David Slater, a conscript in the 1920s Army of the Confederacy, faces a dilemma. When he and his regiment were shipped to Germany to help stage a coup there, his Limey fellow-soldier Brian was acting strangely. David now has the choice of reporting his best friend to his commanding officers, or keeping quiet and just doing his job: preparing for the arrival of Bismarck, the giant Zeppelin flying Hitler and his Nazi cohorts to meet their new allies, the Confederates. Beneath Gray Skies follows the adventures of David and those around him in a past that never happened-where the Civil War never took place, and the Confederacy survived as a pariah slave-holding nation into the 20th century. Confederates, Unionists, British and Germans plot and counterplot in a tightly woven tale of espionage, treachery and romance. The cast of Beneath Gray Skies includes rogue British agent "Bloody Brian" Finch-Malloy, hard-drinking Henry Dowling, and Christopher Pole, a slave who escapes from the hell of the Confederacy-living against a backdrop that includes real historical characters. Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering, and Dr. Hugo Eckener, the brilliant anti-Nazi Zeppelin captain, all live again in this "extraordinarily well-written piece of mind candy that becomes more and more difficult to put down" (Christopher Belton). Almost without realizing what has happened, David finds himself part of a conspiracy within the Confederacy that includes "Bloody Brian", which is working to prevent the airship's arrival in Georgia, to seize the mysterious priceless treasure on board the Bismarck, and to halt the spread of slavery to Europe. As David Slater and his President, Jefferson Davis III, confront each other on the doomed dirigible, David must ask himself once again where his loyalty lies: to his country, or to a higher morality. Beneath Gray Skies is the first published novel by Hugh Ashton, a British-born writer and journalist currently living in Kamakura, Japan.
Hugh Ashton was born in the UK in 1956. After graduating from the University of Cambridge, he worked in a variety of jobs, including security guard, publisher's assistant, and running an independent record label, before coming to rest in the field of information technology, where he assisted perplexed users of computers and wrote explanations to guide them through the problems they encountered.
A long-standing interest in Japan led him to emigrate to that country in 1988, where he has remained ever since; writing instruction manuals for a variety of consumer products, assisting with IT-related projects at banks and financial institutions, and researching and writing industry reports on the Japanese and Asian financial industries. Some of the knowledge he has gained in these fields forms the background for At the Sharpe End, his second novel.
He has recently published with Inknbeans Press of Los Angeles: Tales from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD, More from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD, Secrets from the Deed Box of John H Watson MD, The Darlington Substitution, and Notes from the Dispatch-Box of John H. Watson MD each containing Sherlock Holmes adventures, in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Inknbeans Press has also published his collection of short stories set in Japan, Tales of Old Japanese, featuring the culture and habits of the older generation of Japanese. The first three books of Holmes-ian adventure have been compiled into an "omnibus edition", entitled The Deed Box of John H. Watson MD.
His first published novel, Beneath Gray Skies, is an alternative history set in a "past that never happened", where the Civil War was never fought.
His second novel, At the Sharpe End, features an expatriate consultant living in Tokyo, Kenneth Sharpe, who finds himself thrust into a world of violence and high finance that takes him by surprise.
The third novel, Red Wheels Turning, takes some of the characters of Beneath Gray Skies, and sets them in the background of Tsarist Russia, where a battle of wits takes place to control the secret Russian wonder weapons that could win the war for the Allies.
Hugh currently lives with his wife Yoshiko in the old town of Kamakura to the south of Tokyo, where he is working on future novels and stories.