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  • Writer's pictureJohn Dempster

Philip Paris and Effie's War: last night at HighlandLIT

We had a lovely HighlandLIT session last night at the Glen Mhor Hotel. Philip Paris introduced us to his books, and explained how each of them came into being. Then he focussed on his new novel, Effie’s War, set on the Tarbat peninsula in 1943 when communities and farms were abruptly evacuated to allow military training to take place in preparation for the Normandy Landings the following summer. Philip’s characters are fictitious, but the background is very real. At its heart is a poignant love story between a 17-year old Ross-shire girl, a farmer’s daughter, and a young Italian Prisoner of War – but there’s a spy embedded in the community, seeking to uncover one of the greatest secrets of World War II…..

Philip has carefully structured the book so that the reader is drawn inexorably forward from page to page, chapter to chapter. There is humour, but also profound depths of human anguish – Philip described that he was so engaged in the story and his characters that at times he wept over the keyboard.

When Philip was reminded of the story of the evacuation when he visited the Tarbat Discovery Centre last year, and was ‘consumed with the desire to tell this story as a novel.’ He developed a two-page outline, and on the basis of that alone was commissioned to write the book which he delivered after a very concentrated period of writing and editing in time for it to be published on 6th June this year, the anniversary of D Day.

Discussion of the book was followed by a question and answer session, when we grilled Philip on his approach to writing. He began writing as a very young man, submitting plays to the BBC, which were returned, but accompanied by very helpful annotations. His career in journalism helped develop the shaping pieces of writing, and delivering a specified work-count to deadline. Journalism especially taught him the skill of interviewing – the research for all his books has involved interviewing people. A church minister and a local farmer were among those who contributed background information which adds to the authenticity of Effie’s War. Philip’s wife, a GP, gives him invaluable information, whether about dementia or about the precise angle a knife must enter to inflict maximum damage. Choreographing a fight scene in Effie’s War involved Philip and his wife wrestling on the living room floor.

Philip write a successful play, Casting Off some years ago (he later developed it into a novel), and he remains ambitious to continue writing drama – he will shortly be attending a drama-writing course at Moniack Mhor. He will also be exploring the short-story form……

I was intrigued most by Philip’s mention of one of his novels I hadn’t been aware of. Men Cry Alone tackles the theme of domestic violence. (See below for the description from Amazon)

We really enjoyed spending time with Philip last night, and are so grateful to him for his patience with all our questions, his humility, openness and humanity. Thanks so much Philip!

(The photo shows Trish Salt, HighlandLIT Treasurer with Philip. There's a map of the Tarbat Peninsula behind them.)

From Amazon:

Men Cry Alone is a highly controversial novel that explodes the myth that men cannot be victims of domestic abuse by women. Although domestic abuse regularly receives a high profile in the media, for many people it remains a shameful secret. For men, the problem is compounded by an even greater reluctance to admit it is happening. With an increasingly ageing population, the problem of abuse between partners because one is suffering from dementia is a growing one. It is a hidden area within a hidden area in terms of domestic violence towards men. ‘I wept many times reading Men Cry Alone. It is a profoundly moving novel ... a compulsive read.’ Erin Pizzey, who opened the world’s first shelter for battered women in 1971. ‘The experiences of these fictitious characters echo the real life tragedies that I have dealt with for nearly thirty years.’ Susan Brown, Minister of Dornoch Cathedral. ‘A sensitive and touching portrayal of the far-reaching effects that dementia can have within a marriage.’ Alzheimer Scotland.


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