Inevitably, in a story that encompasses the early years of the 20th century, the First World War, plays a major role. It engulfed the lives of just about every family throughout Britain and Europe.
Our story begins with Alfredo Russo who is abandoned as a baby on the steps of La Scala in Milan. The only clue to his identity is an expensive gold ring with strange symbols engraved on it, which is on a ribbon around his neck. Married now and with a family, he decides to go in search of a new life in England. Things are good untill, like every family in the land and throughout Europe, they are dragged into the horror and carnage of the first world war.
With war just a few hours away, the spotlight falls on their son Gianni, who immediately volunteers for the 'great adventure'; and on the tragedies of young friends and lovers who are lost in the conflict; of close relationships formed and torn asunder; and of brief liaisons, the consequences of which will echo down the century.
As the war comes to an end, Gianni immediately sets off to try and solve the mystery surrounding his father's birth. A journey that takes him back to his own birthplace, Naples. But violence erupts when he becomes involved with the Camorra (the Neapolitan mafia) and the Sicilian mafia.
What influenced you in deciding what to do in life? Perhaps you have a particular talent, or you always knew what you wanted to do. For my part, I was strongly influenced by reading two novels when I was young. Murder Must Advertise - Dorothy L. Sayers' murder mystery - and Eric Hodgins', Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House.Both the main characters in these two books are advertising copywriters. But what appealed to me was that Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy Sayers creation, spent most of his time solving murders while Blandings' time seemed to be spent organising the building of his house. Neither of them stretched themselves unduly in their day jobs, and yet both were paid shedloads of money just to come up with the odd advertising slogan. That sounded pretty good. Not too much work but plenty of cash. And Dorothy Sayers must have known what she was talking about because she had been a copywriter with the London Advertising Agency, Bensons. She even commented, rather disparagingly (through Wimsey) on how easy it was to make money in advertising.
Having spent many years working in international advertising agencies let me say that I couldn't have been more wrong in my early assessment of how easy it is. As the man said (I forget who), 'advertising is hard'. There's no circumventing the need to spend days, weeks, steeping yourself in whatever it is you're advertising, if you're going to write knowledgeably about it. During the time I'm working on a campaign for a particular product I become a total expert in it. Ask me about it after I've moved on to something else and I'll likely appear a complete dunce.
Of course there's more to it than that. I was lucky to have some quite brilliant mentors. People who had worked on classic campaigns for Guinness and Coca Cola and Martini.
It wasn't all flashy stuff though. Much of my time and effort has been spent selling products off the page and through the mail for some of the big mail order companies. It's good to see what you've contributed to when it appears on TV, but much more rewarding to count the money coming in from an advertisement you've written for the Sunday Times colour supplement.
But the biggest contributor to my understanding of what makes people tick and how to influence them came from the years I spent at Encyclopaedia Britannica. The most amazing, incredible, exciting company I have ever been involved with.
Today, I'm an authority on the diseases that ravage the developing world through writing and editing an intranet magazine for a leading pharmaceutical company.
Anyway, in writing this novel, I used all the research skills I've acquired over the years to write about a period of history that has always fascinated me. Not the big events as seen through the eyes of leaders and politicians but through those of ordinary people caught up in the chaos and misery caused by leaders and politicians. Hence the title: In These Eyes.
Do read it! It will only cost you a few miserly pence. Then email me and let me know what you think. Or ask me any questions you like, about the book, about advertising I promise to answer them. email@example.com
Brian lives in Hertfordshire with wife Renee. Two children. Two grand children, one of whom, Chris Perowne, designed the cover for the book.