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Historical Accuracy Must Come First:  The Real History of The English Patient and Operation Condor

Samuel Marquis photoHistorical Accuracy Must Come First:  The Real History of The English Patient and Operation Condor

By Samuel Marquis

In May 1942, just before German General Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, launched his offensive to drive the British Eighth Army out of Egypt and take the Suez, the German Intelligence Service (Abwehr) sent a two-man espionage team to Cairo. Operation Condor, as it became known, proved to be the most legendary and historically misrepresented intelligence operation in the WWII North African campaign.

Lions of the Desert by Samuel MarquisIn Lions of the Desert: A True Story of WWII Heroes in North Africa, I tell the tale of the famous Operation Condor and 1941-1942 Desert War between Rommel’s Afrika Korps and Eighth Army, based on recently declassified British and U.S. Military Intelligence records. The romantic Condor story has been told many times before—most famously in Michael Ondaatje’s 1992 Booker Prize winning novel The English Patient and the 1996 Oscar-winning film of the same name—but until recently virtually every fictional and factual account has been historically inaccurate. That is precisely why I had to write my book.

The reason that the Condor story has been shrouded in mischaracterization and embellishment is simple: prior to the 2006 public declassification of large numbers of WWII government documents, the only historical records on the subject available to the general public were those written by the main protagonists, who had access to only limited information and were not privy to the larger military-intelligence picture. In addition, records have conclusively shown that these participants, despite laying down a solid foundation of verifiable facts, have in a number of critical places distorted and embroidered the Condor narrative to enhance their own role in history or embroider the story, making it difficult for subsequent researchers to separate fact from fiction. I had no idea of these shortcomings when I set out to write my book—but once I discovered them, the opportunity to set the record straight and tell the true Condor story became my raison d’être for penning my work.

The narrators of these early first-hand accounts included: Anwar el Sadat, the Egyptian Army officer, nationalist, and later President of Egypt (Revolt on the Nile, 1957); Lieutenant Johannes Eppler, the German spy in the Operation Condor affair (Rommel Ruft Cairo, 1960, later translated as Operation Condor: Rommel’s Spy, 1977); Leonard Mosley, a British war correspondent in Cairo at the time of Operation Condor, who conducted extensive interviews of Eppler prior to the German spy penning his own version of events (The Cat and the Mice, 1958); and Major A.W. Sansom, the head of British Field Security in Cairo who played a prominent role in the capture of Eppler and his espionage cohort Heinrich Gerd Sandstette (I Spied Spies, 1965). While accurate in many respects and unquestionably entertaining, these subjective first-hand accounts have one fatal flaw in common: they exaggerate the espionage accomplishments of several of the key players in the Condor story and, consequently, draw conclusions that are not supported by reliable historical documents.

Without access to the declassified materials and thus the bigger picture, subsequent writers on the subject—Anthony Cave Brown, Bodyguard of Lies (1976); David Mure, Practice to Deceive (1977) and Master of Deception (1980); Nigel West, MI6 (1983); and Richard Deacon, ‘C’: A Biography of Sir Maurice Oldfield (1985)—could not help but fall into the trap of relying heavily on the embellished accounts of the main protagonists. Following in a similar vein, the bestselling historical fiction novels by Ken Follett (The Key to Rebecca, 1980, made into a 1989 TV movie) and Len Deighton (The City of Gold, 1992) used both the original sources and the subsequent embellished works as the basis of their books, making for great entertainment but questionable historical accuracy with regard to the significant details of the North African campaign and Operation Condor.

As it turns out, the Condor story needs no embellishment. The real-life protagonists, while admittedly more prosaic than their highly fictionalized doppelgängers, are still fascinating in their own right. That became my overarching goal in Lions of the Desert: to tell the real story—a story that has captivated the minds of authors, historians, and filmmakers for the past three-quarters of a century but that, until quite recently, virtually no one has been able to get right due to lack of access to the full truth.

With that in mind, I told the story through the eyes of six of the main historical figures who lived through the larger-than-life events in Egypt and Libya in 1941-1942: Scottish Lieutenant Colonel David Stirling, founder and leader of the Special Air Service (SAS), a brigade of eccentric desert commandos that raided Axis aerodromes and supply lines; Rommel, who as commander of the legendary Afrika Korps very nearly succeeded in driving the British out of Egypt; Egyptian Hekmat Fahmy, the renowned belly dancer, regarded as a Mata-Hari-like German agent in previous accounts but in fact a far more intriguing and ambiguous character in real life; Colonel Bonner Fellers, the U.S. military attaché in Cairo, who was privy to critical Allied secrets in the North African theater and inadvertently played an important role in intelligence-gathering activities for both sides in the campaign; and Sansom and Eppler, who played a game of cat-and-mouse and whose real-life stories are finally told.

