An Introduction to Russian Roulette

RR1You are shown into a large room. You’re nervous. Your heart races, your palms are sweating lightly. Your chair sits facing a long table. Behind the table a panel of faces look at you coldly. One gets up and stands next to you.

We are going to play Russian Roulette,’ he says.

Is he crazy? Do they expect you to risk your life for a job? You look at the panel. They are serious. You look at the speaker. He forms his fingers into the shape of a gun.

This,’ he says, ‘is a six chamber revolver.’

He puts his finger to your temple.

It has one bullet in it.’

He jerks his finger.

Click. No bullet in that chamber. I’m going to pull the trigger again. Before I do that, do you want me to spin the cylinder of the revolver? You have three seconds to answer.

The panel are looking at you intensely, analysing your reaction. Welcome to the favourite situation of high powered job interviewers. Answering complex questions under pressure. Can you give the right answer?

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Our Man in Barcelona

AP1Anarchist terror gangs stirring things up in 1960’s Spain. A mercenary whose service in the Congo conceals a dark past. A washed-up journalist in post-war Catalonia trying to solve a murder that powerful men would prefer left alone.

Antonio Padilla is a Barcelona native with two novels under his belt. La mano del muerto hit bookshops back in 2014 and Serás imbécil arrived in the summer of 2017. Both take a deep dive into the violent underbelly of recent Spanish history and come up missing a few teeth.

When he’s not writing crime thrillers, Padilla has translated everyone from Graham Greene to Jim Thompson. We had a conversation about his influences, the Catalan scene, and what keeps him hitting the keyboard every day.

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The Man Who Invented Russian Roulette

SURDEZScattered farm houses with roofs the colour of dark chocolate cling to sloping daffodil meadows at the foot of the Jura mountains. Cows amble through pastures with clanking brass bells around their necks.

Pure picture postcard to outsiders, this tranquil part of Switzerland is home to a town German-speakers know as Biel. Francophones prefer to call it Bienne.

Georges Arthur Surdez was born here in 1900 to a French-speaking middle class family with its fair share of demons.

Surdez shared the family home with an elder brother and three elder sisters. An adult brother and sister were making new lives for themselves in America. They had been gone so long that the smart toys they sent Surdez at Christmas stirred no memories.

His father Eugene was a watchmaker, and mother Marie happy to devote her life to her children. Like many outwardly respectable families, a maggot wriggled inside the apple.

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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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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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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 narratives. Almost everything that appears in a novels has already happened to someone real somewhere else. 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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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