Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is the winner of more than 20 literary accolades. For a complete list of her awards see: http://helenapschrader.com

For readers tired of clichés and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight to historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Excerpts from Chasing the Wind (Kindle edition: Where Eagles Never Flew)

"You alright, Ernst?" Christian asked with apparent concern as he poured wine for himself. "The MO said  you had a concussion and no other serious injuries, but..." Christian looked at him intently. "What's bothering you?"
Ernst couldn't take the scrutiny. The tension was just too much, or the contrast between the inner tension and the warm, cosy environment was too much. Ernst wasn't someone who could pretend anyway. He burst out, "Christian I'm a wash-out, aren't I?"
"Whatever for? You did a great job putting your Emil down without breaking anything."
"But -- I mean -- that I had to crash at all. I mean...." Too late, Ernst realized that Christian didn't know about the oxygen and that he'd been lost. But they would find out as soon as they investigated. Ernst's head was killing him. He dropped it into his hands and just held it.
"Come on. What's eating you?" Christian urged in a friendly tone.
"My oxygen."
"What about it?" Christian asked confused.
"There wasn't anything wrong with it -- I'd just forgotten to plug it in." Ernst was so ashamed, he didn't dare meet Christian's eyes as he admitted this.
Christian just laughed. Ernst stared at him. "Hell. Who hasn't done that once or twice?"
"But I -- I panicked! I half-rolled and dived instead of staying below the Staffel. And I didn't realize what was wrong 'till I was back on the deck and, and...."
Christian leaned his elbows on the table and looked Ernst straight in the eye. "If you aren't getting any oxygen, you can't think properly. That's all there is to it. It's normal. don't let it get to you. What's important is that you plugged in and tried to catch up with us."
"Yes -- but I couldn't find you."
"Of course not. The weather closed in too fast and the sweep was scratched."
Ernst stared at Christian, hardly daring to believe what he was being told. Christian acted as if he wasn't to blame for what happened. He tried to explain. "I got lost Christian. I didn't know where I was. I kept following the coast, but I couldnt' find anything familiar -- not even Le Harve. I looked and looked, but I couldn't find any familiar landmark. It -- it was just luck that I landed so near the ZG base."
"How long have you been with us, Ernst? Ten days?"
Ernst nodded.
"And how many of those days have we flown? --not even half." Christian answered his own question. "So you've flown in France all of four times, right? and rarely the same route? And in better weather. Any of us might have lost our way in this muck." 
Ernst stared at him, almost afraid to believe him, but Christian really seemed to mean it.
"Cheer up, Ernst!" Christian urged with a smile. "If I have to spend the evening with you rather than Gabrielle, than at least try to make it a pleasant evening, all right?"
"Gabrielle? Is that your French girl friend?" Ernst ventured timidly. "Didn't the CO order you to stop seeing her?"
"So what? We've signed a truce with France. Half the Gestapo has French girl friends nowadays! What do they expect us to do? Live like monks? That's not healthy!" Christian delcared with conviction.
Ernst snickered in embarrassment. He'd never had a girl friend, and he was far too inhibited to go to whores. The very thought made him feel dirty. He didn't want it like that. He wanted a nice girl, who was there just for him. She didn't have to be beautiful, just kind and sympathetic and nice. He found himself gazing at his wine, wishing, while Christian continued his commentary.
Christian was telling him about meeting Gabrielle, and somehow he made it all sound very amusing. In fact, Christian soon had Ernst laughing. He forgot about his headach, and getting lost, and crashing. And when he remembered again, it didn't seem so bad.

