The Best Postboy in England – Stephen Frost | Blog Tour Extract | #TheBestPostboyInEngland | @StephenPHFrost @RandomTTours

The shadow of war looms large over the rural English village of Eagley as Freddie the postboy is tasked with delivering news from the battlefields of France. They call him the angel of death.

Freddie is befriended by Suhani Harkness, an Indian woman living in an isolated manor house where she tends to wounded soldiers from the trenches. Persuading Freddie to become the scribe to a soldier who cannot write, he finds new purpose in his work.

But the grim reality of his job weighs down ever more heavily, until the telegram he has most feared arrives from the front – news of the death of one of Suhani’s sons.

Set against the backdrop of one of the deadliest conflicts in history, this novel is a poignant and powerful exploration of the human cost of war for those left behind, and the enduring impact of grief and guilt.

My thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for the invite. The Best Postboy in England is published by Burnt Orchard Press and is available in ebook (also on Kindle Unlimited) and paperback formats (1 November 2023). For my turn today its a pleasure to host an extract.



Exeter, 1940

3 Townley Street

 24th June 1940

Officer in Charge
Children’s Overseas Reception Board C/o Thomas Cook & Son
45 Berkeley Street

Dear Sir,

I am writing in reply to your advertisement in the June issue of Post Office Magazine for the position of Volunteer Escort for your Overseas Evacuation Scheme.

I have been a Post Office employee for twenty-four years, beginning as a clerk at Fore Street Post Office in Kingsbridge and rising to the position of Assistant Manager at the main GPO on the High Street in Exeter.

Since the outbreak of war in September I have also trained staff and been especially instrumental in mentoring our younger recruits, which I believe would be of great benefit to your scheme if I were chosen for it. I enclose a reference from my manager, Mr Jarvis, which I hope will aid you in considering my application. I have no family ties and would be able to travel at a moment’s notice.

In respectful anticipation, Yours faithfully,
Billie Bedden.

No family ties. That probably swung it. A reply to his job application had landed on his doormat a week ago and the position was his: Overseas Evacuation Escort. Poor little blighters, little parcels of fear and sorrow, shipped across the ocean, three thousand miles from their homes, schools, and parents. He felt sorry for them and genuinely wanted to help.

It was, however, the destination, Nova Scotia, that had really caught his eye in the advert, and was his true reason for travelling. After all these years, he was still stalked by duplicity. He sighed through his nose and cigarette smoke followed, rolling timelessly against the pane of his bedroom window. Somewhere out there, beyond the skyline, beyond the sky, was another version of himself, his ghostly twin, cruising the attics and cellars of the past. An echo of flesh and bone that travelled by another name entirely. Freddie Lovegrove.

No one had called him that for years.

Stephen Frost was born in the Suffolk market town of Bungay in 1959, before leaving at nineteen to study music. A motley life in the music industry followed, exploring various avenues and culs-de-sac from pop to country to rock, until he finally alighted on classical music editing and production.

From his earliest school days a passion for storytelling was never far, an obsession that culminated in writing and directing the award-winning feature film “Leave Now” in 2018.

The Best Postboy In England is his first novel.

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Author’s note

Berrington Hall is a bold red sandstone mansion nestling in the Herefordshire countryside. Built in 1778, it was home to Lord and Lady Cawley from 1901. Much later, Lady Cawley used part of Berrington Hall as a convalescent hospital during the Second World War. When their son, the 2nd Lord Cawley, died in 1954, death duties meant the estate had to be handed over to the Treasury, who in turn gave it to the care of the National Trust. Lady Cawley continued to live at the house until her death in 1978, at the age of 100.

When I visited Berrington Hall back in 2009 there was an exhibition dedicated to the role the house and its occupants played during the First World War, and in one of the rooms were displayed three mannequins dressed in army uniform. There was a sense, even before reading the text beneath the exhibits, of the tragic story hanging in the air around them, and in the wool of the old regimental livery one could almost smell the mustard gas, the cordite, and the sweat of fear.

The uniforms belonged to three of the four sons of Lord and Lady Cawley, three young men all killed in battle in 1914, 1915 and 1918. Of course, I imagined the parents’ ongoing bereavement, and the unbearable pain as it multiplied across each subsequent death. But I also began to consider the strain on the postboy who had to deliver such terrible news. There was no counselling in those days, no time off for stress-related health issues. This was the era of stiff upper lips, men being men, and emotions being given short shrift, if expressed at all. What chance did he have? What coping mechanisms might he employ?

This is not a novel about Berrington Hall or the Cawley family, though there are clearly resonances that have inspired me. Rather, the story evolved out of trying to understand how my imaginary postboy might deal with his trauma, and to uncover, as far as it is ever possible, the reasons why good people do bad things.


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