Diary of Writing Italy’s Sorrow

Getting Started

18 September 2006
About three weeks ago I set myself this date as the day I simply had to start writing the book, so for the past fortnight it’s been a frantic scrabble to get to a stage where I feel I’m ready to go.   I’ve almost been living in the Imperial War Museum and at the National Archives in Kew, but thankfully I’ve come across some really good stuff, including a brilliant description by an SOE officer of his attempt to go behind the lines and assassinate a leading German general.  His mission didn’t exactly go to plan, but his descriptions of what he saw in Northern Italy and his sense of what was going on were fascinating. It made me think I’d like to use him in the book but there was no Christian name, just ‘Major B. Barton, DSO, MC.’  Fortunately, I later discovered that despite the initial, he was always known as ‘Johnny.’  I’d like to find out more though

Anyway, today I did start and hope to have the Prologue finished by Wednesday.  The most enormous effort is required to sit down and write the first line and then paragraph, but I was quickly reminded that once I get going all is well.


4 replies
  1. Jay Lowrey
    Jay Lowrey says:


    Keep up the good work and we can’t wait to read what will be a fantastic book!

    Happy Thanksgiving from the Lowrey’s in Omaha!

    Best regards,
    Jay Lowrey

  2. David Cecil
    David Cecil says:

    Hello James,
    I recently attended your lecture at the Vet’s Hospital in Chelsea, and was sorry not to thank you afterwards.
    Though you might have guessed from my name that I am related to one of the organisers, I was hardly press-ganged into coming (the place was as full as could be!).
    It was eye-opening, and shamefully so for myself, for (as you rightfully pointed out) the civilian experience so rarely comes thru in most of the conventional histories of the war (and especially so, re. the Italian campaigns?).
    My wife is Italian, and we’ve spent some time driving and drinking (with safe pauses betwixt!) thru some of the areas you mentioned.
    Being a somewhat emotional chap (and a little tired), I must confess that the accounts nearly moved me to tears.
    What was so valuable about your account was your attention not only to the counter-partigiani atrocities, but also to the effects of Allied bombing – which, as you pointed out, ought to make us wary of the notions of ‘humanitarian’ warfare, in a time when it is so readily accepted as an unproblematic tool of foreign policy.
    (Don’t worry – I’m not about to launch into a hysterical diatribe re. Iraq!)
    Coupled with a recent first-time viewing of Karimov’s shocking ‘Come & See’, your lecture came at a very important time for me, personally.
    (I have recently been researching genocide, comparing the German and Rwandan experience from the POV of the perpetrators).
    I thus thank you warmly for your work, and look forward immensely to the publication of what will doubtless be a fascinating book.
    Yours, David Cecil

    PS – Re. my aforementioned research, do you have any recommendations for literature on the experience of Germans in Italy? Fiction is as valuable as non for me. I’ve come across Von Salomon’s extraordinary work, but he is more interesting re. inter-war – the Baltic etc.
    Please ignore this PS without hesitation if you’re too busy – and I’ll wait for your bibliography…

  3. Florian
    Florian says:

    I found your blog via google by accident and have to admit that youve a really interesting blog 🙂
    Just saved your feed in my reader, have a nice day 🙂

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