It’s July 1939 and even though Poland is trapped between Adolph Hitler and Uncle Joe Stalin, everyone hopes war can be avoided.
On the island of Jersey, 18 year old Jack Renouf is forbidden from associating with his own Uncle Fred because of his dangerous Communist views and salacious liaison with his Spanish mistress.
Caught in his own velvet trap between outrageous Caroline and secretive Rachel, Jack doesn’t pay too much attention to international affairs especially during this glorious summer when, despite the darkening horizon, everyone is in holiday mood.
In his final days at school, Jack is focused on breaking the one minute barrier for the 100 yards freestyle so that he can get into the British swimming team for the 1940 Helsinki Olympics.
Desperate for those last few seconds, he listens to Miko, an enigmatic Jewish refugee who works as a waiter in a local hotel but claims to have trained the Romanian water polo team for the Berlin Olympics.
He persuades Jack to try some new techniques, which he promises will bring him success. But everyone else at the swimming club is suspicious of Miko.
An arrogant Dutchman on holiday in the island bullies Jack during a water polo match and his carefully constructed sang froid boils away as he retaliates viciously and has to suffer the disciplinary consequences.
Suddenly, Jack is in conflict with everyone and his well-ordered life spins away as he is sucked into a conspiracy involving the island’s government, smuggled industrial diamonds, and two ruthless mercenaries seeking to retrieve them at any cost.
5 Star Amazon Reviews from around the world.
A multifaceted page-turner
‘This book is a rich soufflé of young love, war, sport, greed and friendship. On the outside it’s a thriller with races, boat chases, shootings, spies and a roller-coaster-ride ending. On the inside it’s a touching coming-of-age story that has resonated with me days after finishing this book. Wow. Made me remember what it was like to be young in the summer and made me want to buy a motorcycle. What an ending! W. Kent Sligh — (Hollywood) LA
Absorbing and Breath-Taking – Heartily Recommended
‘The moment you open the book you are hooked. The story is fast paced from the start, with Jack’s immediate struggle in the pool demanding the reader’s attention and empathy. From then on the book develops into a complex and interweaved plot with many intriguing and exciting sub plots. There is depth, but also fast paced action…’ Arthur Crandon — Hong Kong
A book to be savoured
‘I found there was not one page that I could afford to gloss over. There is no waffle, and every page a delight as the scene is meticulously set during the build-up to the biggest upheaval in the history of the island.’ Mrs. C. A. Nicholls — Perth, Australia
Bursting with flavour
‘Altogether, assured, intelligent confident writing, employing a sound knowledge of everything he is talking about. JFH soundtracks his tale quite beautifully and flowingly with music and the words of Shakespeare. Strains of the classics ripple, thunder and crash from various pianos, while the young, recently having put on The Merchant of Venice at school, quote fluently from the Bard, giving a depth, resonance and filmic quality to the whole book. Home grown, bursting with flavour, fresh and good for you, just like a wonderful Jersey potato in fact. Well Done John. Another helping, please, soon!’ Mrs. Katharine Kirby — Top 100 Amazon Vine Reviewer
‘Jack is a teenager in a time where the world will soon abandon the healthy competition he thrives on for the violence of war, and he will have to swim against the tide to keep his faith in himself and do what he feels to be right. The author has written a really exciting novel, with great characters, a fast moving and believable plot and created a world which you know is changing forever as you read the pages.’ S Riaz — Top 10 Amazon reviewer
The Last Boat (published August 2013)
This is the sequel to Against The Tide
The Last Boat begins with a close-up account of the greatest maritime disaster in British history when the British Expeditionary Force lost more troops in ten minutes than it had in the previous nine months.
The news was so shocking that Churchill suppressed it and the report on the event is sealed until the year 2040.
But this is not an investigation into this tragic event but the beginning of a journey for a group of young people who have gone to help but find themselves trapped and fleeing the Nazi blitzkrieg as it rampages through France.
At the same time that the Luftwaffe is strafing the survivors of their bombing another shipment, so important that it could have changed the outcome of the war, is trying to escape from France.
The tragedy was the sinking of HMT Lancastria
The shipment was world’s entire supply of D2O or ‘heavy water’ without which research into splitting the atom would have been impossible.
