Happy January, ya filthy animals. Hope this year is treating you well. For me at least, 2018 was a weird one. I had a book published, got an agent, spent six months near the Parc du cinquantenaire, saw Paris, spent some time with the head of the Polish armaments industry, and got a whole new angle on the existential angst of lonely professional diplomats.
Looks like 2019 is going to be completely different, with a considerably deeper emphasis on staring moodily out the window of a city centre apartment while holding a glass of whisky and thinking deep thoughts.
So while that’s brewing here’s some links to interesting stuff around the internet. It’s a weird and wonderful world out there. Don’t kill yourself thirty seconds before the miracle.
It’s finally out. My book about the Katanga secession of the early 1960s is available in paperback for the first time on 6 December 2018. The hardback is sold out so this is the only option for those who don’t do ebooks.
For completists, the paperback is pretty much the same as the original text, with a few minor changes thrown in. Katanga 1960-63 tells, for the first time, the full story of the Congolese province that declared independence in 1960 and found itself at war with the world.
The Congo had no intention of allowing the renegade region to secede, and neither did the CIA, the KGB, or the United Nations.
In 1936 civil war erupted in Spain. Right-wing generals tried to overthrow a leftist government and the violence quickly turned into a symbolic battle between fascism and communism. The fighting dragged in foreigners from many different countries.
The left-wing volunteers who came from around the world to fight for the Spanish government are well known, but foreigners also joined the other side. I wrote a book about it.
More information about Franco’s foreigners is coming to light every day. The niece of a British volunteer got in touch about her uncle, who deserted the Royal Navy at Gibraltar to join the Foreign Legion. An aristocratic Belgian pilot is commemorated on a memorial in the centre of Brussels. Now a new book is out about South African Pieter Krueler, a far-right Boer embittered by the deaths of his family in the Anglo-Boer War. In June 1937, already in his fifties, he offered his services to Franco.
The experience disillusioned Krueler so badly that he joined the other side. So he claimed.
Sunday, 22 January 1950. Turk Westerling was the most casually dressed warlord the press men had ever met. Reuters and Australia’s The Herald had a man each at this exclusive interview with Indonesia’s public enemy number one. No guards, no guns, just an old-fashioned colonial bungalow somewhere outside sweaty Bandung and a tough, sun-tanned Dutchman crushing the life out of one cigarette and lighting another.
Westerling wore a white polo shirt and khaki trousers. One journalist noted the brown socks and street shoes. The other jotted shorthand about the expensive gold watch and the gold ring set with a black stone.
The Turk had spread himself all over the international press with his threats to the new United States of Indonesia government. The country was independent, the Dutch had gone home, and everything was supposed to be peace and liberty. Then Westerling (‘a mystery man‘ according to local politicians) came out of nowhere and tore the place apart. The news agencies wanted a closer look.
If you’re looking to make sense of Donald Trump’s election, Tommy Robinson’s arrests, and the rise of nationalism across Europe then my book on the counter-jihad movement will be available from Amberley on 15 August.
Soldiers of a Different God is the first book about how an unlikely anti-Islamic alliance of gay activists, feminists, fascists, evangelical Christians, populist politicians, and surfing rabbis from California fuelled the rise of the European hard right and gave us President Donald J Trump. You can reserve your copy on Amazon [and on Amazon.com] today.
Here’s a deep dive into what the book’s about:
Adwa was a scar on Italy’s heart. Back in 1896 this parched market town in the north of Ethiopia saw the Italian Army humbled by warriors with swords and spears. Politicians in Rome thought they could carve an empire out of the last independent nation in Africa. Ethiopian warriors killed 7,000 men in one day and ended that dream.
The Italians wanted revenge. In 1935 they got it. The land of Dante and Caravaggio was now a boisterously aggressive Fascist state under Benito Mussolini. Provocations at the border late the previous year led to war talk and demands for compensation. European powers tried to intervene but could not afford to alienate Mussolini, needed onside to counter-balance the growing threat of Nazi Germany. In October Italian Fascist legions kicked aside the half-hearted diplomacy and marched into Ethiopia. Bombs, bullets, and mustard gas started raining down.
Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie knew his country was poor and underdeveloped. He needed expert foreign help. Forty foreigners ignored League of Nations resolutions on non-intervention and came to Addis Ababa to fight. Another sixty joined medical units or found other roles. The international press corps gathered in Addis Ababa wrote them up as heroes.
A few mercenaries were honest. A few were competent. The rest was a crazy gang of playboys, Nazis, and black crusaders who could barely shoot straight. Here’s a selection from my book Lost Lions of Judah: Haile Selassie’s Mongrel Foreign Legion [or amazon.com].
Neuromancer is the foundation stone of cyberpunk. William Gibson’s novel came out in 1984 before the genre even had a name, and won a lot of awards. The judges could tell this neo-noir about hackers in cyberspace was something special.
Gibson had been working in this direction for a while, finally perfecting the prototype with his 1982 story Burning Chrome. Contracted for a novel, he lashed his cyberpunk world to a heist plot. Neuromancer’s protagonist is the burnt out hacker Case, hustling through the nightlife of Japan in a suicidal spiral until a girl called Molly with mirror shades and blades in her fingers scoops him up for her ex-military boss.
They want him to take on some top level defences in cyberspace. The rest of the team is assembled, the heist set up, and then everything goes wrong when the team breaks into a rambling family mansion up in an orbital Las Vegas and the real mastermind behind it all is revealed.