Recent reading: William Diehl

So it’s not a new book, but who cares?  Books are not meant to be new.  The most recent reading came in the form of 27 (also know as The Hunt), a 1990 novel by William Diehl, a guy who wasn’t (died in 2006) afraid to do a bit of research.  27 starts back in the early days of Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, in the early 1930s (yes, before WWII, and before the U.S. gave a crap).  It is a bit of a stylish espionage novel (in fat thriller size), providing a protagonist who becomes an unlikely spy after having great success as a bootlegger.  Throughout the text, many nods are provided to Graham Greene’s books in the espionage vein (a character named Scoby, for example).  For a guy who might change the world with motivation and vengeance, Francis Keegan, the protagonist, is reasonably powered by a girlfriend/fiance who is sent to Dachau, the location of a lovely Nazi concentration camp (where she is buried alive), and a solid hatred for the Nazi regime.  These are things we can all agree with, with a bit of education on the history of a really bad decade (especially in Germany).  The historical details are decently researched and laid out without turning the novel into a dull text book.  It’s the best kind of infotainment, but the book really does take off in the second half…

A thick novel (nearly 600 pages) is tough to pace quickly from cover to cover.  I haven’t written one, but in reading 27, one can easily imagine 1500 pages of draft copy before the thing ever became an actual novel draft.  The book’s antagonist, known as Swan in the earlier pages, is a masterful creation of evil one’s unlikely to overcome.  He embodies the combination that Hitler created with many people who were far more qualified than himself.  Not only is Swan intelligent, but he is an (accomplished screen) actor and a master of disguise, an amazing skier (yo, James Bond), a cold killer, a charming bastard, and a survivor; he has talent and cunning, but he’s also towing a massive load of ego.  Let’s have some hubris!

The arc is relatively predictable in this novel, but that’s what we really want.  The hero comes out with a scar, but most importantly, he is healed (emotionally and physically), and richer than he was when he started.  Everyone gets to feel good (and learn a bit about history in the process).  I award this book some stars!

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