The Book Programme

Presented by Jane Dismore

Sunday at 4pm

A series of 5 programmes where writers from Hertfordshire and beyond talk about their work and share their experiences on the writing process


Allan Esler Smith and Hugh Bicheno on War Zone (6th October 2019)

The accountant, the spy and the film director on war. Allan Esler Smith author of Theirs is the Glory: Arnhem, Hurst and Conflict on Film, and Hugh Bicheno author of Razor’s Edge: The Unofficial History of the Falklands War and many other books on battles and war, discuss war and their work, combining it with music that underlines their themes. This thought-provoking hour will leave you thinking about the role of authors and wondering about war:  what is it good for?


JS Watts and Emma Vandore 

A Story in the Making (13th October 2019)

Put a poet and novelist together with a writer and journalist and you will get fascinating stories. Emma Vandore, journalist and author of Schizophrenie Francaise and novel-in-progress, AND, BREATHE and J.S. Watts, author of six books including the magical novel Witchlight, talk about writing, the art of telling stories and the creative writing group they run together in Bishop’s Stortford. Everyone loves a good story, so listen in to the ones they have to tell.



JD Davies and Hugh Bicheno

Writing Historical Fiction (20th October 2019)

Historical fiction is one of the most popular types of fiction. Why is this? What makes a good story, and how accurate to a particular period should an author try to be? How should a writer deal with past mindsets that we find uncomfortable today? Join Hugh Bicheno, author of stories set in the nineteenth-century United States, and David Davies, author of bestselling series of sixteenth- and seventeenth century naval fiction, for a lively and fascinating discussion of these and other questions.


Rowena M Love and JS Watts

Poetry Today (27th October 2019)

What is poetry today? Is it words on the page or a public performance? Does it matter if what a person reads or hears isn’t what the poet intends? Where can you find inspiration?  Award-winning poets J.S. Watts and Rowena M Love discuss answers to these and other questions, interspersed with engaging readings of their own work, and music that resonates to their themes.


Patricia O' Sullivan, JD Davies and Jane Dismore

The Pleasure and the Pain of writing Non-Fiction (3rd November 2019)

Monarchs of  today and yesterday, noisy naval battles, and the Irishmen who joined Hong Kong's Police Force. Just some of the subjects that royal biographer Jane Dismore will be discussing with fellow non-fiction writers Patricia O'Sullivan, an expert on the social history of Hong Kong,  and maritime historian JD Davies. They share the pleasure of holding original documents and the pain of trying to find a fresh angle; the thrill of discovering new material and the trickiness of interviewing sensitive subjects. With rousing music too, it's a programme to remember.


Jane loves history and heritage and writes about interesting people from the past and the present. Her latest book is Princess: The Early Life of Queen Elizabeth II, published in the UK and the USA. She also writes features for magazines and newspapers, including The Times, History Today, Country Life and Britain at War. While living abroad she had a regular spot on the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) and, after qualifying as a solicitor back in the UK, was the ‘Legal Eagle’ for a local radio station. Jane began her professional life as an English teacher but always found time to write in her free time. She lives in St Albans. Her website is at      You can follow her on Twitter @JaneDismore and on Facebook JaneDismore Author

J.S.Watts is a British poet and novelist who weaves the fantastical and the literary with other vibrant strands to create glowing, multi-faceted writing.

Born in London, she now lives just outside of Cambridge. Her poetry, short stories and non-fiction appear in a wide variety of publications in Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the States, including Mslexia and Popshot and have been broadcast on BBC and Independent Radio. She has edited various magazines and anthologies and performed her poetry across England, Scotland and Wales, but not yet in Ireland (should anyone from Ireland be reading this). She co-runs the Bishop’s Stortford “Writers’ Club” with Emma Vandore.

J.S.’s two poetry collections, Cats and Other Myths and Years Ago You Coloured Me, are published by Lapwing Publications, as is her multi-award nominated SF poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue. Her latest poetry pamphlet, The Submerged Sea, is published by Dempsey & Windle. Her novels, A Darker Moon - dark literary fiction and Witchlight – paranormal, are published in the US and UK by Vagabondage Press. Her new novel, Old Light, is due out from Vagabondage Press in late 2019 or early 2020.

