Author Richard Rhys Jones has some unusual books - far from your usual thriller or romance:
This review of his first published book should give you the general idea.
That is until now.
Richard Rhys Jones' novel took me by complete surprise.
The tide of war has turned against the once unstoppable German armies, and Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, is approached by a Romanian count claiming to be part of the ethnic German minority of the Siebenbürger Sachsen who promises him an army of soldiers capable to fight during the night. Enamored by the occult and by the obvious advantages of such a deal he send newly promoted Eastern Front veteran Markus von Struck and a select band of trusted Waffen-SS soldiers into Romania to escort his envoy Dr. Rasch to finalize the deal.
At the same time the British apparently are approached by the same count and decide to send Major James Smith onto a commando operation, dropping him via parachute into the Carparthians.
What starts ordinary enough for the peak of WW2 soon branches out into the fields of legend, religious myths reaching back four thousand years, and horror. The lines between ally and enemy begin to blurr, and soon a motley crew of the most unlikely heroes are all that stand between survival and an all-consuming darkness.
Jones' human characters, even the secondary ones, are all well-rounded, three dimensional people with strengths and weaknesses and they, even more so than the extremely well-paced story, are what carries the novel to its action-packed climax. This is even more so stunning since a large parts of the protagonist we follow are German Waffen-SS soldiers, a group not commonly attributed with positive traits. But over the course of the narrative Jones manages to turn them into layered, likeable individuals, and while they share the limelight with a handful of other characters like a pair of Jewish KZ inmates who turn into unlikely - and ultimately really satisfying - heroes, they are the true protagonists of The Division of the Damned.
What's at stake and who are the heroes? Well this quote narrows it down more succinctly than I ever could:
"Who'd have thought it would come to this?" Michael asked nobody in particular.
"What?" Rohleder asked without looking up from scrubbing his barrel. "That the final fight for mankind would be fought by a couple of modern-day knights, German SS, an Englishman, a Communist, a Jewish woman and a Jewish werewolf?"
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is The Division of the Damned in all its glory - and it is a glorious read indeed - condensed into half a dozen sentences. If you haven't figured it out by now: I'm totally enamored by this book. If you can even remotely get into the WW2/Horror combination this is a read you must not pass by.
And his second, published more recently:
The House of Wales:
From the flames of Man, straight to the flames of Hell.
Recently orphaned by the bombing of Liverpool at the start of World War Two, Danny Kelly is evacuated to the relative safety of Colwyn Bay, unaware of the evil that awaits him there.
Once there, he is cast into the oppressive realm of Satan and his acolytes, a world of escalating human sacrifice and voracious desires, lorded over by a village priest and his seemingly prim housekeeper.
Will Danny, isolated, inexperienced and vulnerable, survive where so many others have recently succumbed?
Or will there be another victim claimed by ‘The House in Wales’?
A review by G. Polley "blogger and writer"
"The door slammed shut, and instantly Danny was awake, his reason screeching at him in alarm." From the first paragraph to the last, this is a story that will stick in my mind for a long, long time.
I'm wondering what Richard Rhys Jones, author of "The Division of the Damned" will have in store for us next? Whatever it is, I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for it.
Here is Richard has to say:
I thought I'd put a bit down about myself and how I came onto the idea for 'Division' and "House".
I'm married, the wrong side of forty with two kids and a cat. I hold a British passport and hail originally from the sunny shores of Colwyn Bay in North Wales. I now live in Germany and have done since coming here as a young soldier in 1987.
Writing is like a drug; the more you write, the more you want to write. I'd written lots of short stories, poems, rhymes and song lyrics but I'd never actually tackled a full length book.
It was always on the horizon, but if I was to tackle a novel it'd have to be something that really interests me, something special. So I waited for inspiration.
Vampires were always my favourite monster, and I knew that if I was going to pen a book, then I would definitely include or write about 'the children of the night'. The thing is, following vampire folklore could only lead to cliché and the regurgitation of the old mythology, and I wanted to do something new. But what?
My interest in the Third Reich came about after a visit to Dachau in 1988. I'd never given much thought to the awful events that befell the German people between 1933 and 1945, and Dachau was the epiphany that ignited my fascination. How was it possible that one of the most cultured, civilised countries in the world could stoop to such barbaric depths? I refused to believe that all Germans were purely evil, therefore there had to be another reason. So I read up on the subject, actually I read an awful lot on it in an effort to understand what happened.
