My Second Book is called “The Black Orchestra”.
Those of you who have been reading my blog will remember my posts about my first book, part 1 and part 2.
Here’s what happened next.
I had read a couple of books about German spies in Ireland during what my countrymen of the time called “The Emergency” and the rest of the world called World War II. To a man, these spies were incompetent and badly trained. Their English language skills were poor. One was an Indian, his dark skin a complete give away, as everybody in Ireland in those days had white skin. Their exploits had me in stitches.
One guy turned up at a railway station and asked a local when the next train was due. “I wouldn’t hold your breath,” says the Irishman. “The last train left here ten years ago.”
Another spy parachuted into the country, landing maybe fifty miles from where he was supposed to be, and asked for walking directions. This would have been like landing in Kent and asking directions (in a German accent) on how to walk to Buckinghamshire.
A third spy was dropped off on the south coast by submarine. Before he could make landfall, his radio and all his supplies fell overboard from his dinghy and were lost.
A fourth was a semiliterate circus strongman with a girlfriend and a child in Ireland. He did better than most, although it’s difficult to understand how he could have coded his transmissions back to his handlers.
All of these men were picked up by the Irish police and incarcerated, some within days, or hours, of arrival in Ireland.
I had also read a book about the wonderful Hans and Sophie Scholl and “The White Rose” Munich student resistance. Hans and Sophie published 6 broadsheets condemning the Nazi regime before they, and several others, were guillotined by the Gestapo in 1943. Yes, that’s what I said. Hans was 25, Sophie was 21.
I read books on Enigma and the work of Alan Turing and the team in Bletchley who broke the Enigma code. And of course I had read how Admiral Canaris, Hans Oster and their team in the Abwehr were secretly working against Hitler’s regime.
Out of all this was born my second novel. Set in Berlin during WWII, this is the story of an Abwehr signalman who finds evidence of a conspiracy within the Abwehr. When he runs the conspiracy to ground he uncovers a resistance group called Schwarze Kapelle – The Black Orchestra – and decides to join it. It’s a thriller, a spy story and a love story all rolled into one.
I queried the main London agents in alphabetical order, and one agent asked to read the whole thing. When he got back to me, he said he liked it but it needed to be faster, more exciting and have more violence in there.
I did a massive rewrite and sent it back to the agent, reducing the comedic chapters about the poor training and the misadventures of agents in Ireland. He asked for still more pace, more violence, more excitement. So I added some more of these, eliminated a few minor characters, introduced a new one, and so on.
Finally, after nine months of rewriting, he passed on the book.
Mark M. Hull, Irish Secrets. 2003, ISBN 0-7165-2756-1
Enno Stephan, Spies in Ireland. The New England Library Ltd, 1963
Dumbach and Newborn, Sophie Scholl & The White Rose. 2006, ISBN 1-85168-474-3
Rudolf Kippenhahn, Code Breaking. 1999, ISBN 0094-79890-7