The Durham Trilogy

The three books in The Durham Trilogy are The Hungry Hills, The Darkening Skies, and Never Stand Alone.

The Hungry Hills

The Hungry Hills is set in a County Durham mining community during the conflict of the 1926 General Strike. It’s a tribute to the courage and fortitude of the Durham mining communities and especially the Durham women.

The book is dedicated to my stillborn son and also portrays the feelings and reactions to a stillbirth. “Written with compassion, humour and a vivid intimacy, The Hungry Hills is an unforgettable saga of two very different families living through the dramas and tragedies of 1920’s England”, and marked my saga-writing début.  I was delighted when it was short-listed for the Sunday Times Young Writers award in 1993.

Ever since I took part in a T.V. documentary on the General Strike as an 8 year old, I have wanted to write about the mining communities of the North-East of England. I played the daughter of coalowner Lord Lambton on T.V. for only a few moments, but it made a lasting impression on me! The book, which is dedicated to our stillborn son Stanley, also gave me the opportunity to express in a fictional context some of my feelings and experiences following our own tragedy.

The Hungry Hills is available in paperback and in e-book editions for Kindle (from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com), and e-Reader

Feedback from readers & reviewers:

You’ll believe you are there. I read The Hungry Hills with pleasure…Not only a good read but a vivid picture of the coalfield. All the misery and class division are there but so are the warmth and courage of the people.”

Truly a novel for saga lovers …the author competently manipulates the threads of the plot, weaving together the lives of her many characters with compassion skill and affection. Her skill at storytelling is most evident in the novel’s action sequences, where she conjures with convincing vigour the agony of childbirth, picket line violence and the dangers lurking in the mines.”

An unforgettable saga of life in the 1920’s

When Janet MacLeod Trotter writes about the North East she knows what she is talking about…Her latest novel The Hungry Hills is set in the Durham coalfields…is full of warmth and courage and tales of class differences.”

I picked it up with a view to skimming through it before finding someone to read and review it for the Newsletter. I emerged two or three days later from the hard life of the residents of Whitton Grange, my children unfed, the clothes unwashed, ironing undone … This is a wonderful book dedicated to Janet’s stillborn son Stanley. In it, she deals sensitively with the loss of a precious baby, and as in real life, the mother’s feelings about it do not just go away as the story progresses. …So if you can spare a few days and don’t mind loosing sleep as you read by torchlight into the night, do get this book. Be warned, you may not take our soft 1990’s lifestyle quite so much for granted ever again.”
The Miscarriage Association Newsletter

I meant to write ages ago to complain about The Hungry Hills. Hardened commuters are not supposed to cry on the 19.15 from Kings Cross. Most embarrassing.

The House is in a mess, the kids had to eat at McDonalds and I’m not getting any sleep – and its all your fault! I just can’t put your brilliant book down…hope you sell millions!”

I have just finished The Hungry Hills and just had to write to congratulate you on writing such a fantastic book. You managed to draw out of this reader every emotion possible. There were some amazing characters in the book and some wonderfully powerful moments which quite frankly I don’t think I will ever forget.”

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your latest book. You held my interest from beginning to end so that I felt quite bereft when I had finished it and eagerly look forward to your next book.”

The book brought back many memories of old family stories of the ‘bad old days’ of New England Mills and the resourcefulness of families during the Great Depression.

I am definitely impressed with The Hungry Hills (which I have read with much pleasure) – your people come vividly to life and one cares about what happens to them.

I feel as though I must write to you now I have finished your book to tell you how much I enjoyed it. I found it very emotional. The tears that were shed at the end of the book were because I found the end very moving but also because I felt I was losing some good friends. All I can say is I look forward to the follow up.”

Loved it…I read and read and read until finally it was page 500 or so and that was that – where’s vol. 2?

I took it with me to the north of Scotland and read myself to sleep in the various youth hostels. I feel as if I know all your characters and am pleased to know more of that period of history in the North East of England and certainly sided with the miners. I enjoyed it tremendously.”

