Today’s stop is for Vance Huxley’s Fall of the Cities: Planting the Orchard. We will have info about the book and author, and a great excerpt from the book, plus a great giveaway. Make sure to check everything out and enter the giveaway.
Happy Reading 🙂
The world is falling apart. Terrorists spark a worldwide oil and gas
crisis while imports grind to a halt. Europe and Britain are erupting
into chaos as food runs out and desperate people take matters into
their own hands.
As the government begins to seal off rioting parts of the city, Corporal
Harry Miller takes an offered discharge to get his sister and her
kids to safety. But he’s not fast enough. Trapped in the city with
a rag-tag collection of ordinary citizens, Harry struggles to create
a small pocket of stability – a place to ride out the coming
confrontation between rioters and the Army, and save themselves from
The meal was bangers and mash with gravy and bloody wonderful. Hot cooked food, real
English food and exactly what the men wanted. The meal was served by half a dozen women
who Harry had assumed were kitchen staff. Two were definitely waitresses, their expertise in
handling the dishes and plates was clear. The others had smocks but theirs were pale blue
unlike the kitchen staff.
After finishing his meal Harry went to find out who they were, because he knew some bloody
officer would give him grief sooner or later if they weren’t cooks. The four in question were
missing. “Who’s in charge and where are the rest of the kitchen staff?”
The portly man with the hat spoke up. “I’m the assistant cook, Cullen. This is all the kitchen
“Plus those two waitresses and then there were at least four others. Don’t piss me about,
Cullen, because I’m the reasonable sort. Some officer or sergeant will be a lot more bloody
annoyed and then give me crap as well. So who are they?” Cullen’s eyes went round the kitchen
while he worked on an answer.
“Cleaning staff sir. They daren’t go home.”
Harry turned to the young woman, one of the waitresses. “Why not? The riot is over. Is that
why you and her have stayed? The rioting?” Harry realised that he was tired and probably
sounded angry when the woman flinched back. He gentled his tone a bit. “Who are you?”
“Janina, sir. We’re all frightened to go home. Some of us have been here three days now,
expecting the place to be wrecked. Then you all turned up. Is the army here to rescue us all?”
Harry stared. Rescue them? “We’ve just landed at Heathrow and there was a riot, so we were
told to stop it. Nobody said anything about rescues. Why can’t you go home?”
The young woman looked embarrassed. “It’s the rioters sir. They go back to the estates at first
light, but, well, they’re still there. Some of them look out for women. They caught Lucja on her
way in on Wednesday, sir. The manager took her to the hospital but we haven’t been home
“What about the others? The ones who left?”
Cullen spoke up at last. “They are the ones with houses or flats in the better areas, the ones
that only get rioters at night. Most of them have got families. We’re the ones who live in digs or
on the estates.” He sighed. “The manager didn’t come back after taking Lucja.”
Harry sighed as well. He’d been totally stuffed. “How many are actually kitchen staff?” There
was a lot of hesitation and then people started shuffling about. Six kitchen staff and four not,
plus the missing four. The orders were to send them home, but Harry just couldn’t do it. Not
after what the lass, Janina, had said. “Can you manage to feed us with six if the place fills up?”
“Not really. I’m a trainee cook, though we’re called assistants. None of the real experts are left.
We can cook basic food but with six?” Cullen shrugged.
Harry looked at the worried faces and sighed again. He would get so much crap if anyone found
out. “Can you manage with fourteen, if they peel spuds or whatever?” Tentative smiles
appeared on four faces, two of each sex. “Go and bring the other four in for God’s sake. They’ll
“They can hear, sir.”
“Stop the sir. Anyone with stripes is in charge of those with nothing, but isn’t a sir. The ones
with fancy badges are in charge of us and are all sirs.” There was a scuffling and a big cupboard
opened to show four apprehensive faces. “Come out here. Can you help this lot to cook?”
“Yes sir.” That smile was three parts relief and two parts cheeky, and all five parts were very
pretty. “I’m Cynthia, sometimes known as Cyn, and I can make cheese on toast.”
Harry laughed, he had to. “Good. If you can cook porridge as well it sounds as if you’re on
breakfast duty.” Harry looked round them. “The army will want three meals a day, and possibly
something for those on duty at night, so organise yourselves. If you are all sorted by the time
anyone else asks, they won’t bother to mess you about. You’d better show me which are the
staff rooms so I can make them off limits.” Harry looked round. “Do you all live in?”
There was a lot of feet shuffling and glances one to another. “There aren’t any staff quarters.
Some of us have been staying but we’re supposed to go home after shifts.” Cullen looked
defensive. “If we go home we might not get back.”
“Only the manager lives in. Lived in because he left. He’s got a flat and there’s two bedrooms in
there.” Cynthia smiled. “We know because we have to clean them as well.”
Harry made a quick decision. The officers wanted staff, and this way there would be cooks here
twenty‐four seven. “Are there settees in there, or maybe room for a mattress on the floor? If
not you need to take over the nearest room and make it look like a staff bedroom.” Harry
smiled. “Throw out the flower vases and posh soap and hang up some undies in the bathroom.”
There was a mixed response to that. “What’s wrong?”
“Most of us haven’t got any more clothes so we sleep in separate rooms. We’ve been washing
clothes out at night, but if we’re all living together?” Cullen looked around. “Your soldiers might
like the idea of seeing them running around while their undies are hung up to dry, but I doubt
they’ll return the interest.” He patted his large, round stomach. “I doubt they’ll appreciate this
either. Not exactly the body beautiful.” Cullen was trying to make light of it and some were
smiling but some were still very worried.
“The manager’s family must have left clothes, and what about the last guests? Those we told to
leave didn’t all take suitcases.” Most of the faces looked happier but one went scarlet.
Cullen glanced at her but spoke to Harry. “Some of our customers don’t have suitcases. They
only rent for a few hours and don’t leave together.”
Harry looked at the red‐faced one. “On the game?”
“Yes.” It was a whisper. “Do I have to leave? I’m in here because none of us are walking the
streets now. Those bastards don’t care why you’re out there, and they don’t pay either.”
“Don’t look for business in here. This lot are fresh back from Kuwait and you’ll start a bloody
riot. Then some officer will throw you out. Now all get into the proper uniforms and raid the
rooms for whatever you need.” There was still some hesitation. “What now?”
“Martial Law. We can be shot for looting.”
“Requisitioned for army use, just don’t list exactly what clothing you take.” Harry caught the
sparkle in Cynthia’s eyes. “Especially you, I reckon.” He hesitated. “Sort out the uniforms,
tunics, whatever, and I’ll get a couple of sensible blokes to stop anyone else asking difficult
Vance Huxley lives out in the countryside in Lincolnshire, England. He has
spent a busy life working in many different fields – including the building and rail
industries, as a workshop manager, trouble‐shooter for an engineering firm,
accountancy, cafe proprietor, and graphic artist.
He also spent time in other jobs, and is proud of never being
dismissed, and only once made redundant.
Eventually he found his Noeline, but unfortunately she died much too young. To
help with the aftermath, Vance tried writing though without any real structure.
As an editor and beta readers explained the difference between words and books,
he tried again.
Now he tries to type as often as possible in spite of the assistance of
his cats, since his legs no longer work well enough to allow anything more strenuous.
An avid reader of sci‐fi, fantasy and adventure
novels, his writing tends towards those genres.
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