William have returned from the front as changed men. Together they have survived grotesque horrors and remain haunted by memories of comrades who did not come home. The summer season in Margate is a chance for them to rebuild their lives and reconcile the past. Evelyn and Catherine are young women ready to live to live life to the full. Their independence has been hard won and, with little knowledge of the cost of their freedom, they are ready to face new challenges side by side. Can they define their own future and open their hearts to the prospect of finding love? Will the summer of 1920 be a turning point for these new friends and the country?
Extract From THE BLUE BENCH
Hi and thanks for joining me at BookLoverWorm for the final article as part of the blog tour for The Blue Bench, based around an extract from the book.
When considering a suitable extract from I thought to take into account that it needed to be entertaining and representative but shouldn’t give away too much and certainly no spoilers.
But, in isolation, how entertaining could an extract be? So I thought some context would help and then wondered if you might be interested to know what I’d hoped to achieve when writing that particular scene. What was its purpose within the narrative and what did I hope for the reader to take from it.
So, hoping it’s of interest, here goes.
Scene: Sunday 1st August 1920 – Edward and William
It is Edward and William’s third day in Margate. They are there because Edward is a musician playing the summer season. We know the two men fought together in the Great War and that Edward was injured, but the extent of the injury is not yet known. After breakfast they are in the drawing room of the guest house where they have taken rooms.
‘Look at this. The nineteen sixteen Christmas edition.’ Edward had been hunting through the magazine rack in the guest house drawing room. There were several issues of Tit–Bits which he passed over, initially choosing an issue of Nash’s And Pall Mall Magazine, but changing his mind on seeing the magazine underneath – Blighty, Christmas 1916 issue. ‘Where were we?’ He held it up to show William.
‘Hadn’t we just finished up at Ancre? Were we resting behind lines?’
‘I think so. That was the last Christmas we were over there.’
‘Your last Christmas. I had one other.’ William reminded him.
‘I’d have swapped, given the … circumstances.’ Edward lisped the last word and flicked through the magazine. ‘I remember this one. Didn’t one of the men receive a couple of copies from his brother up at HQ, together with some French postcards?’
‘That’s so, though the ladies in the postcards didn’t look particularly French, seeings ‘ow they had no clothes on.’
‘Still, brightened Christmas that year.’
‘Though you wouldn’t let the younger lads share round the postcards, as I recall. You made me confiscate them. Didn’t young Kayst in particular have a right moan?’
‘He did. You wanted to put him on a charge, insubordination or some such rubbish. I should have let all the lads see them. What happened to those postcards?’
‘I’ve still got them,’ said William.
‘Those postcards were probably the closest young Kayst ever came to a fuck, before …’ Edward’s voice tailed away.
‘Poor Kayst,’ said William.
‘And I remember we had to explain a lot of the jokes in the magazine to him. Not the brightest lad, but a good heart.’
‘I suppose.’ William acknowledged. Edward flicked further through the magazine without paying attention and, after a minute, asked,
‘Do you ever wonder if perhaps Kayst made it out?’
William shook his head. ‘What? No, of course not. Don’t be daft. He didn’t. We saw.’
‘Did we? See him? I don’t think I did. One second he was there, then I looked away, to you, then looked back and he was gone. In a second … less.’
‘Did you? You were looking at me, waving and shouting. Then I turned back and he was … just gone, not there.’
‘Does it matter?’
‘No. But sometimes, I wonder, it might be easier, mightn’t it? If I’d seen him … go … knew for sure …’
‘What, you mean maybe he somehow survived, hid, escaped and is living the life of Riley somewhere?’
‘No, but, I didn’t actually see him … go. And sometimes I just … I don’t know.’ Edward looked away, turned a few pages of the magazine then tossed it over to William, saying, ‘I’m bored.’
‘It’s a beautiful day, we should go and explore Margate.’ William stubbed out his cigarette and stood as if that might persuade Edward. The drawing room overlooked the back of the house where a gardener weeded the flower beds. The garden was partly in the shade of the house itself but the sun bathed the bottom half where a patch had been left to untended grass and wild flowers.