Without wishing to patronise in the slightest I have to say you write a splendid story. In my opinion few are gifted storytellers, but you have achieved the difficult task of keeping the readers continued interest in the many characters. Furthermore, you seem to have the elusive ability of making one feel part of the situation. I found that I had developed distinct opinions with definite likes and dislikes!!”

I enjoyed it very much and could hardly put it down.

I am filled with admiration for The Hungry Hills; my affection for the characters grew steadily and now I want to know what happens to them. You can be assured that I will buy the sequel.”

I have at last had time to read your book and have enjoyed doing so immensely. I found the insight into life in the Durham pits quite fascinating and am most impressed with the amount of research you must have done into the early 20th century mining industry to get it right.”

I have bought your book The Hungry Hills and have just finished reading it. I thought it had lots of atmosphere of the 1920’s. I found your book very interesting to read, very well written and am pleased you have done it well…I wish you good luck for your next book.”

Congratulations. I have greatly enjoyed reading your book. You have captured the whole atmosphere of the place and the time. I lived in such a village in the twenties and it is so authentic and moves me very much. You have a real gift and have given me a lot of pleasure. I look forward to your next.”

Couldn’t put it down. I thought it was superb – one of the best books I’ve read.

The Hungry Hills is available in paperback and in e-book editions for Kindle (from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com), and e-Reader

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The Darkening Skies

 The Darkening Skies is a sequel to The Hungry Hills and continues the story of the fictitious mining community in County Durham. It follows the fortunes of the Dimarcos, an Italian family caught on the ‘wrong side’ at the outbreak of the Second World War.

The once popular and accepted ice-cream parlour owners face increasing hostility. Many Italians face harsh treatment in the war years, as they were indiscriminately rounded up and interred, their shops attacked and their families left to struggle on alone. With its vivid backdrop of a pit-town strained by the tensions of war, The Darkening Skies is a vibrant and moving story of conflicting loyalties, passions and cultures.

The Darkening Skies was inspired by stories I had heard about the harsh treatment that Italians faced during the war in this country after emigrating here in the 1900’s. Despite the fact that most did not have any allegiance to the fascists in Italy and indeed a whole generation had been born and brought up in this country they were indiscriminately rounded up and interred. At the heart of it is a bitter-sweet love story.”

The Darkening Skies is available in paperback and in e-book editions for Kindle (from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com), and e-Reader

Feedback from readers & reviewers:

Janet convincingly portrays the rising tide of hate that engulfs the village…There is a good deal of worry, misery and poverty. But there is also courage, warmth, and, above all hope that things can only get better. With the coal mines largely a thing of the past in the North East, The Darkening Skies acts as a timely reminder of a way of life that will soon be all but forgotten.”

This rich slice of pit-town life shows a world which is all but forgotten.

An all-too realistic picture of what life must have been like in the Durham pit villages as the Depression wore on and the spectre of war reared its ugly head.

The story was enthralling and by the end of the book I felt as though I knew some of the characters personally. The relationship between Sara and Joe was particularly poignant.”

I have so enjoyed The Darkening Skies. It was an enthralling saga and so true to life of that era. Also knowing the area so well made it more special for me. – I could visualise the road from Durham to Stanhope and Kilhope Wheel. The Hungry Hills is very popular too and has passed around various friends and family. Thank you for autographing my book, nice to have when you are as famous as Catherine Cookson!!”

I have just finished reading your book The Darkening Skies and enjoyed it enormously. I was fascinated by the Dimarco family who reminded me so much of my own relations. My maiden name was Demarc and my parents originally came from Cassino and owned various ice cream cafes in Swansea and Glasgow … my parents had very similar experiences to those in your book. I look forward to reading more of your books.”

