... Christine Hornsby. Thanks for visiting Chris and, from your many books, which scene would you say you enjoyed writing the most and why?
Oh, that’s an easy one. About a third of the way into “Man out of Jail” I introduce an Italian Internee. He had been only a shadowy character before – one described in bias, rumour and counter rumour. When Ben, my protagonist eventually meets him they experience an immediate connection.
Being Italian, the prisoner of war was totally different from anyone Ben had ever seen or known before. In pigeon English and with Gino’s expressive body language and ebullience they were able to communicate. They seemed to have an immediate understanding of one another’s predicament. At home in London, Ben had been bullied and that continued to be so. Gino was always being castigated by the locals because he was different and a representative of his country’s allegiance to Germany. They are both far away from home. When Gino speaks so warmly of his mother and the village where he was brought up and his life in Monteregione, it takes Ben back to the Jewish influences in his past life. They experience a shared nostalgia and empathy for one another’s current circumstances. Alienated from everything familiar I tried to describe their unspoken togetherness and understanding. Being young and missing his deceased father, Ben begins to see Gino as a father figure. Not that he feels isolated or too uneasy as an evacuee on the farm but even before they met, Ben felt an instinctive understanding of the prisoner of war. Finally, of course, there is a shared love of art; in Ben’s case cartoons.
I have presented Gino as a warm, thoughtful and congenial character so the question begs “Why are the locals antagonistic towards him?” But Gino is not simply a character I introduce as a distraction. No, he is pivotal to the plot. In his own way, he effects everyone. His warm character is juxtaposed not only with an angry, cantankerous farmer but also with the prejudices rained against him by the locals. Even so, I have given him an unfathomable quality... a mystery surrounds him and it is a mystery that my feisty gran character and Ben need to unravel.
I chose my internee to be Italian rather than German or Japanese for example because I love Italy, its people and the landscapes. I love their warmth, their art, their culture but also because I thought such a person would exude a natural warmth, one that Ben could respond to because he is a sensitive character coming to terms with his own sense of alienation due to his Jewish background.