The city is in ruins and divided between American, British, French, and Russian sectors. German war veteran and police detective Gregor Reinhardt is trying to reassemble his life but, like his city, it’s been smashed into too many pieces.
Not only does he have to contend with the loss of his family and his home, but also guilt over the war and the politics of a police department in which everyone has a sponsor among one of the occupying powers and geopolitics gets played out in the office.
And now he has a serial murderer on his hands, one who shoves sand or water down his victim’s throats in order to suffocate or drown them. Throw in some unrepentant Nazis and a frighteningly efficient Soviet officer, and Reinhardt is up for a long case.
I found this book by accident while browsing through my local bookshop and it’s the best mystery novel I’ve read all year. McCallin is a master storyteller who evokes the grim, surreal landscape of postwar Berlin.
As he takes us along on Reinhardt’s case, we get to experience the sights, sounds, and even the smells and tastes of a once-proud city trying to dig itself out from disaster. The author has clearly done his homework and we learn all sorts of fascinating details about life for regular Germans after the war and the politics of the four “Allied” powers ruling Germany.
Thus I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Slovenia a few years ago. This compact little country is affordable, easy to travel around in, and has a lovely stretch of the Alps. More importantly, it has heaps of historic buildings, including an estimated 700 castles.
Zaprice Castle is one of Slovenia’s most famous and most visited. It’s located in Kamnik, a small town at the foot of the Alps just 45 minutes from the capital Ljubljana. The castle stands on a hill at the edge of town, making it a clear landmark.
I just finished reading Antony Beevor’s Berlin: The Downfall 1945 as part of my research for my Volkssturm novel. For sweep, excitement, and fine attention to telling detail, it rivals Lords of the Atlas as my favorite history book.
One of the things that had me shaking my head all the way through Beevor’s book is just how great the level of denial was on all levels of German society, especially at the top. With the Russians rolling across the border and most German cities already in ruins, the Nazi high command was still obsessed with petty power struggles and dinner parties. The common people had a bit more of a clue, but still clung to a desperate hope that somehow everything would turn out OK. In the interest of history not repeating itself, here are ten signs that your evil empire is about to collapse. This may come in handy some day.
I went to see Dunkirk here in Oxford with a bit of trepidation. Having grown up on war movies, both American and British, I’ve grown weary of the thinly veiled propaganda and nationalism that most of these movies are. I do like a good war movie, but I always find myself squirming in the seat at some of the politics.
Unfortunately there was quite a bit of that in Dunkirk, and yet it is a brilliant film nonetheless. Filmmaker Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy) has made a film that’s not so much about fighting as it is about the reaction of various individuals to violence and the threat of death. Zeta Moore has already reviewed this film for Black Gate, but I wanted to add my two cents.
Propaganda photo of the Volkssturm. This civilian militia appears to be well armed, but in fact borrowed their weapons from a regular army unit and had to give them back after the parade. The Volkssturm received castoff uniforms or no uniforms at all. The most appropriate uniform would have been a big bulls-eye on their chest
I’m in the process of researching one of my upcoming novels, Volkssturm, about the German civilian militia formed in October 1944. The Volkssturm called up all able-bodied men aged 16 to 60 who weren’t already in uniform. It also brought in some women. Most of these people weren’t particularly fit, or had been working in essential jobs such as armament factories and had been made redundant due to chronic shortage of material and Allied bombing. Even those who remained in essential jobs often served in local Volkssturm units charged with protecting their home area. The idea was to launch “total war” against the Allied invaders and save the homeland from devastation. We all know how well that worked out.
On a beautiful sunny day, there’s nothing I enjoy more than walking in the English countryside. Unfortunately, most of this August has been more like autumn, with overcast skies, unseasonably cold temperatures, and rain. Ah well.
But at least I got out for one walk, along an eight-mile stretch of the Thames Path National Trail. The trail took me from the old Anglo-Saxon burgh of Wallingford to the pretty little village of Goring-on-Thames. Like most of the Thames Path, it’s an easy, level walk through attractive countryside and historic sights.
Today we’re talking to Jack Badelaire, author of numerous action books in the tradition of the 70s “Men’s Adventure” genre. His best known work is his Commandoseries of WWII action novels. Jack reflects on indie publishing and the state of the genre.
Full Disclosure: Jack is a critique partner of mine. He’s also a fellow member of the secret commando group Sicko Slaughterers (“SS,” we really need a new acronym), which goes after terrorists and human traffickers. So far I’ve killed 1,487 sickos, while wimpy little Jack has only killed 1,059. He gets props for killing that ISIS commander in Raqqa with a blender, though.
Anyway, on with the interview.
The Men’s Adventure fiction of the 60s and 70s is obviously a huge influence on your work. You’ve mentioned that you think there’s a lot more going on in these books than many people think. Could you expand on that?
This genre of fiction was brewed up during an especially turbulent period of history. The Cold War, Vietnam, rejuvenated organized crime syndicates, the rise of international terrorist organizations, the War on Drugs… and those are just the chart-toppers. These post-modern pulps of the period were a direct reflection of, if we want to get Freudian for a moment, society’s collective Id. The Executioner went out and slaughtered Mafiosi because we wished someone would, and Phoenix Force obliterated terrorists because we wished someone would. Even today, the modern successors to these stories feature ex-SEALs and former Delta Force operators hunting terrorists and organized crime syndicates, stories little different than those written thirty or forty years ago.
When the Nazi Party took over in 1933, Germany was already a leading nation for film production. From the late 1910s through the early 1930s, its silent films and early talkies were seen all across Europe and were popular in the United States as well. But the year saw a major change in the nation’s film industry as well as its political makeup. Like with every other industry, movie making had to subordinate itself to the goals of National Socialism.
The Nazi party’s first targets were Communists and Socialists, who had fought against them for control of the streets. Many lives were lost on both sides during this era of riots, and one of the more famous of those was a member of the Hitler Youth named Heini Völker, who was killed while distributing Nazi flyers in a Communist neighborhood. There had already been a popular book about the boy published in 1932 titled Hitlerjunge Quex. (“Quex” means “quicksilver”, a nickname Heini got for being such an eager worker). This was turned into a film in the first year Hitler was in power.
We talk about castles a fair amount here on Black Gate, which is hardly surprising. But the Middle Ages weren’t the only or even the most productive period for building fortifications. At the start of World War Two, countries all over Europe feverishly built defenses against possible invasion.
The United Kingdom was one of the leaders in this movement. Convinced that a German invasion was imminent, the government ordered the construction of a vast network of pillboxes. Many of these defended the beaches and ports. Others were set along important canals and roads. In all, more than 18,000 pillboxes were constructed during the war.