This week, we welcome Jane back to the Scribbler. She was a featured guest recently with a short story in our SHORTS pages.
She was a guest last year when she talked about her stories and if you missed it, please go HERE.
Today she’s going to tell us the Story Behind the Story.
Read on, my friends.
Jane Risdon is the co-author of ‘Only One Woman,’ with Christina Jones (Headline Accent) and ‘Undercover: Crime Shorts,’ (Plaisted Publishing), as well as having many short stories published in numerous anthologies. She writes for several online and print magazines such as Writing Magazine, Electric Press, and The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine.
She is a regular guest on international internet podcasts including UK Crime Book Club (UKCBC), Donnas Interviews Reviews and Giveaways, and on radio shows such as theauthorsshow.com, chatandspinradio.com, and The Brian Hammer Jackson Radio Show.
Undercover: Crime Shorts is being used by Western Kentucky University, Kt. USA, in an Introduction to Literature Class, for second year students from Autumn 2021 for the foreseeable future.
Before turning her hand to writing Jane worked in the International Music Business alongside her musician husband, working with musicians, singer/songwriters, and record producers. They also facilitated the placement of music in movies and television series.
Earlier in her career she also worked for the British Ministry of Defence in Germany, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London.
Working Title: The Matryoshka Files: A Lavinia Birdsong Investigation
Book 2 in my series featuring former MI5 Intelligence Officer, Lavinia Birdsong.
Synopsis: MI5 Intelligence Officer Lavinia Birdsong was given the option of taking voluntary retirement or face the sack and loss of her pension after twenty years working her way up the Security Service. She’d had her eye on being the third only ever, female Director General but all that went south when she chose retirement.
Determined to inveigle her way back into MI5 and to find out why she was given the elbow — after a year she still hasn’t a clue why she was given the ultimatum upon return from a joint MI5/MI6 operation in Moscow — she’s already investigated and solved the case of a missing woman in her locality, but without any indication from her former boss that he would give her even the slightest hope of reinstatement, and despite aiding MI5/MI6 to track down and capture Russian Mafia (Bratva) and Pro-Russian Ukrainian Separatists, Lavinia’s aspirations of working at Thames House again, seem a distant dream in the first of my series, Ms. Birdsong Investigates: Murder in Ampney Parva.
When her home is broken into a year later, and sensitive USB files are stolen from her ultra-secure safe — which operates with a scan of her thumb print — and her young cleaner, Mercy Farthing mysteriously disappears at the same time, Lavinia finds herself investigating everyone around her. Things get dangerous for the former Intelligence Officer, and for her colleagues, as they try to help her find out who has her files and why. Bodies are mounting up; the pressure is on, and time is running out.
The Matryoshka Files will be dynamite in the wrong hands.
The Story Behind the Story: Since I was old enough to take adult books out of the library I’ve read authors of crime, thrillers, mysteries, and espionage. From Agatha Christie to John Le Carrè, Stella Rimington, Frederick Forsyth, Leslie Thomas, Mickey Spillane, Michael Connolly, Peter James, Kathy Reichs and so many others, I’ve devoured their writing. I dreamed of writing, and I hoped one day I could write similar books.
Before my career in the International Music Industry, working with musicians, singers, songwriters, composers, record producers, and facilitating the placement of music on Movie and TV soundtracks, and my marriage to my musician husband, I worked for Government departments as a Civil Servant. Not my first choice of a career, I wanted to be a War Correspondent, but my family moved to Germany before I could realise my dream.
My first position was with the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), in Germany in the late 1960s, on an army base which was in a village at the heart of the flooding resulting from the bombing by the Dam Busters in World War Two. It was a fascinating experience.
I also lived in Germany from 1957-1960 and we lived on very secure army base, not far from bomb sites, and we children had an armed guard taking us to and from school. The War was still very fresh in evidence around us. We were warned about the Russian Secret Police who hung around in bars not far from the gates of the base, hoping to kidnap or entice British soldiers into defecting.
Our regiment was there as part of the protection afforded Germany against the Soviets. We were a Guided Missile Regiment — we had weapons with us to act as a deterrent. At first, we were not welcome, understandably.
Upon arrival in Germany, by boat, the families were stranded on the boat for hours because of demonstrations against us by Germans. We eventually disembarked on to coaches to take us to the railway station where we were to get trains to Dortmund where we were to live. However, once on the coaches, demonstrators blocked our way, rocked the coaches side to side and generally terrified us all. After a few more hours, we were able to make our way to the train. More demonstrations and frightening behaviour before we boarded the trains and when we arrived in Dortmund.