Of the above historical figures, Eppler, Sansom, and the Egyptian belly dancer Hekmat Fahmy have been the most grossly distorted in previous accounts—primarily because of Eppler’s and Mosley’s embellished stories that set the tone but also due in part to the security chief Sansom’s self-serving recording of history in his own book. History has shown that Eppler was not quite the master spy portrayed in his own imagination or in books and movies; Hekmat was no Mata Hari at all but was a legendary entertainer and important member of Cairene high society; and Sansom was not the Sam-Spade-like sleuth who solved the case but one of several diligent British intelligence officers who helped catch the two German spies. In fact, Operation Condor ultimately proved to be more comical farce than an intelligence success story; in the end, the German operatives that have been portrayed as virtuoso master spies in books and the silver screen for several decades emerge with little credit from the affair. But it is precisely the sloppily real and deeply flawed human element that makes the Condor story so engaging.

From my standpoint, therefore, it was critical to present Eppler and Fahmy not as the ruthless master German operatives and Sansom as the master British sleuth of previous highly fictionalized accounts, but as the people they truly were with warts and all. To accurately portray the historical figures in the book, I placed the characters where they actually were during a given recorded historical event and use, to the extent possible, their actual words based on recently declassified British and American case files, contemporary transcripts, trial documents, memoirs, and other quoted materials. Like Michael Shaara in his excellent historical novel about the Battle of Gettysburg, The Killer Angels, I did not “consciously change any fact” or “knowingly violate the action.” The interpretations of character and motivation were still ultimately a part of my overall imaginative landscape, but the scenes themselves and the historical figures were deliberately rendered as historically accurately as a non-fiction history book.

Why? Because truth in historical fiction is paramount and not something to be compromised. Because all the other important things in a novel—sympathetic characters, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and unexpected twists and turns—spring from portraying ones beloved heroes and villains in all their glory and infamy just like the real-world, flawed historical figures they were in life. The bottom line is that history itself provides plenty of conflict, tension, and drama, and does not need to be consciously changed to generate more excitement. For Lions of the Desert, I felt it was up to me as the author to select those scenes of historical significance and bring them back to life in vivid color, while filling in between known historical events with scenes that shed light on the historical figures’ true motivation and character as revealed from the recently declassified documents and latest research.

While recently declassified government files form the backbone of Lions of the Desert, the original eyewitness accounts of Sansom, Eppler, Mosley, and Sadat have still proved useful—but only where supported by other eyewitness accounts, government records, or wireless decrypts. As David Mure, author of Master of Deception, states, “The Condor story has been told many times, always with new dimensions and variations; it is a tangled web indeed.” Not anymore. With the relevant declassified WWII records now available, the true Condor story can now be told—and that is precisely what I have done. Because telling the truth and getting the story right matters in historical fiction.

In fact, nothing matters more.

Biography

The ninth great-grandson of legendary privateer Captain William Kidd, Samuel Marquis is the bestselling, award-winning author of a World War Two Series, the Nick Lassiter-Skyler International Espionage Series, and historical pirate fiction. His novels have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, received multiple national book awards (Foreword Reviews Book of the Year, American Book Fest Best Book, USA Best Book, IPPY, Beverly Hills, Next Generation Indie, Colorado Book Awards), and garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews (5 Stars). Book reviewers have compared Marquis’s WWII thrillers Bodyguard of Deception, Altar of Resistance, and Spies of the Midnight Sun to the epic historical novels of Tom Clancy, John le Carré, Ken Follett, Herman Wouk, Daniel Silva, Len Deighton, and Alan Furst. Mr. Marquis’s newest historical novel, Lions of the Desert is the true story of the WWII 1941-1942 Desert War in North Africa and Operation Condor based on recently declassified British Secret MI6 files and U.S. Military Intelligence records. His website is samuelmarquisbooks.com and for publicity inquiries, please contact JKS Communications at info@jkscommunications.com.

 

Interview with Award Winning Author Claire Fullerton @cfullerton3

Unless you’ve been hiding under a CPU and working on your own book, then you know how much I’ve enjoyed a book called Dancing to an Irish Reel by Award Winning author Claire Fullerton. But I made a mistake with that book review. And I want to correct that up front. I wrote the review too soon after reading the book and failed to give time for reflection and full comprehension to take place. I didn’t take it all in and examine all the nuances hidden within the story. Every day since then I’ve been working on some aspect of the Claire Fullerton Experience. Yes, I call time spent working with an author an Experience like that because it does not normally end with a review and/or an interview. There is a lot more going on in the background than anyone other than one of my authors knows.

