Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Book Review: Espionage

I've been reading a lot of historicals lately so I jumped at the chance to be part of A.L. Sowards blog tour for her new historical, Espionage. (Isn't that a creepy looking cover? The eye is so weird and well, creepy.)

We are quickly introduced to Peter Eddy who is on his first covert ops mission in 1944 France. He's crossing enemy lines, trying to steal back a code book from the Nazis that they've stolen and could compromise Allied agents. The mission quickly goes bad and Peter's wholesome Idaho upbringing is severely tested.

We are also introduced to Jacques Olivier, a French resistance fighter who is blowing up Nazi strongholds and generally trying to make their lives miserable and stay alive himself.

Peter and Jacques cross paths on an undercover mission that puts both of their lives at risk as they fight to mislead the Germans into thinking the Allied forces will be attacking Calais, France, instead of somewhere else, like Normandy. I was amazed at the level of detail throughout the entire book, for the military missions, the characters, and the French town of Calais. As a reader I became quickly invested in Peter's life as he struggled to reconcile his LDS upbringing with his feeelings for what he was doing during the course of the war. There was also a similar internal struggle with Jacques who had become hardened in his hatred for Nazis and what they had done to his family and friends. There were some interesting asides as both men wrestled with their feelings.

There was plenty of action in this book, as you might expect in a novel set during a war, but there are some fairly graphic torture scenes and quite a bit of killing as well (although the killing isn't very graphic per se. We mostly see the blood etc. left behind). I liked the spy stuff a lot and it was so authentic it was easy to lose myself in 1944 France. My only complaint was the middle of the book was a bit long which slowed the pacing down somewhat, but all in all, I really enjoyed this book. I think A.L. Sowards will be a great addition to my favorite historical authors. I will definitely be anxious for her next book.

If you want to read the first chapter for yourself and enter a contest for a free copy of Espionage, you can click here

And if that isn't enough, as an extra bonus for me (and for you), I got to interview A.L. Sowards! Wait until you read what she does with spam.

What motivated you to write about World War II? Are you a big history buff?

History was always one of my favorite subjects in school, and I’ve got several siblings with similar interests. So yes, I guess you could call me a history buff—and it’s actually getting worse as I get older and do research for my books. The spark for Espionage began in a high school history class when our teacher told us about the D-day deception schemes the Allies were using to make the German Army expect an attack in the Pas-de-Calias instead of in Normandy.

The book is so detailed in both setting and characters. I can only imagine how much research you had to do. What was one thing you came across while doing research that didn't make it into the book?

There was this spy, known as Garbo, who was really interesting. He didn’t like the Nazis, but convinced them he was willing to be an agent for them, and started making reports. They thought he was in England. In reality, he was in Portugal, getting his information from newspapers and the public library. The British were breaking German codes, so they found out about Garbo and wondered who he was and where he was and why that hadn’t caught him yet. (During the war, the British were very good at catching German spies—they caught all of them.) As things progressed, Garbo was formally hired by the British, they moved him to England, and then he continued supplying false or useless or late information to the Nazis. They even had him warn the Nazis about the D-day landings a few hours before they started, wanting to preserve his credibility with the Nazis and knowing the information would take a while before it was decoded. For his work during the war, he received awards from both the Germans and the British.

Did you base any of your characters in the book off of real people that you know?

Bits and pieces of them are. Genevieve looks like one of my college roommates and argues with her brother the same way she argued with hers. Peter and Captain Flanney look like some of the guys I swam with in high school, but I wouldn’t say any one character is based on a real person.

Where do you get your story ideas?

I often get ideas when I’m reading history books. I’ll come across something that I think is really, really interesting and wonder what it would be like to have a character inserted into it. I’ll also see some aspect of a story I like (in a novel or a movie) and wonder what it would be like if I took it and twisted it a bit.

Do you have any other books in the works? What are you working on now?

I recently submitted my second book to my publisher, and I’m about half-way through a rough draft of my third book. Both include characters from Espionage, but I’m trying to write them so they can stand on their own or be read as a series.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
Real writers revise.

After all your hard work in getting your book to publication, what was your first thought when you held your book in your hands for the first time?

Something along the lines of “holy cow, this really happened!” I had been expecting the book at the first of March, then was told the printer doesn’t usually ship the books to the publisher until the second week of the month. I ended up with a copy on March 2nd, so it was a nice, early surprise.

If you could travel in time, what time period would you visit?

I think we live in a fantastic time, so I wouldn’t want to permanently leave the modern world of indoor plumbing, internet, and fast food, but there are a lot of times it would be fun to visit for a week or so. If I had to narrow it down, being in Times Square in New York during V-E (victory in Europe) day or V-J (Victory in Japan) day in 1945 would be amazing.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Don’t give up. Be patient. Be willing to do a lot of rewriting.

What is one thing about yourself that not very many people know?

I know a lot of people think spam (the tinned meat, not the junk email) is really gross. A lot of WWII servicemen had that opinion after getting more than their share of it while serving overseas. But I like it. I shred it, add cheese, oatmeal, and an egg, mix it all together, and make a little spam loaf out of it. We eat it about once a month at our house, served with rice and a pineapple sauce.

Here is the back copy for Espionage:

France, 1944: Nobody expects Peter Eddy to survive his first commando mission—to retrieve a code book stolen by the Nazis—so when he does come back alive, his success is rewarded with an even more daunting assignment. Partnered with French Resistance leader Jacques Olivier, Eddy must identify which of three Allied contacts in Calais is a double agent and use the traitor to help implement a strategic Allied diversion that might win the war. Eddy and Olivier secretly cross the English Channel to confront their suspects one at a time, but what appears to be a clean assignment soon turns disastrous, and a shocking betrayal leaves Eddy in the grip of the Gestapo. With the courageous aid of Olivier and his sister, Genevieve, Eddy evades his captors with a dangerous escape plan. But as the Allied invasion approaches, treachery in the least likely places leads to fresh graves in the bloodied European soil—and only the power of loyalty and love can transform tragic endings into new beginnings.


Stephanie Black said...

Congratulations, AL! And thanks for the review, Julie. Sounds like a great book!

Lexie@BookBug said...

Awesome post Julie! Thanks so much for being part of the tour!

Debra Erfert said...

This sounds like an incredible story. Great interview!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for hosting me today, Julie!

Charlie Moore said...

I actually just purchased this book from Seagull's Idaho Falls and I'll start it just as soon as I finish Funeral Potatoes. My major is history so I'm also interested in this story.

Charissa said...

Great interview. I've read lots of book from this period in history and am excited for this one.

Becky said...

I absolutely LOVE the cover! I am a huge history buff, and lately an even bigger fan of books on espionage! My latest read, The Rx Factor by J. Thomas Shaw- a fantastic political/medical thriller with a twist of romance. Looking forward to checking out "Espionage." Thanks for the review!