Thursday, 24 June 2021


Newhaven author David Gee is in print with Lillian And The Italians, published by The Conrad Press, Canterbury at £9.99 paperback, £3.99 Kindle, available from Amazon and bookshops – a book about second chances.

By Phil Hewitt

David Gee is the pen-name of David Helsdon, aged 78. He says: “I set out to write a novel in which a widow gets a second bite of the cherry.

“Searching for her wayward son Andrew in the summer of 1966, Lillian Rutherford, a 50-year-old widow from Hastings, goes to Venice, where she meets the ex-gigolo who has shared the last four years of Andrew’s life. His revelations about Andrew’s bisexuality shock her.

“Going on to Amalfi, she meets Prince Massimo Monfalcone, whose playboy son has disappeared with Andrew.

“Massimo distracts Lillian with his life story: his first wife was murdered in a Sicilian blood-feud; his second wife killed herself because of his infidelity. As they wait for news of their sons, a bond grows between Lillian and the prince. A different world – a different life – opens up for her. Is she ready for this?

“The book will, I hope, appeal to women of all ages. Lillian learns in Venice that her son has had male as well as female lovers, so I hope this will draw in LGBT readers. Prince Massimo’s life includes 50 years of Mafia history, so maybe fans of The Godfather – and movie producers! – will be attracted.

Lillian and the Italians is a book for women who worry that their lives will flatline after their children – or their husbands – leave home.

“I promised my mother years ago that I would write a novel in which an English widow finds romance and adventure in Italy. Lillian’s girlhood and a late-term miscarriage are taken from my mother’s life story, although she was widowed at an earlier age and fate did not bring her a Sicilian prince; Alzheimer’s took her down a different road. Lillian and the Italians is the life she should have had.

“My mother accompanied me on some of my research trips to Venice, Amalfi and Sicily. The first draft of the book was largely written on location, in cafes and bars and sitting on church steps.

“I started it in 1976 but then my job took me overseas and I didn’t finish it until the 1990s. I’ve had to overcome a surprising amount of resistance from editors and literary agents to a book with a heroine aged fifty; they prefer a book with a sexy young bimbo!

“I’ve started a follow-on novel in which Lillian’s son’s life intersects with a hotel owner from Hastings in Spain in 1968, the year of student protests in Europe and anti-war protests in the US. Hopefully it will soon be possible to fly to Spain for some location research. For now I’m relying on memories of my first visit to Benidorm in the 1960s when Benidorm had had an unfinished promenade and very little highrise – not the Benidorm we know today.”

This link will take you to the full article online:

Friday, 18 June 2021

What I'm reading: Retribution and romance in modern-day India

ANIL NIJHAWAN: A cobra's bite doesn't hurt

Told in the first-person, this is the story of Kalu, a fatherless boy in twenty-first-century India abandoned by his mother. After a brutal orphanage childhood he falls in, like Oliver Twist, with a pick-pocketing gang in Bangalore. Then he escapes to Kolkata and a more independent life, still stealing but making new friends, including a higher-caste sweetheart and an elderly teacher to whom Kalu plays Cupid, attempting to reunite him with a youthful love lost to time and circumstance.

As well as romance, the novel contains some grim retributive violence. Echoes of Dickensian London abound, not just in the criminal underworld but with the unsparing portrayal of the harshness of life for India’s dispossessed. The writing is contemporary, with a lot of profanity, but the dynamic pace makes for an unputdownable if harrowing read.

Friday, 4 June 2021

LILLIAN's BlogTour hits the USA

Thursday, 3 June 2021

What I'm reading: Space opera with echoes of DUNE

Elaine Graham-Leigh: THE CADUCA

It’s been a while since I read any science fiction or fantasy. I have fond memories of Philip José Farmer’s Riverworld series and also John Norman’s naughty un-PC Gor chronicles. Now Elaine Graham-Leigh has taken me to another vividly realized corner of the universe.

Centuries into the future and many millions of miles across our galaxy, the planet Benan Ty is an Earth-colony ruled by a not-quite-benevolent dictator. The ViaVera guerrillas are trying to launch an insurrection. And the galaxy’s most powerful nation, the blue-skinned Chi!me (that rogue exclamation mark is the author’s, not mine!), send an untested female envoy, Quila, to broker a peace deal. Fate crosses Quila’s path with that of Terise, a woman at the heart of ViaVera. Oppression and betrayal generate tension throughout this epic story. The messianic figure of the ‘Caduca’ provides a faint hope for the very distant future.

Colonial power versus revolution: this is as much a major backdrop to sci-fi as it has been to the annals of our own planet. I sometimes felt that the Vietnam War was being re-orchestrated in all its grim glory. Elaine Graham-Leigh gives her faraway colony and her two female protagonists a rich and believable history. There are echoes of Frank Herbert’s magisterial Dune saga, which sets Graham-Leigh up there with the giants of the genre.