Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Mask of Verdoy Blog Tour! (+$40 Amazon Giftcard Giveaway!)

Title: The Mask of Verdoy
Author:  Phil Lecomber
Series: George Harley Mysteries #1
Pages:  460
Date Published: October 9th, 2014 
Publisher: Diablo Books
Format:  Paperback
Genre: Period Crime Thrillers
Source: Goddess Fish Blog Tours
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With Mussolini’s dictatorship already into its seventh year in Italy, and with a certain Herr Hitler standing for presidential elections in Germany, 1932 sees the rise in the UK of the British Brotherhood of Fascists, led by the charismatic Sir Pelham Saint Clair. This Blackshirt baronet is everything that Harley despises and the chippy cockney soon has the suave aristocrat on his blacklist.

But not at the very top. Pride of place is already taken by his arch enemy, Osbert Morkens—the serial killer responsible for the murder and decapitation of Harley’s fiancée, Cynthia … And, of course—they never did find her head.
~Guest Post!~
MASK OF THE VERDOY, the first book in the GEORGE HARLEY MYSTERY series, is set in London in the year 1932. Two and a half years after the Wall Street Crash plunged the world headlong into financial ruin the capital city is clamped tightly in the fist of austerity, leading to an increase in petty crime and prostitution as Londoners turn to desperate measures to make ends meet.

To Harley and the other veterans of WWI this was not the expected outcome of the longed-for armistice. Indeed, when they first returned from the trenches it looked as though the devastating blow that the war had delivered to European civilization might at least shake up the entrenched, centuries-old British class system and begin to make things better for the average man and woman in the street. The vote for women over 21, union representation, the first Labour Party government, social housing and education reforms – all these benefits were reaped in the first years of the inter-war period by a proletariat who’d learnt from their wartime experiences in the trenches and munitions factories to demand more from a society that their blood sweat and tears had helped forge over the centuries.

But as well as becoming more politicized the average Briton also began to get better access to Art and culture than ever before. Wireless broadcasts from the fledgling BBC, the introduction of mass market affordable paperback books, a better national education system, public concerts, dance halls, Lyon’s Tea Shops – not to mention the exciting American imports of Jazz and the movies; all these elements created an opportunity for hard-working folk to escape the drudgery of their 9 to 5. And, of course, production line manufacturing and advances in technology meant that the wonders of the modern age were now within reach of a much larger proportion of the general population. Gramophones, wireless sets, portable cameras, motorbikes & automobiles … the future must have looked extremely exciting for anyone looking out from the mid 1920s.

And then … Germany began exporting ‘free’ coal to Italy and France … a strong pound all but killed Britain’s exports … miner’s wages were slashed … and before long the country was experiencing its first National Strike. And just around the corner … the Great Depression.

Hunger marches, soup kitchens, ‘spikes’ for tramps (casual wards for vagrants) … this was the dour reality that Britain woke up to at the start of the 1930s – a humdinger of a hangover to follow the frenzied flapper parties of the Roaring Twenties. And, of course, such conditions created the perfect incubation conditions for the extremist politics that would cast such a devastating shadow on the rest of the decade; for people needed quick solutions and someone to blame – and of course, the fascists and eugenicists convinced many that they could offer both.

Here’s Vi Coleridge (Harley’s neighbour) on the subject:

‘But that’s just it—all those things they promised you boys when you came home. Well, where is it all, eh? I don’t know … what with all the strikes, two and a half million poor buggers on the dole, the Empire falling apart. The country’s gone to the dogs, George ... and I’m afraid your precious Mr. Ramsay MacDonald has made as big a hash of it as the rest of ʼem. And now, on top of everything else, we’ve got all these anarchist bombings! Bloody foreigners! Someone needs to sort it all out.’

But as George so rightly says, Vi - ‘Believe me—that someone is not Sir Pelham Saint Clair and the British Brotherhood of Fascists!’

Such is the 1930s Britain that forms the backdrop to Harley’s first thrilling outing. The Western world struggling in the grip of a global economic crisis, haunted by past military conflicts and turning to extreme politics as doom-mongers foretell the decline of civilization and the death of capitalism. Sounding familiar? Maybe L. P. Hartley’s assertion that "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there" isn’t quite so true after all.

For me the fascinating thing about this historical setting isn’t the differences with modern life, but the similarities. As we stride off into the 21st Century with our smug grins hidden behind our smartphones and touch screen tablets, maybe every now and again we should take a glimpse over our shoulder at the past (hell! you can even Google it if you want!)—there might just be a lesson for as all lurking in the shadows of the decades.
~Try an Excerpt!~
JUST THEN HARLEY heard a shriek from the direction of the fire escape.

He dashed back across the roof and lowered himself carefully onto the ironwork, shuffling as quickly as he dared back to the open window.

‘George … George!’

It was Vi. But her shouting wasn’t coming from Miss Perkin’s room, it was coming from further along the fire escape—from his own house. He made the extra few yards and then yanked up the sash window and threw himself awkwardly into the room.

Harley took in the scene with a professional’s eye: the dark puddle congealing on the floorboards; the mother-of-pearl-handled razor gripped loosely in the grubby, nail-bitten fingers; the leaden pallor on the boyish cheek.

There was a call from the floor below.

‘Police! Anyone there?’

‘Up here, Burnsey! Top floor!’ shouted Harley, already at Aubrey’s throat, searching for a pulse.

A thump of heavy footsteps announced PC Burns’ arrival.

‘Oh, Jesus Christ!’ said the policeman, removing his helmet and rushing over to crouch down beside the bed. ‘Any luck?’

But as Harley drew back the only sign of life Burns could see in the boy’s face came from the two tiny facsimiles of the guttering gas mantle, dancing in the dull pupils.
~Meet Phil!~
Phil Lecomber was born in 1965 in Slade Green, on the outskirts of South East London—just a few hundred yards from the muddy swirl of the Thames.

Most of his working life has been spent in and around the capital in a variety of occupations. He has worked as a musician in the city’s clubs, pubs and dives; as a steel-fixer helping to build the towering edifices of the square mile (and also working on some of the city’s iconic landmarks, such as Tower Bridge); as a designer of stained-glass windows; and—for the last quarter of a century—as the director of a small company in Mayfair specializing in the electronic security of some of the world’s finest works of art.

All of which, of course, has provided wonderful material for a novelist’s inspiration.

Always an avid reader, a chance encounter as a teenager with a Gerald Kersh short story led to a fascination with the ‘Morbid Age’— the years between the wars. The world that Phil has created for the George Harley Mysteries is the result of the consumption and distillation of myriad contemporary novels, films, historical accounts, biographies and slang dictionaries of the 1930s—with a nod here and there to some of the real-life colourful characters that he’s had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with over the years.

So, the scene is now set … enter George Harley, stage left …

Phil lives in the beautiful West Country city of Bath with his wife, Susie. They have two sons, Jack and Ned.

Phil will be giving out a $40 Amazon Giftcard to a randomly drawn winner! So get commenting and get your chance to win! 
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  1. Good morning, Andra! Thanks for hosting today.

  2. I liked meeting a new mystery writer. Thanks for the chance. Looking forward to reading his work.

    1. You can find more on George Harley's back story at (on the BIO page).

  3. Great excerpt and interesting post. Always fun to meet a new author!

  4. I enjoyed the post and excerpt. I'm looking forward to reading this book. New author and this does sound like a real thriller.
    Happy Holidays,

  5. Loved the excerpt! Definitely need more now!

    1. Thank you, Lauren - check out the website for more details:

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