During the Experience I realized just how much Claire put in her book and how much she put in to her book. The more I think about it, the more I love the book. I don’t normally dwell very long after a review and interview, I always have the next to go to and I have since. But this would had a truth about it, a realness that one connects with and it stays with you. But before I get too carried away, unless I’m already too late, let’s get to my discussion with Claire Fullerton, Award Winning author and #1  GoodReads Irish Romance.

Claire Fullerton Interview

Claire, for a book that finds itself at times falling into the category of Romance, I have to say I was surprised by what I found with keeping that genre in mind. Did you set out to write a Romance? Was that your goal?

I’m so glad you asked this question, Ronovan. Actually, “Dancing to an Irish Reel” is literary fiction, which is a genre that means true to life. It’s a story about those near misses people experience on the road to a love that endures. I can’t think of anyone I know who hasn’t been in this situation before; where all the variables of attraction are in play, while two people are coming to know each other, yet for one reason or another, they can’t seem to get it together. But there is always such hope, and I think new love is typically replete with uncertainty. There is excitement and high hopes, yet on the flip side there is unpredictability and attendant fears. Extending oneself in new love can be risky and can leave one feeling vulnerable. It’s my belief that most people experience uncertainty and doubt when in the throes of new love, it’s just a question of to what degree they’re going to admit it! This is what “Dancing to an Irish Reel” is about. This is also why this book does not fall into the romance genre, but it does explore the subject.

Actually when I was thinking about this interview and the book I thought of real life with those moments of almost romance, or more relationship to tell the truth.

I think so as well. This is why I gave the reader Hailey’s thoughts throughout this book. I’m fascinated by the way people will say and do things in order to project a certain appearance, while thinking something completely at variance with their words and actions. I wanted the reader to know Hailey’s personality as she made her way in rural Ireland; that she saw things from an American frame of reference for much of this book, yet as the story progresses, that frame of reference was changed as she came to understand the Irish culture. I think this is what people do in life: they tend to resist what is new because their mind is already made up, but if one allows themselves to be influenced, there is much to learn!

Dancing to an Irish Reel
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The role of Hailey Crossan is a strong woman who knows who she is and what she wants. Where did those characteristics come from, as far as a model for her?

I love your use of the word role! I, too, see this book as a movie! You’ve just made my day! But seriously, and to your astute point, I know more women like Hailey Crossan than otherwise. When I consider all the close girlfriends, with whom I was lucky enough to grow up in Memphis, I realize they are all nobody’s fool. My mother was the same way. The women in my life have always been self-confident and self-reliant. They have a savvy, keen eye with regard to sizing people up. And the thing I’ve found with many of my friends is they rarely let on. They prefer to keep things close to the vest, so you have to know them for a while before you realize how aware they really are. This is how I wanted to write the character of Hailey. It was necessary that she was self- sufficient and sure of herself in order to move to another country without fear. She had to be able to hold her own in her new environment because she was a fish-out-of-water, so to speak.

I think your description of close to the vest fits Hailey well, now that I think about her. Cautious is another word that comes to mind. Recently I became a fan of a young man named Hozier, an Irish blues singer/musician/songwriter of about 26. I couldn’t help but picture him during my reading of Dancing to an Irish Reel. Did you have any images in mind, anyone in particular when you were writing Liam Hennessey?

Generally yes, but no one specifically. But I’ll use Hozier to make a point because the look of him is a good example; it is common in Ireland. There are many with dark hair and fair skin. And having lived in Ireland myself, I found the men to be subtle and beautiful, almost with a graceful, feminine quality. And those artistically attuned are the sensitive sort. This is what I had in mind when I created Liam Hennessey.

Oh, and one other thing before we move on, why that name, why Dancing to an Irish Reel?

Spiddal Pier Galway Bay Ireland
Spiddal Pier Shore Galway Bay, Ireland

In Irish traditional music, a reel is a tune that is circular; it goes back and forth and in and out in its execution, and to the listener it may seem unstable, but it is not. A reel has a plan! The title “Dancing to an Irish Reel” is meant to evoke this concept. It refers to the push and pull of the story and the search for stability. Hailey’s navigation of Ireland as an outsider and her sometimes off, sometimes on relationship with Liam Hennessey left her in the position of having to artfully manage a shifting tide, so to speak. She had to learn the ways of the Irish culture in order to live there inconspicuously, and the unpredictability of Liam Hennessey’s actions left her constantly searching for solid ground!

I’ve seen your handling of Ireland compared to that of one of Ireland’s most famous and beloved authors the late Maeve Binchy. When you see comparisons like that what comes to mind?

