Saturday Snippet: Between silk and cyanide

One of the most remarkable autobiographies to come out of World War II was that of Leo Marks, who became the code specialist for Special Operations Executive (SOE), the clandestine operations department set up by Winston Churchill with the directive to “set Europe ablaze”.  SOE supplied arms, money and operators to resistance movements all over occupied Europe and throughout the Far East.  It made many mistakes and experienced many failures, but grew into a massive organization that made a measurable contribution to victory. Many years after the war, Marks wrote about his SOE experiences.  He battled for almost a decade to get

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Saturday Snippet: a fake nun in the Army in Northern Ireland

The late Australian author Russell Braddon was one of the most extraordinary writers to emerge from World War II.  His prolific output includes “The Naked Island“, his world-famous and best-selling account of his experiences as a prisoner of war under the Japanese;  “Cheshire VC“, a study of the wartime career and post-war conversion of one of the top bomber pilots during the war (who is currently being investigated, along with his wife, for possible canonization as a saint by the Catholic Church);  “Nancy Wake: World War Two’s Most Rebellious Spy“, a true account of an extraordinary woman and her exploits with the French Resistance; 

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Saturday Snippet: a fake nun in the Army in Northern Ireland

The late Australian author Russell Braddon was one of the most extraordinary writers to emerge from World War II.  His prolific output includes “The Naked Island“, his world-famous and best-selling account of his experiences as a prisoner of war under the Japanese;  “Cheshire VC“, a study of the wartime career and post-war conversion of one of the top bomber pilots during the war (who is currently being investigated, along with his wife, for possible canonization as a saint by the Catholic Church);  “Nancy Wake: World War Two’s Most Rebellious Spy“, a true account of an extraordinary woman and her exploits with the French Resistance; 

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Saturday Snippet: the 1929 stock market slams headlong into reality

In their book “The Day the Bubble Burst“, Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts examine the human side of the 1929 stock market crash that precipitated the Great Depression. There are many parallels between the behavior of markets and individuals prior to the Crash, and those we see today.  The divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is at least as pronounced today, if not more so, and of course there are many more people in the country – and the world – to be affected by such divisions.  Attitudes are also very materialistic, the focus entirely on worldly reward and material

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Saturday Snippet: a fast Viking getaway

Here’s another excerpt from my Viking fantasy novel, a work in progress of which I’ve already published two excerpts in these pages (see here and here).  The background to this snippet is that Alvar, now in his mid-teens, has joined the crew of a trading ship that Olaf, his mentor, has taken to the upper reaches of the Baltic Sea to look for amber, a valuable commodity in Viking trading.  Olaf has taken a party of warriors inland on his quest, while Alvar and other younger men hold the trading vessel in readiness for a quick getaway – which is about to be

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Saturday Snippet: The sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in 1941

Americans tend to forget that Japan didn’t only attack Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.  She simultaneously attacked across a wide swath of the Pacific Ocean, including the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies and Malaya.  Britain had just sent to Singapore one of its most modern battleships, HMS Prince of Wales (which had recently played a part in the destruction of the German battleship Bismarck), accompanied by a World War I battle-cruiser, HMS Repulse.  Operating together as Force Z, they attempted to attack a Japanese landing fleet near Singapore a few days later, with disastrous results. This description of what happened was written by then-Sub-Lieutenant (equivalent to

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Saturday Snippet: Debugging the Oak Ridge nuclear plant

During World War II, Richard Feynman, then a very newly-graduated physicist, was sent from Los Alamos, New Mexico (the heart of the Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb) to Oak Ridge in Tennessee, where the nuclear material for the bomb was to be enriched.  He was tasked with making sure that the factory there would actually work, and that its design was technically and scientifically acceptable.  Needless to say, as a relative novice, he was more than a little unsure of his ground. In his book “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” he describes what happened.        I sat down

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Saturday Snippet: a Viking hunting adventure

Readers seemed to like the snippet I posted from a proposed Viking/fantasy novel a couple of weeks ago:  so here’s another one.  The book is taking shape very quickly, and should be ready shortly. In this excerpt, the young Alvar (by now entering his teens) is hunting an elg, which is the Norwegian (and Viking) word for what we in North America call a moose.  A pund is a Viking measure of weight equalling approximately twelve US pounds:  a mark weighs approximately eight US ounces.      We happened upon the tracks of a large elg, following a narrow game trail through the forest.

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Saturday snippet – deterring a thief in Haiti

Max Hardberger has written several books inspired by his time at sea, first as a marine captain, and later as a well-known recovery expert, “stealing back” ships and other big-capital items that had been stolen from their owners.  In his book “Freighter Captain” (officially a novel, but which is obviously and unashamedly highly autobiographical), he describes several months in command of an old, ramshackle tramp steamer trading between the USA and Haiti. Theft was a perennial problem in Haiti, with light-fingered visitors coming aboard in the dead of night from canoes or small boats, and stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down. 

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Saturday Snippet: a Viking teaser

During my ongoing recovery from my heart attack last month, I’ve been trying to work on the books I have in progress.  It’s very difficult to write creatively when the new medication I’m taking makes me breathless, dizzy, and too easily tired.  The combination doesn’t do much for my muse!  As a result, when things get too confused, I put aside my regular projects and try to noodle on other things to get my mind out of the same old rut, and keep at least some creative juices flowing. The snippet below came to me a few weeks ago.  It may

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