I’m happy to welcome author Winona Kent to the Power of 10 series. Today, Winona shares interesting facts about her latest release, Marianne’s Memory.
1. The story opens aboard a pirate radio station in the Thames Estuary in 1965. The name of the ship is the Cilla Rose. I introduced readers to the same ship a few years ago in my novel, The Cilla Rose Affair. I didn’t base the Cilla Rose on any pirate station in particular, but I did borrow a few details from Radio London, which used to broadcast from an old American minesweeper called the Galaxy a few miles off Frinton-on-Sea. Radio London was the home of some famous British radio names who started out as pirates: Tony Windsor, Tony Blackburn, Kenny Everett, Ed Stewart, Keith Skues. I’ve always been fascinated by pirate DJs. There’s lots of info online nowadays for those who want to hunt it down, but back in the 1960s my bible was a rare book called Who’s Who in Pop Radio, edited by Peter Alex. I still have it and referred to it a lot for both The Cilla Rose Affair and Marianne’s Memory. It originally cost 5 shillings. Nowadays it sells for about £25.00 on Amazon.
2. The characters of Arabella and Giles Jessop were inspired in part by the life of Tara Browne, a young Irish aristocrat who was an heir to the Guinness fortune. Tara became the epitome of the Swinging Sixties in London. He knew the best people–and would introduce them to each other. He threw the best parties and led a charmed life – until, at 21, he crashed his Lotus Elan into the back of a parked lorry in South Kensington. His death, in December 1966, happened at about the same time that the innocence of Swinging London gave way to a much harsher and cynical era. It was apparently the report of Tara’s death in the papers that inspired John Lennon to co-write “A Day in the Life”, although the circumstances were altered somewhat in the lyrics. An excellent book was written about Tara Browne by Paul Howard. It’s called I Read the News Today, Oh Boy and I referred to it often, especially when I was trying to capture the essence of the Jessops, and Arabella’s pre-nuptial party at Stoneford Manor.
3. I am quite a stickler for detail and it has been mentioned in reviews of my work that the details I write about are meticulously researched. I take quite a lot of pride in the authenticity of my settings. For instance, when Charlie and Shaun accidentally travel back to 1965, they end up in Covent Garden – as it was in 1965, which is very very different from the way it looks today. My research involved watching a number of films – beginning with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1972 film Frenzy. The baddie in Frenzy works in Covent Garden as a fruit and veg wholesaler, and he lives in a flat overlooking the area. The film was shot on location and there are some fabulous scenes of how it looked back then. I also watched several nonfiction films that were (thankfully) available on YouTube, that followed the lives of the people who supplied the flowers, fruits and vegetables to the market, and then documented their day as they dealt with the merchants who came to buy their goods, and then, finally, the end of their day as the market closed down until the next morning at about 5am. I was particularly drawn to the flower market, because it became what we know today as the London Transport Museum – one of my most favourite places in London. And I have a personal connection – in 1968, when I was 13, I visited London with my mum and sister, and my mum made a point of taking me to see Covent Garden before it disappeared. It was late in the afternoon and there wasn’t much left to see – all of the fruit and veg and flowers had been sold. But they’d left a lingering scent, and there were boxes and crates and the odd discarded potato and onion left on the ground. And that memory has stuck with me.
4. There’s a short story which precedes Marianne’s Memory. It’s called Easy When You Know How and it’s included at the end of my novel In Loving Memory. The story sets up Marianne’s Memory, as Charlie and Shaun travel back to 1964, and the premiere of the Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night at the London Pavilion in Piccadilly Circus. It’s here that Charlie’s mum, Jackie, is caught in the rush of the crowd and falls and hits her head on the pavement. She’s rescued from being trampled by pirate DJ Tony Quinn, who goes with her in the ambulance to the hospital. Jackie doesn’t remember a single detail, however, because her fall causes an episode of Transient Global Amnesia, a somewhat rare and highly fascinating condition which I’ve encountered first hand.
5. My sister had an episode of Transient Global Amnesia a few years ago. It was caused, as far as we can tell, by a combination of stress, a recent minor operation, and an undiagnosed systemic infection. She literally woke up from a nap and couldn’t remember anything about that day. She ended up in Emergency at the hospital, with a rather bemused doctor trying to figure out exactly what was going on. My mother was terribly worried but I, shamelessly, thought it was quite humorous. My sister would ask a series of questions: What happened? Where am I? Did I go to work today? Who brought me here? What day is it today? and we’d patiently answer them. And then, five minutes later, she’d ask the same series of questions in the same order, having retained absolutely no memory of the answers, or even of asking the questions before. I even took her to the loo – and she had no recollection of that at all. A few hours later she was sent home. My husband collected us in the car, and brought some sandwiches as nobody’d had anything to eat all night. Over the next week or so some memories came back to my sister – she remembered walking to the car, and eating the sandwiches – but the earlier memories, her day at work, waking up from her nap, going to the hospital and her hours in Emergency – never came back. Interestingly, she could always tell us her name and her birthday, and she knew exactly who we were. And that’s what differentiated this interesting diagnosis from a case of the more common amnesia, where the patient loses absolutely all of their memory, including their identity.
