Thursday, May 8, 2014

Guest Author - Paul Dowswell

Today we have been honoured with a flash fiction story from a guest author, Paul Dowswell, who writes historical fiction novels for young adults.  His latest novel, Red Shadow, the story of a young girl caught up in Stalinist Russia is released today

Book Blurb

Russia, 1940. Fifteen-year-old Misha’s life is about to transform when his father is offered a job in Stalin’s inner circle. They move into a luxurious apartment in the Kremlin, but doubts about the glorious new Russia quickly surface. Misha realises that the secret police can do whatever they like. His own mother is arrested and sent to prison, but Misha and his father daren’t complain. Then as German troops advance on Moscow, the atmosphere in the Kremlin ignites. Misha and a friend find themselves at the heart of a battle against the mighty state in this powerful evocation of one of the most turbulent places and periods of the 20th century, told by a master storyteller.


Soon after the Petrov family arrived at their apartment in the Kremlin, Misha was asked to be one of the cheering, flag waving children in a film they were making about a Red Square parade. Other children from the Kremlin clerical staff were placed beside him too. The director told Misha he had a noble peasant face and asked him to stand right at the front. That puzzled him because he knew the Petrovs came from a family of teachers and musicians who had lived in Moscow for at least four generations.

Misha never forgot that parade, especially the float with the young engineers hanging on to a great iron framework of hoops and rods, making up a full-size human locomotive, steaming into a glorious Soviet future. Then there were the athletes who spelled out Stalin’s name with their bodies on the ground, with twelve or more interlocking men making up each line or curve of a letter, as others walked past with a great banner declaring ‘Comrade Stalin is the friend of all sportsmen.’ Misha liked that one. He could understand it.

Other banners were more disturbing:

‘Severely Judge the Right-Wing Renegades, Betrayers and Traitors to the Motherland’


‘Wipe out the Trotsky-Zinovyevite Gang of Murderers from the Face of the Earth.

Such is the Verdict of the Working People’

He had asked his father what these hateful, uncompromising slogans meant, but Yegor Petrov had just ruffled his hair and pointed to the young women gymnasts in their rotating steel wheels – another part of the vast living river passing before them through Red Square. Misha blushed as their short sports skirts fell up around their waists, as each dangled upside down at the top of the wheel.

Misha loved their new home. It was wonderful having an endless supply of good food and a warm apartment and a bathroom with a marble bath and a flush lavatory, all that just for his family! In their Kommunalka they had shared far more primitive facilities with at least four other families. But it couldn’t compare with the thrill of seeing himself on the cinema screen in luminous black and white, so clear and so sharp, a fleeting few seconds from a long gone August afternoon…

All that was a couple of years before Mama disappeared, and Misha had never felt right since. One morning he was getting ready for school, just as the autumn was setting in, and they had had a row. He was making her late, searching for the cashmere scarf he was so proud of, the one they had bought from the bourgeois old man in the market at Kutuzovsky. ‘Now I will be late too,’ she had said. ‘It does not do for a teacher to be late for their students.’  She was so cross she didn’t even kiss him goodbye. At the time Misha didn’t mind. He was getting too old for that sort of thing.

But when he came home that afternoon she wasn’t there. Within a week the Petrovs were told she was an enemy of the people and had been sent to a camp in the east. It would be ten years before she came back. If she came back.

It took Misha a while to work out the full implications of all this. Mama would not return until he was 25. Meanwhile he would get his qualifications, maybe even go to university, find a job, he might even be a father by then, if he met a good Soviet girl at University, and Mama would miss all that. Was she a renegade or betrayer, like the traitors in those alarming parade banners? He couldn’t imagine it. Had she been wiped out? Misha thought of her often, although he had long ago learned not to mention her to his father.

Paul Dowswell's previous novel is set during the final 24 hours before the armisitice at 11 a.m. on 11th November 1918.

Book Blurb

THE WESTERN FRONT: 8:00AM NOVEMBER 1918 -  News has come down to the battlefield from High Command that the war will end at 11:00 a.m.. All attacks are to be called off. But on this day three boy’s lives will collide as they fight for survival in the final hours of World War I.
Will Franklin is a young English boy pretending to be 18 so that he can fight for his country. Axel Meyer is a German teenager proud to be part of the Imperial Army but scared at the same time. Eddie Herts is a US pilot from a privileged background who is about to learn that war is a great leveller.  

As the war comes to an end, all three boys will have to find strength, bravery and understanding within themselves if they are to head safely back to their homelands.  

Eleven Eleven is a powerful combination of historic detail, timeless narrative and action- packed plot. By placing three young men at the centre of the story it illustrates that anybody can be called to face the horrors of war, no matter how old they are. 

About The Author

Paul Dowswell grew up in Chester and in his own words, 'escaped' to read History at London University. After a career in publishing, he went freelance in 1999. History is his specialist subject and he writes for teenagers, but he also writes about natural history, science and geography.

He regularly visits schools, festivals and library conferences and talked about his books on Radio 4, in schools all over the UK, and in Europe and Australia. He has also appeared at the Edinburgh, Cheltenham and Hay Book Festivals.

Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is released by Claymore Press under the name Anita Seymour

TWITTER: @AnitaSDavison

Author's Website

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