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Built on Sand & The Winds Blew

Elsie has two feet in the 20th century. Smith has one foot in the 19th. Their marriage, founded on physical attraction, is built on sand as all around them the earth of Europe also starts to quake. Prised apart by emotional conflict and the loss of two children they are flung apart by the most violent physical conflict in human history. The question is whether they can survive, together or at all. 

Built on SAnd cover images
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Dark clouds gather over Europe again.
Liselotte, growing up in 1930s Germany, faces the horrors of unfolding events. 500 miles away in Darnall, Josephine has her own struggles with death, poverty and identity.
They make it through the war and meet years later at a Sheffield nursing home where Mrs Broadhead is a resident. But do they ever discover just how much they have in common?
Perhaps the reader can work it out!

Back cover image of Built on Sand: Zeppelin over Danville Street

Back cover image of Built on Sand
Grandad's Book cover


Elsie is based on a character from a short story I wrote a few years back for Joe Stepped Off the Train. I needed her husband to go off to war, but didn't want to do the usual horror of the trenches stuff. Instead I drew on the true story of Eric Needham of the Sherwood Foresters transcribed by Sheffielder, Joan Smith in Grandad’s Book. I am indebted to her and her family for their consent in my mining of Grandad’s Book. Some of that mining is plagiarism, I freely admit, but I’d rather call it respect for a testimony I could not improve upon in a fictional telling. It is a remarkable piece of writing and all the more valuable for being a first-hand account from an ordinary soldier. It is a historically important telling of life in the prisoner of war camps – in some ways the forerunners of the later concentration camps.

The Winds Blew is a “sort of” sequel to Built on Sand – told largely from the points of view of three women with intertwined histories they are unaware of. There is Liselotte, a young woman growing up in 1930s Germany and facing the horrors of unfolding events; 500 miles away in Darnall, Josephine has her own struggles with death, poverty and identity. They come through the  war and eventually meet many years later at the nursing home of the third character; but they never realise just how much they have in common!


The original photo of the unnamed couple.

I am indebted to Michael Briggs ( for letting me have the photo of the unknown Sherwood Forester and woman used on the cover. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it on the website It is uncanny how much they resembled the Smith and Elsie who lived in my mind for so long. If anyone knows who they are, please do get in touch - it would be great to give them their real names.

Part of the map of Sheffield showing where the bombs fell in the 1940 blitz

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