Blog Tour: Read an Extract from Leo's War by @_PatriciaMurphy

09:30



It’s 1943 and young Leo tries to protect his disabled sister Ruby as the Nazis invade Italy. After his mother is arrested, he turns to Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty to save them. But he is no ordinary priest. Known as ‘The Pimpernel of the Vatican’, the Monsignor is the legendary organizer of the Rome Escape Line. Soon Leo is helping out with this secret network dedicated to saving the lives of escaped prisoners of war, partisans and Jews. But as the sinister Nazi leader Kappler closes in on the network, can Leo and his sister stay out of his evil clutches?


Read an Extract:


In this extract from chapter 26, 12 year-old Leo has cycled to the Roman Seminary by the city walls. He has smuggled false identity documents for the scores of Jews, partisans and Prisoners-of-War posing as seminarians in order to hide from the Nazis. Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty is also there at a meeting with other members of the Rome Escape Line.

But despite being considered as territory independent of Nazi jurisdiction, Koch, a notorious Fascist torturer launches an armed raid as curfew falls.


* * * * * *
A young priest dashed in, habit flying. “Quick, hide, everyone! There’s a raid! There are fifty of Koch’s men circling the building!
I flew up out of my seat, my first thought Hugh. But Father Palazzini grabbed me at the refectory door and told me there was another passage leading from the secret room that led out to the octagonal baptistry and Hugh would take that. It would be better if I headed across the bridge into the adjoining building. From there I could get to the shed where my bike was.
He shooed me towards the flight of stairs that led to the bridge and ran off. I darted back to pick up the slice of pangiallo, the dried fruit cake that the cook had left just for me.
Everywhere trainee priests flew around like a flock of disturbed starlings, black gowns flying behind them like wings. I panicked, forgetting which way Father Palazzini had pointed.
I could hear a priest arguing at the main entrance. “No, you have no right to come here!”
The bark of a gun almost stopped my heartbeat. Then someone shouted and swore in Italian. “The next bullet will be in your head if you don’t let me through!
Rough voices could be heard at the door. More shouting.
Father Palazzini came back and was surprised to see me still there. He pulled me by the scruff of the neck. “Quick, through here, there’s no time.”
We fell through a doorway, just ahead of the black-shirted Fascists. They were led by a man in a suit, his jet-black hair plastered into his head, a black moustache across his upper lip like an ugly slug. Koch, I guessed.

I was back in the church.
I saw a man jump into the coffin. A priest was at the altar, saying prayers, several kneeling in the back row.
I panicked. Frozen.
Over here!
It was the nun with the rosy cheeks. She lifted up her ample skirts and beckoned me over. I dived at the same time as Father Palazzini was shrouded by the skirts of the elderly nun next to her.
The rosy-cheek nun fanned out the cloth and all was darkness for me at I lay curled at her feet, a frightened kitten fleeing from a pack of wolves.
My heart was a hammer pounding in my chest in time to their prayers. Threatening to skitter out of my body. The blood thrumming in my ears.
“Have some respect in the house of God!” the priest called out.
There were thumps and gasps and the sound of heavy feet on the marble floor.
Loud harsh voices shouting, “Come out, you communist pigs!
Jew-lovers!”
Then the sound of nuns singing over the angry voices. A bell ringing, ringing.
I was so frightened I almost blacked out.
I lay there for what felt like hours but may have only been minutes. The many layers of skirts made me feel like a mummy in a tomb.
And then skirts rising, a dim light filtering into my eyes. I scrambled to my feet. Dazed. The rosy-cheeked nun took me by the shoulders and held me in a hug. The heavy smell of incense filled the air. A broken statue of Christ lay on the ground, severed in half, shards everywhere. Bibles and hymn sheets scattered on the ground, torn and trodden on. But on the bench was another pile of rumpled hymn sheets concealing the identity passes. The quick-thinking nun must have sat on them. She quickly scooped them up and, blessing herself, stuffed them inside the front of her habit.
Father Palazzini grabbed me. “They’ve gone for now. You must head over the bridge. No time to lose.”
My legs were giddy. But I ran then, up the stairs. Pant, pant! Over the bridge. I had one thought. Get to my bicycle and get the hell out of there.
My bicycle was still in the shed, untouched. I took the exit that led onto a side street and, jumping on my bike, pedalled furiously into the dark night, praying Koch’s gang of thugs and the Nazis were somewhere else.
I could only pray that Hugh too had had a lucky escape.



About Patricia:



Patricia Murphy is the bestselling author of The Easter Rising 1916 – Molly’s Diary and Dan’s Diary – the War of Independence 1920-22 published by Poolbeg.

She has also written the prize-winning “The Chingles” trilogy of children’s Celtic fantasy novels. Patricia is also an award winning Producer/Director of documentaries including Children of Helen House, the BBC series on a children’s hospice and Born to Be Different Channel 4’s flagship series following children born with disabilities. Many of her groundbreaking programmes are about children’s rights and topics such as growing up in care, crime and the criminal justice system. She has also made a number of history programmes including Worst Jobs in History with Tony Robinson for Channel 4 and has produced and directed films for the Open University.

Patricia grew up in Dublin and is a graduate in English and History from Trinity College Dublin and of Journalism at Dublin City University. She now lives in Oxford with her husband and young daughter.

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