Cuttings under floorboards provide a novel inspiration

Jo Eames with her book, Not Only The Good Boys. Picture: OX67073 Antony Moore

Jo Eames with her book, Not Only The Good Boys. Picture: OX67073 Antony Moore Buy this photo

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

WHEN pub boss Jo Eames started renovating her house, she never imagined it would lead to her writing a novel.

But finding some faded newpaper cuttings beneath the floorboards provided the inspiration for a wartime tale focusing on the Second World War’s D-Day landings.

Ms Eames, whose company Peach runs The Fishes pub in North Hinksey, is now promoting her second novel, Not Only The Good Boys, which is set in the year leading up to D-Day.

But the story would not have been written had she not embarked on some DIY in her home, in Deddington, near Banbury.

After moving into the 14th-century house, Ms Eames decided on a revamp and began pulling up floorboards in her bathroom.

Lying there were ancient newspaper cuttings about a Major-General who had once owned her new home.

After carrying out some research into the soldier’s background, she decided he would make a fascinating character for her second novel.

Major-General Percy Hobart’s work included building a range of experimental tanks, known as Hobart’s Funnies.

According to Ms Eames it was a big help to the war effort.

The mum-of-one said: “It was while I was renovating my own house that I discovered a link to the Major-General that compelled me to want to tell his story – 70 years on from when he faced his sternest test.

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“Under the bathroom lino I found some Egyptian newspapers dated 1939, and I was intrigued as to who had left them there.

“Then I found Major-General Hobart’s name on an old title deed to build a bathroom window and I realised he had once lived in the house with his family, between 1940 and 1948.

“This led me to the story of one of World War Two’s greatest unsung heroes.

“Although I discovered the cuttings in 2004, not long after we moved into the house, it took me until 2009 to realise that his life story would make a great subject for a novel.

“This summer, when people will remember the D-Day landings and the Allied victory in Europe, it’s fitting to be able to focus on some of the extraordinary events that took place in the run-up to June 6, 1944.”

Ms Eames, 49, who runs Peach pub company with partner Hamish Stoddart, lives with Mr Stoddart and their son Wilf, 16.

She said book clubs from Banbury and Chipping Norton will be among the first to read the book, and will then be invited to The Fishes on Thursday for a literary evening.

Ms Eames’s first novel, The Faithless Wife, was set during the Spanish Civil War.

Peach also owns The Fleece in Witney, and The Thatch and James Figg pubs in Thame.

The novel is being published, priced £9.99, by Peach Publishing.

MAJOR-GENERAL PERCY HOBART

  • SIR Percy Hobart was a British military engineer noted for his command of the 79th Armoured Division during the Second World War.
  • The Major-General was responsible for many of the specialised armoured vehicles that took part in the invasion of Normandy.

The Oxford Times:

Sir Percy Hobart

  • He gave his name to a series of devices known as Hobart’s Funnies.
  • The modified tanks were created by the 79th Armoured Division or by specialists from the Royal Engineers.
  • The new models were designed to cope with problems encountered during the Dieppe Raid.
  • His tanks played a major role on Commonwealth beaches during the Normandy landings.
  • Sir Percy died in 1957.

PUB EVENT WILL REMEMBER D-DAY

  • A PARTY is planned to mark the 70 years since D-Day.
  • The 1940s-style garden party will take place at The Fishes pub, North Hinksey, next month.
  • On Sunday, June 8, the pub’s riverside gardens will host live swing music and street party food.
  • Readings will be given from Jo Eames’s book, Not Only The Good Boys, by actors in 1940s dress, with rewards for guests who come in the best 1940s outfits.

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