This gripping story opens on a drizzly winter afternoon in the suburbs. WPC Jane Velalley heads wearily back to the police station along the busy M27. Another few short hours will see her safe home with her husband and three-year-old adopted daughter Suzie. In a sickening instant, however, all Velalley’s training and instinct as a police officer is challenged as the road, slick with rain and obscured by fog, suddenly becomes a tangle of wrecked vehicles and a gruesome discovery is made.
Half a day later, across town, and a young girl hurries a small child, stumbling and crying, across a large stretch of wasteland towards a grim-looking block of flats.
A little girl has disappeared. As a child protection officer, Velalley comes into her own as the hunt for the missing child escalates, but while she comforts the distraught mother her own personal life is under a new threat. Attempting to hold her own in a demanding, male-dominated environment Velalley has to be tough, but just how much can she take before the cracks start to show.
With just enough description, explicit as well as implicit, but no excess literary flab, the stage is set and the protagonists are adroitly realised, their individual personalities expertly drawn with the attention to detail that is the accomplished author’s stock-in-trade.
Written with enormous sensitivity but never flinching from challenging issues, the plot weaves its way deftly through this societal minefield. Author Felicity Fair Thompson doesn’t pull her punches; as a reader you run the emotional gamut of the unfolding drama along with its characters. Like a behind-the-sofa, cushion-clutching Dr Who episode when you’re terrified to watch but unable to look away, Hold Tight is compelling reading.
I was completely caught up in the story – willing them to find the little mite; thoroughly invested and emotionally captured – I was hooked from page one.
ingénu/e magazine – south downs and high weald : issue 20
After seeing a Covent Garden production of Sleeping Beauty by chance on TV one Christmas, 13 year old Elaine Higham has a revelation. Suddenly she knows that classical ballet is her future. Absolutely nothing less would do. Starting so late in life Elaine would have to work harder than any of her peers and fight tooth and claw to realise her ambition. Exacting and unforgiving, her new career path would test her to the very limits.
After four intense years at dance school, she wins a coveted place at a top dance academy – hungry and calculating she channels her fierce desire in order to succeed. Modelling herself on the academy’s star pupil – a girl with innate grace, beauty and style – becomes an obsession. An obsession that takes her beyond the bounds of propriety. And as the passionate dancer in her emerges, so awakens the young woman, and suddenly there is so much more at stake.
Written from Elaine’s view-point, Cutting In whisks you away to another world. A world of pointe shoes, of stinging tendons, of pushing nerves, sinews, muscles, bones to the extremes of endurance. But most of all to the world of an unselfconfident yet ferociously driven teenager, single minded about her objective and ruthless in her pursuit of it.
If you’re expecting frilly pink tutus you’ll be disappointed. This is a gutsy book. With her customary skills of observation and perception Felicity Fair Thompson achieves something in this novel that other writers might baulk at – to get inside the head of a complex teenager on the cusp of womanhood, to see the world through her eyes. Peopled with recognisable characters and set in the familiar landscapr of London and Sussex, it is yet the interior world of the novel’s protagonist, achingly vulnerable and scheming by turns and shot through with irresistible darkness, which intrigues.
Well paced and holding the tension like a perfect arabesque, Cutting In will have you guessing right up until the last page.
Seeing these poppies
she thinks of a quiet corner of a field,
wild poppies and fragments of dark slate,
white bones of a song bird, or
Them all. Him.
A spent shell risen. A rusted gun plate.
Huge rolled tangles of barbed wire
marking trenches on that drawn out line
and lives lived beside already buried men.
Dripping oil, and smell of fire and fear,
called up young men, and volunteer.
Horses. Screaming. Squelching mud,
and gunfire round.
Boots biting deep into that ground,
leaving pale thin scar,
and more over there.
A sign it might be where
These poppies glisten in the London sun.
He was his country’s man and King’s.
Like a cross she bears his name.
Coming here, the Tower,
listening to young voices
generations on, so strong and clear,
for her this flower field blooms in bright blood red
and though he’s long dead, she cares.