Excerpt 2: New Assignment

Axel shook out a cigarette, and Christian took it thankfully. Axel gave him a light. As he straightened from bending over the match, the pilot's eyes fell on the two girls, still hovering just within earshot.  He smiled at them at once, and Klaudia's alarm signals went off. She took a step backwarks, but it was too late.
"Has the Luftwaffe come up with the delightful idea of training Helferinnen to service aircraft?"
Axel turned back from the waist, saw what Christian had seen, and with a somewhat annoyed frown signalled the girls forward as he explained. "No. They're both in Communications, but Rosa and I met at StG2. After I'd written back about how nice it was here, she got it into her head to follow me over."
Axel had his hand around Rosa's elbow as he introduced her. "Rosa Welkerling." Christian clicked his heels and bowed his head, smiling, but his eyes had already shifted to Klaudia. "Klaudia von Richthofen," Axel duly introduced her, adding for the benefit of the girls, "Christian Freiherr von Feldburg."
Again Christian clicked his heels and bowed to Klaudia. Klaudia was so distressed to find herself attracted to him when she had hardly recovered from what Jako had done to her, that she was immensely relieved when the fat pilot emerged beside them. He distracted the handsome baron, who turned on him to declare triumphantly, "I told you not to worry about me."
"You barely made it," Ernst pointed out.
"Perfect planning, as the CO would say," Christian assured him, flinging an arm over his wingman's shoulders.
"The CO won't say anything of the kind," Ernst retorted with a sour expression.
"He would, if he'd done it," Christian reasoned, and they all laughed a bit more loudly than the joke justified. Christian and Ernst started to turn away, but Christian remembered to politely nod to the girls. Then the pilots were gone and Axel turned to the Helferinnen rather sharply. "We've got work to do. See you later."
"As you like," Rosa answered, miffed, as the started to turn away. Then she stopped and called out, "Axel?"
"Now what?"
"You never looked that nervous when Pashinger was late."
"Arschinger was an asshole."
"And this baron's not?"
"Feldburg? No, he's all right."


By about ten pm, Klaudia was falling asleep upright. It had been an eventful day, and she was no longer used to wine with dinner. She stood, hiding a yawn behind her hand, and announced she was turning in.
"I'll come too," Rosa agreed.
They said good night to the other girls and left their little mess, crossing the darkened games room and making for the main stairs. But as they reached the stairs sweeping up from the reception area, they could hear music and singing coming up from the Officer's Bar on the left. "Listen!" Rosa said with delight. "That's Veronica, der Lenz ist da!" When Klaudia looked blankly at her, she added, "You know, by the Comedian Harmonists! Surely you know the Comedian Harmonists?" Rosa might be a good National Socialist, but nothing could ruin her delight in the songs of the Berlin quintet. She tiptoed toward the stairs that led down into the rustic bar with its flagstone floor and beamed ceiling a half-floor below.
Someone was playing a piano very well, and several men were indeed singing in harmony. There was also the stamping of feet and clapping of hands to heard. Rosa tiptoed down four or five steps until, by bending, she could see into the bar itself. In a line with their arms around each other's shoulders, four of the pilots were dancing to the music as they sang.
They had their tunics completely unbuttoned, their ties loosened, and the pilots on the ends -- the fat pilot Ernst Geuke and a man she didn't recognize -- were having some trouple keeping up with the steps. In the centre, very much the motor of the little act, was -- who else? -- Christian Freiherr v. Feldburg....
Klaudia tried to picture Jako doing some kind of can-can with his tunic open and his tie loose; it was unthinkable.
Too soon the song came to an end. Rosa reluctantly got to her feet, sorry that the show was already over. "Axel was right," she concluded as the two girls went up to their room together."It is a lot nicer here."

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Friday, August 22, 2014

The Catch of the Season

An Excerpt from Chasing the Wind (Kindle edition: Where Eagles Never Flew):