On a creative level, I knew the malevolent politics, the tragedy and the confusion of the Third Reich would be the perfect vessel for any story I cared to construct. But how could I write about something in the Third Reich that hadn't already been covered?
This attempting to understand the background of the Holocaust led me onto another subject that spiked my interest, the Nazi obsession with the occult. The Nationalist Socialist hierarchy had all sorts of fanciful notions about German Blood and Earth, the supremacy of the Aryan race and even
Atlantis. However, the man who took this fascination to its greatest lengths was Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS. The architect of the Final Solution, who caused untold misery throughout Europe was in reality a very sickly, small minded person who would sooner listen to his astrologer than his generals. The castle at Wewelsburg near Paderborn in Germany stands perfect testament to his
penchant for pseudo-mythology and costumed ceremony. It was his unstinting belief in the supernatural, and all the fictitious possibilities it held, that lingered in foetus form at the back of my
mind for a long time.
A couple of years ago, whilst working with a German colleague I noticed that, though his German was flawless, he had an accent that I didn't quite recognise. At first I'd placed him as being from Bavaria but the more we worked together, the more I was convinced he wasn't German.
Finally, I asked him. His family, he told me, originally came from Transylvania. Transylvania, I was about to learn, has a large community that uses German as its first language. These Transylvanian Germans are considered Auslandsdeutsche, or Foreign Germans, by the German
government and therefore have the right to German citizenship. His family came over to Germany at the end of the cold war.
A German colony in Transylvania. Transylvania, the traditional home of the vampire. It wasn't a great leap of the imagination for me to connect the Siebenberger Sachsen, (Transylvanian Saxons in English) with the vampire theme.
I had my idea and I started researching for the book as soon as I came home from work.
The idea for The House in Wales has far more mundane foundations.
My publishers at Taylor Street were looking for someone to write about a haunted house. The series "American Horror Story" and the film "The Woman in Black" had hit American audiences in a big way. American Horror Story, with its creepy characters, perverse subplots and psychotic undertones, and The Woman in Black with its eerie atmosphere and dark isolation, had turned the haunted house genre around in the public mind, putting it firmly back on the map.
I was asked if I'd like to have a go at writing something along those lines. At that time I was stumbling around the sequel for "Division". The plot was weak and missing something, (which I now have, by the way) and my fire was waning, so they couldn't have asked at a better moment.
I knew I simply couldn't copy those two films; it had to be set somewhere different, remote and unrelated. So, ingeniously, (well not really, as we'd just returned from a family holiday in my home town), I decided to set in North Wales during World War Two.
The arch villain of the story is the house keeper, Fiona Trimble, a slender, refined looking lady. My problem was how could this graceful example of womanhood force her will on the hero of the story, a seventeen year old lad from bombed out Liverpool? Surely not by womanly guile alone?
I pondered the question and liked the idea of someone weak using a large fearsome dog as their muscle. However, I didn't want to use the clichéd Rottweilers, Dobermans or German Sheepdogs, so I decided on an Irish wolfhound. Irish wolfhounds, as lovable and as domesticated as they are, have
always intimidated me by their size alone. A friend of mine shared his home with one, (he definitely didn't own it), and though he was as friendly as they come, and not particularly large for his breed, he
always prompted a minute tremor of fear when he barked, (which he did to every guest before licking them to death). Which is why I used one in the story.
So, I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that Satanists, ghosts of sacrificial victims, possessed hounds, perverted house keepers, fraudulent priests and deluded policemen all join forces to make our hero and main protagonist in The House in Wales a very unhappy chap indeed. However, you'll have to read the book if you want to know how.
So friends, you now know how they both came about, I hope you can find the time and the inclination to give them a read. Hopefully you'll enjoy them.
Thanks for giving me your time.
All the best.
Richard Rhys Jones
To buy his books, check on booksellers such as Amazon.
Above are a few of my own books, because I try never to finish a blog post without a hint that my books are worth reading. The Shuki books have had some great reviews, but the Penwinnard Stories are lighter and will suit some readers better.