Welcome to life in Germany in the later 1950s. We were spat at in the street, chased by women with brooms shouting, ‘go home Englander,’ and prams were overturned with babies in them. An interesting time. But eventually we kids played with German kids on the bomb sites and had quite a fun time. I met black American GI’s and their children with whom I played. Having just left Singapore, where I lived as a toddler, and where we mixed with Chinese and native Singaporeans daily, it just goes to prove kids are kids and will get on with being mates without any prejudices or political awareness.
During my time there in the late 1960s I met and worked with many local Germans — and was entertained in their homes — with whom I’ve made life-long friends. The Sergeant’s Mess was situated in the building where Nazi, Herman Goering, gave many of his speeches. The whole area is steeped in history and my imagination ran riot.
I met people from Eastern Germany who had escaped in hay carts under a hail of bullets, and families who went to Berlin and the Berlin Wall, every Christmas, to see if the names of their brothers and fathers were on lists provided by the Russians, of German soldiers — prisoners of war — who were being released from Siberia, or who had finally died. These soldiers had often been taken as teenagers in the middle of the night by the Hitler Youth to join their organization. Their families were forced to allow them to go under pain of death. I soaked up all these stories; one day I might use them.
I transferred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall and found myself in paradise. Not only when the ‘Swinging Sixties,’ was at its height, but the Cold War was too. When I first lived in Germany the Berlin Wall didn’t exist. When I lived there in 1968 its consequences dominated Germany.
Working at the FCO during the Cold War was manna from heaven for a would-be crime and espionage writer.
Those who have read about my life before will know that I worked there at an amazing time. The person who Positively Vetted (PV) me regularly, from Special Branch, was a commander who had tracked down and arrested the Soviet husband and wife spies, Peter and Helen Kroger, who were in fact Americans. They were part of the Portland Spy ring, and my ‘Vetter’ would tell me about them and others he’d been involved in bringing to justice.
Whilst I worked there, over one hundred Soviets were expelled from their London Embassy on suspicion of spying. Moscow then expelled a similar number of our Embassy staff in retaliation.
I worked in a section which dealt with people alphabetically, and one such person was our Ambassador to Montevideo, Uruguay, Geoffrey Jackson. He was kidnapped by extreme leftwing guerrillas — known as Tupamaros guerrillas — during my time and spent eight months in captivity before a ransom was paid for his release. The FCO worked day and night to keep his family, and everyone updated, and to strive for his release, which, for a young aspiring writer was mind-blowing.
All this inspired my Ms. Birdsong crime series, although I don’t draw upon actual events and her stories are more current. I have always been fascinated by Mafia, whether it is Italian/Sicilian or Russian, and the workings of MI5 and MI6. The FCO in the 1960s meant the Security Services worked closely with the department. I loved it.
Today, MI5 and MI6 are often involved in operations involving ISIS, Russian, and other Mafia, and Organised Crime Groups, and it is this area I have researched for Ms. Birdsong. As the series expands, I am planning to delve further into espionage, but for now her stories are about MI5/MI6 and Organised Crime and how its activities finance rogue states and fighters such as Pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists. I began this series long before Russia invaded parts of Ukraine.
My series, Ms. Birdsong Investigates has been a joy to write.
Book one — ‘Ms. Birdsong Investigates: Murder in Ampney Parva,’ is in with my agent.
Book two (being rewritten now to accommodate changes at MI5 and in Ukraine) is called ‘The ‘Matryoshka Files: A Lavinia Birdsong Investigation’.
Book three is also being re-written for the same reasons, updating. It is called, ‘The Safe House’: A Lavinia Birdsong Investigation.
My agent is patiently awaiting books two and three. I need a clone.
If my crime writing interests you, please check out ‘Undercover: Crime Shorts,’ and various anthologies for which I have written. I’m a multi-genre writer so you will find a mix of genres in them as well as crime stories, and of course, my co-written novel with Christina Jones, ‘Only One Woman,’ is about life in the late 1960s UK music scene, with a love-triangle at its heart.
Thanks, Allan for inviting me to share my ‘Story behind the Story.’ It has been a blast.
A question for you before you go, Jane:
What is your favorite part of writing and the part you enjoy the least?
I wish someone could type it all up for me. I hate typing it all. But, most of all I hate editing. My own edits to begin with, then waiting for an editor to send their findings back. It’s such a big delay in getting the story out there.
It’s a pleasure having you as a guest, Jane. Thanks for sharing the SBTS.
Thank you to all our visitors and readers. Feel free to tell us what‘s on your mind in the comment box below.