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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Spotlight Saturday: Guest Post and Giveaway with Mike Harris on behalf of his grandfather, William E. Thomas, author of It Never Was You

Hi, everyone!

Welcome to another edition of Spotlight Saturday at Darlene's Book Nook, where we feature authors and their books!

We will be joined today by Mike Harris on behalf of his grandfather, William E. Thomas.

About William:

William Edward Thomas was born in West London in 1925.

He left The Brompton Oratory School when he was 14 and started work as a messenger at the BBC. When war broke out, his mother insisted he left central London and went to work with his father at a factory in Harrow. While still a teenager, William joined the army and was soon recruited in to the parachute regiment. By the time peace had been declared in Europe in May 1945, he had been “dropped” in to a number of key battles and become a much decorated soldier. He was still only 19 years old.

Following the war, William served in Palestine until 1948.

He has always believed passionately that education leads to opportunity. He has studied part time for both a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree and was one of the first students to enrol with The Open University.

William has six children. As they were growing up, he was working and studying in shifts as a merchant seaman and an engineer, working his way from factory shop floor to management. In his mid fifties, he decided to work full time as a lab technician at his Alma Mater, The Open University and remained there until his retirement. It was during his retirement that he decided to set himself the challenge of writing a novel. The Cypress Branches is the result.

William's health started deteriorating shortly after finishing The Cypress Branches and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2006. Shortly after the hardback book's launch in the summer of 2009, his health deteriorated to the point where he could no longer live at home. He is now cared for at a home in central Milton Keynes where he is visited by his wife Sheila and family members daily.

Welcome to Darlene's Book Nook, Mike!

Mike has written a guest post, so I will now turn the floor over to him!

10 Things You Didn't Know About William E. Thomas, author of The Cypress Branches Trilogy
by Mike Harris

Take a look at author William E. Thomas’s Amazon Author page, and you’ll discover that he is an ex-WWII paratrooper who sat down to write his epic trilogy The Cypress Branches when he retired, that he studied for two university degrees, that he has six children and lives in Milton Keynes in the UK. Oh, and that the “E” stands for Edward.

But there is so much more to know about William, so here are 10 more obscure facts that you won’t find in a standard biography, but will give you a greater insight into what kind of man he is.

1. After spending time on active duty in Palestine, and becoming a much-decorated soldier, William was sent away from the front line and into the kitchens of a large hotel in Egypt which had been taken over by the British Army. Whist there, he trained to be a chef, picking up some incredible skills and so was born a life-long love of food and cooking. The kitchen has always been the hub of the Thomas home, where he would spend many happy hours creating his bespoke versions of British classics as well as authentic French and Italian dishes.

2. William also learned to box in the army, and judging by his lack of scars and pugilist’s nose, he appears to have been quite good at it. He retained an interest in boxing until his illness took hold.

3. He earned his beer money in the army by playing the piano in the mess and local bars. He was never taught how to play, picking up tunes by ear. Music is one of the few things William is able to enjoy in his current condition. Despite not being able to communicate effectively with his family and carers, music is able to get through to him. His feet can be seen tapping when you play one of his favourite tunes.

4. After William left the army, he joined the British Merchant Navy. His time in the “Merch” gave him the opportunity to explore much of the world, including South America, Africa and the Far East. He took every opportunity to explore the sights and cultural heritage of the places he visited, feeding his interest in world history and politics.

5. Visits to William’s house wouldn’t be complete without a bowl of “burgoo” for breakfast! Burgoo is porridge, made the way only William can make it, cooked very slowly over a low heat and finished off with copious amounts of cream. It was so good, it would make even the most ardent of porridge haters fall in love with the stuff. “Burgoo” is a British Royal Navy term, and William picked it up when he was at sea. The name was eventually adopted by the whole family.

6. William married Sheila on her birthday in November 1948. He never let her forget the fact, wishing her a “happy birthaversary” every year. They would have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary later this year, but sadly, Sheila passed away in March.

8. William is known as Bill by most of his friends. His grandchildren call him “Gramps”, but he was always William to his wife Sheila. He lovingly called Sheila his “Duchess”.

7. Before his retirement, William had never written creatively. He wrote just one short story (available for FREE here) before starting work on The Cypress Branches. That’s just 8,000 words practice before writing a 350,000 epic!

9. To say William was a keen reader would be an understatement. He consumed books in all shapes and sizes at a rapid rate, and there are well over 1000 books in his beloved library. As well as fiction, both classic and contemporary, there is also humour, politics, history, philosophy and science. If you’d like to take a closer look at what’s in William’s library, head over to his Goodreads Author profile.

