Monday, 4 July 2022

Blog Tour: The Eisenhower Chronicles by M. B. Zucker #HistoricalBiography #WWII #Eisenhower #BlogTour @MBZuckerBooks @MichaelZucker1

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club on tour with…
The Eisenhower Chronicles
By M. B. Zucker

Publication Date: 26th July 2022
Publisher: Historium Press Books 
Page Length: 496 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

In 1938 he was a lieutenant colonel stationed in the Philippines; by 1945 the world
proclaimed him its savior. From leading the forces of liberal democracy against history’s most evil tyrant to the presidency, Dwight D. Eisenhower fought for and kept the peace during the most dangerous era in history.

The Eisenhower Chronicles dramatizes Ike’s life, portraying his epic journey from unknown soldier to global hero as only a novel could. He is shown working with icons such as FDR, Winston Churchill, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and confronting challenges like D-Day, the Little Rock Crisis, and Sputnik.

Eisenhower’s legacy is grounded in defending the world from fascism, communism, and nuclear weapons. This novel shows how he accomplished it all and takes readers into his mind and soul, grounding the history in the man who made it.


M. B. Zucker

M. B. Zucker has been interested in storytelling for as long as he can remember. He discovered his love of history at fifteen and studied Dwight Eisenhower for over ten years. Mr. Zucker earned his B.A. at Occidental College and his J.D. at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He lives in Virginia with his wife.

Social Media Links:

Website • TwitterTwitterFacebook • LinkedIn • Amazon Author Page • Goodreads 

Tour Schedule

September 5th
Catherine Meyrick’s Official Blog
The Whispering Bookworm
The Book Bandit’s Library
The Historical Fiction Company

September 6th
The Historical Fiction Blog
Samantha Wilcoxson’s Official Blog
Let Us Talk Of Many Things
Shadows of the Past

September 7th
Paul Walker’s Official Blog
Linnea Tanner’s Official Blog
Let Your Words Shine…

September 8th
Zoe’s Art, Craft and Life
Brook’s Journal 
B for Bookreview
Crowvus Book Blog

September 9th
CelticLady’s Reviews
When Angels Fly
I got lost in a book

Have a sneak peek between the covers of Siobhan Daiko's fabulous novel - The Girl from Bologna (Girls from the Italian Resistance) #HistoricalFiction #WomensFiction #WWII @siobhandaiko

The Girl from Bologna 
(Girls from the Italian Resistance)
By Siobhan Daiko

Publication Date: 29th June 2022
Publisher: Asolando Books
Page Length: 300 Pages
Genre: 20th Century Historical Fiction

Bologna, Italy, 1944, and the streets are crawling with German soldiers. Nineteen-year-old Leila Venturi is shocked into joining the Resistance after her beloved best friend Rebecca, the daughter of a prominent Jewish businessman, is ruthlessly deported to a concentration camp.

In February 1981, exchange student Rhiannon Hughes arrives in Bologna to study at the university. There, she rents a room from Leila, who is now middle-aged and infirm. Leila’s nephew, Gianluca, offers to show Rhiannon around but Leila warns her off him.

Soon Rhiannon finds herself being drawn into a web of intrigue. What is Gianluca’s interest in a far-right group? And how is the nefarious head of this group connected to Leila? As dark secrets emerge from the past, Rhiannon is faced with a terrible choice. Will she take her courage into both hands and risk everything?

An evocative, compelling read, “The Girl from Bologna” is a story of love lost, daring exploits, and heart wrenching redemption.

Keeping my head down so as not to draw attention to myself, I made my way past the German tank stationed next to the Basilica of San Petronio. I was in a hurry to get home after spending the morning at the library and didn’t want to waste time having my identity documents checked. I stopped. Listened. A distant rumble followed by the ominous drone of aircraft engines echoed in my ears. The terrifying noise grew louder, and I imagined a swarm of giant angry hornets hellbent on destruction. Dread squeezing my chest, I risked a quick glance upwards. Heavy cloud cover billowed over Bologna; there was no sign of any planes. 

