Wigan author's sixth novel takes readers back into wartime drama
John McKay’s sixth novel Codename: Greyman is a sort of sequel to his ambitious war work The Absolution of Otto Finkel, which followed a group of children who came together on holiday in 1928 before their lives were ripped apart by the devastating conflict.
Hindley Green writer John has returned to that story to tell the tale of Frank Graham, who became a rather shadowy figure in the earlier book but did not have his adventures fully told.
Codename: Greyman lifts the veil of secrecy around Frank by plunging readers into the world of the Special Occupations Executive, following him as he is parachuted into occupied France and ordered to help set up the Resistance to the Nazis.
This brings him into conflict with Klaus Barbie, the infamous Butcher of Lyon, but he also has a burning desire to bring to justice his one-time friend Otto Finkel, who has become a devout Nazi and whose downfall was charted in The Absolution...
The novel also brings to vivid life a comparatively little-known chapter of World War Two, the Resistance’s revolt against Nazi rule at the Vercors Massif in 1944.
John, 51, said: “There were six children in The Absolution of Otto Finkel and the book covered five of them. The sixth child was in there but you didn’t find that much out about him,
“I’ve gone back to World War Two because of the feedback I’ve had from people who have read it. I’ve done it on request really.
“I had to read the book again because it feels like so long since I wrote it. The guy was a British agent so I’ve had to research a lot about the Special Operations Executive and the French Resistance.
“Through that I came across a story I was unaware of, about an uprising they did just after D-Day in southern France.
“That just added the historical aspect of the novel.
“They basically blocked off the whole area and declared themselves independent of Germany. Obviously the Nazis weren’t too happy about it and sent in troops to crush them within days.”
The novel takes readers into the dangerous world of espionage in conflict, with Frank disrupting the Nazi war machine while avoiding the Gestapo who are hunting down those who do not obey the Third Reich.
However, John says eagle-eyed readers with good memories will recognise several characters and events which crop up in Codename: Greyman.
He said: “Frank comes across one of his old chums after he joins the Resistance. There are connections between the books. Otto Finkel himself runs through it. He’s aware that he was witnessed massacring a lot of prisoners of war, so that is in the background.”
Codename: Greyman is released as John enjoys a notable success after being named a USA Today Bestselling Author.
He picked up the prestigious title from across the pond after being asked to contribute a short story to an anthology based on tales of World War Two resistance, with proceeds going to the US National Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.
John, who juggles writing with working for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, is now expanding that tale, about a young boy in Paris who witnesses the Nazis marching down the Champs Elysees and whose anger goes from chalking marks all over the city to joining the Resistance, into a novella.
With half a dozen novels under his belt John says he is not sure what he will write after that but wants to try something completely different, following a string of acclaimed historical and war books.
Codename: Greyman, by John McKay, is out now. Find out more about John’s writing by visiting johnrmckay.com