Authors: Len Deighton
Tags: #Action & Adventure, #Espionage, #Fiction, #Historical, #Mystery, #Spies, #Suspense, #Thriller, #World War II
An imprint of HarperCollins
77–85 Fulham Palace Road,
Hammersmith, London W6 8JB
First published in Great Britain by Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd 1981
Copyright © Pluriform Publishing Company BV 1981
Introduction copyright © Pluriform Publishing Company BV 2009
Len Deighton asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work
Cover design © Arnold Schwartzman 2009
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
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Source ISBN: 9780586054475
Ebook Edition © NOVEMBER 2009 ISBN: 9780007347759
‘The Second World War produced, in the end, one victor, the United States, one hero, Great Britain, one villain, Germany …’
Hitler, by N. Stone
Table of Contents
Adolf Hitler laughed. He threw his head back and his mouth flashed with gold inlays. The onetime manager of Berlin’s grandest movie theatre told me that. Hitler was a movie fan and despite having his private theatre he liked to show himself amid Berlin’s nightlife. Like many despots, he liked to show the world a human side.
Research (whether for history book, cookery books or fiction) is best sought from eye-witness evidence. Historians depend too readily on documents, and my experience is that paperwork is often manipulated by both official and private sources. Talking to participants and appraising their reliability is a test of the historian’s skills. Paperwork is an essential backup for it provides a cross-reference and a context.
Long periods in Austria and Germany – both East and West – enabled me to spend time with many people who had held important positions in the Third Reich. Among them I could count a dozen or more people who had spent time with Hitler face to face. The episodes you will read concerning Hitler’s private train, and about the way the German gold reserves were hidden in the Kaiseroda Mine at Merkers are as authentic as I could make them. I was able to compare German and American eye-witness accounts with material from US archives in Washington DC. Most of what I used was declassified in response to my application. It works like this: you have someone with a high security classification seek out the material you need. That researcher goes to the top to ask for declassified status. It’s a cumbersome business but it was the only way I could obtain the official documentation about the Kaiseroda Mine, which plays a large part in the story you are about to read.
I have only used professional researchers on rare occasions. Research is the fun side of the writing business; why pay someone else to do it? For the episodes in Los Angeles research was simpler and personal. Bill Jordan, a senior figure in LAPD intelligence department, has always been a universally respected policeman. After fighting his way across the Pacific for the Marine Corps, Bill became a familiar figure to Beverly Hills night people as he patrolled that jurisdiction on his Harley Davidson motor cycle. It was Bill who regularly stopped to talk with a young girl sitting on the sidewalk staring into space or sometimes sobbing. That was Marilyn Monroe and she was not the only local resident to owe Bill a debt of gratitude for his care and consideration. In one of those ironic twists that life provides, it was Bill who was the investigating officer for the Bobby Kennedy assassination.
Bill arranged for me to go out at night with the Los Angeles police cars. It wasn’t like the movies and it wasn’t like any of the books I had read, but that time spent with the LA police left me with lasting respect and admiration for these decent young Americans who did this dangerous sort of job night after night.
Despite its shortcomings – and I am coming to those –
is one of my favourite books. It was also one of the most successful books I’d written up to that time. And behind the scenes it was one of the most fiercely criticized books too. Not long after publication, a member of the Churchill family wrote a letter of complaint to the publisher. And that wasn’t all: the advertising poster alone – a photo of Hitler shaking hands with Winston Churchill – was enough to have one of the most amusing and energetic members of House of Lords withdraw all copies of
from the hundreds of bookshops he controlled. There were cries of censorship and the order was reversed.
The furore caught me completely by surprise. I was in California and I found myself accused of planning a cunning advertising stunt from afar. I did not know whether to be flattered or insulted. I had always been a devout admirer of our wartime prime minister and I remain so. In any case it seemed a sad reflection on our times that these displays of frantic, if not to say antic, indignation were prompted by a story about Churchill attempting to negotiate peace. Could it really be defamatory to say that someone had tried to avoid the chronic misery and tens of millions of deaths of that terrible war?
In fact it was not the plot of
that caused the fuss. Hitler and Churchill had been subjected to many worse fates at the hands of ‘faction’ writers. The critics of
agreed on one point only; that my story was convincing. It was, they said angrily, written in such a way that readers would believe it. Did they want me to write a story that no one could believe?
This was the first spy story I’d written without the first-person narrative that had set Harry Palmer’s style in
The IPCRESS File
I employed what I believe is called a ‘cosmic’ framework but which nowadays some writers call the ‘omniscient’ style. This is a no-holds-barred device; you can be an authorial nobody or inside everyone’s head, you can move across the world without warning, delve far into the past and even address your reader with personal advice (don’t be scared; I don’t do that). In a first-person story, your hero is on every page whether you want him there or not. Cosmic formats diminish the importance of the central character. Perhaps I did not give him enough tender loving care, for Boyd Stuart is not an endearing hero. This may not have mattered except that I became more and more concerned with the character of Charles Stein.
I grew to like Charles Stein and he wrestled the book away from me. I have always avoided creating unredeemed villains. It’s better, I feel, and more human, to show the best side of the worst characters. Some years before, I had written
Declarations of War
, a book of war stories in which I polished men of lesser attraction and made them shine. It is a dangerous device but now I found myself doing exactly the same thing with the character of Charles Stein. Eventually it became the Charles Stein book and, looking back on it now, it is how I think of it, and that is why I like it. Hitler and Churchill have only walk-on parts. It is better that way.
Len Deighton, 2009
In May 1979, only days after Britain’s new Conservative government came to power, the yellow box that contains the daily report from MI6 to the Prime Minister was delivered to her by a deputy secretary in the Cabinet Office. He was the PM’s liaison with the intelligence services.
Although the contents of the yellow boxes are never graded into secret, top secret and so on – because all MI6 documents are in the ultra secret category – one rather hastily handwritten report was ‘flagged’. The PM noted with some surprise that it was the handwriting of Sir Sydney Ryden, the director general of MI6, and selected that document for immediate attention. Attached to the corner of it there was an advertisement, clipped from a film journal published in California the previous week.
A film producer, unlisted in any of the department’s reference books, announced that he was preparing what the advert described as ‘A major motion picture with a budget of fifteen million plus!’ It was a Second World War story about plundering German gold in the final days of the fighting. The cutting bore the rubber stamp of ‘Desk 32 Research’ and was signed by the clerk who had found it. ‘What is the final secret of the Kaiseroda mine?’ asked the advertisement. Kaiseroda had been underlined in red pencil to show the word which had alerted the Secret Intelligence Service clerk to the advert’s possible importance.
Normally the space the blue rubber-stamp mark provided for reference would have been filled with a file number but, to his considerable surprise, the research clerk had been referred to no file under the Kaiseroda reference. Instead the Kaiseroda card was marked, ‘To director general only.
The Prime Minister read carefully through Sir Sydney Ryden’s note, baffled more than once by the handwriting. Then she picked up the telephone and changed her day’s appointments to make a time to see him.
The elderly police constable on duty that afternoon inside the entrance lobby of 10 Downing Street recognized that the man accompanying Sir Sydney was the senior archivist from the Foreign Office documents centre. He was puzzled that he should be here at a time when the PM was so busy settling in but he soon forgot about it. During the installation of a newly elected government there are many such surprises.