But my heart skittered as a ricochet of explosions reverberated from the direction of the railway marshalling yards. Plumes of thick, black smoke spiralled into the sky. 

Why hadn’t there been any warning sirens like there had been when the Americans bombed the railway two months ago? Not that those alarms had done much good; they’d been set off too late, just as the aircraft had come into sight. Many of the bombs had fallen not only on the sta-tion but on the historic city centre, damaging buildings and killing innocent civilians who hadn’t managed to reach safety. 

Oh, dear God. I’d hoped against hope that our King’s armistice with the Allies would have put an end to such attacks. Except, the Wehrmacht had occupied Bologna and were using it as a transportation hub, and I feared we’d become a prime target again.

The nearest shelter was in Strada Maggiore, but my best friend Rebecca’s family palazzo was even closer. The Allies’ bombers were clearly visible now, flying wingtip to wingtip in a V formation, like enormous silver geese migrating across the urban skies. 

I raced into Piazza del Nettuno, my feet pounding on the smooth paving stones. I tore past the fountain then headed along Rizzoli Street towards the two iconic medieval leaning towers.

Would I reach safety before a stray bomb dropped on me? Perspiration beaded my brow and my chest ached. 

At the top of Zamboni Street, I arrived at a nondescript wooden door. I rang the bell and waited impatiently, hopping from one foot to the other until Giulia, the Matatias’ housekeeper, let me in.

‘Hurry!’ she said in Bolognese dialect. She grabbed my hand and pulled me towards a metal and stained-glass gate, which opened onto a square garden. Bologna had been built around its hidden spaces, but the Matatias’ was even more impressive than most. 

I sprinted after Giulia, following the gravel path skirting ancient trees and shrub-filled borders. A three-storey coral-coloured palazzo stood before me. ‘Everyone has gone down to the cellar,’ Giulia’s voice shrilled.

I found Rebecca huddled on a dilapidated sofa next to her mother. ‘Ciao,’ she said. ‘What are you doing here?’ 

I explained quickly, took in her doleful expression, and gave her a hug. 

Rebecca was the same age as me, nearly nineteen, and we were about to start our Italian litera-ture studies at Alma Mater Studiorum, Bologna’s prestigious university, the oldest in the world. We’d been friends since early childhood. Rebecca’s family was of Jewish origin but had been baptised as Roman Catholics to avoid persecution. She was an only child, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist father and a mother who stayed at home. I loved her like I would have loved a sister if I’d had one. We could have been sisters, in fact; we were quite beautiful then, had almost identical, amber-coloured eyes, high cheekbones, bow-shaped lips and long brunette hair.

I sat next to Rebecca while Giulia joined the rest the staff—the housemaid, cook, and gardener, crouched on bales of straw beside a coal heap. 

The thunderous echo of the bombardment came through the ceiling of the cellar, making my ears ring. Conversation was impossible for the awful noise, so I lost myself in thought. 

I remembered hearing the shocking news that German tanks had rolled into Bologna the day after our prime minister had announced that Italy had switched sides in the war. Nazi officials hung a swastika flag from the façade of the Hotel Baglioni—the best in the city—and had commandeered part of the first floor and a large lounge to the right of the lobby, which they converted into their administrative headquarters. Not one Italian authority had turned up for a formal handover. With total political chaos there weren’t any Italian authorities at hand.

Over the next several days, the Wehrmacht put their military occupation into action. Repression and intimidation began immediately with the confiscation of automobiles, limits to bicycle transport, a curfew from eleven pm to four am, and restrictions on gatherings of more than three people. Worst of all, the Nazis set up transit camps for deportations and slave labour, in-terning deserters from the Italian army—those they hadn’t already loaded onto cattle trucks and transported to Germany for their nefarious needs.

It was all too horrible, I thought, snuggling against Rebecca while poor Bologna was being bombed to bits. I prayed fervently that my mother, father, and brother were safe. 

