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Fish chowder gives a boost to Bermuda-based book

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Author Elizabeth Bales Frank (Photograph supplied)
The cover of Elizabeth Bales Frank’s Bermuda-based book Censorettes (Photograph supplied)

Tomorrow, click on IGTV and watch as Bermuda fish chowder gives a boost to a New York author’s latest book.

While on vacation in Bermuda in 2006, Elizabeth Bales Frank was intrigued by two lines in her guidebook about the Imperial Censorship’s work on the island during the Second World War.

Out of that came her novel, Censorettes, which she will discuss tomorrow on The Blue and Yellow Kitchen.

“The show’s host, Stephanie Weaver, often features new books while she cooks something relating to the book,” said Ms Frank, who sent in a bottle of Outerbridge’s Sherry Peppers and Norma Cross’s recipe from the 2016 edition of Outerbridge’s Original Cookbook to accompany her tale.

Based out of the Hamilton Princess Hotel during the war, the Imperial Censorship department searched for illicit communications and contraband in mail crossing the Atlantic. Its censors helped to uncover several German spy networks operating in the United States.

“I went to a historical society in Bermuda,” Ms Frank said. “There was an older volunteer there. I asked about Bermuda’s role during the Second World War. He said, ’You won’t find much.’”

An experienced author, she was undeterred. Her first book, Cooder Cutlas, published in 1987, she had also written for Glamour and Cosmopolitan magazines.

Once back in Astoria she began researching. Censorettes is about a young British girl, Lucy Barrett, sent to Bermuda to work as a censor.

A recent graduate of Cambridge and fluent in Italian, French and German, she is certain that her skills could be put to better use until she discovers what she believes are coded letters to Germany from a Shakespeare-quoting man in Brooklyn. Her superiors are unconvinced.

“I have a life goal of seeing everything in the Shakespeare cannon live before I die,” Ms Frank said. “Lucy is a huge Shakespeare enthusiast. Joe, the Nazi in Brooklyn, is writing to the Germans. Every time he quotes Shakespeare she thinks there is code in the letter.”

To get the tone right, Ms Frank read many novels from the 1930s and 1940s. Censorettes was a long time in the making.

“When I visited Bermuda my friend’s son was in kindergarten, and now he is a junior in college,” she said, explaining that the book took four years to write and then she struggled to get it published.

Agents were lukewarm because it did not fall into what she describes as the ‘I slept with a Nazi’ genre, and it was not a thriller.

“It’s about one girl’s war,” she said. “I got a lot of comments saying there is too much history, you need to focus on the girl’s feelings more. I thought, well not really.

“I had two different agents who ate up four years and never sent it to publishers. They kept asking for revisions. That is how it works now. When I was young I gave my book to a publisher and they published it, The End. Now, agents keep saying it has to be camera-ready, it has to be perfect.”

When her last agent asked if she could send some other book instead Ms Frank decided to “call it a day”.

She sent the script to Netta Johnson, a Canadian publisher she had met at a pitch conference years ago.

“I said can you just read it and tell me what you don’t like about it,” Ms Frank said.

Alberta-based Stonehouse Publishing normally features five Canadian authors a year. Ms Frank is their first “international” writer.

The company has planned launch parties in Edmonton and Calgary on November 3 – Election Day in the US.

“They are doing a virtual launch for which I had to do a trailer,” Ms Frank said. “Then there is a video of me reading in case the link breaks.”

She acknowledged that it was not the best time to release a book. Due to Covid-19 the bookstores in her area are still only open for kerbside pick-up.

“And I am launching in the middle of one of the most contentious elections in American history,” she said. “But every time I start to whine, I think I got it done and now I can move on.”

The other day she had dinner with the friend she visited in Bermuda so long ago.

“She is now back living in New York,” said Ms Frank, who would love to launch Censorettes with a book signing here. “I said if you had never invited me to Bermuda I would never have learnt about that story and I would have an essay collection and a peaceful life instead of a book.”

Censorettes can be purchased on Amazon.com and other online bookstores. For more information see elizafrank.com. Watch Elizabeth Bales Frank on The Blue and Yellow Kitchen here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=772028160403240

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Published November 30, 2020 at 7:59 am (Updated November 30, 2020 at 7:58 am)

Fish chowder gives a boost to Bermuda-based book

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