Wednesday 1 May 2019

The Passing Tribute by Simon Marshall @LongDrawnAisle BLOG TOUR @Unbound_Digital #ThePassingTribute #RandomThingsTours

In the tumultuous aftermath of the First World War the Wilson brothers head in opposite directions: Richard, interned in Austria throughout the conflict, returns to England; Edward, a junior officer, is dispatched from Italy to Vienna as part of the British Army s relief mission.
For Edward, it will be a return to the city and to love. But it will not be the same city: Vienna is no longer the administrative heart of an Empire, merely a provincial capital ravaged by starvation, and paralysed by the winter snows. Will it be the same love? 
In London, Richard is employed in the ministerial heart of government, and soon dazzled by the Under Secretary s vision for a new, federal Europe. But for the new to exist the old must be replaced; and the Habsburg Emperor, on his estate near the Czech border, revolution all around, refuses to go. One man is sent to make sure that he does. 
With the brothers estranged by distance and time, their lives become unknowingly entwined in a shadowy plot and it seems the end of the war is only the beginning of their struggle.

The Passing Tribute by Simon Marshall was published by Unbound on 7 March 2019. As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I'm delighted to share an extract from the book with you today.

"Dumped on the box, the man slumped like a rag doll. On the crown of his head a patch of raw skin was reddened in the firelight through the strands of his matted brown hair. Yorston, casting a proprietorial glance at the box, bent down and hissed in his ear, ‘That fire be thanks ter me, that a be. Don’t yer be a-forgetting that, chum.’

Dawson returned with a small flask of grappa and passed it to Collins. A measure was poured into a canteen and held out.

‘There yer go,’ said Collins.

The man looked at the canteen, then up at Collins. In his hollowed face his pale eyes seemed massive like a bullfrog’s either side of a sharp, flinty nose, his pinched lips being framed by a pair of protruding, blackened ears. He reached out for the canteen with his trembling fingers and drew it slowly to his lips. His swollen eyes hopped about the assemblage with a sort of fearful, watchful calculation.

‘Not poison ya know, mate.’

‘Best if it were if yer ask me.’

He sipped the grappa, took another suspicious glance, and swiftly drained the remainder. He held the canteen greedily back out to Collins, an expression of demand in his face. It was what Collins hated most about the Germans – and to him they were all Germans, wherever they came from. No matter whether they were given a canteen of grappa or had a bayonet stuck in their gut, their haughty look was always the same. It made him want to twist and twist the bayonet until it bored right through them to the earth. He grabbed the canteen and returned a brow-beating stare as he poured a second measure.

‘One more for yer, Jerry. Then that’s yer bloody lot.’

The man stared at Collins like some dumb, defiant fiend. The canteen released to his charge, he emptied it, then spat the dribbled afters at Collins’ feet.

‘Bloody pigs.’

‘Fuckin’ waste is what that is.’

‘Bet yer he snuffs it ’fore ’e gets even ’alfway down.’

‘If he ain’t napooed before the fuckin’ ’alfway.’

Collins grabbed the canteen back, but said nothing.

The restorative effects of the grappa were not long to take hold. The Passing Tribute 26 But the man’s blood, too quickly warmed by the heat of the fire, meant he soon felt his exposure: he began to shiver uncontrollably. His face taut, he clenched his teeth in a struggle to master his body. When he had finally done so a smile of triumph flashed on his lips. His eyes whitening, as if infected by some powerful toxin, they feverishly flitted between Edward and the shadows under the arches. He then launched into a furious tirade of incomprehensible speech.
‘Jesus. Tin op’ner – I told yer.’

‘Bitten by the bloody barn mouse.’

‘Told yer that were too much peg fer ’im.’

‘What’s he saying?’ Vivier asked Edward.

‘I’ve no idea.’ ‘Oh, ok. Is it not German?’

‘Yes… no.’ Edward made a negative gesture. His German was fit for paper and pleasantries, not that. ‘It’s not the same,’ he explained.

‘It’s dialect,’ said Gardiner, stepping forward, out of the shadows. The Alpini officer advanced alongside him. ‘He’s from here – the mountains.’

The man’s arms suddenly sprang out from his sides. He ripped the frayed twine that fastened the buttonholes of his coat and threw it wide open. Collins snatched at the air for his rifle. Edward grabbed at his pistol. The man rummaged in the pocket of his shabby officer’s tunic, found what he sought, and flung it at Edward; the object landed by his boots. For a split second Edward thought the enamel glint might be one of the man’s rotten teeth. He picked it up and displayed it in his open palm. Attached to a red-and-white ribbon was a dirty Maltese cross. As he tried to decipher the inscription, Vivier leaned over to help."

Simon Marshall is a writer, born and raised in London. He studied modern history at UCL and received an MA from King's College London. His research has led to an ongoing fascination with the politics of empire and the causes of both world wars, which has informed his novels to date.
He is a Real Tennis Professional and has lived and worked in France for much of the last decade. He is thinking of be becoming Anglo-Saxon again.
The Passing Tribute is his second novel. It is the sequel to The Long Drawn Aisle.

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