Gradually, the reverberation of explosions lessened and then finally came to a halt.

‘We can go upstairs,’ Rebecca said in a trembly voice. 

We climbed the spiral staircase to the piano nobile. ‘Please may I use your phone?’ I asked.

‘Of course.’ Signora Matatia brushed a stray dark curl from her pale forehead. ‘You must be worried about your family, dear.’

With trembling fingers I picked up the receiver and dialled home. 

But the lines were down, and I couldn’t get through. 

‘I should go,’ I said. ‘Thank you for sheltering me.’

Rebecca saw me to the street door. ‘Send a message if you can. Let us know everyone is safe.’

‘I’ll try.’ I kissed her on both cheeks. ‘Daniele will be fine. I feel it in my bones.’

Rebecca had a crush on Dani, but my brother was ten years older than the two of us. A hard-working doctor, he didn’t have much time for women, and certainly not for his little sister’s best friend.

‘I hope Paolo is alright,’ Rebecca responded. Paolo was my sweetheart, a medical student at the university. 

‘He’ll have found shelter, I’m sure.’ But I was worried. I worried about him continuously. He’d been a secret member of the Partito d’Azione clandestine political party for the past six months, attending covert antifascist meetings alongside his friends, and I lived in constant fear of him being arrested. My gangly boy was terribly serious about everything; I just hoped his earnest attitude wouldn’t lead to his death. 

I stepped outside and my heart dropped. An acrid smell stung my nostrils. A desperate, dark-haired man was clawing through the brick rubble of a bombed building. A thin woman stood next to the man, weeping, cradling a baby whose face was so white he or she was obviously dead. Other crying people had gathered around a girl of about nine or ten who’d lost an arm. She lay silently bleeding to death before me in the street, her eyes glazed open. I’d never seen anyone die before. Nausea built in my throat and hot tears streamed down my cheeks. I stepped forward to help, but a policeman turned me away.

Choking on smoke and dust, I stood rooted to the spot. Fire raged in buildings further down the road, but the two stone towers ahead appeared intact. They’d endured since the twelfth cen-tury—a time when Bologna used to resemble a mediaeval Manhattan—it would take more than carpet bombing to destroy them now, I hoped.

Oh, God, how I prayed Mamma, Papà, and Dani were safe. Worry spurred me into action and, sobbing, I ran home.

This novel is FREE to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription 

Siobhan Daiko is a British historical fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese dog and two rescued cats. After a life of romance and adventure in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK, Siobhan now spends her time indulging her love of writing and enjoying her life near Venice. 

Social Media Links:

Website • Twitter • Facebook • LinkedIn • Instagram • Pinterest • BookBub • Amazon Author Page • Goodreads

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club in conversation with #HistoricalFiction author, Vicky Adin @vickyadinauthor


Book 2 in The Art of Secrets series
By Vicky Adin

Published: 8th May 2022
Publisher: AM Publishing NZ
Page Length: 376 Pages
Genre: A dual-timeline women‘s historical family saga

A distraught friend, a mysterious stalker, and generations of secrets. 

Emma’s job is to find the link, but tracing a family tree suddenly becomes a dangerous occupation.

Emma delights in uncovering her clients’ family secrets and writing their histories. When Jess begs her to untangle her skeletons and find the woman called Elinor, Emma soon learns someone doesn’t want the past brought to light. A series of threats puts her in danger, and Emma suspects there is more to her friend’s frazzled plea.

Elinor only wants one thing from life – a home and hearth where she can dispense love and laughter. Undeterred by the hardships of life between the two world wars, Elinor raises a large family and survives everything fate throws her way. Neither deprivation nor heartache prevents her from protecting those she loves. But is what she yearns for a step too far?

Intrigued by Elinor’s story, Emma is determined to find out who is causing trouble, and why, before it’s too late. 

Trigger warnings.
Deals with family life adversities and tragedies

Before we begin, please introduce yourself.

