Saturday, 15 October 2016

Provision - What If? Novel of the Second World War

Provision - A ‘What If?’ Novel of the Starvation of Britain During the Second World War

Just to announce that today I have published, on Amazon, a new 'what if?' novel called 'Provision'.  The diversion from our history occurs in April 1941 when the code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park is bombed, setting back efforts to decipher messages sent by Enigma used by the Germans.  In our world, the inability of the Allies to read the Shark version of Enigma, used by U-boats, for much of 1942 led to a trebling of the amount of Allied shipping the Germans sank.  This story envisages that problem persisting.  Food supplies to Britain become shorter even than in our world and fewer US troops can reach Britain to ready for D-Day.  In our history, the USSR received thousands of vehicles and tons of resources from the USA and Britain which in this alternative cannot get through.  Thus, the war runs differently on many fronts.

I decided to view the impact through the eyes of a family.  I could have come at it from an ordinary family struggling to feed themselves in a city.  However, I thought I could give an insight into a broader range of the impacts by having a prosperous family in a rural setting.  Thus, I developed the Seymour family living in Somerset.  Tom Seymour is an infantry captain based in Ulster; his brother Don flies patrols against U-boat wolfpacks in the Atlantic and his sister, Patricia is a member of the Women's Land Army dealing with rumbustious farmers.  Their parents are Reginald Seymour who works for the county agricultural committee regulating farming and Cecilia who  is a volunteer for the Women's Voluntary Service, looking after evacuees and running various resource-saving schemes.  Her brother-in-law Wilfred is employed by the Ministry of Food.  Covering the period 1943-44 the various threads show how life deteriorates and the challenges facing Britain and its allies as well as the peoples of the Allied countries.  By following a family through these troubled years, I trust readers can engage with what a different war would have meant far beyond the strategic level.

While based on an alternative history, extensive research has gone into the mid-1940s setting and actually what happened in the war on the land, in the air, at sea, in towns and villages and on farms.  Thus, the divergences are feasible ones, but also show much of an impact a minor change in history would have had and how different the war and Britain itself could have gone.

P.P. 15/11/2016
This book was selling well until I got a review which killed it:

By Loving Patriarch on November 13, 2016
Very boring if you are an alternative history fan. There is so much dialogue that has next to nothing related to the premise of the book-which had high promise. I find myself skipped 10's of pages to get to actual historical content. This guy is obsessed with Ireland and country settings. If you like military action don't buy it.

Unfortunately I had forgotten what I have noted on previous occasions on this blog that for some people, unless the book has incessant fighting, it apparently does not count as an alternate history book,  As this reviewer indicates when he says he 'skipped 10's of pages to get to actual historical content'.  The entire book is set in 1943-44, thus everything going on it is (alternate) historical.  There are battle scenes both on land and in the air.  However, a book which was simply one battle after another would be tedious.  It would also be populated by one-dimensional characters.

The dialogue the reviewer so despises, explores what is happening to these people, how they cope with increasing shortages of food; why Britain ends up fighting in Ireland; why new warships, submarines, aircraft and tactics are developed; how the Black Market prospers;  how the British state becomes more authoritarian and Canada is put at threat all because of the 'what if?' the book discusses.  Thus, the entire book is about the premise in all its manifestations.  It is clear that in future I should just write a list of battles and units that have fought in them and that will be considered a 'true' alternate history book.

What Amazon does not tell you is that there are all these hidden rules about what a particular genre can cover,  My alternate history analysis books were condemned as not being alternate history as they suggested a range of outcomes rather than just one.  I imagine that authors in other genres get this kind of hassle, those who write detective novels get told off if the detective does not catch the killer or of romance novels are chastised because the heroine does not marry the hero,  There is nothing you can do about these rules, when a single 1-star review not only ends sales of that book but of any others you have up at the time.  You have to learn the rules by trial and error and not do what I did, and that was to forget them and write a 139,000-word novel which did not feature battle after battle and yet put it into the alternate history category.

I should have remembered from before:

but the ideas that come to me and my enthusiasm to write fiction, leads me to foolishly steam ahead and produce books that really offend people by stepping beyond the very narrow definitions that the reviewers have long agreed upon.

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