Thanks to the newly-opened Shelley-Godwin Archive, you can read “for the first time in digital form all the known manuscripts of Frankenstein,” Mary Shelley’s finest work and arguably the most famous work of British Romanticism. The story behind the writing of Frankenstein is famous.
Today was the day I thought would never come. “The Traitor” is completely 100% finished.
Well I say “finished” but I am getting the beta reader team back together again and the book is now being sent out to them for reading, edification, and digesting. No doubt I will have to do a few quick rewrites in places before its official release date on March 31st.
For some reason, putting the book out the next day on April 1st – April Fool’s Day – just felt too weird!
I am now taking a break from Department 89 and doing some other stuff. Sophie will be back in the summer and in the meantime, I will be doing a crime series, a children’s book, and a non-fiction health book.
When I was younger, I had four main ambitions in life – get married, have kids, have at least one dog, and get at least two books written and published.
Well, the kids are never going to happen now for a variety of reasons. But the others have come true. I’ve been married since 2010, I have my beautiful dog, Schlumpf. And now my second book – “The Reichsbank Gold” – is about to come out at the end of this month.
The first book though, “The Renegade Spy“, has been out since the beginning of August. Last week, I finally got the paperback in my hands, and let’s just say it was a proud, triumphant, and emotional moment for me. As I said to my mother later, it was (and will remain) one of the best moments of my life.
All I have ever wanted is for my name to be on a book cover. To create something which will be around long after I am gone. Something to prove I existed. Something tangible that I can hold and say to people “I made that”.
I am currently working on Book 3 of the Department 89 series that I want to bring out on Christmas Day. But writers block is really biting me in the ass at the moment over that one right now. So in an attempt to clear my head a bit, I spontaneously decided to start something totally new today. I won’t say too much about it, except to say “serial killers in space”. I’ll tell you more if I see the story coming together to form what might become a book!
There are so many books – both fiction and non-fiction – about Winston Churchill and the war, that it has become an industry in itself. Every year, historians and publishers try to find the next unique angle about Winston, and as much as I love the man, it does get tiring after a while seeing yet another Churchill book.
Which is why I feel sorry for Churchill’s predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, who has been relegated to Churchill’s shadow ever since he resigned as Prime Minister in 1940. The sole blame for the war has been dumped on his shoulders, and despite a great deal of misguided policies designed to avoid another war, you could see that his heart was in the right place. Nevertheless, he has been put down as a bogeyman in British politics. The man who grovelled to Hitler.
So I was delighted when Robert Harris – an author whom I deeply admire – wrote and brought out “Munich“. It is a fictionalised account of the Munich agreement in 1938, when Hitler was trying to take the Sudetenland back into the German fold. Unbeknown to everyone else however, he was already prepared to take the rest of Czechoslovakia too, but Chamberlain was convinced that the Sudetenland would be Hitler’s final territorial demand, and then all would be well in the world. Well, we all know how THAT turned out.
The story starts with a man called Hugh Legat, who is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries. He is caught up in the maelstrom of the Sudeten crisis, and little does he know that his past is about to catch up with him. A German whom he went to Oxford with, Paul Hartmann, is now working for the German foreign ministry as a translator, and he comes into possession of written proof of Hitler’s real intentions in Europe. Appalled, he decides to pass the information to the only man in a position to get them to Chamberlain – Legat. For his part, Legat has no idea that Hartmann is working with the anti-Nazi underground to topple the Nazi regime.
Through a various sequence of events, both Legat and Hartmann discover they have a chance to meet at Munich. The British Secret Service send Legat in undercover with Chamberlain’s delegation, and Hartmann pulls strings to get into the conference. But Hartmann is being tailed by a very suspicious SS officer who is determined to find some proof of Hartmann’s guilt.
This is a book that you will be immersed in until the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it will give you a new perspective on Neville Chamberlain. One day perhaps, his reputation will be salvaged, which is only right.
MI5 has been around for hundreds of years and faces down many enemies who routinely threaten the internal security of the United Kingdom. They are overworked, underpaid, and understaffed. Until recently, it was official government policy not to acknowledge they even existed, and the name of their Director-General was highly top-secret.
Despite their many triumphs during World War II, in particular the Double Cross system (where they turned captured German spies back against their German masters in a massive misinformation campaign), it was the Soviet KGB which almost brought MI5 down. As Chapman Pincher notes in his informative and engrossing book, Their Trade Is Treachery, KGB penetration of MI5 is suspected to have reached the very top – to the Director-General, Roger Hollis, himself (although that was never proven conclusively).
Everybody knows the big names – Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, but the idea that the MI5 Director-General himself was passing information to the Russians – and betraying his own agents – is staggering to contemplate. When his own agents suspected him, he shut down all attempts to investigate him. He fired persistent colleagues who refused to give up, the Prime Ministers of the day were either kept in the dark or decided not to ask questions they didn’t want to know the answers to. In short, it was an institutional monumental fuck-up, the likes of which MI5 are still struggling to overcome over 40 years later.
Chapman Pincher was a newspaper journalist covering security stories. So he knew the players inside MI5 and MI6. He was fed information and his scoops helped bring down foreign spies and expose the failings of the agencies that were meant to be guarding British interests. Now he has brought all of that information together in this book – and it is a gripping, well written account.
My only complaint would be that it is extremely dated. It only goes up to the 1980’s, and since Pincher is long dead, there won’t be any sequels. But since the USSR died its own death at the end of the 1980’s, any sequel wouldn’t be that long anyway.
Saying that however, with Russia experiencing a resurgence and the FSB exercising its enormous clout again, this is a very timely book to read. You will be reminded that complacency leads to history repeating itself. Since we barely survived last time, a repeat would be disastrous.