Hi everyone, I’m Vicky, a Welsh born Cornish raised Kiwi. I’m a genealogist, antique lover, wife, mother, grandmother and all round nosy parker. I love Mediterranean food and red wine. Fortunately I love to cook and, if you sign up to my newsletter, apart from some book news you will also get snippets of entertaining gossip about our two vintage cars, our caravan travels around New Zealand, as well as our orchids, the odd recipe, and loads of history and interesting ‘new’ (meaning old and forgotten) words. I love words, but my favourite past-time is delving into the past, looking at old photos, reading old newspapers and discovering those who shaped our world. 

What inspired you to write your latest book, Elinor?

Genealogical research. It’s such a mouthful, I wish there was a simpler word for it – but I find by digging into the social structure of the past I understand more of how New Zealand developed as a nation. Elinor is not one person, she is a compilation of many women; women who survived whatever life threw at them. In this instance, Elinor lived through the post war years of the 1920s and on through the Great Depression of the 1930s. These women bore many children, loved and lost, struggled to make ends meet and yet survived under difficult circumstances. They saw great changes with the advent or modern appliances and technology. The period between the wars presented opportunities and optimism as well as desperation. 

How did you come up with your setting, and your characters?

I write about the women of the time, who to me were (and are) the backbone of the family. I’ll leave the war stories to others. I choose periods of great historical change or base my stories around strong women who chose to change their circumstances seeking a better life. My stories reflect the everyday, ordinary immigrants to our beautiful country. Except there was nothing ordinary about how those women survived; women who would never appear in the annals of history but who oversaw the birth of a nation and helped shape many lives.  

I have six books in The New Zealand Immigrant Collection - family sagas about overcoming the odds - ranging in settings from the 1860s to the1890s and into the early 1900s. Some are entirely historical, some are dual-timeline and contemporary novels about searching for the past. Elinor is Book Two in a new series The Art of Secrets about finding your roots.

What is it about the period of history that you write about that you find so fascinating?

New Zealand is a young country by world standards. Guided by the stars, the oceans and the winds, the Māori arrived here around a thousand years ago, creating traditions and legends that make New Zealand unique. Their footprint was established long before the first ship-load of Pākehā (European) settlers arrived after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. From then on, immigrants continued to arrive in their thousands to an untamed land with little infrastructure to create a new way of life. These are the people who inspire me. 

What are you currently working on?

Book 3 in The Art of Secrets dual-timeline series. Her name is Lucy and she was one of over 30,000 women who signed the suffrage petition that eventually gave New Zealand women the right to vote in 1893 – the first in the world to have universal suffrage. The history of that time is fascinating and I can’t wait to tell her story. But first, Emma, our modern day protagonist, genealogist, researcher and biographer has to do a lot of digging. 

26 January 1919 

Elinor Somers closed her eyes and took a deep breath, hoping to reset her rising temper. Her children filled the space with noise as they squabbled, laughed and chased each other around the house. Every sound swirled, magnified and rang inside her head – the knife against the bowl as she chopped the butter, the pot lid she lifted to stir the soup. The dog barking outside was more than her nerves could stand. She rubbed her flour-coated wrist across her forehead to ease the tension. “Stop it!” she snapped. Stillness followed while the children waited. “Get outside. I can’t stand your clatter any longer.”

The heavy clumping of feet on wooden boards echoed in Elinor’s head as her eldest daughter Ella ushered the three younger ones out. All except thirteen-month-old Dot, who looked up at her mother from the rug. The child’s large, round eyes pooled with tears at her mother’s sharp tone and dribble ran down her chin, wetting her bodice. Elinor quickly swept Dot into her arms before the girl could let out the wail building in the tiny body. Her head couldn’t stand another din.

She had given her daughter a spoon dipped in honey to suck, moments before she heard the door opening. She turned, ready to scold the children again, only to see Joe. She glanced at the clock – mid-morning, with so much of the hot summer’s day yet to come. Joe never came in at this time. Her body thrummed with fear.

