The global repercussions of the Second World War are something covered by many text books but now one Eyemouth author has used his research to write a novel on the implications of the war on a small community in southern England.
‘The Friendly Invasion- as the US GIs trained for D Day’, is the latest book by Alan Dearling and he admiited that it has been over 20 years in the making.
A published writer before had even completed his studies at university, Alan first found out about how the war affected the Devon town of Lyme Regis when he visited celebrated author John Fowles in the late 1980s.
It was then after discovering how 3,000 American troops came to be in the Dorset town, whose own 3,000 population had been depleted by the number of men who went to war, that he decided to dig deeper and on moving to the county at the start of the 1990s he was soon inundated with stories from the era.
“People started to talk about this riot that happened when the GIs lived there and I became more and more intrigued,” Alan told ‘The Berwickshire News’.
“Before long I thought I had enough material to put together a social history book on the U.S troops’ time in the region. I’ve always been interested in social history, i.e what happened, and the sociology (why it happened) but the major problem lied with the fact that I couldn’t find a common truth.
“It was like if an accident happens and the police have five different witness accounts- I was told so many different things.
“I carried on trying to find people who remembered something from the time and ended up doing 30 interviews.
“The material ended up sitting in the middle of my ‘to do pile’ but after I kept beavering away I decided to bring it to the top of the pile again this year and it only really took me 5-6 weeks to write.
“I invented all of the characters but they say things that people said to me. I’d like to think it’s an interesting novel that tells stories that are important to us all.”
Like with many major world events, some aspects of what happened in WW2 are glossed over deliberately or with the passing of time and Alan said although the U.S troops created their fair share of fond memories they brought some controversy too.
“All sorts of things were hushed up during the war,” he continued.
“My book follows characters living in Devon and Dorset from September 1943-May 1944 and a lot of things happended in that time that people don’t know that much about.
“Firstly were the U.S casualties during Exercise Tiger that were hushed up for nearly 30 years after the war; then there’s the fact that American troops made friends with many local children- having spoke to a number of former evacuees it seemed like they related to the troops as they were also like ‘aliens’ in an unkown place.
“And most noteably was the fact that the American authorities tried to bring in segregation between the black U.S troops and the white soldiers. Hardly anyone realises that 10 per cent of the US military contingent over here were black and arrived before their white counterparts to set up camps, dig latrines etc and when they where here they did manual tasks like prepare food, drive etc they never actually held any weapons.
“Locals were often on the side of the black troops though as they felt like they weren’t being treated like human beings.”
A rather strange tactic for a novellist, Alan has included authentic 1940s images in ‘The Friendly Invasion’ and has also directed readers to text books and websites where they can find out more.
“If anything I almost over-reasearched the subject,” he said.
“I ended up with around 200 books or articles to go off so the finished book has a considerable bibliography and the e-book also has links to websites.
“I tried to get the characters to use a lot of the dialogue I’d picked up from my interviews as I felt it was important for the book to capture the language of the period and including pictures helps to set the mood of the time.
“One of the great skills of any author is the ability to listen; a lot of the action in the book takes place in pubs and cafes so I thought of people’s voices and how they’d interact with each other.
“There’s scenarios like the U.S troops being asked for a game of darts or being expected to get the drinks in as everyone knew they had a bit more money!”
‘The Friendly Invasion’, published by Alan’s own Enabler Publications, was launched last week at the prestigious Writers’ House in London. The event was attended by the Chairs and CEOs of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, the Copyright Licensing Agency and a good number of publishers, agents and authors and Alan said he was thrilled with the reaction to the book so far.
“The launch was a big success there were some really important people there from the world of writing. Paul Powell, one of the script writers for ‘Miranda’ came along as did Lesley Pollenger, of Pollenger Ltd, one of the biggest author agents in the UK.
“I have further launches planned in Lyme Regis and Teignmouth, and I know that the book shop in Lyme has already ordered 100 copies.
“I was really happy with how the London launch went and what I’d love to see happen now is for the book to be adapted for TV. The way it’s written and divided it would fit a six part series mould and I think people would enjoy it.
“It’s not a book meant for military historians, it’s just an interesting and entertaining read.”
‘The Friendly Invasion’ is available from Eyemouth Post Office, WHSmith in Berwick or from www.enablerpublications.co.uk. The e-book version is on Amazon.