10. William is one of the estimated 496,000 people who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease in the UK. He was diagnosed in 2006 after years of progressively losing his short term memory and becoming more confused. It was watching him deteriorate that prompted me, his grandson, to pursue publishing his books. He was presented with a copy of a specially printed hardback copy of his epic novel, The Cypress Branches, in 2009 in front of four generations of his family. They made such a huge fuss of him that day, it was one of the last days that he could recall with any clarity before his illness deteriorated further.

William is now cared for in a home in Milton Keynes, a city to the north of London in the UK, where he is visited on a daily basis by his loving family and friends. I continue working on his behalf to get his books into print and read by an ever growing audience.

Unfortunately, because his illness has deteriorated so rapidly, he is unaware, to our knowledge, of his growing success as a published author. But we as a family are very proud of his achievements and are determined that his incredible books will find the audience they deserve.          
Thanks so much for joining us today, Mike!

About the Books:

SERIES: The Cypress Branches, Book #1
PUBLISHER: Acute Angle Books
PUBLICATION DATE: March 26, 2012
FORMAT: Paperback, 348 pages
ISBN: 9780956229915


Arnhem, 1944. Captain Stanley Adam Malcolm Parker - Sammy to his friends - and his platoon have fought bravely, but it was always a losing battle. The bridge was unwinnable. After he and his men are forced into cattle trucks and transported across Germany on a three day journey without food or water, Sammy lashes out at an SS officer with brutal and devastating consequences...for him and his German opponent.

Instead of spending the rest of his war as a POW, Sammy is sent to a concentration camp.

Spared an immediate death, Sammy discovers firsthand the full horror of the final solution. Amongst the desperation and destitution of the camp, he encounters Naomi, a Jewish housewife from Dresden. Having seen her family murdered, Naomi has learned to survive by making the most unimaginable of sacrifices. She is the woman who Sammy comes to depend on to survive himself.

But when the camp is finally liberated, the couple are separated and Sammy embarks on a journey across a continent devastated by war and wracked by ongoing tensions to find out what happened to the woman he loves.

Following the successful publication of The Cypress Branches in hardback, the epic novel has now been adapted into a series of paperback books for general release, with each book concentrating on a set of characters featured in the original.

Pegasus Falling is the first part of the Cypress Branches Trilogy to be released in paperback. A truly heartbreaking and courageous work, it follows the emotional story of paratrooper Sammy and his struggle to survive the terrors of World War II and its aftermath.

With a sharp eye for detail and keen ear for conversation and dialect, William E. Thomas has painted an evocative historical backdrop to the intensely moving story of an unforgettable group of characters whose lives and loves are challenged by a constantly changing and volatile world.

Buy Links:

SERIES: The Cypress Branches, Book #2
PUBLISHER: Acute Angle Books
PUBLICATION DATE: April 24, 2013
FORMAT: Paperback, 380 pages
ISBN: 9780956229939


Harry Williamson is an ex-merchant seaman, a successful
businessman and a loving family man. When he disappears from a ferry in the middle of the Irish Sea, his grieving family are left with more questions than answers.

Who on earth is Mary Robinson?
Why did Harry leave her a small fortune in his will?
Had he been unfaithful to his beloved late wife, Lesley?

As they delve into his past, they discover he’s been
harbouring a secret which threatens to tear apart the very
fabric of their family history.

What unfolds is the heartbreaking story of a quiet, middle class merchant seaman and his unexpected, tragic relationship with a beautiful and exuberant waitress from the Liverpool docks as they struggle to reconcile their feelings for each other with the ever changing attitudes of post-war Britain.

The follow up to the acclaimed Pegasus Falling,
It Never Was You continues Thomas's epic and panoramic saga of how ordinary people coped with some of the most
extraordinary and devastating events of the 20th century.

Buy Links:

Win a copy of It Never Was You, or a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

To enter the giveaway, you must complete the Rafflecopter entry form below.

The giveaway is open until June 14, 2013.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Catch up with and follow the rest of the It Never Was You blog tour by clicking on the Tour Badge above.


  1. Hi Darlene,

    Thank you so much for hosting my grandfather's books today. The post looks fantastic! I'm so pleased to include Darlene's Book Nook on the blog tour, and I hope your readers enjoy finding out more about William.


    1. My pleasure, Mike! I think that what you are doing for your grandfather is admirable, and your grandfather is very blessed to have such a supportive and loving family! My best to you all!!

  2. What a fascinating and full life he led, thank you for sharing it with us!

  3. Always great to learn more about the authors we love to read. Thank you for this insight.

  4. I love learning about new authors that I have never heard of. I really would like to read this book. Thank you for the amazing giveaway!!

  5. Hope I would get this

  6. Thanks for hosting this giveaway! :) Love the author info shared.

  7. Thank you for hosting this giveaway! These are always fun to take part in. :)


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