“What’s wrong?” She watched her husband of ten years as he pulled his boots off on the home-made wooden jack and came inside.

“Nothing. The youngsters came down to the shed and said you were upset.”

Elinor stood straighter and glared at Joe. Her most striking feature was her height, closely followed by her piercing green eyes, which she now used to full advantage. She might be exhausted, she might want to fly off the handle at the slightest incident and run to the seclusion of her bedroom, but no one, not even Joe, was going to accuse her of weakness. “There’s nothing wrong here, either. They were making such a racket I told them to get outside, that’s all. They shouldn’t have gone running to you. Now, scoot. Get about your work and leave me to get on.”

“You don’t have to pretend with me, Nellie.”

“Get away with you. I’ve got work to do, even if you haven’t.”

Joe took Dot from her arms. “Now I’m here, how about you make me a cup of tea and I’ll have this one awhile.” 

Elinor hurried to the coal range, moving the big kettle across to the heat while she threw tea leaves into the pot. She reached for the freshly baked bread, sliced off a couple of pieces, buttered them and handed them to Joe.

“How’s the packing going?” he asked, jiggling the now-smiling infant on his knee.

Elinor frowned. “As well as I can with four youngsters underfoot and a baby to feed. Our Ella is doing her best to keep the little ones quiet, I know. And I shouldn’t have lost my temper, but I’m nowhere near ready. How will we manage, what with all the furniture and the animals?”

“Your brothers will bring your father’s truck. They’ll help load the dray and take the animals.” 

“Are you sure we’re doing the right thing, Joe?” She handed him a mug of hot tea, took Dot from him and put her on the floor to play.

With his mouth full, Joe didn’t answer immediately. She could see the doubt in his eyes but wasn’t surprised when he said, “Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”

They would walk off this place as they had walked off the last one, and the one before that, owning nothing. They never seemed able to get ahead, never got a break, despite their best efforts. All she wanted from life was security. A home she could call her own, a place overflowing with love and laughter and certainty for her family. She suspected it would be many years before her dream came true, but she lived in hope. “I’m not letting anyone defeat us, Joe. I’m not.” She’d find a way. 

The goal of owning a farm of their own had been her father’s driving ambition, and now it drove her husband. Moving had been a part of her life from an early age. Shifting from house to house, from town to town, as one place failed, the season ended or they’d heard of a better job, a better way of living. The nomadic lifestyle took its toll, and what for, she asked herself … what for? 

She knew, of course. Land. The need to own a piece of dirt. A source of pride and a mark of success. But, like chasing rainbows, the pot was always a little out of reach. They’d moved so often, she began to plan for it as much as she planned for her next pregnancy. 

She straightened her shoulders again.

“Take it easy, Nellie. We won’t be beat, not in the long run, but right now we have no option. This land is no good.” 

She had tried to convince herself they could stay. That this time they’d find a way, but deep down, she’d known they wouldn’t be able to make the farm pay. Joe was so easy-going and accepting, it often frustrated her. Sometimes she wished he would fight against their misfortunes, but that wasn’t the nature of the man she loved. 

Joe’s old labouring job at the flax mill had been intermittent and low paid; farming seemed a good option and they’d leased a property. They’d tried milking cows, but the land wasn’t right, according to her father, her brothers, his brothers. Everyone said they were crazy to try, but at least they had tried. 

Another shiver of determination ran down her spine. She would not give up.

Vicky Adin is a genealogist in love with history and words. She has combined her skills to write heart-warming novels about early immigrants to New Zealand, weaving family and history together in a way that brings the past to life. Her passion is for multi-generational sagas linked by journals, letters and heirlooms. 

As a Welsh-born, Cornish raised immigrant to New Zealand herself, Vicky is fascinated by those women who undertook such hazardous journeys to find a better life; women who endured and thrived.

She invites you to journey alongside those women as they created a new life, or follow their descendants as they uncover the long lost secrets of bygone days while searching for their roots.

