Now released - the final of the six novels in the Harry and Annie series. See Bookshop to buy on Amazon as printed versions or e-books. A summary of each of the six novels available for purchase is given below.
Harry and Annie
(a tetralogy in six volumes written by John Howlett, published in 2017)
Six novels that follow families and friends through the Twentieth Century, in particular Harry and Annie who come together in bizarre circumstances during the final 18 months of the First World War, lance-corporal Harry, a shepherd from the Cheviot border hills, Annie from affluent New England, a volunteer nurse with a Harvard Medical Unit....
Love of an Unknown SoldierTheir love story started exactly 100 years ago in 1917 during the grim and endless slaughter of the Third Battle of Ypres that came to be called Passchendaele, ninety-nine days of terror and horror – with a murder that will haunt Harry for the rest of his life, but also a love that would last for eighty three years. Love of an
Unknown Soldier is the beginning of this long history between an English soldier and an American nurse – against the narrative of that dreadful conflict as told to the author fifty years ago by soldiers who had fought in it.
Harry Cardwell, 21 year-old shepherd from the border hills, is already one of the ‘veterans’ of the Somme battlefield. Returning from leave, he confronts a burly Sergeant auctioning off a tin of very intimate love-letters and photographs found in a shelled dug-out. Trying to protect the privacy of those letters, Harry buys them himself – a simple act of decency that is to have a lifetime of consequence.
Annie is the nurse in the photographs. A volunteer from New England on a Harvard Medical Unit, she lost her doctor-husband when their ambulance was shelled at Loos in 1915, but has refused to return home. She now works on a British ambulance train serving the Western Front.
‘We are two strangers who meet in hell,’ Annie writes to Harry after he has found her. ‘We need hide nothing from one another’.
With the help, and at times envy of two young officers, their friendship and their passion unfold – though there turns out to be a great deal ‘not to hide’: during Third Ypres Harry loses his childhood friend, court-martialled and sentenced to death – shot at dawn. An execution that leads Harry to murder.
Harry and Annie have survived against the odds – and have been reunited. This is the haunting return from war to a world no longer relevant after their grim experience – neither of their individual backgrounds compatible to their love, whether in the Cheviot wilds of Northumberland or the city streets of East Coast America.
A Long Road Home
A Long Road Home
Now that hell has disappeared, it might not be so easy not to hide. They have to create new lives for themselves, first with a nomadic existence in a Mexico recovering from revolution and civil war – a long wandering to the Pacific shore where a son is born: a troubled journey once Harry realises an old enemy is pursuing him, that wartime murder now threatening his survival.
Circumstance will bring the couple and their young child to Italy, where they labour on a borrowed hill-farm, and both witness and experience the rise of Mussolini’s fascism with its attendant brutalities – blackshirt thugs an added menace as the stubborn old enemy tracks Harry down again.......
......While during their journey and new lives, given difficulty and discomfort, even with the joy of two more children, they will also discover that love is never easy and possesses many moods and many absences.
But, as Annie writes and continues to write, ‘.....throughout all eternity, I forgive you, you forgive me......’
When War Came Again
War does indeed return, in the full fanatical fury of fascist self-belief, Mussolini and Hitler sending planes, tanks and their armed forces to help Franco break the democratically elected Republican government, the Spanish Republic – helped in turn by Soviet Russia.
Harry and Annie (inappropriately with their three children) arrive in Barcelona as nurse and stretcher-bearer. Transferred to the defence of Madrid, Harry and eldest son Frank end up combatants – as also Harry’s surviving First World War ‘officer-bloke’, Bunny, subaltern now in the XVth International Brigade. All three of them discover in different ways not only the blind idiocy of appeasement, but also the equally blind intoxication of the left who will divide amongst themselves, those of Trotsky against those of Lenin, Communists against Anarchists, socialists against the merely liberal.
And when, despairingly, the struggle is lost in Spain, Hitler, unopposed, is ready for the second war of the world. Harry, Annie and their children have returned to their farm in Italy, determined this time not to be involved. But when Mussolini joins Hitler’s war in 1940, they are forced to flee into Switzerland. Where eventually British Intelligence recruit Harry and Annie into the dangerous business of border-crossings and escape routes across occupied Europe; while Frank, now conscripted, finds himself with the Queen Victoria Rifles defending Calais as the British and French armies retreat to Dunkirk. He is one of very few to escape from Calais, then to be recruited himself for espionage work and reunited with his family in Basel.
First Snow of Winter
(‘When War Came Again‘ Book Two)
“The whole country is afraid. People favour the armistice and support the Maréchal. Do not assume anyone will not betray you. Above all, remember the French now hate the English.”
