When I first saw Jane’s book Endless Skies, it rang a bell with the Time Team fan in me. So pleased she agreed to come and chat about it.
THE LURE OF ARCHAEOLOGY FOR A HISTORY GEEK
It was the setting for Endless Skies that made the main character, Rachel, an archaeologist, and the setting came first. Winteringham on Humberside is where one branch of Ermine Street ended, but why is a matter of conjecture. Were the Romans really trying to cross this vast river? Although, of course, it would have looked very different in their day.
First stop then, reports of local digs in Scunthorpe Library. Old Winteringham had been well excavated, a little distance from where the village is now, and based on antiquarian reports of remnants of an ancient harbour. But also of interest was a later dig that unearthed an Iron Age settlement. Had the Romans traded with this place pre-invasion? Did they know the port was here?
So many research rabbit holes to dive into. Rachel became a Roman expert, working alone under those bleak winter skies. But the story wasn’t working, the past too distant, its echoes too difficult to hear.
The eureka moment came when I visited the former airbase at nearby Hemswell. In the early morning quiet I could almost hear the footsteps of the Polish airmen from the Second World War running down the stairs. As Rachel does in the book. But she goes on to find a tablecloth and a worn leather flying jacket with a mysterious past. I found my story.
So Rachel ends up digging the site where a Wellington bomber crashed, but I wanted to get my hands dirty too. Spotting an opportunity on Facebook I became a Dig Ventures volunteer, happily soaked to the skin, scraping away on the fringes of Bodmin Moor, looking for different coloured dirt. It was one of the best research experiences of my life.
After yet another disastrous affair Rachel Ward has been forced to take a temporary job in Lincolnshire. While excavating an airfield echoes of the past – and her past – catch up with her. Could a love story from World War Two hold the lesson she needs?
Find out more about Jane Cable and her writing at www.janecable.com
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