‘We explored yesterday. And, while Margate is a nice town, I’m still bored.’
‘You don’t mean bored. You’re missing your practise.’ William sat back down.
That was nearer the truth and Edward nodded acknowledgement. ‘All right. It is a beautiful day. We don’t need to be at the auditorium until four this afternoon. What shall we do?’
‘Five this afternoon will be plenty early enough.’
‘I know, but I want to be there at four …’
‘… in case the piano is free.’
‘And I want to know if Mr. Taylor has resolved that problem. I told him there’s something not right about the A six key, but I can’t tell if it’s a tuning issue or something wrong with the mechanism.’
‘I’m sure he’ll sort it.’
‘And I do need the practise.’
‘No, you don’t.’ William lit another cigarette as the maid entered. He caught her eye before she could begin plumping cushions on the settee in the window bay. ‘Now, Georgette, I expect you know Margate. What should we do today? How can we entertain my friend on this fine Sunday morning?’
They had first met the maid on the Friday, when they arrived, then on the Saturday and Sunday mornings, when serving breakfast. Knowing they would be there for a while William had made introductions but Edward guessed she was not yet accustomed to his face as she looked away to answer. ‘There is a new …’ she hesitated over the unfamiliar words, ‘… scenic railway … at Dreamland. The ride opened a few weeks past. They say it is the biggest outside America. Maybe two kilometre long. I hear it’s very … exciting.’ Georgette’s English was good and the French accent charming.
‘There you are Edward. Scenic railway, Dreamland. Two kilometres, a proper mile, at least. Though I believe the ride would be more exciting with a French lass alongside.’ He turned to Georgette. ‘Your English is excellent. You’ve been here long?’
Georgette smiled. ‘Oui, a long time. Or Monsieur might like the shell grotto. It is hundreds of years old, they say.’
‘Edward, a shell grotto. We should see for ourselves. Or perhaps Georgette could show us.’
‘Perhaps another day Monsieur.’ She was still smiling and Edward thought the smile promised mischief. And there was no doubting the allure in her accent.
‘Could we have a cup of tea, here in the drawing room?’ Edward asked Georgette, looking down as he spoke.
‘I am sorry Monsieur. There is no … refreshing … after breakfast and before lunchtime.’
‘See Edward, no reason to sit here.’ William stood again and this time Edward joined him.
Behind the scene:
Though only a short scene I recall spending a lot of time trying to provide a lot of information in a concise but natural way, at the same time as showing a little more about how three of the main protagonists interact. Much of the information included is essential and is the first time it has been referenced. In simple terms …
… there is confirmation that Edward and William fought together, Edward had the superior rank but did not see out the war at the front.
… we learn that their platoon included a young man called Kayst who didn’t survive the war and there are glimpses of the manner of his death.
… Kayst was not the smartest lad in the platoon and we can infer from Edward’s attitude that Kayst’s dying affected him deeply – he is dwelling on it. Kayst will become essential to the narrative both as an individual and as a symbol of a lost generation.
… we hear about the saucy postcards and that William kept them for himself – a small indicator to his personality. The postcards will play a greater part in the story later on.
… Edward is a musician and a perfectionist and that William understands him well.
… later in the scene we are introduced to Georgette for the first time and can see already that she is mor confortable with William than Edward. Georgette will be essential to the narrative.
In addition to the information I‘m hoping the reader take away indicators to the symbiotic nature of Edward and William’s relationship and Edward’s sadness and confusion at how one of his men died.
So, although not a big scene it is one of the most important foundation scenes in the book.
I hope this is of interest and, if after reading the book, readers have any particular scenes they’d like me to look at in similar detail then I’d be happy to do so – perhaps contact BookLoverWorm and suggest a scene.
About the author:
Paul grew up in a west London suburb and now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two children. He is passionate about music, sport and, most of all, writing, on which he now concentrates full-time. Paul has written four novels and his primary literary ambition is that you enjoy reading them while he is hard at work on the next one (but still finding time to play drums with Redlands and Rags 2 Riches).
Twitter : @marriner_p