The second version

This is actually the second telling of To the Grave. I wrote the original version after I had written In the Blood, and I wanted to settle JT down in Cornwall, so I wrote the story with that in mind. My agent at the time wasn’t so keen and I agreed with her and moved on, knowing that I would revisit Mena’s story again someday as I now have. I’m thankful to Tina Betts, for her guidance at the time because I believe that To the Grave is now so much better for it.

The original cover for To the Grave was created from the above photograph. I knew it had to feature a small red suitcase and I managed to find one from the 1940s on eBay. Two days after it arrived it snowed overnight and the following morning was a beautiful sunny day, so at about seven o’clock I set out with Mena’s red suitcase and my camera. The photo was taken along the lane at the bottom of the road I live in. I’m very pleased that the new Thomas & Mercer edition retains the red suitcase, and I feel it is now enhanced by the blurred figure in the distance.
 
To the Grave
A Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery #2

Inspiration

The story of To the Grave shares several things with my own family history - my unknown American GI grandfather being the most prominent. But that was only part of the inspiration behind the story. Much of it has come from snippets of information that I’ve picked up over time - of letters and of the things that have largely remained unsaid in my family about the war years, which have led me to imagine certain things for myself. Most of all, To the Grave was inspired by a great injustice. I do not however feel that it would be right or proper to go into the details here, nor can I do so without spoiling certain elements of the story, so I must leave the question of what is fact and what is fiction to speculation.

Telling the story

Writing To the Grave took me on a fascinating and often harrowing journey. There is so much I’d like to write here that I cannot without throwing spoilers in. I can say, however, that JT hits a lot of brick walls in To the Grave, and at times I’ve literally felt the frustration that he and most other genealogists feel at one time or another. Getting to the answers in this book was as much about thinking around the problems and grinding out the research, which is something I’m sure every genealogist will empathise with.

In preparation for writing the historical narrative set in 1944, I spent much of my time in the past, often losing myself for days on end. I read  many wartime letters, which I found very helpful in getting the feel of the era and the language of the time, and I found even the most ordinary of letters very moving in light of the terrible things that were happening in the world at the time of writing them. Researching the US 82nd Airborne - the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in particular - along with the British 1st Airborne was equally absorbing and I can only hope that I’ve done justice to this period in our history.

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