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Monday, March 12, 2012

What do 'your' angels look like?

Old soldiers never die – they get whisked straight back to earth to take part in angelic “manoeuvres”.  Patrick Evans has no idea why he and Billy Byrne, who fought their wars a century apart, have been chosen for this particular “op”, nor why it seems to involve fixing up the man Billy left behind with someone Billy’s always hated. When Patrick realizes his old lover also has a connection to the case, will the temptation to refuse orders become too great? 

The church warden at the church I frequented in the 1980’s once told us a story of how he’d had an encounter with an angel. Said heavenly visitor had come in the guise of a bank manager, bearing a much needed and totally unexpected cheque. I’ve kept that story in mind for years, germinating – would angels really always come with “wings as drifted snow... eyes as flame” or would they be more everyday but no less welcome?

I explored the idea with a ghost who resembled a family solicitor in “Shade on a Fine Day”, but didn’t feel ready to tackle the angels until I had an odd conversation with a fellow author about angels maybe wearing leather (the vestige of that made its way into “Music in the Midst of Desolation” in the form of a leather jacket which reminds someone of his old lover).  Out of that came the first shoots of the story.

I’m a “by the seat of my pants” writer, developing the story as I write it, and I always start with a character, in this case Patrick Evans. Patrick arose out of one of my obsessions – WWI – and quickly turned out to construct around him an angelic set-up which ran along the lines of a military organization. (Made sense to me; a God who created the laws of physics would surely have a sensible and efficient system for angels to work in?) Once I had the set up, under the watchful eye of commanding officer Neville, the story arc began to grow. And once the spiky, shirty and highly un-angelic Billy Byrne appeared, we were rolling!

The central thing I had to deal with was how angels feel, coming back to earth again with a mission to fulfill. Do they revert to human emotions, a depth of feeling they may well have forgotten about? Do all sorts of negative feelings flood back, like hurt and anger and jealousy? What if you’ve been sent back to do something with which you disagree, like set your old boyfriend up with a new partner? Those are the things “Music in the Midst of Desolation” explores.

As for the title, that comes from the same Laurence Binyon poem that gave us the lines, “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.”  For me, it’s about hope in despair, a small piece of joy amongst the sorrow.
Here's a quick peek inside:
"You won't be bored, you know." The person assigned to settle Patrick in on his return to Earth, a tweed-clad lady of indeterminate age, had met him at Waterloo Station. She looked more Agatha Christie-Patrick had seen the author's picture on the cover of a book in WH Smith's store while he waited to be scooped up-than Archangel Gabriel. She'd extended a brown, wrinkled hand to be shaken. "Should have introduced myself properly. Call me Marjorie. It's not my name now, although it was my name once, and it'll do. Let's get you to your lodgings." She'd set off at a great pace, Patrick barely able to keep up with her.
"I've forgotten what boredom's like." Funny how tedium hadn't featured back there, but now a vague memory of what it felt like returned, along with recollections of other feelings he'd left behind. Hurt. Jealousy. Cold. Patrick pulled his jacket tighter around him and wished he'd worn a thicker sweater.
"There's work to be done and they've decided you're suitable to be entrusted with it." The woman stopped in her march, turning to face him and rolling her eyes, as if to insinuate that Raphael or one of his lesser lights was lacking in judgement this time around. "I suppose they know what they're doing."
"What exactly is it that you want me to do?"
When he'd first been given his notice to prepare for "embarkation," Patrick had wondered whether he'd be assigned to being Christopher's guardian angel. Any previous occupant of the post would have needed to take an extended sabbatical due to extreme mental fatigue. But now he was back on Earth, it was obvious the timescale wouldn't work out. According to the newspaper he'd seen at the newsagent's, this was 2011, so Christopher-if alive-would be one hundred and twenty-one and incapable of getting into any mischief that a guardian angel would need to get him out of.
"Do? Be patient in the short term." Marjorie snorted, turning a corner and leading him out of the concourse.
It was odd walking real streets again, even if they barely resembled the ones Patrick remembered. The snow-there'd clearly been a fresh fall during the night-was white or slushy grey, for one thing. Not brown with horse droppings, like it used to be anywhere that cabs and drays plied their trade. It had been speckled brown out in France. Brown and red.

Get yours at Man Love Romance
Charlie Cochrane


  1. Thanks for hosting me again - that post has come up really well.

  2. I adore Marjorie. If I have a guardian angel I would like one like her with sensible shoes and a tweed skirt speckled with spaniel hair.

    "Music in the Midst of Desolation" was both entertaining and comforting - chicken soup for the soul. :)

    1. Thanks, Elin. Marjorie is part Margaret Rutherford, part Miss Marple and part those senisble women who did so much in the war!