With regard to Maeve Binchy, because she was Irish, she handled Irish nuances effortlessly, as a matter of course. They were not unusual to her at all, but she reveled in their specific, unique quality. With regard to Ireland, she was in it as well as of it, yet able to stand back and observe the islands peculiarity in a way that celebrated its facets. I sought to do exactly this in “Dancing to an Irish Reel” because I carry a love and appreciation for the land and its culture. I find the Irish people earthy and authentic, unpretentious and in possession of a good perspective with regard to what is important in life. They place importance on quality of life and seem to me to accept life on life’s terms, as opposed to trying to manipulate their way through it.

When you were writing the book, was it an organic experience or did you have a specific outline in mind first? And whichever way, is that the same way you wrote A Portal in Time, your previous release?

Spanish Arch Galway
Spanish Arch Galway, Ireland

For both books, I had a point to make, as in something to say. I started with a premise as a statement then set about getting there via a story that unfolded. As for an outline, my process is very loose. I leave room for the story to tell itself, which is something best exemplified as I write dialogue. I never know ahead of time what the dialogue will be, yet I aim for information to be revealed. We learn about characters through what they say and what other characters say about them. In both books, I was mindful of the spirit of intention and had a loose outline of what was going to happen with regard to turning points. I simply held a firm impression of who the characters were to make the events in both books plausible.

Reading your book and the description of A Portal in Time, I get the feeling of your enjoyment of writing about past lives, mystical and spiritual elements. Is this something that comes natural to you, I mean as in the aspects of writing?

A Portal in Time Claire Fulerton
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My introspection must be showing! In truth, I’m not completely decisive on the subject of past lives one way or the other, but I do love the mystery. Perhaps the idea of past lives shares a blurred line with genetic memory, who’s to say? If you consider the idea of genetic memory, what it basically proposes is that we carry the impressions and experiences of our forebears because they are past down to us through genetics like imprints. This explains inherited talents and proclivities in an understandable way. And if you look at, say, the Druids, they didn’t believe so much in past lives as they did in the transmigration of the soul, meaning we are souls gathering wisdom in this business of living on earth, but it takes many incarnations to accumulate something with staying power. We can’t just get it all in one lifetime, if the aim is enlightenment, i.e, perfection. And because it is an ongoing endeavor, the idea is we return to this earthly plane repeatedly, where we try on different hats. I think there is confusion over the idea of past-lives because it places importance on the experience of the human as opposed to the experience of the soul as it seeks alignment with the divine, however you choose to define the divine. But this subject is important, and it’s enough for me to be mindful of the question. I think Sting touched upon something beautiful when he proclaimed we are spirits in the material world, and I know he wasn’t the first to posit this, but he did make a proclamation that brought it to the public fore.

Everyone that’s read my review of your book knows I loved it, and that I suggested a sequel. We’ve talked about it and it hadn’t come to you as an idea until then. But you set it up so well with the tarot card reading of Hailey. Do you think maybe some of those outside forces were guiding your story during certain parts? Maybe they want you to take another trip to Ireland.

Actually, I have been back to Ireland since I wrote “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” and I plan on going again! As for going back to Ireland in a sequel, I never thought along those lines because “Dancing to an Irish Reel” is a self-contained story with a point to it, which is to say we make our choices in life and from them our lives are set on a consequential course. As of this interview, I am not ruling a sequel out. I’ll let Hailey decide.

Now let’s get something a little more personal. We have a lot in common. Southern. Music business. Location of living for a time. How does your time in the South influence your writing, and is that part of your heritage something that you think might have drawn you to Ireland?

Ireland and the American South share something in common, but do keep in mind that much of the American South was settled by the Scotch-Irish, so perhaps it is something inherent in the area. Both areas spawn terrific communicators in possession of the gift of the entertaining story. It is a cultural way of being in the world, and therefore something passed down to each generation. In both the South and Ireland, I’ve found extremely colorful characters, completely unabashed in personality. As for the South influencing my writing, all I can say is that I write as I think, from the internal monologue I have in my head as well as how I see the world. The South has clearly influenced this as an environment because it is my frame of reference.

What’s the most satisfying thing that has happened to you so far while you’ve been an author?

The writer’s life style. I write daily for one reason or another. It has transpired that with two books in the world and the dynamic that promotion brings therefore, that I am always writing something, and this is due to the affiliations my books have given me. Take for instance the Irish online community “The Wild Geese.” They’re a group of the most erudite, Ireland loving writers I’ve ever come across, all with the desire to communicate and share their love of the island. I contribute to this community regularly by writing pieces that appear as blog posts, but what they really are is a way to celebrate the business of what it means to be Irish! So there is that gift, but I have also spent the last two years writing my third novel, which has been a joyous process. Then, of course, I contribute to magazines. It seems I’m always writing something and sharing it, which to me is simply the high art of communication for its own sake. All this is my idea of fulfilling days with a purpose. Can’t get more satisfying than this!

