Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Novel draft finished and submitted...

I've finished a draft of the book, still titled 'A Hundred Years To Arras' at time of writing, and submitted to a select few agents. Two have already replied. Not for them. It's an interesting process. Received wisom is that getting an agent is a preferable way to get your book under the eyes of a publisher. However, an agent is neither necessary nor desirable with getting comics work published. I've always worked directly with a publisher where comics are concerned. Prose, however, is another kettle of fish. I've also approached publishers directly, and in my experience I've had more response and interest that way. Of course, not all publishers are open to unsolicited submissions. So, we're now in that stage of the game where I'm waiting to see what happens, and that will determine whether another draft is needed and so on. The story now exists, and it's just a matter of seeing how it'll become revealed to the world.

In the meantime, there's still time to buy my latest issue of Commando, so what are you waiting for?

I have two other ideas for novels, both of which I'm about to start work on, and then let's see which develops fully first...

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

New Commando out NOW!

Written by me. Available in all good newsagents or by subscription! Your local WH Smith should have it!

Image may contain: 1 person, text
The marines of 3 Commando didn’t know what would kill them first: being blown apart by a landmine, shot down by an Argentinian sniper, or freezing to death in the icy southern winter.
After entering a war on the other side of the world, many did not understand why Britain was fighting so hard to keep the Falkland Islands… but they would learn.

Story: Jason Cobley
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Commando Incoming!

Look out for my next Commando adventure, 'The June Winter', set during the Falklands Conflict, due out on 28th December 2018 in all good newsagents!

I'm also currently working on one set in the Pacific War of WWII for release some time in 2019. It'll feature some of these:

Monday, 27 August 2018

The Tunnels of Arras

Image result for the tunnels of arrasFollowing my debut as a writer for Commando earlier this year, my next issue, out on 28th December, is entitled 'The June Winter', set during The Falklands War. Keep an eye out for it in WH Smith! You can still buy 'The Tunnels of Arras' via Comixology or Amazon for your Kindle if you missed out on a print copy. 

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Books On Arras: Poppies, Nature and La Bataille

I've been wondering whether I can still call myself a writer of any description whilst it's taking me so long to get anything written. Just to prove the book is still progressing, I thought I'd share with you some of the reading that I've been using to make sure I've got my facts straight and able to create some verisimilitude.

The section I'm working on at the moment has some description if the wildlife in France amongst the horror of battle, linked with the wildlife that RGH would have had contact with as the son of a farmer in Somerset. There's a good reason why so many WWI soldiers wrote about the lark, as it seemed to be ever-present, and the birds seemed to raise their chorus to be heard above the rattle of the guns. I was on holiday in Cornwall a week or so ago, and came across 'Where Poppies Blow' by John Lewis-Stempel, which gives an overview of the relationship soldiers had with wildlife in the trenches, and the importance of horses and birds, for example, to how the war was waged and how the men lived. I also came across the pictured 'Nature in the West Country' to do my research on Somerset for the princely sum of one pound in the National Trust second hand bookshop at Killerton House. RGH, like many young men of the era, was closer to nature than most of us would be today. 'Where Poppies Blow' serves as a reminder that the men were part of the very earth itself.

Amongst the many books I've read on the subject are these two. 'Cheerful Sacrifice' by Jonathan Nicholls collect many first hand accounts of the men's experience at Arras in 1917. 'To Arras, 1917' finds universality in the particular as Walter Reid tells the story of his ancestor Ernest's experience as an officer at Arras. My RGH is as far from being an officer as it's possible to get, so his story is in the mud, across the wire, knee-deep in water and close to the voles and birds. Both books have been very useful for research, as well as being good reads in themselves.

When we went to Arras in April, I bought this book, which is a beautiful hardback with some wonderful pictures of what Arras looked like at the time, and of the experience of the men underground. Although the tunnellers that provided practically a subterranean city under Arras to hide 24,000 troops were vital, this is not RGH's story. I am planning on using some ideas from that fascinating environment for another project, however. I'll let you know how that pans out.

