Tag Archives: hitler

Reading list: Tudors, Nazis and Detectives

reading in the showerTime off = reading. Though to be honest, with me, any time = reading. Including in the shower. (Aah, maybe that was an admission too far. Anyway…)

All this time reading, when I should be WRITING, DAMMIT! But hang on. All is not lost. Stephen King is riding to the rescue of my beaten, bedraggled, often ignored but unbowed writer’s conscience.

In his excellent and useful book ON WRITING – A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT, Stephen King says this:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. there’s no way round these two things thast I’m aware of, no shortcut.

I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, mostly fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft: I read because I like to read.

Phew! I’m at least halfway to being a writer. And this is what else I’ve been reading in the past fortnight and recommend to you.

ALONE IN BERLIN, first published in 1947 as JEDER STIRBT FUR SICH ALLEIN by Hans Fallada (real name Rudolph Wilhelm Adolf Ditzen). He died the same year. The story is of a couple who, when their son is killed on the Russian front, begin to write and drop postcards attacking Hitler across the city.

Be This Guy: August Friedrich Landmesser, a worker at the Hamburg shipyard Blohm + Voss, refusing in 1936 to make a Nazi salute at a mass party rally. (However, I can now reveal the true story of his so-called heroic gesture. Too stingy to buy deoderant. Underarm sweat stains. Too embarrassed to raise his arm. This story is really all about personal hygiene. Don't be this guy.)

Be This Guy: August Friedrich Landmesser, a worker at the Hamburg shipyard Blohm + Voss, refusing in 1936 to make a Nazi salute at a mass party rally. (However, I can now reveal the true story of his so-called heroic gesture. Too stingy to buy deoderant. Underarm sweat stains. Too embarrassed to raise his arm. This story is really all about personal hygiene. Don’t be this guy.)

An insignificant gesture of resistance perhaps, but one that provokes a concerted Gestapo campaign to find and kill them. It’s an exciting and moral story and paints a vivid picture of Berlin and Berliners during their days of complacency and then anxiety as the war begins to turn against Germany.

It also addresses those questions like – What would I do? What could anyone do? What did anyone do?

We don’t tend to hear much about the small ordinary acts of heroic resistance by Germans to Nazism. Perhaps because it conflicts with the idea that all Germans were complict – along the lines of Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen. Or perhaps because it undermines the defence that the masses were swept along, ignorant and innocent of the evil deeds of a few – along the lines of the film The Nasty Girl (Das schreckliche Mädchen). People did know – some acted with honour and humanity. Bit like today.

An inspiring read.

I also enjoyed RATLINES by Stuart Neville, who also wrote the ingenious Ghosts of Belfast (published as The Twelve in the UK). I’ve clearly got Nazis on the brain, because this is about Nazis and their fellow travellers who have fled defeat and holed up in the Republic of Ireland. And now someone is hunting them done and killing them. It could wreck the upcoming visit of President John F Kennedy. It’s clever, imaginative and pacey.  The author’s note at the front had me hooked:

These things are known to be true: dozens of Nazis and Axis collaborators sought refuge in Ireland following the Second World War; in 1957, Otto Skorzeny [the German paratroop leader who dramatically rescued Mussolini]  was welcomed to a country club reception by the young politician Charles Haughey; Otto Skorzeny purchased Martinstown House in Kildare in 1959; in 1963, in response to a question by Dr Noel Browne TD, the Minister for Justice Charles Haughey told the Irish parliament that Otto Skorzeny had never been resident in Ireland.

The rest is just a story.

And it’s a good story Continue reading

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Filed under What I'm Reading

No smoke without fire

Not dead. (At time of writing.)

Here’s a little insight into how easy it is difficult it is to subvert international news organisations.

Somebody created a twitter account that looked very much like an official Sky News account. It had the Sky News logo as a picture. (I’m not linking to it.) Then they tweeted that Margaret Thatcher had died.

Oh dear.

Cue big excitement behind the scenes of news organisations.

It’s a prime example of how much more important it is to be right than to be first. (Sky News has had ascribed to it the motto “Never wrong for long” i.e. might not be dead now, but will be sometime. Or wrong news now, but we can correct it and then it’ll be fine. To be clear though, Sky wasn’t the culprit in this case. The twitter account was fake.)

Was the incorrect news of Margaret Thatcher’s death broadcast on the BBC Continue reading

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Filed under D - Loose Bloggers Consortium, media

The brave boy band of the Royal Airforce on beating Hitler

Writers are supposed to think of innovative ways to promote their writing these days. Short films are the latest thing. Here’s a good example that is advertising a thriller by a writer I like, Stuart Neville. It’s for his second book Collusion.

I got into reading Stuart via his earlier book The Ghosts of Belfast (in the USA) or The Twelve (in Ireland and the UK). It was excellent and based on an inspired idea. The only problem with his promotional film from Collusion is that, exciting as it is, it doesn’t really reflect the book itself.

Though thinking about it… Maybe that’s not a problem after all. As long as people reading the book.

Which means I could have found the perfect film for my own ebook The Obituarist. It features the heroes of a daring air mission to turn the tide of World War Two – now retired and facing a devious threat from an unexpected quarter. But how to convey the devil-may-care courage and insouciance of their younger days?

This film does it.

If you’re unlucky enough not have already encountered the Horrible Histories crew, I strongly commend them to you. Thanks to Barry Turley for giving me the idea. (The cheque is not in the post. Have you seen the price of stamps these days?)

And thanks also to this great blogger on the UK and US media – Bill at Trading as WDR – before whom the titans of telly tremble and the top ranks of radio reel Continue reading

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Katy Perry the new Hitler?

Not with that moustache Katy. You've got the uniform down though.

Is Katy Perry the new Hitler?

Maybe I should rephrase that. As you may know, we got famously the last time we met, nose to nose, popstrel to kangaroo. What I should have asked is this: Is Katy Perry’s Hot n Cold the new Downfall? Continue reading

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Filed under Music, politics

Why Lady Di is worse than Stalin…

It’s true. Lady Di is significantly worse than Stalin.

This may seem perverse – especially after what I said about Uncle Joe last time around. But last night was a revelation.

He may be a contender for the title of world’s worst butcher, but just to be clear – when it comes to a choice between Stalin, Lady Di and something like a peasant – Stalin is by far the preferred option, with Lady Di in second place.

As for third place – that’s just unthinkable undrinkable Continue reading

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Why is it easier to teach kids about Hitler than Stalin?

I’m telling my children about Hitler. But how do I teach them about Stalin?

Looking back to when I was at primary school, I was appallingly ignorant about the Holocaust.

I don’t want my children to be as in the dark. Continue reading

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Don’t mention the handbag

I have discovered the origin of the handbag. And there’s a shock in store for all you fashionistas out there. Two actually.

I made the surprising discovery in Berlin. But the trail goes back far at further – to ancient Babylon.

Unexpected discovery no.1

It wasn’t just you ladies who felt bereft without something gripped in your fist.

Here’s a full length picture of what could be the original bag man himself, showing off his latest to-die-for acquisition. Continue reading

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Filed under art, life