As usual, [his mother] was talking even before she entered the parlour with the tea tray. "...and she left a number where  you can call her back."
"Robin! Haven't you heard a think I've said to you? Virginia Cox-Gordon!"
There had been a time when he would have been very excited to hear that Virginia Cox-Gordon had called. He had, shortly, been very interested in her.  She was pretty, witty, rich, and he liked being seen with her.  But Virginia picked her boy-friends by their pocketbooks, and Robin couldn't afford her. His parental grandfather, Admiral Priestman, had put him through public schools but he flatly refused to pay for anything as "nonsensical" as flying, and so he had only made it through Cranwell on money Aunt Hattie raised by mortgaging her house. As for his Flight Lieutenant's pay, you could book that under "petty cash" as far as the Cox-Gordons of the world were concerned.  There were allegedly officers in the Auxiliary Air Force who spent more on a bottle of wine than the regular officers earned in a month. But that was probably exaggerated, Robin relfected soberly. The point was: he hadn't inherited a fortune and he wasn't going to make one either -- and Virginia wasn't going to give sustained attention to anyone without.
Besides, Robin reflected on his reaction to his mother's news, he didn't particularly want Virginia's attention anymore. She'd been a bit of a status symbol before the war. Being seen with Virginia had been good for his image, and he'd been flattered that she would go out with him at all. But the fact was, he hadn't given her a thought since the war started in earnest.
His mother set the tea-tray down on the coffee table, and Robin took his crutch and hobbled over to sit on the sofa. "I droped by the Mission to see Aunt Hattie today," he remarked.
"In your condition?" his mother answered, horrified.  She had never approved of him 'hanging about' the Seaman's Mission, because he came in contact with 'bad company' there.  Robin, on the other hand, had been starved for masculine role models as a boy, and so he had been fascinated by the tattooed nd weathered men that washed up at the Mission.  He'd always spent time down there when he could, often helping Cook because the retired seamn had a wealth of fascinating -- and by no means completely sanitized -- stories. 
"There's a new girl working there. Emily Pryce."
"Good heavens! What do you want with the girls Hattie drags in? For all you know she was a you-know-what! She might well be diseased."
"With a Cambridge education and quoting John Maynard Keynes?"
His mother had not answer to that, but didn't need one. The telephone was ringing out in the hall, and she rushed to answer it.
"Yes, yes!" Robin heard her say breathlessly into the phone, and then, "He just got in. I'll go fetch him." She rushed back into the sitting room and stage-whispered at Robin: "It's Miss Cox-Gordon!"
"I don't want--" He thought better of it, took a crutch and limped into the hallway. He took up the receiver. "Hello?"
"Robin, darling! Ii was so worried. Are you really quite all right?"
"Brilliant. Wizard. Nothing but a bashed ankle. Cast comes off in a couple of weeks or so. Then I'm back on ops."
"So soon? Then we must get together at the first opportunity. What are you doing tomorrow? I'm having a few friends down to the country." She meant her father's country estate in Kent. "Why don't you join us?"
"Sorry. Can't drive yet. Not 'til the cast comes off. Nice of you to think of me 'though. Just have to wait 'til I'm fit. I'll give you a call."
"Look, if you can't drive, how about if I come down to Portsmouth one evening and pick you up?"
"Wouldn't want to impose. Besides, Portsmouth's pretty grim at the moment. Navy all over the place."
Virginia tittered. "Honestly, Robin, there's nothing new about the Navy in Portsmouth. Besides, it must be quite exciting, really. London is dreadfully boring these days. Blackouts and air raid wardens and everybody in some silly uniform -- and, oh yes, you should see the Americans. There seem to be American press people everywhere these days." She interrupted herself to ask him, "You know I've got a job with the Times, don't you?"
"Congratulations. Society Page?"
"No! Who cares about that now-a-days? I'm covering London, actually. You wouldn't believe all the silly questions these Americans insist on asking everyone! 'WIll Britain bear up?' 'Can the RAF stop the Luftwaffe?'"
"Can we?"
Virginia tittered again. "You're a card, Robin. You should know."
"Haven't the foggiest. Look, Virginia, my aunt just got in, and I must entertain her." He was looking at Aunt Hattie, who - having let herself in - was coming up the stairs. "I'll ring you later in the week. Thanks for calling."
He'd already hung up.
"Just who was that?" Hattie asked giving him a piercing look.
"Virginia Cox-Gordon."
Hattie's eyebrows went up. She didn't read the gossip pages, but many of her staff -- and of course her sister Lydia -- did.  She new exactly who Virginia Cox-Gordon was: daughter of a millionaire, debutante, the "catch of the season" just last year, before the war started.
"You know  your other girl-friends call my flat," she told him in a low, reproachful voice.
"I'm sorry --"
"Just how many girls did you give my number to?"
"Only two." He thought about it. "Three."
Hattie sighed and gazed at him sadly.
"I am sorry they bothered you," Robin insisted, looking sincere. "I told them not to call unless it was an absolute emergency, and --"
"Yes, well, I'm sure things look very different from your superior male vantage point, but to us poor females here on the ground, the fact that you were last seen duelling with two Messerchmitts over the ruins of Calais in the midst of the worst rout in English history seemed very much like an 'emergency.' I can't say I blame them, but I do wonder about you sometimes....
Robin concluded it might not be the best moment to ask her for Emily Pryce's telephone number.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

"Or close the wall up with our English dead...."