Prising apart the floorboards of history, The Last Boat links these two events as Jack Renouf and his friends try to escape the Germans and help this cargo to safety.
But safety is an illusion and the story culminates in the bombing of Jersey on 28th June and leaves Jack in desperate need of another Last Boat to escape.
The narrative voice is Jack Renouf’s, whom readers might have met in Against The Tide. He is a year older but only a little wiser.
Through the immediacy of his first person perspective you are compelled to witness events which cannot leave you unmoved. Muscular authenticity was the verdict of one reviewer while others have described Jack’s account as intense, exciting, absorbing and frightening.
Fantastic 19 July 2013
By Christoph Fischer (Top Amazon reviewer)
“The Last Boat” by John F. Hanley is the eagerly awaited sequel to “Against the Tide”, which ended with the outbreak of WWII.
The second book takes us to the evacuation of Dunkirk and Allied troops from Northern France. I was amazed at the amount of detail the book was able to supply. So much happened in such a short time span at the beginning of the war that few of us can imagine the multitude of factors that came into play for the people of the Channel Islands and Northern France: Where to escape to, how to escape and how far exactly the Germans had progressed, to name a few. The book gives a rich and realistic impression of the invasion and its progress.
Most of the cast from the previous book return and so several personal dramas and issues between the main characters are still to be resolved and these add splendidly to the illustration of the uncertainty of the time.
Written in excellent prose and rich in plot the book was hard to put aside, with new turns, dramas and events in nearly every chapter.
Civilian and military considerations, espionage, some precious cargo and personal tragedies mingle with some historical events, such as the eventual sizing of the Channel Islands and the famous sinking of battle ships.
The book is an amazing compilation of data and facts and with its great characters and plot historical fiction at its best. It gets to show how much there was to events that in most history books only get a sentence or two, and how much there is to say and feel about them.
This is a gripping and compelling read as much as it is informative.
5.0 out of 5 stars Even Better Than The First Book, 23 Oct 2013
Brett H “pentangle” (Brighton) – See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)
This review is from: The Last Boat (Paperback)
Having read and enjoyed Against The Tide, I was pleased to get my hands on this book which is the second part of the trilogy. Now with some series of books, it may be desirable to have read the previous part, but not essential as the current book may work on a standalone basis. However, this is definitely not the case here and I would urge anyone who is picking up the book to firstly seek out and read Against The Tide if they have not already done so. Quite apart from the fact that it is a very good read, there is a great deal of background on the main characters, places and events which you will struggle with otherwise.
We again meet Jack Renouf, a young man from Jersey who narrates this tale in the first person. Jack is an engaging chap, thoughtful and resourceful. In the earlier book there was the phony war going on at the start of WW2, and on a personal level Jack was torn between his two loves in something of a coming of age story. This time round in the following year, the phony war is definitely past and we find Jack in France helping to rescue allied soldiers. The age of innocence is certainly long gone and Jack has had to grow up a lot in the last year, although he still has his muddled love interests to contend with.
Much as I enjoyed the first book I would say that this one was even better. After the first few pages I was hooked into this well thought out, absorbing and well written tale. It is very evenly paced and does not lag at any stage. It is clearly meticulously researched both as to the events of the early part of the war, and in its detail of places. Personally I am greatly looking forward to the last of the trilogy, but it is a shame it will be the last. Perhaps the author will rethink his strategy as there is surely at least the potential for a couple more books in this saga.
Rip-roaring Roller-coaster, 25 Sep 2013
D. Elliott (Ulverston, Cumbria)
(TOP 500 REVIEWER) (VINE VOICE) (REAL NAME)
This review is from: The Last Boat (Kindle Edition)
I was offered a review copy of `The Last Boat’ by author John F Hanley and was delighted to accept as I had stated in my review of his first book: “readers are left to ponder on how various individuals will make out after Germany occupies the Channel Islands”. A similar feeling remains after reading this second historical novel, with anticipation and expectation aplenty for the next.
`The Last Boat’ continues from `Against The Tide’ and again it is narrated by main protagonist, Jack, who is caught up in rip-roaring roller-coaster action as the Channel Islands are about to be attacked and taken over by Germany in 1940. The book commences at the actual greatest ever tragedy with the sinking of the troopship Lancastria and a loss of life exceeding that of the combined Titanic and Lusitania disasters. Jack is never to be the same again after witnessing the bombing of the Lancastria and then becoming swept up in killing the enemy – he is hardened and has become a much more ruthless character.
