Published: 28/02/2018
ISBN: 9781788037884
Format: Paperback

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I’ve been a national newspaper journalist for many years but have always nursed an ambition to write novels about my favourite historical period - before, during and after the two world wars. I hope m... read more

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The Man Who Said No!
by David Laws

Munich, 1938: An American foreign correspondent gatecrashes the pre-war Munich Conference to protest against British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s surrender to Hitler – more than 70 years later it’s like the incident never happened – hushed up with the man disappeared, never to be seen again. Now his granddaughter demands to know the truth of what really happened.

Britain, 2015: Emma Drake, a history researcher at Cambridge, has aways been puzzled that her grandfather’s disappearance appears to be a closed book. The infamous Munich agreement was signed; Chamberlain returned home to be a short-lived hero for winning “peace in our time”; Hitler emerged unscathed to wage his war; and her grandfather vanished from the pages of history.

Feisty, thirsting for thrills and ambitious for success, Emma is chosen to reopen the missing grandfather mystery. She battles a series of enemies before the trail takes her in a wholly unexpected direction to a forest 50 miles west of Auschwitz to trace partisan action against Hitler’s Final solution.

Inspired by the work of Robert Harris, Robert Goddard and Philip Kerr, Munich is a heart-stopping thriller that explores the minds of those involved in the infamous Munich Agreement. The book will appeal to fans of historical fiction and thrillers.

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Is there room for two novels on the same subject? An interesting question which arises with the simultaneous publication of new fiction about Munich – mine story MUNICH - THE MAN WHO SAID NO!(now on sale) and that of best selling thriller writer Robert Harris (MUNICH on the 21st)

In this instance the novels use the same event – when Mr C went off to meet Herr H at Munich – but in every other respect they’re quite different takes on what was effectively the world’s first Summit meeting.

His plot entails two friends involved on opposite sides during the four days of the Munich negotiations with themes of secrecy and betrayal.

My story concentrates on one man desperate to stop the appeasement of Hitler. His intervention to try and prevent the pact being signed ends with him being “disappeared”.

The story then progresses to a mystery about what happens to him afterwards: does he survive? Does he escape? His granddaughter follows the trail.

I’m really excited that my first novel is now on sale. It’s a story I’ve always wanted to tell and reflects my fascination for events of the recent past. Those big stories within living memory, the current events of yesteryear.

As a small boy I was in awe of my grown-up uncles. I used to ask them about their experiences. What was it like to be shipwrecked? What was it like to be captured by the enemy?

Of course, this was the wartime generation, phlegmatic and retiring. They just laughed off my questions, so I went on my own voyage of discovery, digging into the why and the how, reading up on the big questions of war and peace. That’s how I came upon the incredible episode of Chamberlain flying off to Munich to talk peace to Hitler, one of the key stepping stones leading up to the catastrophe that was the Second World War.

The result is my novel Munich – out now as an ebook and as a paperback in February.

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If Mr Laws’s work does not make it to the cinema, I’ll want to know why.

Surely there’s enough bold imaginative action here, combined with an efficient mix of historical fact and documentary-style drama, to engage a Spielberg? Think The Spies of Warsaw, or Bridge of Spies.

There are few “what if” works of fiction that have succeeded with great force but this is not one of those despite appearing so at first glance. Our hero, journalist Bradley C. Wilkes, cons his way into the 1938 four-power Munich conference of Germany, Italy, France and Britain with Hitler, Mussolini, Daladier and Neville Chamberlain.

His intention, metaphorically, is to grab The Bird (Chamberlain) by the lapels and scream into his face: “Don’t be an idiot! You can’t appease a raving maniac!” He’s more resolved than that; after a nervous passage past hair-trigger Nazi security to the conference he gets his chance to speak his mind directly to Chamberlain. Don’t appease; don’t ignore the warnings of sources inside Germany that spelt out Hitler’s war plans.

What could possibly go wrong? Just about everything. For a start, Wilkes’s colleague Jarek pulls a gun on Hitler, then moves to take aim at Chamberlain.

Laws moves the action from Germany’s war years to Cambridge University 2015, with Wilkes’s granddaughter Emma Drake diligently researching the truth about the man who said No. And back again; and so on, providing fresh cliffhangers as we switch from one chronology to the other.

Needless to say, Wilkes’s treatment at the hands of his German inquisitors makes for some uncomfortable reading but eventually he escapes to fulfil a nerve-wracking role in the later stages of the war, a role in which Jarek’s fate is a significant driver of our central character’s motives.

This is a tremendous read (I’m trying desperately to avoid the cliché rollercoaster) but the action bounds along on two fronts - the clever young intellectual whose researches take her from campus via Europe to a career in spookery; and the sweaty excitement of one man’s war. Put David Tennant in the role and your film can’t miss.

We move through war, cold war, politics, arms sales, love, heroism and skulduggery made all the more vivid by what must have been a colossal effort of research by David Laws.

by Steve Wood


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