Introduction to The Third Light

Chris Cherry, the author of the bestselling The Mad Game series of novels presents the Introduction from the final novel in the series – The Third Light.

The Third Light Kindle Cover

The Third Light – Click here to see the novel on Amazon UK

When I first put pen to paper to write The Mad Game series in April 2013, I had not fully anticipated where the series would end and what characters would emerge and develop in the books. I certainly did not expect the first two novels to be officially in the Top 10 on Amazon and to be classified as bestsellers.

All that I knew for sure was that after discussion with the Royal British Legion, I had committed to writing three novels, specifically to benefit the charity and the work that they do for servicemen and ex-service personnel. I concluded that the importance of the cause would be reason enough to get on with writing the novels, alongside my gainful occupations.
As the characters of William and Odile developed and as I delved further into the recesses of my knowledge and historical experience of the Great War, the closer I felt to the millions of men from all sides, their families and descendants, to the point where I could almost have a conversation with the photographs of the soldiers. On my screen were happy and smiling young men going off in uniform, with proud parents holding immaculate images of their sons and husbands in fresh uniforms. The same happens today of course, it is just the face and uniform that changes. It was the images then and now that impacted on me and I hope this has come through in my writing.
I also decided at the start to invest time and effort in developing a social media platform to share my research photography and to engage readers in the fascinating and moving history of the Great War and the work of the Legion in its many forms. I had not really thought through where it would lead and I have been honestly overwhelmed by the response. I wanted, in this last novel in the series for the Legion, to bring you in to a few of the events that came as a result of the novels.
As you may know, I like riding motorbikes and I like to break the stereotypes of bikers and biking. A motorbike, to me, is the perfect companion on my research trips. We can get almost anywhere, carry a surprising amount of luggage and equipment and get from place to place quickly. That is why William and Henri ride motorcycles and their passion is pretty much mine (author’s licence I suppose). But in talking bikes, I have found new friends and stimulated existing ones to think differently about bikes and battlefields. So, in October in 2014, Battlefields on a Bike was founded. Motorcycle tours and a whole new chance to share the truths and history of the world wars. I am looking forward to the future enormously.

1454921_589619307801114_2948875236162373220_nBut, unexpectedly, I tapped in to a wealth of family history, that has then poured like a river in spring. I have received literally thousands of comments and likes on my various Facebook and web channels. All of them have been with an outpouring of respect and remembrance, stimulated by the stories and the history that I have shared. Some have even taken the wonderful step of booking a battlefield tour (although not yet on motorbikes!) In fact, one reader finished William’s Story at eleven in the morning and was on a train to Southampton by three in the afternoon. I have found new friends and a network of readers and followers with one single golden thread running through everything. A sense of Remembrance of the suffering of a generation in the Great War and the catastrophic events leading up to and throughout the World War in 1939. I had not expected to be so immersed in family history, but have loved every single one of the comments and have been privileged to have been part of the story of so many families.

04192013_France2013071In doing my research, I have also visited the graves of soldiers, relatives of some of my readers. Their stories are universally moving and have of course shaped my stories. In fact, had I used the stories literally, then I would have been challenged for plausibility. One young man was left in No Mans Land for nine days and watched first the Germans and then the British attack almost over his head. Eventually he was rescued by a Scottish battalion, who had relieved his own men.
I have also been sent literally hundreds of photographs, postcards and letters in order to speak with an authentic voice. The language of the time can feel awkward to modern ears, but I strongly felt that it was important to be honest and truthful. The history is moving and shocking enough, without unnecessary embellishment and stretches in plausibility. Indeed, elements of this novel have been tempered as the truth and reality I felt, may be just too distressing and I am not intending to open wounds or to take a deliberate moral or political stance with my writing. These novels are of families, Love and War in times of hardship, fear and oppression.
That said, I have tried to write stories that are based on the truth, with events that are real and recognisable. In doing so, I have come to realise that the citizens of Europe were far more deeply affected than at first I imagined. Apart from the current villagers in places like Bazentin and Longueval living on top of essentially mass graves, the character and shape of France and Belgium is affected to this day. The Belgians that I have spoken to are deeply respectful of the sacrifice and are generous and accommodating, although I do now feel the need for a closure coming and the desire to reclaim their land and history. I must agree with them, there will come a point when the Great War takes its place in history and the mists are too deep to clear completely. I visited the battlefield of Waterloo on my way to Liege during the trip that took me to the Kaiserswerth in Dusseldorf. Of course, the battlefield is small and the scale of the battle was limited, but I could not help wondering when the Great War, with its cemeteries dispersed all over the countryside might be regarded as history past and not history present, if such a thing can be described. It was a sobering thought, even with the scale of destruction and the impact on our communities even to this day.

Poppy growing wild on Ieperstraat

Poppy growing wild on Ieperstraat

So I turn now to the final story, The Third Light. The echoes of the Great War die away slowly, leaving a mark on the landscape and on the hearts of the people. That may seem fanciful, but I was present when a Mills bomb (hand grenade) was picked up from a field by a child of six, in all innocence. She threw it away thinking it to be a stone. The pin was pulled, so in all likelihood it was safe, but imagine that it happened in your own garden, or in the local park. Imagine too, an enemy in tanks coming in to your own town or village, driving over and through your garden or park, knocking down the trees and paying no regard to the protests of the people. It is hard to imagine, but it happened then and it is still happening today. How the citizens reacted is a story in itself and I have tried to use the characters that I have created to tell a greater truth through fiction.

28Aug2014_0206

Chris Cherry in Bazentin-Le-Petit

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The Third Light Worldwide release on 27 November 2014

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