6. The premieres of two of the Beatles’ films – A Hard Day’s Night in 1964, and Help! in 1965 – figure prominently in Easy When You Know How and Marianne’s Memory. I wasn’t old enough to be in the crowd outside the cinema for those films – and more importantly, I wasn’t in England! But in the summer of 1968, I was in England. I was 13 years old (nearly 14) and my sister, my mum, my uncle and I all travelled up to Piccadilly Circus, to join the throngs of fans outside the London Pavilion for the premiere of the third Beatles’ film, Yellow Submarine. My sister, who wasn’t quite 10, was nearly knocked out and trampled and had to be lifted to safety by a very kind policeman (and you wonder where I get my story ideas!). I worked my way to the front of the barricades and was lucky enough to see a whole parade of celebs arriving – including all of the Beatles. And that truly, is what inspired and informed those scenes in the two stories.
7. As mentioned above, I was too young in 1964 and 1965 to fully take part in the phenomenon that was Swinging London. And I didn’t live in England – I was tucked away in a small city on the Canadian prairies. But the “British Invasion” was very far-reaching. I was born in London, and my relatives all lived there, and I remember the fashions, the music, the pop groups, the sheer delight of changing all the rules and throwing over everything that was comfortable and familiar to our parents. In truth I actually completely missed “Swinging London”. We visited England for Christmas in 1961, and we were there again in the summer of 1968, and in between those two dates was when everything happened. One of the first places I headed to after I arrived in London in 1968 was Carnaby Street. I’ve always wanted to write about that era because it influenced me so much. My favourite films were To Sir With Love (1967) and Smashing Time (1967). If you haven’t seen it, Smashing Time is a wonderful parody of Swinging London, starring Lynn Redgrave and Rita Tushingham, who both actually sing, and a young Michael York playing a photographer much like David Bailey. Much later I discovered Darling (1965) and Blow Up (1966) (starring Lynn Redgrave’s sister, Vanessa, and David Hemmings as another photographer inspired by David Bailey) and I consulted all four films (and many others) indepth when I was researching details for Marianne’s Memory.
8. The disused Underground station where Charlie and Shaun are interrogated after being mistaken for KGB agents has appeared in my writing before. I “borrowed” a few details from my spy novel The Cilla Rose Affair, which involves a fictitious station on the Northern Line called Romilly Square. The layout of the station, the secret tunnels and the disused lift shaft, the stairs, the passometer and the old posters on the walls might all seem familiar to you if you’ve read The Cilla Rose Affair. And, in fact, Romilly Square was inspired by a real former tube station on the Piccadilly Line, Down Street, situated between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner.
9. The Four Eyes Coffee Bar in Stoneford, where Shaun and his dad take part in Amateur Night and end up with a record contract, is a small private joke on my part. Coffee Bars were very popular in England in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and provided an entire generation of teenagers with venues where they could listen to their favourite tunes and watch local bands perform, usually in very cramped conditions in the cellar. One of my favourite bands was (and still is) The Shadows, who got their start in the Two I’s coffee bar in London’s Soho. When I was trying to think up a name for Stoneford’s coffee bar, I remembered the Two I’s, and the fact that the Shads’ lead guitarist, Hank Marvin, was well-known for his Buddy Holly-type spectacles. Thus the Four Eyes Coffee bar was born – “four eyes” being a British slang term for people who wear eyeglasses. And the house band is, of course, called The Spectacles.
10. And finally, right at the end of Marianne’s Memory, Charlie makes an interesting discovery about her toes. To quote: “Her second and third toes were rooted a little higher up on her feet than the others, and had always reminded Charlie, as she’d studied them in the bath, of the letter V, surrounded by lower case i’s.” I, too, have spent countless hours studying my peculiar toes in the bath – and they’re exactly as Charlie describes them. And I recently discovered, quite by accident, that I inherited this unusual configuration from my mum, whose toes – which I’d never noticed before – look just like mine.
So now you know.
Marianne’s Memory is the third novel in Winona Kent’s accidental time travel / historical romance series, featuring Charlie Duran and her 19th century companion Shaun Deeley.
A Beatles badge from 1965 accidentally sends Charlie and Shaun back to London at the height of the Swinging Sixties, where they’re mistaken for KGB spies and subjected to a terrifying interrogation.
Rescued by top-ranking MI5 agent Tony Quinn, they soon uncover the details of a child born out of wedlock to Charlie’s mum and the uncomfortable truth about Charlie’s dad’s planned marriage to selfish socialite Arabella Jessop.
Further complicating their journey into the past is Magnus Swales, an 18th century highwayman turned time-travelling assassin, and the timely arrival of William Deeley, Shaun’s father, who’s been persuaded to leap forward from 1790 in order to save Tony from Swales’s deadly mission.
Ms. Kent has skillfully crossed several genres—fantasy, historical romance, mystery—to produce a well-crafted story that spans three different time periods: 1790, 1965, and 2015. The third installment in the accidental time travel series, Marianne’s Memory follows the delightful escapades of modern-day Charlie Duran and her 19th-century companion Shaun Deeley.
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the previous two installments, I wondered if Ms. Kent could possibly raise the stakes any higher. I needn’t have worried! In addition to introducing a host of fascinating characters, among them a celebrated DJ operating on a pirate ship, a vengeful highwayman, and KGB spies, Ms. Kent demonstrates a wonderful eye for detail. Her research skills are impeccable. I could easily imagine myself traveling along with Charlie and Shaun as they hopped from one time period to another. My best time was spent in London during the Swinging Sixties.
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