Become engrossed in The New Zealand Immigrant Collection, suspenseful family saga fiction uncovering the mysteries, the lies and the challenges of the past. And delve into the secrets of the past in The Art of Secrets series.

Vicky Adin holds a MA(Hons) in English and Education. She is an avid reader of historical novels, family sagas and contemporary women’s stories, and loves to travel. She especially enjoys caravanning around New Zealand with her husband and biggest fan; and spending time with her family.

Social Media Links:

Website • Twitter • Facebook • LinkedIn • Instagram • Pinterest • BookBub • Amazon Author Page • Goodreads

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Blog Tour: The Mallory Saga Books 1-5 by Paul Bennett #HistoricalFiction #AmericanHistoricalFiction #BlogTour @hooverbkreview

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club on tour with…
The Mallory Saga Books 1-5
By Paul Bennett

Publication Date: 25th November 2016
Publisher: Hoover Books
Page Length: 224 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Follow the Mallory family as they attempt to live a peaceful life on the PA frontier in 1756. They face tragedy and loss as they become embroiled in The French and Indian War - Clash of Empires. In Paths to Freedom, the colonies are heading to open revolt against King George III, and the Mallory's are once again facing the spectre of war. Crucible of Rebellion continues the Mallory story through the early years of The Revolutionary War. Book 4, A Nation is Born completes the Revolution and The Mallory's have played their part in the victory. In book 5, A Turbulent Beginning, the nascent nation finds it hard going to establish a peaceful existence. The Natives of this land resist the westward expansion of white settlers.


This series is available to read for free with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

Paul Bennett 

Paul was born in Detroit when the Big Three ruled the automobile industry, and The Korean Conflict was in full swing. A lifelong interest in history and a love of reading eventually led him to Wayne State University where he majored in Ancient History, with a minor in Physical Anthropology. However, to make ends meet, those studies were left to the realm of dreams, and Paul found himself accidentally embarking on a 50 year career in computers. A career that he has recently retired from in order to spend more time with those dreams….7 grandchildren will help fill the time as well. 

He now resides in the quaint New England town of Salem, Massachusetts with his wife Daryl, just a few minutes’ walk from the North River, and the site where the Revolution almost began. 

The Mallory Saga is the culmination of Paul’s love of history, and his creative drive to write stories. With Nightwish and Bruce Cockburn coming through his headphones, and many cups of excellent coffee, Paul hopes to carry the Saga into the late 19th century, bringing American History to life through the eyes and actions of the Mallory family.

Social Media Links:

Website •  Twitter • Facebook • LinkedIn • Instagram • BookBub • Amazon Author Page • Goodreads 

Tour Schedule

July 25th
The Writing Desk
The Historical Fiction Company
Paul Walker’s Official Blog
The Whispering Bookworm

July 26th
Judith Arnopp’s Official Blog
Let Your Words Shine…
Let Us Talk Of Many Things
Elizabeth St.John’s Official Blog

July 27th
The Historical Fiction Blog
Viviana MacKade’s Official Blog
Linnea Tanner’s Official Blog
Shadows of the Past

July 28th
Brook’s Journal 
Pam Lecky’s Official Blog
I got lost in a book
The Book Bandit’s Library 

July 29th
A Darn Good Read
CelticLady’s Reviews
MJ Porter’s Official Blog
Stuart Rudge’s Official Blog

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club in conversation with #CrimeFiction author, Lea O'Harra. There is also a chance to check out Lea's fabulous novel - Imperfect Strangers @leaoharra @SharpeBooks


Imperfect Strangers
An Inspector Inoue Thriller 
(Inspector Inoue Thrillers Book 1)
By Lea O'Harra 

Publication Date: 31st March 2022
Publisher: Sharpe Books
Page Length: 299 Pages
Genre: Crime Fiction

Japan 2012

It’s a bright hot morning and Professor Nomura, the president of Fujikawa University, has high hopes for the day.

