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Saturday, 2 July 2011

D Day for Delta

From the website of Jack Martin

Where do you get your ideas?

That question is asked of all writers at one time or another, and the answer is never really simple. Ideas come from anywhere and at any time, but with my July hardback, The Ballad of Delta Rose I can trace the genesis of the idea back more than thirty years. I'm not saying I've carried the idea around with me all this time (thought it could have been stewing at the back of my mind, alongside my desires for Angelina Jolie, all that time. Who can say?) but the thing that influenced the most important aspect of the novel was a story in a comic book I used to read as a kid. That story was called D-Day Dawson and it told of a character called Steve Dawson who was injured on the 6th June 1944 during the Normandy Beach Landings. Dawson survived the injury but was left with a bullet lodged too close to his heart to be removed and, knowing that one day the bullet will kill him, he vows to keep his injury secret and fight on.

And fight on he did, taking more and more outlandish risks to keep the men who fought alongside him safe. Dawson was forever getting dizzy turns or temporary paralysis as the bullet inside him shifted yet closer to the heart, but he always managed to pull himself together in order to save the day. In one story from October 1975 Dawson thinks, "I've had another warning today that I'm not coming out of this war alive." In another story Dawson, convinced that he only has moments to lives, storms a German machine gun nest single handily. He did however live to fight on for another few dozen or so issues.

There was something heroic about this man who had nothing to lose that appealed to us schoolkids. He was the ultimate soldier since he didn't fear death and was in many ways already dead.

The story was a favourite of mine and it ran originally between March 1975 and May 1976 and then returned for a final series between August 1976 and January 1977. Dawson did eventually die but not from the actual bullet but by an extreme act of self sacrifice that saved his comrades. It was a bleak, downbeat ending to a reader favourite but then Battle Picture Weekly was always unpredicatable.

"He had to die,' said Eric Hebden, the writer who eventually killed Dawson. "It was a chronological story, we couldn't prolong it any further. Once he reached Berlin it had to end."

I remember being upset at the time, as were other Battle readers. In fact one reader, Derek O'Byrne of Dublin even wrote a poem and had it printed in the Comic's 5th November 1977 issue.

At the time schoolkids all across Britain went into mourning, for just as grown men where shocked into mourning when Sherlock Holmes supposedly died after his battle with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls, we too were deeply affected by the loss of our hero.

Now I've a collection of Battle comics that I'd kept since I was a kid and a couple of years back when rereading some of these old issues, I suddenly thought the idea of a man doomed by a bullet lodged close to his heart had some mileage. And thus the idea for my third Black Horse Western, The Ballad of Delta Rose was born.

Like Dawson, Delta Rose has a bullet lodged inside him, one that can't be removed and will eventually kill him, but it is there that all similarity and debt to D Day Dawson ends. I approached fellow western writer, Dr Keith Souter and asked him about the effects a bullet lodged inside a human body, checking if it was feasible and indeed possible. I was told it was and was also given some documented evidence of this actually happening. And the novel grew from there. What's more I think it's the best thing I've ever written - the style is much more hardboiled than anything I've ever done and perhaps because I always had this beloved comic strip at the back of my mind, I managed to create something much larger than life, but at the same time keep it credible and grounded in a kind of fictional reality.

Delta Rose will be published on the 29th of July 2011 by Robert Hale LTD on its Black Horse Western imprint. The Black Horse Titles are primarily intended for the library trade and as such have limited print runs. My past titles have sold out quickly and Delta Rose is currently topping the pre-order western charts at Amazon .

Pre-ordering means you are guaranteed a copy and no money will be taken from accounts until the book is ready to be shipped in July.
Order it HERE
Check out The Ballad of Jack Martin HERE

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