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The Heart Beneath was conceived in 1968 during a stay at Webb’s Hotel in the Cornish town of Liskeard, on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Both the hotel and the moor remained at the heart of the resulting novel-quartet, which began as a screenplay and grew into a novel. This was Cley, which opens in Liskeard but is mostly set in and around the Norfolk village of the title. World War Two is the pivotal event in The Heart Beneath, woven around the destiny of Egon von Lützow-Brüel, the son of one of the conspirators against Adolf Hitler. Count Peter von Lützow-Brüel, the father, is executed after the failed attempt at assassination in July 1944. The boy Egon escapes capture and is only re-discovered in 1947, in the forests of East Germany, living the existence of an animal. This ‘wolf-child’ is rescued by Richard Thurgo, an Englishman who has come to post-war Germany to find Maggie Trimble, Egon’s mother and the love of Richard’s life. Egon is brought to England, but can he adapt to ‘civilized’ life?
Richard’s Feet written as a sequel to Cley, was published ahead of it, by Heinemann. Each of the Heart Beneath books can be read separately and in any order, but Richard’s Feet repaid the publishers’ choice to bring it out first, obtaining a long-listing for the Booker Prize and the UK Society of Authors’ Encore Award. After Cley, published next, the third book, Egon, followed swiftly. The final book, How to Push Through, a 700-page saga like the opening book, Richard’s Feet, also took its time, and joined its fellows in a revised edition from Dr. Cicero Books, in 2016.