Do you have a favorite line in Dancing to an Irish Reel?

Yes, it is this: “There’s a feel about Galway that you can wear around your shoulders like a cloak.” It is very true.

Thank you, Ronovan. This has been big fun! Thank you for supporting writers through your exceptional blog.

About Claire

Claire Fullerton AuthorClaire Fullerton grew up in Memphis, TN and now lives in Malibu, CA. She is the author of literary fiction, “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” which is set in Connemara, Ireland, where she once lived. She is also the author of “A Portal in Time”: A paranormal mystery that unfolds in two time periods set on California’s hauntingly beautiful Monterey Peninsula, in a little village called Carmel-by-the-Sea. Both of Claire’s novels are published by Vinspire Publishing. Claire is a three- time award winning essayist, a former newspaper columnist, a contributor to magazines including Celtic Life International and Southern Writers Magazine. She is a five-time contributor to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series and can be found on Goodreads as well as the website under her name. Currently, Claire is writing her third novel, which is a Southern family saga based on her award winning essay in the 2013 San Francisco Writer’s Conference.

You can connect with Claire on Facebook and Twitter.

Get her books by clicking the book images above or clicking here for her Amazon Author Page.

Please share this Interview in order for Claire to receive as much support as we all may possibly give.



Interview by Ronovan

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Book Review. Interconnected by Mary Meddlemore/Martie Preller

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Title:   Interconnected (Book 4. The Story Dimension)
Author:   Mary Meddlemore/Martie Preller
ASIN:  B00QFNX0YO
Published:  9th January 2015
Pages:  131
Genre:  Fiction/Fantasy/Metaphysical

Body of review:

I’ve had the pleasure of reading the previous three books in the Story Dimension Series (and also the stories in The Seventh Sheep) even before it had taken full shape. The connections are now quite clear but I would find it difficult to comment on how easy it will be to read this book in isolation from the other three (Entering, In the Reign of the Ilev, and Forever After, A Dimensional Love Story) although I suspect this novel would be a wonderful flight of fancy and a puzzle on its own right.

If I had to highlight a theme that runs through the series it is the importance and the power of stories and how they can conjure up feelings, bring people together, and change people’s lives.

Interconnected has two distinct parts with the same protagonist but not quite. A young woman called Christina in nowadays South Africa taking part in a photo shoot that ends up being only an excuse for…mysterious happenings is the main character in part one. How does she relate to the girl by the same name in the second part, who is living in a post-apocalyptic society, and trying to find a place to rebuild a civilisation? I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to read it to find out.

Mary Meddlemore, the character who plays a very important part in Forever After, and alter ego of award-winning South African writer Martie Preller, weaves poetic language, philosophical musings and ethical questions into a tale that challenges our understanding of narrative, reality and authorship.

A young woman trying to find her true identity; the same (?) young woman trying to build a new civilization by reading stories, preserving books and liberating Lady Liberty. This is a book of magic and wonders, and does not fit easily in any genres. Full of unique characters, mystical events and layer upon layer of stories and interpretations, Interconnected proclaims the deep connection between all human beings, the beauty of language and the way we create meaning through narration. If you have plenty of imagination and love books and stories, I recommend you go exploring the Story Dimension Series.

What the book is about: A young woman, Christina, trying to find her identity/save the world in different versions of reality.

 Book Highlights: Strange happenings, alternative realities, amazing characters, bizarre creatures, and a novel about the importance of stories and books.

 Challenges of the book: I have read the previous books in the series and could tie together the connections and clues of the story, but it might be more challenging for people not familiar with the previous series.

 What do you get from it: A flight of fancy and access to the work of an extraordinary writer whose work is, mostly, only available in Afrikaans.

 What I would have changed if anything:  I might have added more of an introduction or recapitulation of Forever After or even have published the two books as a pack or a combo.  On the other hand I’m a big fan of Forever After so this might not be such an issue for readers who come to this work anew.

 Who Would I recommend this book to?: Anybody who loves stories and has plenty of imagination.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 5/5
Readability: 4.5/5
Recommended: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
 

Buy it at:  Amazon
Format & Pricing: At the moment only available in Amazon in e-version
Paperback:  
Kindle: $3.94

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QFNX0YO/

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Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://OlgaNM.wordpress.com

http://www.OlgaNM.com

 

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