Franco, Katanga, and Haile Selassie

Reading1Hi friends. This is a round up of stuff about my books and assorted matters i.e. a combination shill/boast. Let’s go.

An article I wrote for the Amberley website about Ethiopia and the Italian invasion is live. Check it out here. It’s a useful overview of the war and mercenary involvement. Also has a very nice photograph of Haile Selassie with book and Great Dane.

The BBC History website commissioned an article on my book, emphasising the role played by foreigners, both as soldiers and journalists. Article is done, checked, and lined up for publication. Should be live this month or the next. Keep an eye out or check back here – I’ll update when it appears.

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Who Wrote Chinese Rocks?

the-heartbreakers-chinese-rocks-track-2Johnny Thunders used to say everyone in New York City claimed they wrote Chinese Rocks at one time or another. Then he took credit for writing it.

Dee Dee Ramone said the punk ode to heroin was all his own work. Richard Hell told people he was responsible for half of it. At different times Jerry Nolan, Sid Vicious, and all four members of The Ramones appeared in the songwriting credits.

Chinese Rock was the street term for heroin out of Vietnam, strong stuff that saturated New York during the punk era. The song named after it captures the sordid reality of scoring dope in the late 70s: the trip to Alphabet City, the dark hallways, money in one hand and a 007 knife in the other, a paper packet of heroin, scrambling home to lock the door and get out the works.

They’re still arguing over who wrote it.

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Lost Lions Of Judah Ebook On Sale Now

Lost Lions CopyThe ebook version of Lost Lions of Judah: Haile Selassie’s Mongrel Foreign Legion is now available. If you prefer pixels to ink then hit Amazon and download.

So far it’s available from Amazon.co.uk but the US edition will be out in October 2017. Here’s a taste of the introduction to give you the flavour of the book:

When the first bomb exploded, Vienna’s finest trauma surgeon was elbow deep inside a patient’s guts somewhere in northern Ethiopia. Dr Valentin Schuppler kept his scalpel steady as shock waves blew in half the hospital windows. The Red Cross on the roof was being used as a target by Italian airplanes.

Dessie hospital was an unhygienic pile of bricks in a backwater town whose best feature was its juniper trees. Any patient mobile enough had gone running for the hills when the first Fascist planes appeared. Schuppler stayed in the operating theatre and worked on a patient who was going nowhere without a mile of stitches and a dose of morphine.

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A Death In Syria

Serb in Ukraine 2In the summer of 2017 a young Serbian man died in Syria. He was the first Serb to die fighting Islamic State. The international news didn’t notice. His fellow supporters of football team Vojvodina Novi Sad put up a tribute on Facebook.

Dimitrije Sasa Karan (Димитрије Саша Каран) was 24-years-old when he stepped on a landmine. He had a wife and a young son.

His path to the battlefield started in the terraces of Novi Sad. Born in the Bosnian town of FočaKaran moved to Serbia as a child to avoid the civil war that wrecked Yugoslavia in the 1990s. He got involved in the Novi Sad football scene as a teenager.

The team had a fanatical fan group called the Firma (Фирма). Chanting, flares billowing smoke, drinking, expensive casual clothes, nationalism, the occasional fight. A Serb version of Italian ultras and British hooligans.

Karan loved the life. He became a Firma leader.

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Here Are 6 Non-Fiction Books You Need To Read

Library bookshelfI’ve been writing books, articles, and blog posts for a while now. My subjects are mercenaries and extremists, smugglers and peacekeepers, lost causes and short-lived countries, and the kind of writers who hammer out words on a busted typewriter with a 9mm in their belt and a bottle of vodka in the ice box.

My new book is out now. Lost Lions of Judah is the strange, untold story of the Nazis and adventurers who fought for Ethiopia against Mussolini’s invaders.

And it’s all true.

That’s one of the revelations in non-fiction history. Everything you can read about in real world fiction has already happened to someone somewhere. And it was weirder and wilder than you can imagine.

There are plenty of non-fiction writers out there with the talent to take all their research and interviews and summon up a living, breathing, technicolor world. Here’s six non-fiction books that do the job very well.

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The Bloody Baron in Urga

Ungern1In January 1921 hundreds of bonfires began burning in the hillsides around the Mongolian capital of Urga. The Bloody Baron had returned.

Baron Roman Feodorovitch von Ungern-Sternberg had first besieged Urga the previous October. Four attempts by his Asiatic Cavalry Division to take the town were beaten back by Chinese troops.

The Division retreated back into the steppes to regroup, recruit fresh troops, and make contact with Mongolian nationalists. Few locals liked the new Chinese overlords who had moved into the power vacuum left by the Russian Civil War. Rumours spread that a clique of lamas in Urga, close to the Living Buddha, were plotting to help the Baron’s men.

The Chinese tightened security; some Russians in the town were imprisoned, others were shot. In the hills, the Baron waited for his fortune tellers to tell him the best time to attack.

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Lost Lions Of Judah Published 15 June 2017

Lost Lions of JudahMy book about the foreign mercenaries, adventurers, and crusaders who fought for Ethiopia against the Italian Fascist invasion is out on Thursday 15 June. Here’s a taste of the introduction … .

When the first bomb exploded, Vienna’s finest trauma surgeon was elbow deep inside a patient’s guts somewhere in northern Ethiopia. Dr Valentin Schuppler kept his scalpel steady as shock waves blew in half the hospital windows. The Red Cross on the roof was being used as a target by Italian airplanes.

Dessie hospital was an unhygienic pile of bricks in a backwater town whose best feature was its juniper trees. Any patient mobile enough had gone running for the hills when the first Fascist planes appeared. Schuppler stayed in the operating theatre and worked on a patient who was going nowhere without a mile of stitches and a dose of morphine.

Continue reading