He has put in motion a plan for sweeping changes in the university and expects finally to wrest control from colleagues.

But the academic, hated and feared in equal measure, has his throat slit in his office.

For Chief Inspector Inoue, head of the local police force, the challenge is to find the murderer of a man with far more enemies than friends.

Inoue is shocked by the murder in his alma mater.
As the investigation proceeds, he uncovers a web of lies and deceit. He finds Nomura was suspected of lechery and corruption.

When another murder occurs, Inoue is in a race against time to fine the killer before he murders again. The suspects are multiplying, including Nomura’s own brother.

Under pressure from his superiors and university authorities, Inoue must uncover how all the events are connected and bring the perpetrators to justice – or face professional ruin.

Congratulations on your recently published novel, Imperfect Strangers: An Inspector Inoue Thriller (Inspector Inoue Thrillers Book 1). Could you tell us a little about your new book and what inspired you to write it?

I arrived in Japan in the spring of 1984 to take up a full-time teaching post at a newly established university on the island of Shikoku. I lived in a rural area with few Westerners; I was the first non-Japanese most of my students had ever met. I had to get used to facing intense scrutiny and curiosity in my daily life, especially after marrying a Japanese farmer. I began writing creative non-fiction pieces describing my life as an American academic who was also a wife and mother of three biracial sons. It was a form of catharsis. But eventually I tired of autobiographical writing and thought I’d try my hand at something quite different: crime fiction. The protagonist of my so-called “Inspector Inoue” mystery series, comprising three novels, with one more in the planning stages, is Kenji Inoue, a chief inspector in the small police station in the town of Fujikawa. In his forties, he is muscular, bullet-headed, and taciturn. It was thrilling to adopt a perspective quite different from my own – a relief even. Of course, it was a great challenge. But after such a long residence in Japan, I felt I could inhabit the Japanese psyche and produce realistic Japanese characters. I think my Inoue books represent not only murder mysteries but also an analysis of Japanese custom and thought while examining some of the challenges the country currently faces.

How did you go about writing Imperfect Strangers? Did you write from an outline, or did you let the story develop as you wrote?

I had got the idea for Imperfect Strangers from my long years of teaching at a Japanese university. I wanted to convey the atmosphere and interpersonal dynamics observable at such institutions. It has been said that university politics are so bitterly contested precisely because there’s so little at stake. I wanted to give my readers a sense of the febrile atmosphere of a university campus, where backbiting, envy and jostling for position can be rife. The story unfolded as I wrote it. The characters seemed to develop lives of their own and to guide me through the composition process. I was sometimes surprised by the twists and turns of the plot. 

Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?

I especially like my protagonist, Inspector Inoue. Kenji Inoue has obediently and diligently followed the career trajectory mapped out for him. He is not only a capable and efficient police officer but also a devoted son. In other words, he’s a typical Japanese individual in the twenty-first century: conformist and conscientious, self-disciplined and scrupulously honest. But he has one quirk. Ten years before the action of the first novel in the series, he fell in love with an American woman and loves her passionately. This might be the chink in his armour. Equally, it is the trait that makes him human and vulnerable and loveable.  

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell my younger writing self to be brave, to dare to be adventurous. Before embarking on my crime fiction novels, in addition to creative non-fiction pieces, I had published widely on English and Japanese literature: critical monographs, articles, essays, and book reviews. Perhaps everyone who studies and writes about literature is an author manqué. I waited many years before trying my hand at writing a novel. I wish I’d started earlier.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

I have three pieces of advice. Don’t be afraid to fail. Write for the love of writing rather than for fame or fortune. As Shakespeare said, ‘To thine own self be true.’

As he stood waiting for his boss to deign to notice him, Andrew was surprised to feel a twinge of pity for the figure in the swivel leather office chair. He must be desperately tired to be sleeping like that, he thought. So heavily. Nomura was sprawled over his desk. His head, with its fluffy aureole of white hair, was cushioned on some papers. Squinting, Andrew saw his arms flung out in a protective gesture over files and documents, and there was an object by his left hand that Andrew’s near-sightedness reduced to a white blob. Perhaps one of those big white electric kettles people kept in their offices for a ready supply of hot water for a cup of green tea.