The most pleasant surprise was finding, in several Arras bookshops, the graphic novel 'The Battle: Arras 1917' by Frederic Logez. The artwork is in places basic but it's engagingly laid out and uses a number of voices to portray a number of different experiences of the battle. There's a French version and a translated English version: I bought the latter, which is hesitantly translated but still very readable.

There's always a danger of doing too much research and ending up feeling swamped and not knowing what to use - or even remember. Likewise, the other danger is of inadvertently using too much of it. The story I'm telling has a factual basis, but events are fictionalised. The first 30,000 words concern themselves with events leading up to Arras, then we're into a central section which focuses on the day itself. That's where I am now.

This is some of the stuff I've already read on the subject. 'Forgotten Voices' by Max Arthur is particularly good, and isn't just on Arras but a whole array of personal accounts from the men themselves who fought on the front lines. 'Before Endeavours Fade' is a comprehensive guide to finding and exploring the war graves in France.

And here's the pile that I haven't read yet...
I'm not allowed near bookshops for a while...

Sunday, 23 April 2017

22nd April 1917 on 22nd April 2017

I'm just back from a few days visiting Arras. We took in: the Wellington Tunnels; Hervin Farm Cemetery where RGH is buried; the Vimy Memorial and the Arras Memorial before heading home. We visited Robert's grave on the hundredth anniversary of his death. A more detailed blogpost will follow soon, but in the meantime, here are some images from that day and the Hervin Farm:

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Arras novel is taking shape...

Edited extract from a draft section of the book I'm writing about Robert Gooding Henson and the Battle of Arras:

Thousands of Tommies, all together, were training for the battle that would soon come. Flagged courses were constructed over the rough terrain, where they would rehearse movements over and over again. The weather was cold, storms intermittently battering them in every way over and over again. The only relief was the resumption of the sporting tournament. One day, when the snow fell and obliterated the pitch, the officers decided they should forego football and a boxing tournament was organised. 

Whilst thousands of soldiers were accommodated in secret rough-hewn tunnels dug under the decimated city of Arras, Robert’s Battalion were shifted in buses to Dieval for Brigade exercises, then marched to Hermaville, a farming village just eight miles west of Arras. This day, 7th April, was an auspicious day for the Somerset regiment. This was Jellalabad Day, which celebrated the regiment’s successful escape from a trapped position in Jellalabad during the Afghan War in 1842. Celebrating one of Somerset’s greatest military victories on the eve of their greatest sacrifice was an irony that was yet to occur to most of them. Huts were set up with a piano, crates of beer, and a musical evening was provided for all the men. 

On 8th April, the men were settled into tents just outside a larger, more industrial village named Maroeuil, which was four miles closer to Arras. Unlike the twenty-four thousand soldiers who surged from the hidden tunnels in the city to take the Germans by surprise, Robert’s Battalion camped out. Whilst in a heavily wooded area, they were still more vulnerable and more likely to be spotted by German aerial reconnaissance. A party of officers, in an unusually intrepid operation, reconnoitred the trenches north of Arras ahead of the attack, and a plan was hatched.

They followed their orders but were not yet to know the full scope of what lay ahead of them. Troops from Australia, Canada, France, Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales were all defending the Ypres Salient and driving the Germans back long the line of the River Scarpe, and had been doing so for months that extended into years. The Fourth Division, of which the Somerset Light Infantry was a part, had orders to capture a section of the German trench system known as the Hyderabad Redoubt, north-east of the village of Fampoux...

Whilst this is taken from the book, it doesn't include anything to do with plot or characters. We'll save that for another day. I've taken the factual framework and constructed a fictional narrative that focuses on Robert's imagined experiences and later, how this relates to events after the war.

The 100th anniversary of the First Battle of Arras was recently commemorated on 9th April. Robert died on 22nd April. More on that soon...