For further details see her website: and Facebook page  

David Davies is a bestselling and multiple prize-winning author and historian. He is a vice-president of the Society for Nautical Research, a former chairman of the Naval Dockyards Society, and a Fellow of both the Royal Historical Society and the Society for Nautical Research. He won the Anderson prize for the best maritime history book of 2017 for Kings of the Sea: Charles II, James II and the Royal Navy (which also won a Certificate of Merit for the Mountbatten Prize), and the Samuel Pepys prize for 2009 for Pepys’s Navy: Ships, Men and Warfare, 1649-89. He was shortlisted for the Mountbatten Maritime Literary Award in 2014 for Britannia’s Dragon: A Naval History of Wales. He is also the author of the bestselling ‘journals of Matthew Quinton’, a highly acclaimed series of naval historical fiction set in the Restoration period, beginning with Gentleman Captain, with eight titles published to date; The Times has described it as ‘a series of real panache’.  He is currently working on a new trilogy of Tudor naval novels for Canelo Publishing. His website is at

Rowena M Love is an award-winning Scots poet and writer now living in Hertfordshire.  She writes in both English and Scots and has won the McCash Scots Poetry Prize (the premier prize for Scots language poetry) as well as other competitions for her English poetry.  Her poems have appeared in print, online and been broadcast on radio around the world. She has two solo collections (The Chameleon of Happiness and Comin Oot in the Wash) as well as a joint anthology (Running Threads) and audio book (Lip Synch) from the Makar Press, a poetry collective she helped set up.  You can read more of her work at As well as her poetry, she is currently writing a lot about learning skills for children for the company she has started with her husband:  

Emma Vandore is a writer and journalist. She has reported from over 30 countries on six continents, most recently covering Sawbridgeworth for the Bishop’s Stortford Independent. With JS Watts, she runs a creative writing group in Bishop’s Stortford, which is always looking for new writers. Her 2007 book Schizophrenie Francaise, a satirical take on French politics in the Chirac era, was described as the book all the presidential candidates should read. She talks about her novel-in-progress, AND, BREATHE, which she began after winning the National Centre for Writing's Escalator talent development scheme and receiving Arts Council funding. An early draft was shortlisted for London Book Fair’s The Write Stuff.

Bicheno was born in Cuba to British parents in 1948. He was educated in Cuba, Chile and Scotland before winning a scholarship to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he won a first class honours degree in History. He was first an academic and then an officer in the British Secret Intelligence Service. Later he became a security consultant in Italy and across Latin America, specializing in kidnap negotiations. He lived in the United States for several years and became a naturalised citizen, but now lives in England. He is bilingual English-Spanish, speaks and reads Italian and French.

Allan Esler Smith is a writer who works in two areas that are poles apart- war and tax. As a Chartered Accountant his Good Retirement Guide has been a number one best seller in its category on Amazon. He also writes on war films and his job is made easier as he looks after the Estate of one of the UK’s leading war film directors, the Ulsterman Brain Desmond Hurst. The task is made a pleasure for Allan as Hurst was his Uncle.

Hurst survived Gallipoli in 1915. He made over 30 films across three continents in a career that spanned the silent films of the 1920s in Hollywood to the 1960s. War films include The Lion Has Wings, Dangerous Moonlight, Theirs is the Glory and Malta Story and Hurst was a master of the genre. This is all brought together in Theirs is the Glory. Arnhem, Hurst and Conflict on Film which Allan co-authored with renowned Arnhem author David Truesdale.


Patricia O’Sullivan has travelled to Hong Kong frequently since October 2009, when the lure of hidden family history first caught hold of her.  Gradually piecing together the lives and Hong Kong Police careers of a score of men from Co. Cor,k, Ireland, she has told their stories in Policing Hong Kong - an Irish History, published by Blacksmith Books in April 2017.  She is now finishing a book on criminal women in pre-war Hong Kong and  co-authoring one  on the Hong Kong Policemen who served in World War One.  Patricia O’Sullivan’s former career as a music teacher in Hertfordshire has now been scaled down in order to spend more time on Hong Kong’s fascinating history.  More information on this can be found on

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