Huge jollities over poor old Rudy. The weekend when Endeavour Books put Death Order up for free, the Independent did a huge story headlined Adolf Hitler's Nazi deputy Rudolf Hess ‘murdered by British agents’ to stop him spilling wartime secrets - which is the nub of the novel.
Within hours the Daily Mail had lifted the Indy’s story, and fully credited their source, which in modern journalism terms might be something of a first! They also added a further twist: Nazi Rudolf Hess was 'murdered by British agents in prison to stop him revealing war secrets but Scotland Yard was told NOT to investigate'
Both papers named the Scotland Yard detective who undertook the enquiries – Detective Chief Superintendent Howard Jones – and also revealed that his investigation had been abruptly terminated on the orders of the DPP! They also named the British Army surgeon, Dr Hugh Thomas, who said the medical evidence proved that the prisoner who died in Spandau could not have been Hess.
In 1918, as an infantryman, a rifle bullet had passed through his lung from front to back. But Thomas revealed that the inevitable scars on the man’s torso did not in fact exist.
Germany, where the Nazis are still a source of shame and pain, were not long behind. The English-language internet news source The Local discovered a completely new angle. They reported:
The personal files of Rudolf Hess – Hitler’s right-hand man who flew to Britain in 1941 to attempt to end the war with a peace treaty – are going up for auction in the US. They could shed light on one of World War II's more mysterious events.
This story, if true, is strange indeed. The papers were generally thought to have been lost to posterity many years ago. Like the British files, they will almost certainly have been heavily redacted if they do ever see the light of day.
The Lancashire Magazine took a robustly local line, with the heading MANCHESTER AUTHOR SCOOPS SCOTLAND YARD. Their piece was written by my friend and colleague Andrew Rosthorn, who has been investigating the Hess conundrum for many years. Characteristically generous, for if anyone scooped anyone, it was Andrew himself, not me.
Another friend who has been in on the tale for several years, Bernhard Mueller, is now well into translating the book into German. Be interesting to see what they make of it…
Anyway – as they say – life goes on, and another bonus of throwing in my lot with an ebook publisher rather than work my poor son Matti Gardner’s fingers to the bone is that they wanted me to write a sea book, as well. They knew of my novels based around the life and times of William Bentley, and when I told them they would be coming out soon anyway, asked for a novella, as a sort of ‘tie-in and taster.’
That struck me as a fantastic idea, so I threw myself into the fray. The result was a thirty thousand worder called The Devil’s Luck, which introduces Bentley’s extremely dangerous and unpleasant uncle, Daniel Swift, as a midshipman in his early twenties.
Among other things, the book limns in the way in which his later character became set. And gave me the chance to meet and develop some other characters, including one I fell in love with instantly, called Charlie Raven – or Craven Raven as he is cruelly dubbed by the captain of the Pointer.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed writing it, and it will be up on Amazon very shortly. I’ll announce it on Facebook and Kindle.
And in a way, it was all down to Herr Hess. Strange, isn’t it?