An excerpt from Chasing the Wind (Kindle: Where Eagles Never Flew):

Tea time. Priestman joined the other pilots sitting in the shade of the mess tent. They were drinking tea. No sooner had Priestman sat down than the airman/cook shoved a mug of hot, sweet stuff into his hand. Priestman smiled up at him, "You're a marvel, Thatcher."
"Just doing my job, sir."
"Doing a damned good job, if I may say so, Thatcher."
"Thank you, sir." The airman looked embarrassed, as if he didn't know what to do with appreciation -- and that made Priestman feel guilty; obviously he and his colleagues were a little too sparing with praise and thanks.
The telephone was ringing in the ops tent. They turned their head and stared at the tent, waiting.
"Maybe it is just someone ringing up to see how the weather is over here."
"Or someone calling to ask if there is anything we lack?"
"Maybe someone has just signed a surrender."

No, it didn't look like that.  Yardly was standing in the entry, waving furiously at them.
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more," Shakespear intoned as he set his mug aside.
"I don't like that damned quote!" Roger told him irritably -- much too irritably. You could tell his nerves were a bit frayed.  He'd had an ugly belly landing the other day and hadn't been the same since, really.
"Why ever not?" Driver asked innocently.
Yardly was shouting at them to "get the finger out," but they ignored him.  After all, he wasn't flying, and they didn't presume it would make much difference to the war if they were a minute or two later. It was all a cock-up anyway.
"It's the next line," Priestman explained to Driver, putting his own mug aside carefully.
"What's that?"
"Or close the wall up with our English dead," Priestman told him.


Priestman couldn't sleep. He was exhausted beyond measure, but everything seemed to keep him awake -- the dampness of the earth, the roughness of his parachute pack under his head, the snoring or uneasy stirring of his companions, the distant bark of navy guns.  It should have been reassuring that the Navy was there, he supposed, but that quote from Henry V kept going through his head, too: "Dishonor not  your mothers, now attest that those whom you called 'father' did beget you."
Wasn't it odd that Shakespear, 400 years ago, could write something that fit so perfectly? There was hardly one among them whose father hadn't been here in France last time around, and they had fought for four years.  It was barely two weeks sicne the German offensive had begun -- and it was very nearly over. If Calais fell, they were all trapped....

