Fresh Fiction welcomes Tony Schumacher to talk about THE BRITISH LION, the
follow-up to THE DARKEST HOUR.
Clare: Welcome to Fresh Fiction! Crime and science fiction readers have
looking forward to the release of your next alternate history book. I was
HOUR, in which we found that the Nazis had won the Second World War, and THE BRITISH
continues the story of life in Britain during the 1940s. What made you select
time period and alternate timeline?
Tony: I sort of feel like I didn’t select the timeline, it kind of chose
was looking for the answer to a question I’d asked myself. I realized that the
place I was going to find the answer was on the streets of a war ravaged 1946
which was cowed under the Nazi jackboot. I know it sounds crazy, but I had to
that universe, to get to the point where I could be honest in my answer to
I’m very glad I did though!
Clare: These stories contain numerous violent scenes and deaths, but in
context there is really no way around it, is there?
Tony: I’ll be honest, I worry a lot about violence in modern media and
and it does sometimes bother me that I’m playing a part in the issue. The
that if I’m writing about people like the Nazis, violence is always going to be
other side of the door. I do try to be realistic in the emotions of the people
have to kill others. They have regrets and consciences, and although the
real, I think the aftermath that follows is also. I hope I never become casual
it, because then it’ll just be a cheap thrill in a lazy book.
Clare: What reference sources did you use to establish the political
and public opinions in the story?
Tony: I read and read and read. Honestly, just about everything I could,
can, get my hands on. One of the sad things about the WW2 is that it impacted
many millions of “ordinary” people as well as notable historical figures. As a
of that, an awful lot of those affected, in an attempt to make sense of what
lived through and in a warning to those in the future, wrote about their
All of this information gave me a trove to pick my way through. Be it a senior
like Albert Speer, an imprisoned Jew/Spy like Jan Karski, or a simple diary of
occupied Paris such as Jean Guehenno’s. There is so much stuff out there, and
it added a little flavour into the world I was creating. The added bonus of
through all of these accounts meant I was able to see the conflict through the
both sexes. I discovered the struggle at home was often as hard as the struggle
Clare: How did you research the time period generally, with everything
bitter weather in Europe to makes of vehicles and cookers setting the scene?
Tony: I’m such a bore when it comes to this stuff! Honestly, I can’t
old movie without noticing the brand of a cooker, or radio, and writing it down
research it down the line. As for old cars, and trucks, if there is one thing
learned as a writer, it is that people with old vehicles love to talk about
I find it fascinating, and I think it adds depth to my work if I am comfortable
the places and locations that are in my head when I’m writing. I pore over old
and I love using real locations, and matching them with contemporary accounts
time. The same goes for the weather, thank god for google! You’d be amazed at
stuff that is out there, the hard part is stopping the research and then
to actually write the books!
Clare: London holds particular resonance as we are so familiar with the
of Whitehall, Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square. How did you feel about
depicting the city?
Tony: I live in Liverpool, which is about two hundred miles from London,
although I have spent, and I do spend, a lot of time in London working, I still
of see the city through the eyes of a stunned tourist. I think it is this
unfamiliarity I have with the place that gives me fresh eyes when I write about
you know that thing when you know something so well that you don’t really ever
close look? Because it has become so familiar? (I’m not talking about your
wife by the way!) Sometimes seeing something with eyes that are unaccustomed to
staring, gives you fresh insight, which is why I set the books in London.
such a romantic city to paint with words as well, it looks good in real life,
so it is
easy to make it look great on the page.
Clare: Policing is still a major part of the story, with a look inside a
police station and a crime scene investigation. Were you setting out to tell a
story or an alternate history first?
Tony: Again, I was setting out to answer a question. John Rossett being
British bobby is probably a lot to do with me being an ex-British cop myself.
answer was going to be honest, I needed the questioner to be pretty close to
guess. It was only until a few months after the book was finished that I
(after people kept pointing it out) just how similar me and Rossett actually
Which if I’m being honest, is a bit worrying!
The crime scene stuff, the life inside of police stations, all of this hasn’t
changed since someone came up with the idea of Police officers. You can pretty
travel the world, and a cop is a cop, and a police station is a police station.
is a smell, a kind of lighting, the way a locker door sounds when it is slammed
it’s universal and it is pretty much timeless.
Finally, I don’t really see my book as being an alternative history book. To
a book about men and women who are in a situation that they are trying their
get through. It’s about normal people in extraordinary times, which, if you
about it, pretty much sums up all of us.
Clare: This year we celebrated VE Day's 70th anniversary, and for me THE BRITISH
reminds me why we needed and still need to fight so desperately against any
built on hatred. Thank you for showing us what could have been a much gloomier
outcome. I need to read something more cheerful next; what are you currently
Tony: I always have about four books on the go, and I just realised that
one of them is totally different! I’ve just started a biography of the young
Wells by Patrick McGilligan.
Wells a fascinating character, someone who never stood still in his work (about
only thing we have in common!)
I’m coming to the end of Lee Child’s PERSONAL. He’s a great writer, his text is
the bone with no excess or waste, any writer of any genre can learn a lot from
addition to those two I’m reading an account of a famous robbery/murder that
place in Liverpool in the late forties (THE CAMEO CONSPIRACY by George Skelly). I’m reading this
get a taste of the city at this time (for a future book of my own), but also
was acquainted with one of the (wrongly) accused men involved, and I’d chatted
about the case before he sadly passed away.
Finally (I bet you’re sorry you asked now!) I’m reading a history of a pre-
in Scotland called THE PICTS
Clarkson, which is also fascinating.
How I manage to find time to actually write, I’ve no idea!
Clare: Thank you for speaking with us at Fresh Fiction and I will be
out for your future books.
Tony: My pleasure, thanks for listening to me ramble on.
Tony Schumacher is a native of Liverpool, England. He has written for the
the Huffington Post, and he is a regular contributor to BBC Radio and London's
Radio. He has been a policeman, stand-up comedian, bouncer, jeweler, taxi
perfume salesman, actor, and garbage collector, among other occupations. He
lives outside of Liverpool. This is his first novel.
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In this crackling alternate history thriller set in the years after World
—the riveting sequel to THE DARKEST HOUR—London detective John Rossett joins
with his Nazi boss to save the commander’s kidnapped daughter as the Germans
make the first atomic bomb.
With the end of the war, the victorious Germans now occupy a defeated Great
In London, decorated detective John Henry Rossett, now reporting to the Nazi
lies in a hospital bed recovering from gunshot wounds. Desperate to avoid blame
the events that led to the shooting, his boss, Ernst Koehler, covers up the
But when Koehler’s wife and daughter are kidnapped by American spies, the
German turns to the only man he trusts to help him—a shrewd cop who will do
is necessary to get the job done: John Rossett.
Surviving his brush with death, Rossett agrees to save his friend’s daughter.
But in a
chaotic new world ruled by treachery and betrayal, doing the right thing can
get a man
killed. Caught between the Nazi SS, the violent British resistance, and
very uncertain loyalties, Rossett must secretly make his way out of London and
Ruth Hartz, a Jewish scientist working in Cambridge. Spared from death because
intellect and expertise, she is forced to work on developing the atom bomb for
Germany. Though she knows it could end any hope of freedom in Europe and maybe
the world, Ruth must finish the project—if she, too, wants to survive.
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