As he paused at the office door, he was gripped by foreboding. His noisy rapping should have woken the deepest sleeper.

On that bright morning, his irritation at being kept waiting was replaced by an odd sense of trepidation as he approached Nomura’s desk. With each tiptoe towards the desk, he expected the head to lift and growl at him.

Only a step from the desk, Andrew saw that Nomura’s left cheek was cradled on a stack of papers as if pillowing his slumbers. But his boss’s position looked unnatural, his head tilted up towards the ceiling.

His eyes are open! There’s blood!

Andrew’s mind shut down. He needed time. He sought refuge in trifles. He saw it wasn’t an electric thermos near the clutter of paper on the desk. It was a doll. He had seen such a doll on visits to traditional Japanese farmhouses. In each place there had been a doll like that housed in an ornamental glass box sitting on top of a shoe cupboard in the genkan.

This doll was not in a box, glass or otherwise. It was inches away from Professor Nomura’s head. It was about a foot tall, a pale, plump, porcelain figure clad in a white kimono with a red decorative border. There was an elaborate topknot on itshead. There were slivers of eyebrows over crescent eyes, complete with tiny nose and mouth – a clear representative of the Japanese ideal of feminine beauty. There was a benevolent expression on its face, its thin red lips curled in a smile. But the doll’s white cheeks were speckled with crimson dots as if she had been weeping blood from those crescent eyes. There was a curious scrawl, a word lightly pencilled in Japanese on the glowing ceramic forehead, and blotches of red disfigured the gleaming purity of the robe.

A huge buzzing bluebottle made lazy circles over Nomura’s head. Its loud humming as it swooped around made Andrew wonder if it had cast a spell on his boss.

He peered at Nomura’s face. A trickle of blood oozed from his mouth into his pointed beard. He leaned closer and recoiled. Nomura’s thin lips, usually pursed in righteous anger, were mimicked by a second, larger and more voluptuous mouth below them. It was a deep cut across Nomura’s throat: open, red and hungry.

Andrew managed to stand upright but was caught in a kind of paralysis. He could look but couldn’t budge. Silent, he observed everything. The stack of paper below Nomura’s left cheek. The neat rows of Chinese characters on white sheets obliterated by a widening crimson pool that stained the documents and oozed in a thick red line across the desk, dripping onto the silky grey fabric covering Nomura’s thighs and forming a smaller pool on the floor beneath his chair. The bluebottle, still buzzing overhead, looked fat and satiated. The wheezing of the air conditioner sounding now like cries of outrage and horror.

Although part of the left side of Nomura’s face was hidden, cushioned on the papers, the left eye was just visible. Both eyes glared up unblinkingly at Andrew standing over the body. Death could not erase their haughty look.

As a teacher at this small, private university, Andrew often felt he was boring his students to death. Seeing them slumped over their desks in the sultry heat of summer, the air conditioner sputtering out a feeble stream of cool air and occasionally pausing to make a sound like a death rattle, Andrew imagined it exuded poison gas accounting for the lifeless bodies of his students sprawled in their seats.

His way of fantasising about his students’ apathy was worlds away from the reality of the trickling blood beside his right foot.

How can a body contain so much blood?

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Photo courtesy of Wendy Jones Nakanishi

Lea O’Harra has published three crime fiction novels set in rural contemporary Japan: Imperfect Strangers (2015); Progeny (2016); and Lady First (2017). These form the so-called ‘Inspector Inoue Murder Mystery’ series, published by Endeavour Press, UK. The three novels have been reissued in 2022 by Sharpe Books. Lea O’Harra plans to begin a fourth and final book in this series shortly.

Lea O’Harra also had a story included in Best Asian Crime Fiction published by Kitaab Press (Singapore) in 2020. 

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