Two hours later they were scrambled to intercept bombers attacking the British in Calais.  Priestman could sense he was in trouble from the start. At take-off, his Hurricane hit a small hole and bounced. He over-reacted pulling back on the stick too soon.  He didn't have enough speed. The Hurricane fell back to earth and he was running out of grass.  
When he did get airborne, he barely cleared the trees. The adrenaline pumping from the near miss, he had to throttle forward to catch up with the others as they swung west toward Calain the sun behind them bright and blinding. It was obvious that they were going to get bounced. But ahead, a gaggle of ugly Stukas was peeling off and going down to drop their loads on the ruins of Calais -- because that was all that was left of the city.  The buildings the Stukas were hammering had long since turned into heaps of rubble.  still, guns were being fired out of that rubble, and with a twinge of pride Robin realised that there were still British troops down there in that wasteland, and they were flinging defiance back at the overwhelming might of Germany.
They were so small, so weak, their arms inadequate for the task facing, and their situation was patently hopeless. In fact, the town had apparently already fallen to the Germans. The ugly swastika flag fluttered over the major buildings, but the Union Jack cracked defiantly from the medieval fortress.
Robin hated Stukas more than any aircraft.  They were ugly, vicious planes without any kind of natural grace. They had bent wings and massive, fixed undercarriages like the extended claws of an attacking eagle.  They had been designed to intimidate without majesty and were even equipped with sirens whose sole purpose was to increase the noise, and so the terror,t hey created as they dived.  They symbolised in his mind all that was most objectionable about the Nazis -- the brutality, the brashness, the bragging. Robin was determined to get one -- and confident too.
Bringing one down was not the problem. The Hurricane could fly circles around a Stuka, and Priestman, Ibbotsholm, Stillwell and Bennett all brought one down on their first pass. Robin's mistake was that he wanted more. His over-wrought nevers, the near crash on take-off, and now these hated planes harassing the shattered remnants of a gallant British defence, resulted in a dangerous fit of hubris -- just as had happened when he was 15, and again in Singapore.  As soon as he'd finished off one Stuka, Priestman started spiralling up the sky to get enough altitude for a new attack. He kept watching the Stukas, afraid they would get away before he could attack again. He was not watching his tail or the sun.
When the cannon hit him from behind, he was taken completely by surprise. He reacted as he had taught himself over the last ten days, with a flick quarter-roll and a tight turn. It worked, the Me109 overshot him, and Robin straightened out and started running inland. He'd made a second mistake: he'd forgotten the wingman.
The minute he straightened out, machineguns and cannon raked along the side of the Hurricane. He felt as if it had been violently wrenched out of his hands as it spun out of control. Still shaken by the suddenness of the dual attack and the terrifying sensation of losing control of the Hurricane, Priestman was close to panic as he tried to pull out of the spin.
Nothing happened.
The pedals and stick were dead.
His brain registered what had happened. His tail and/or the control cables had been shot away. He had no contrl over the aircraft and it was spinning around faster and faster. The Hurricane was past the vertical, and the earth was spinning so fast it was just a whirling blur.
He struggled to get clear of the aircraft, tearing off his helmet to free himself of oxygen and R/T, but the centrifugl force was pinning him to the seat. The hood seemed to jam. He battered hsi hands bloody trying to free it. At the very last minute it broke free, and with the super-human strength of panic he flung himself over the side of the cockpit. But he was took close to the ground. His 'chute didn't have time to open properly.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Reviews of "Chasing the Wind"/ "Where Eagles Never Flew"

Perhaps the finest fighter pilot story ever written. 5 December 2013

Helena has written a book that will become a classic. It was rated by Bob Doe, one of the top Battle of Britain fighter aces, as a book that told the story correctly and he was delighted to recommend this to a wider public.

This book will be enjoyed for many years, however many times you read this.

Written from actual events and pilots experiences during the air fighting of the Battle of Britain, it tells the story of just why a few hundred men prevented invasion and the horrors of death camps being a reality in Britain.

Never was so much owed by so many to so few.

These men now have a book to tell it like it was.

Highly recommended.

Paul Davies BoBHSc FRTCA

Ms. Cathy Howat (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Where Eagles Never Flew: A Battle of Britain Novel (Kindle Edition)
Six stars, I am a former pilot, RNZAF trained. I knew one of the historical figures in this book. Since leaving flying I have become a nurse and have had occassion to nurse a lot of former fliers, WAAF, Controllers, and ground crew. This book is spot on and tells it like it was. I hope we will see more on the WW2 RAF from this author. There is a sequel, THE LADY IN THE SPITFIORE, but it is not available (yet) as an E-Book, I will be buying it in dead tree format. This book should not be missed

Not just another account of the Battle of Britain! March 22, 2014
Schrader has written a great story on the Battle of Britain. She takes you from the early stages of WWII to Dunkirk and back to Great Britain for the Battle of Britain. Not only is the writing very good, with excellent descriptions, but she takes you to the other side where you get a really good look at the Nazi air arm. Enemy airman performing their duties and the realization that they are not so different than the brave men of the RAF.

The reader not only follows the RAF pilots through their life threatening sorties, but also through their off duty times. Men and women living on the edge, here today and gone this afternoon. Life is taken away that quickly. That is why these young pilots lived, drank and loved hard. The mortality rate of your squadron mates is so very high that you better enjoy the time you are here on this blessed English soil. The interesting part of the book is you are treated to a similar outlook by the German fliers.

Rather than get into the book's characters, I would definitely say that if you enjoy reading about historical fiction relating to WWII and specifically the Battle of Britain you don't want to miss "Where Eagles Neve Flew". I beleive you too will thourghly enjoy this book.

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