`The Last Boat’ may be fiction but author John F Hanley cleverly weaves the story around facts, and readers will be helped by a `Chronology’ setting out historically true events from the summer of 1939 and the start of World War II until the occupation of the Channel Islands in 1940. In addition to the real demise of the Lancastria small boats from the islands did genuinely help with return of the British Expeditionary Forces from France, there were French Foreign Legion soldiers involved, there was a plan to get heavy water safely away from the Germans, there was an evacuation from the Islands etc. These factors are skilfully employed by the author to give insights to tensions between Britain and France, expose sympathies by Islanders for Germans, unmask conspirators, reveal intolerance of Jews, outline conflict between Fascism and Communism etc. at the same time as telling a gripping and compelling tale.
There is a more intense and grittier feel to `The Last Boat’ yet it continues with many of the same characters from `Against The Tide’. Again individuals are as well-crafted as they were in the first book, and there are additional characters and groupings that add depth, and there are new situations and experiences to build tension and ensure suspense. In spite of the harsh and harrowing reality of the story it is told with a light touch and with use of humour, and again atmosphere is heightened via Shakespearian quotations. Though not essential, readers of the first book will have an advantage for this sequel, but everyone should appreciate the `Boys’ Own Paper’ swashbuckling style of writing and the non-stop action within the plot. In addition to `Author’s Notes’, including reference to `Against The Tide’, it would have been useful to have a `Cast Of Characters’, but this does not detract from the 5-star rating of `The Last Boat’ as a stand-alone historical thriller.
On line presence:
Publisher – Troubador: http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=1872
Website with purchase links: http://www.johnfhanley.co.uk
Press feature on The Last Boat: http://www.scribd.com/doc/167262894/JEP-31-Aug-13-Books
Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/johnhanleyauthor?fref=ts
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Johnfrancishanley
Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6565356.John_F_Hanley
Authors’ database: http://authorsdb.com/index.php/component/content/article/8-authors/424-john-f-hanley
Amazon UK – Author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/John-F.-Hanley/e/B009SMTYTY/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Amazon US – Author page: http://www.amazon.com/John-F-Hanley/e/B009SMTYTY/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Born in Jersey in 1946, John Hanley trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before teaching in London, Jersey and Cornwall.
After a master’s degree at Bath University, he returned to Jersey as deputy head of his old school.
His first novel, Against The Tide, was published in 2012 and he now lives with his wife and family in Cornwall.
In a BBC radio interview he explained why he wrote Against The Tide and The Last Boat.
‘I grew up in Jersey surrounded by the artefacts of the German Occupation. My mother lived through it and every adult I knew had a story to tell. Through extreme good fortune my mother avoided the fate of several islanders when the Germans bombed and strafed the harbour on Friday 28th June 1940.
During the summer evenings she always walked with her mother and a married couple from across the road to the harbour after their tea. That evening she had a stomach ache and only the married couple went. The husband was killed and, as the four of them usually kept together, it is more than possible that my mother and grandmother might not have survived.
Because of this I’ve always had a strong affinity with that period and an urge to relive it through the eyes of a young man who would have been my mother’s age at the time. I wanted to experience what it must have been like to cope with all that was thrown at the hapless islanders after the British government abandoned them to the less than tender mercies of the Germans.
I’d already written The Last Boat before Against The Tide was published and have planned a series which follows the main characters through the war years. Following the success of the first novel, it’s now time to launch the second and throw myself into 1941 for the third which I have provisionally entitled Room 39 ‘
Arriving at a monthly meeting of golfers I’m greeted by a member well into his 80s who proclaims: “Just finished your book, Against The Tide, and found four errors in it!”
Heads turn and the secretary looks at me over his spectacles and declares: “Don’t take any notice of him – he’s a pedantic old bugger – always finds faults with my minutes!”
Never one to waste and opportunity, I quiz the old bugger about the story and ask if he enjoyed it. Apart from the four typos, he loved it so I asked him to spread the word.
I got over 40 sales out of his pedantry!