Diary of a first-time non-fiction Author

By Dennis Williams

Yes! Made it! Result!

I have now written a book – which has finally been published and printed – by HELION of course – or you would not be reading this attempt at a blog. Of course people write and publish books all the time… but this time it is me. Yours truly. I can take hold of a freshly minted copy in my sticky hands … mmm, it even smells new… and it has my name, Dennis Williams – that’s me, by the way – on the front cover. Perhaps I no longer get out as much as I should, but for me this is one exciting event.

POURING WITH RAIN – TROOPS FED UP… well, perhaps that title doesn’t work for you, but it has always sounded good to me. It is actually a quote from a short diary written by an ordinary foot soldier who fought in Flanders in the closing months of the First World War (which is the subject of my book by the way). For me it was an archetypal piece of understatement, as might be expected from the typical British ‘Tommy’. Here we have a full member of the PBI (‘poor bloody infantry’) taking part in the breakout from the famous Ypres salient on the Western Front; about to help drive the German Army out of occupied Belgium and into an Armistice agreement that will end The Great War. And yet… the main preoccupation is with… the weather… and it’s raining (well, they are in Flanders)… and the troops on the ground are, to put it mildly, not very happy about this. But in these final weeks of the war they will achieve great things…

If my book has any value, it is to pay tribute to those soldiers who fought – and many of whom would never return home  – to free Belgium from four years of forced occupation.

OK, so I now have a printed book to try and persuade people to read – and also of course to pay money for. I offer signed copies when I run my military book stall (I have a small side business – probably too strong a word, ‘hobby’ is probably a better reflection of its financial state – buying and selling second hand books). I’ve contacted lots of independent bookshops in East Sussex (where I now live) and beyond – but I can’t claim to have had a great deal of success to date. I did have support from one shop for a full book signing day – a Saturday when prospective customers are almost guaranteed to wander by, I was assured – and I duly rocked up on the day with my promotional poster and postcards. Ready to cope with the queue.

The sun was shining – it was a very hot day.

I piled high a plentiful stock of books.

I made sure that I had my very best fountain pen and ink.

But – memo to all those with a new book to promote – it is not a good idea to choose the one day in decades when the England football team reaches a World Cup semi-final. Suffice it to say that I saw few potential readers or purchasers. (The Specials: Ghost Town). I was so thrilled to sell the one copy of PWR – and madam, I really hope the other half will enjoy the gift – there is a lady from East Grinstead who will never know the joy she brought to the heart of a first time non-fiction author. It was not all bad. I drank two free cups of coffee. And the lack of interest meant that, with a clear conscience (I don’t want to let my readers down), I could pack up and get home in time to watch the match. However we all know how well that ended…

The supporting strapline of the book’s title British Second Army and the Liberation Offensive in Flanders 1918 provides a pretty good short summary of what the book is about. Hopefully, it does exactly what it says on the tin. But there is something in there for everyone (well, I would say that, wouldn’t I). I tried to write a book that included what I personally would want to read about. So, for example, there is the drama of high politics as Field Marshal Haig feuds with the French Generalissimo Ferdinand Foch – and threatens to resign even as the Germans sue for peace. (Was Lloyd George never aware that his best ever opportunity to be rid of Haig came his way at this time?) There are the consequences for the Belgian civilians as they become liberated by Second Army forces. And the problem of obtaining and supplying new dentures to the troops as the advance gathers pace. And lots (and lots) of pages with orders of battle. And some excellent maps.

I could say more. I may well do so another time.

If these musings have been of any interest then let us know.

Still to come…

I get hold of my first book review (Does the description ‘nice’ constitute a positive or a negative review?).

And very soon I will be running a bookstall and book signing at a ‘First World War weekend’ at the home of Rudyard Kipling (it can’t get much better than this!).

‘Pouring with Rain – Troops Fed Up. British Second Army and the Liberation Offensive in Flanders 1918’ is now available to order here.

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