It is Christmas 1940, Harry Cardwell and Frank escorting downed airmen across Vichy France and Fascist Spain to hopeful safety in Gibraltar, and a return to London under the Blitz.
All too soon they are parachuted back into that confusing triptych of danger and death, neutral Switzerland’s frontiers with Germany, occupied Vichy France, and Italy.
Basel, a kilometre across the river from Germany, is dangerous and unpredictable and full of ‘Fifth Column’. Harry’s Annie, Frank’s mother, has taken over a Jack-and-Jill-of-all-trades role, an improvised outpost in which her status is deliberately ambiguous, but in theory available to each Intelligence Section and suitable for ‘escape’, ‘infiltration’, ‘communications’, ‘sabotage’ and ‘the passage of information’ from Germany and occupied France.
Harry and Frank will do the same on the southern border with Italy, establishing connections with the Italian resistance through their old friends in Milan. Until MI19 decide Frank will be more useful interrogating Italian prisoners in North Africa.
As for so many in this war, the family begins to fragment, only Annie and youngest son William left in Basel when Harry accompanies daughter Helen across France, leaving Helen on the Spanish frontier to make her own way to Gibraltar and Lisbon. She has been offered a bursary at Vassar College, New York State.
Complications and unexplained deaths in Basel eventually see Annie having to undertake her own mission across the border into Italy. Where she is arrested by the Italian gestapo, OVRA.
Last Snow of Winter
(‘When War Came Again' Book Three)
“Your wife’s been captured – and I’m afraid tortured.” The senior officer across the desk looked up: “She was heard to scream. We do not know for how long.” The officer stood and shook Harry’s hand: “I’m very sorry.”
Annie is in the hands of the Italian Secret Police, their daughter Helen sailing amongst the ‘one-eyed crocodiles’ – the U-boats on the Atlantic; younger son William waits alone and vulnerable in Basel; older son Frank, Military Intelligence in MI19 retreating across the desert of North Africa, finds himself on an isolated sand-swept railway station named El Alamein – the Cardwell family, like so many others, scattered across the world and variously in peril, at times in very bizarre situations: Harry sharing a day with Noël Coward in Algiers; or Harry’s son, Frank, delivering a top-secret file to Harold Macmillan at sunrise on a North African beach, the Minister Resident (Mediterranean) emerging from the sea with Frank’s Commanding Officer, General Alexander – both moustached ‘Walrus men’ stark naked.
The Cardwells live the invasion of Sicily and Italy from both sides of the line – with the 8th and 5th Armies, with the foot-soldiers’ slog, the savage battle for Catania at the Bridge of Primosole, and on the mainland with the military fiasco of Monte Cassino. Also with the Partisan war and the PoWs who escape to join it, facing grim retribution from the Germans and Mussolini’s Blackshirts who inflict terrible reprisal not only on the Partisans and their girl-soldier staffettas, but on many thousands of Italian civilians guilty of nothing more than sheltering escaped Allied PoWs.
The whole of Europe finds itself inside that deadly roulette-wheel of injury, death or survival, most especially at the end when victory and peace seem within grasp, when everyone least wishes or expects to die, when that agony and their tragedy seem all the greater.
It is 1945. Victorious London and her country are exhausted; conflict and confusion dominate the ruins of Köln and Berlin, of Italy and fascist Spain; while a ruthless banditry will soon control the secret world in Washington’s Foggy Bottom – its tentacles to reach even inside the Vatican City. Family and friends search for Harry Cardwell, alive or dead.
Harry’s older son, Frank, still with British Intelligence, now pursues justice and revenge for the Judge Advocate General; but finds instead Opera Lirica where the red flag flies in Emilia.
Yet for him and all the others, betrayal and slaughter will continue to stalk, darkening the streets of Palermo, Rome and Santiago.
The Cold War has divided the World, divides Europe, divides countries, above all divides the Cardwells. This far-reaching and concluding volume questions the accepted origins and the conduct of that war, and witnesses in particular the ruthless stranglehold of American power and paranoia on the politics and life of Italy and of Chile (conspiracies facilitated in his relatively junior capacity by the younger Cardwell son, William; and bitterly opposed by his brother Frank, sister Helen, the now elderly ‘Bunny’, and Joe-Giuseppe, another comrade from the war against the fascists).
William and his ‘Foggy Bottom’ wife, Hayley, have been once again dispatched, this time to safeguard US channels inside the Vatican – and find themselves encouraging the very worst of Italian conspiracies, both of them implicated in murder and indiscriminate atrocity.
Frank and Joe-Giuseppe instead are forced into hiding, Joe emerging for a fatal showdown with William.
As unexpected as a resurrection, Frank, Helen and William with their various generations do eventually return for Harry and Annie at the new Millennium – to the snows of Puschlav and Alp Grüm.