She holds the line.
She’s glad she came. She knows
Looking out into the misty bay here on the Isle of Wight, the sea is that wonderful cool grey, with shafts of sunlight breaking through to turn the water a glittering silver. There’ll be mist in Edinburgh too. And probably in Cardiff, and in Belfast. A new day. Our sea. Our coast. Our country. Our future.
I was in Devon last week promoting my book The Kid on Slapton Beach
Slapton Sands looks so beautiful and peaceful in this sunshine but in 1944 it was the setting for dramatic D-Day rehearsals. Look for the book title on YouTube, or visit http://www.wightdiamondpress.com
Devon’s a great place to visit – we stayed in Dartmouth: http://www.discoverdartmouth.com
This morning at Seaview there was a D-Day 70th Anniversary of Rememberance and Thanksgiving. Looking out across the Solent with the water sparkling in bright sunlight, I thought how wonderful it is to live is a peaceful and happy country. People in Britain think about the past, and care about the future. Because I did a great deal of research for my book which is about the D-Day rehearsals in Devon, I have spoken to many who remember themselves, or rememember their parents discussing what life was like in wartime Britain. They revere the men and woman who fought so hard, and take pride in their country’s bravery and sacrifice. The BBC caught the mood well on Friday evening: D-Day 70 Years On Radio 2 Concert at the Albert Hall shown in cinemas and available on line – well worth finding on your Iplayer.
In April of 1944 there were rehearsals for D-Day on Slapton Sands. You might like to read an extract of: THE KID ON SLAPTON BEACH
Published by Wight Diamond Press
War is hard enough when your Dad is missing action, and even harder leaving home and not knowing where you will go. Twelve year old Harry is one of three thousand people ordered to leave the Devon coast. Though the locals don’t know it, their beach will be used for secret full-scale D-Day rehearsals. In the Slapton churchyard, Harry and his GI friend Mike discuss dying as Mike piles sandbags up the belfry wall to protect the ancient stained glass window.
‘Off then, Harry?’ Mike asked cheerfully.
Harry shrugged. Over in the graveyard he could see two GIs helping the farm worker lower old Abraham Thorn’s coffin into the ground. ‘Will you play killing games? When’s the invasion?’
Mike balanced the sandbag he was holding against the belfry wall. ‘Look, I might not see you again, Harry Beere.’
Harry pushed his hands deeper into the rubber bands and rubbish in his pockets. ‘No one ever answers anything.’
Over in the grave yard the farm worker took up his shovel. A first shower of earth went back into the grave.
‘Look kid, you don’t want to worry about all this. That old guy was… old.’
‘I’m not talking about him. It’s my Daddy. He’s missing in Italy.’
‘That’s what Mum says. What if he comes home and we’re not here?’
Two rooks began to circle the tall church spire.
‘He’ll find you.’
‘What happens to dead soldiers? Are they buried?’
Mike took the sandbag’s full weight back and heaved it up and onto the heap. ‘Yes.’
Mike dusted sand off his sleeve and frowned. ‘Got to be where they die right now. Where they fall.’ He glanced over at the graveyard himself. ‘Some corner of a foreign field.’ After a moment he reached into his pocket. ‘I sure am going miss you, Harry Beere.’
Harry shook his head at the offered gum. ‘What if no one buries them? What if no one even knows?’
Mike looked at him carefully. ‘Time takes care of it, I guess.’
‘What? Bones and stuff?’
‘Uh, huh.’ Mike opened a gum for himself, peeling the wrapping back very slowly.
‘And some soldiers never come home?’
‘That’s right.’ Mike looked up at the black rooks circling one more time. Then they dipped and flapped out across the chill blue sky to the high hill pastures. ‘But I guess they get remembered,’ he said. ‘If they don’t come home, the people who love them remember them.’
‘Is that all?’
Mike considered it. ‘Maybe that’s all any of us get, Harry,’ he said. ‘Maybe being remembered is the best sort of love.’