Interview with Lesley Dolphin on BBC Radio Suffolk
TWO MUNICH NOVELS
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.
Goggle eyes, wing collar and a mournful moustache. This can only be Munich 1938 where Neville Chamberlain, the great appeaser, is about to sign the agreement that will do the dirty on Czechoslovakia and give us ‘peace in our time’.
Suddenly there is uproar in the room. A newcomer tries to stop him signing.
This is the moment that launches David Laws’ story, a gripping and fast-moving tale that transports us from Hitler’s HQ into modern Munich and concludes in a long-forgotten theatre of World War ll.
It comes out on the 80th anniversary of the signing and is largely set in the present-day city.
Emma Drake, an obsessive Cambridge academic, is organising a pan-European conference of historians to shed new light on the document’s rights and wrongs.
It is staged on the very site of the signing and also gives her the chance to discover what happened to her grandfather, a radio reporter who vanished on that momentous day.
But some of her delegates are not what they seem and suddenly the conference develops an alarming sub-culture with frightening implications.
Luckily she has help, in the shape of Gerald Roper, a journalist who considers himself unemployable after doing a three-year stretch for phone tapping.
He becomes Emma’s resourceful and faithful back-up, although his boss’s nightmarish requirements stretch his loyalty to the limit.
Laws’ minute research takes us deep into the curious atmosphere of a city that still has plenty to hide as this intriguing yarn builds up to an unexpected climax.
As Emma’s dogged determination begins to border on the unhinged, we are on the edge of our seats as her quest reaches the moment of truth and propels her into a whole new world.
Author of The Little Book of Monarchs
by Tony Boullemier
REVIEW: ‘History... brought to life in this thrilling tale’
Nearly 80 years ago desperate British diplomats flew to Munich in an attempt to avert the tragedy of the second world war.
One man tried to say No to appeasement by confronting Neville Chamberlain with shocking evidence that could have halted the shameful “peace in our time” deal with Adolf Hitler.
He failed – and no one was able to solve the mystery of his subsequent disappearance.
In modern-day Munich, “bad girl” Emma Drake with a pout and a penchant for high living, discovers hidden talents as she strides into trouble intent on uncovering what happened to her grandfather, the Man who said No.
Emma uses her academic intelligence and some dirty tricks as she chases Nazi ghosts around Munich, bringing back memories of Hitler in the 1930s which many Germans would like to forget.
Helped by an ex-journalist with a chequered past, and a suave new-generation young German, she confronts the nightmares of the past and the present, as well as her own future.
David Laws uses his intimate knowledge of the city to bring the history of Munich to life in this thrilling tale.
by Ray King
History is littered with 'What ifs?' What if someone had tried to stop the blinkered Neville Chamberlain from accommodating that demented former corporal? David Laws takes us on a fascinating journey from 1938 Munich to the present day, with ghosts looming large. And if you thought an academic conference might be a dry affair, think again. There are plenty of twists in this thriller. And one is tempted to book a flight to Munich to take in the settings, old and new.
by Brian Izzard
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
I was really looking forward to this book, being a bit of a history bore/buff and it did not disappoint at all.
Bradley C. Wilkes disappears in 1938 after attempting to stop Neville Chamberlain and his appeasement deal with Hitler, the story then moves to 2015 when his granddaughter Emma, who is a history researcher at Cambridge University is asked to arrange a conference in Munich on the subject of appeasement. Her father was the result of an affair Wilkes had, and further family relationships come forward to cause trouble at the conference.
Really liked the character of Roper, although I was a little confused about relationships with both Emma and then her mother. I thought initially he would be romantically interested in the mother, especially as they have a 'history' perhaps I am being ageist?
I did think the whole conference was too drawn out, seemed to go on for weeks, especially as there seemed to be so much happening outside the parameters of this.
Unfortunately I didn't like the character of Emma at all, couldn't empathise with her, some of how she spoke was very stilted 'you can stand me lunch' for example, I am assuming Emma is in her twenties and don't know anyone of that age who would talk like that. Also going on about her inheritance, whilst £10,000 is a nice amount of money, wouldn't last too long doing the trips Emma is supposed to have done.
One the whole an enjoyable book and would recommend.
by Lee Marriott-Dowding
I found the subject matter of the book absolutely spell bounding and as a follower of WWII history, you are led into a believable world of what may have been. The characters came alive and the author has obviously been diligent in his research of those times. A most enjoyable read and one of those books that one cannot put down.
by Paul Miller
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 my present effort is the first of many.
Henry Porter, Robert Harris, Robert Goddard, Philip Kerr, Ken Follett and Jack Higgins are some of the authors I’ve been inspired by. The novel itself arose out of my life-long sense of amazement that Neville Chamberlain and the British appeasers couldn’t see how they were being fooled by Hitler and that their actions were making war more likely - not less.
Everyone has to start somewhere - and my first “journalistic” job was operating an old-fashioned plug-in telephone switchboard for a City of London financial weekly newspaper.
When I’d cut off one too many calls and they’d sent me on my way, I managed to find reporting jobs around the London suburbs for weekly papers at Hayes, Southall, Harrow and Wembley. This was followed by sub-editing at an evening paper in Shropshire. Next step, the Daily Express in Manchester, and finally London.
I also managed to fit in writing and producing magazines on film, medicine, travel and finance. Some of the highlights were interviews with Jack Higgins, Marti Caine and Robert Ludlum. Other obsessions: rambling, gliding, flying, railways, locomotives.