Unfortunately I couldn’t wait to read The Darkening Skies and Never Stand Alone between my studies as you suggested and ended up finishing both before I finished my vacation. They were both excellent although I have to admit I cried a lot at the end of The Darkening Skies.”

The Darkening Skies is a worthy sequel to The Hungry Hills. I hope that both of them will have the success they certainly deserve, and that you will be encouraged to write more equally humane novels.”

I am getting great pleasure reading The Darkening Skies …I hope that number three will soon be in the bookshops.”

You captured the interest immediately and maintained it all the way through – very clever!

I have just finished reading the fantastic novel ‘The Darkening Skies’ and I must say that I found your novel impossible to put down. You have written a story about prejudice, hatred and passion and you’ve managed to make me chuckle as well as shed a tear. You clearly are one of the genre’s best writers. I hope that you keep producing more great books.

The Darkening Skies is available in paperback and in e-book editions for Kindle (from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com), and e-Reader

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Never Stand Alone

The book is set against the fascinatingly vivid backdrop of a momentous turning point in recent history, the 1984 miners’ strike. Set in a pit village on the Durham coast, it charts the bitter struggle between the National Union of Mineworkers [The NUM] lead by Arthur Scargill and the Conservative government lead by Margaret Thatcher.

Never Stand Alone is a powerful and heartrending story of the people caught up in the divisive dispute. At the heart of the storm is the passionate relationship between Carol, the pit manager’s rebellious daughter and Mick, one of the miners. The battle that is dividing the nation and threatening the survival of their community could also destroy their union.

Never Stand Alone was something of a departure for me, being a much more contemporary novel – what I would call a ‘recent memory saga’. The consequences of the strike are still being felt today and the book was written largely for people, like myself, who lived through the strike but had little or no understanding of the acute hardship that the miners and their families suffered.

In particular, the courage and fortitude of the women are celebrated and the book is a tribute to them. Whilst this is a family saga I also hope that it will challenge the reader to re-visit 1984 in the light of subsequent events.

Never Stand Alone is available in paperback and in e-book editions for Kindle (from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com), and e-Reader

Feedback from readers and reviewers:

 “A gritty, heartrending and impassioned drama about a time and a part of the North-east’s rich industrial heritage, that has been lost forever.

Following in Catherine Cookson’s wake and producing novels of a similarly high calibre, is Janet MacLeod Trotter…A tough, compelling and ultimately satisfying novel. Janet paints a vivid picture of the toil and heartaches in a typical North East pit community…VERDICT: Another classy, irresistible read.

Some people might argue about the politics of the book with its attacks on the system, but the same criticisms were levelled at the likes of Dickens when he exposed the evils of Victorian Britain so Janet MacLeod Trotter is in good company. She pulls no punches, tells it like it is and taps directly into your emotions. You’ll be angered, exasperated and outraged but you won’t be unmoved, and that’s as it should be.” Classification ***** [Excellent]

“…the author’s grasp of the issues and evident sympathy with both the miners’ cause and her own characters have helped create a vivid picture of courage in the face of injustice…Never Stand Alone is a successful book which ought to increase the author’s growing band of fans.” Northern Review

The gritty, unforgettable story of families torn apart by the conflict that divided a nation…a powerful story.

It is written about 1984 miner’s strike. It was taut reading and impossible to put down! brilliant book.’

The humanity which I greatly admired in your three earlier books is very much in evidence in this new volume. And this strikes as even more powerful. I rejoice that the miners of County Durham and elsewhere in the North East have such a doughty champion. I certainly share your respect for them and your sadness about the savage treatment they suffered. I was so impressed that I intend to read your novel a second time.”

I’ve read Never Stand Alone and thought it was great – the best thing you’ve done.

I’m very grateful. I really enjoyed Never Stand Alone which I ordered from our mobile library.

“…couldn’t put it down, each time I picked it up it was just one page more, just one more… It really was an excellent book.

Never Stand Alone is available in paperback and in e-book editions for Kindle (from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com), and e-Reader

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