Month: October 2015


It’s official – we have confirmed THURSDAY 4TH FEBRUARY 2016 from 6pm as the launch event and signing of my debut biography Escaping Hitler at Jarrolds Book Department, Norwich.

Publicity and information about buying your ticket (includes free glass of wine!) will begin locally during December.  Look out for it.  Once it is posted on the Jarrold’s Events Calendar I will add a link to this blog.  Very excited to be inviting many of the people who feature in Joe Stirling’s story and who will remember the anecdotal references to this Fine City’s heritage. If you have not already done so, please go to my Facebook page for Escaping Hitler and ‘Like’ the page.  This way you will be amongst the first to have an opportunity to buy a signed copy, both with mine and Joe’s signatures. Thanks to all who are already ‘fans’.Front cover of Escaping Hitler


I could not have been more excited!  On Tuesday this week I turned up at Jarrold’s Book Department, as agreed, to meet with Chris Rusby the department manager and Marketing Manager Carole Slaughter.  We sat at the very table in their cafe as shown in the photo below (I sat where the lady in the striped top is sitting) and Chris bought me a frothy coffee.  I was concerned that I might sport a white moustache throughout the discussion, but I think I kept it under control!  We were there for nearly an hour talking about the book, Joe, when the signing should be, how it might be organised, further communication with Pen and Sword Books, my plans for a follow up book etc etc.  All the while two couples were sitting nearby enjoying a coffee listening in with fascination!  Chris and Carole could not have been more friendly, yet professional.  We have pencilled in an evening in early February (I won’t confirm it here yet until we finalise arrangements) and asked me to produce a decent head and shoulders shot for their publicity posters!  It was as if the whole thing was happening to someone else!  They then went back to work, leaving me to explain to the two couples why I could not remove the grin from my face!  So, just to give you a taste, here are some photos of Jarrold, the oldest independent store in the City, the wonderful books on the shelves and the cafe table where the deal was struck!  Cloud Nine isn’t in it……

Jarrold Store, NorwichJarrold's Book DepartmentCafe in Jarrold's Book Department


I can hardly believe it is one year exactly since the very special 90th birthday party held for Joe Stirling at the prestigious Assembly House in Norwich.  This year his celebratory party was far more modest, 18 of his close family all together in his home, sharing tea, birthday cake and champagne.  I sneaked in at the back with gifts and best wishes and was delighted to find his home alive with loving relatives from all generations.  A year on and Joe, the hero of my debut biography, Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future, is still extremely sprightly, with no loss of his intellect, enthusiasm for life and playful sense of humour.  The family were anxious to know the publication date of his book but as yet I can only say it will sometime during January 2016.  His daughter Jane confided in me that she will be delighted when the book is out, wherever she goes people ask when they will be able to get hold of a copy!  Here are some photos of Joe and his two great-grandchildren, the patriarch and the youngest of the Stirling/Skitmore union, a happy marriage begun in 1946 in Attleborough. Also a photo of Joe cutting his cake.  It was wonderful to witness the family celebrating together,  the generations from strength to strength, supported by the obvious love and respect amongst them.  The boy from Nickenich and the girl  from Attleborough did well….

The patriarch and his great-grandchildrenJoe and Jean on wedding dayJoe cuts his 91st birthday cake

Work of the Holocaust Education Trust applauded in the I Newspaper

Today in the I newspaper, journalist Sarah Cassidy writes about teaching of the Holocaust in our UK schools.   Joe Stirling visits Norfolk schools, talking about his escape from Nazi Germany and how his parents perished in Sobibor.  In this thought-provoking article Year 9 pupil John Soben, 14, said ‘Of course, we have learnt that 6 million people died, but having someone who’d actually been there telling you what it was like makes it much more real’.  I relate particularly to the words of Anita Parmar, Head of the LFA (Lessons from Auschwitz) project who says, ‘I think it is about dehumanising all the people involved in the events of the Holocaust.  When you read about the Holocaust in text books, it can seem unreal because it seems so horrific and on such a large scale.  We want to look at the individuals.’ And that it what I have tried to encapsulate in Escaping Hitler. I worked hard at keeping the issues to a human scale, citing experiences of four children during Kristallnacht, not dwelling on the unimaginable fate of Günter’s parents, instead focussing on their final night in Koblenz, amongst friends, courageously awaiting their inevitable fate.  If Joe’s story can help children relate to the Holocaust then our job is done.  You can read Sarah Cassidy’s article in full at:

Günters parents who died in Sobibor summer 1942
Günters parents who died in Sobibor summer 1942


Now I know it may a little thing, but the index has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears so I now feel the need to share that with the world!  This is my final piece of the jigsaw to actually create this my first published book and it was special to email it off this morning to my lovely editor Stephen Chumbley.   The life of Joe Stirling has been so diverse, so complex, that the index ran to 6 pages, with the most bizarre combinations of subjects within one alphabetical section.  Where else would you find Attleborough and Auschwitz, Screaming Lord Sutch and Salvation Army, Norwich Football Club and Nickenich, Travel Trade Gazette and the Three C’s Youth Club nestling  together in one index?  To give you a flavour of the amount of content in Escaping Hitler, I now reveal page 1 of the index!!!  Please ‘like’ my Escaping Hitler facebook page to be kept up to date on publication dates, signing events and how to order your signed copy in the New Year.

Example of Index in Escaping Hitler
Example of Index in Escaping Hitler


I’m back after two weeks well earned break on the south coast of England.  A highlight was attending the Liberal Democrat Conference and who did I seek out especially to say hello?  Shirley Williams of course, whose foreword now graces the early pages of Escaping Hitler.

It was wonderful to see her again and thrilling that she remembered me and the book – she is very much looking forward to reading it.  She sent her best wishes to Joe Stirling in Norwich, her past agent during her very first by-election in Harwich in the 1950s.  She kindly posed for some photographs with me.

An update for those who are interested – marketing form completed and returned to Pen and Sword Books, index is a work in progress on my computer, appointment with Jarrold Book Department in diary to discuss February launch, Pen and Sword are taking the book proposal to German publishers at the Frankfurt Book Festival in a couple of weeks and I am about to contact my Koblenz colleagues to discuss signing in Germany during May next year.  Very excited…..

Photo taken at Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth September 2015
Photo taken at Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth September 2015