Please welcome my guest Paul MacDermott as he talks about his writing journey and book, The Spear of Destiny.
I’m posting his cover but Look closely for this when it comes out in fifteen days. It will be different.
- 1. “The Spear of Destiny” could be described as a ‘Drama/Doc’ if it were a TV programme. Essentially it’s Fiction, but based on a series of historical events which took place in the final days of World War 2. I’ve been careful to keep to the recorded facts – dates, for example, and most names. The only exceptions to this are the names I’ve given to certain members of the Danish Resistance Movement. I’ve dedicated the book to these brave people, whose actions have never had the acknowledgement they deserve. I had the extraordinary privilege of meeting some of them when I lived in Denmark. They know who they are: they’ve earned the right to remain anonymous.
- 2. I didn’t say I’d ‘chosen’ a career in teaching! In fact, I went to one of the best schools in Liverpool and had eight years under the eye of the Jesuits. The closest thing to “Careers Guidance” in the 60s was an Interview with the Headmaster after we’ve finished all our Advanced Level exams ( University Entrance standards: not sure what the US equivalent night be …) Anyway: my ‘Interview’ was extremely brief. HM: “McDermott. Music, fluent in three languages. Obviously, teaching’s the job for you. Close the door on your way out, send in the next boy.” Me: “Father, I was actually thinking of a career in journalism …” HM: (exhibiting signs of potential heart attack): “You’ve been at this school for eight years and you’re considering a TRADE, not a Profession????”
- 3. As a seventeen-year-old, I didn’t have the courage to argue with anyone in a position of Authority, particularly an outstanding teacher whose memory I still respect and honour. I still think I’d have made a decent ‘fist’ of journalism, but if I’d decided NOT to follow this ‘Career Guidance’ I would never have met any of the equally gifted tutors I met while training to be a teacher. These included another Jesuit, who was native fluent in 43 languages and gave me the kick in the proverbial I needed to develop my own language skills. Result: I count myself ‘native fluent’ in 7 European languages, and I’ve recently decided to ‘teach myself’ Gælic (research for the sequel to one of my published books). I spent most of my teaching career travelling Europe, teaching just about everything except English!
- 4. Biggest fear? Arthritis preventing me from filling page after page with my thoughts! If I couldn’t write something every day I believe my brain would burst with the ideas struggling to escape. For some time now I’ve had about 6 – 8 “Works in Progress” lurking between the keys, all demanding their ‘turn’ on the laptop monitor screen.
- 5. Favourite Fictional Hero. Oooh, that’s a difficult question! For a start, how do you define a “Fictional” character: especially when there are records of your own family history dating back to AD835 in the Book of Kells? In Irish history, the earliest records were passed on for generations in the Oral Tradition (very few people ever learned to read and write). The lines between Fact and Fiction are quite often somewhat blurred … My ancestors include several Heroes whose exploits read like the deeds of fantasy figures. The Ard Rhi (‘High King’) of the Seven Ancient Kingdoms of Erin is of direct lineage from the Sí [the Fairy Folk – how dare you suggest they’re not Real??] and so they naturally can accomplish things which to mere mortals seem magical. Brian Boru, Finn McCoill and Cormac Rú all feature in my family history, and I love re-reading their stories.
- 6. Best advice I’ve ever received. “Yes, you can!” From friends, family and others who have read some of my efforts at various times and encouraged me whenever the dreaded Rejection Letter hits my doormat. Though if I’m honest, I have to say I’ve probably had less of them than some of my writer friends.
Questions for the Author
- 7. When I decided to attempt a piece of Fiction with such close ties to historical events which occurred within living memory (World War 2) I realised that I would have to respect the known recorded history of the time. In this, the Irish tradition of Oral History was a godsend: speaking to people who had ‘been there, done that …’ – the men who had been members of the Danish Resistance (“Mødstandsbevægelsen”) – was essential. Military fiction from e.g. Dennis Wheatley, and W.E. Johns (avoiding gung-ho Hollywood-style film scripts!) and non-fiction accounts of major action (especially in the North Atlantic) were also necessary.
- 8. My start point for this novel was the respect and admiration I had for the unsung heroes I had the privilege of knowing while I lived in Denmark. It was a constant ‘itch in that one inaccessible spot’ for me to know that their heroic actions were almost unknown, their story untold. I wanted to do something to redress that perceived injustice. When the Danish billionaire Carsten Rees funded the salvage of U-534 and agreed to have it installed as a permanent exhibit in my home town (or to be precise, on the opposite bank of the river, in Birkenhead) I decided it was time to take the plunge. I knew where I was going from Day One: nothing changed the course of my Synopsis/Plot Arch, and there were times when I felt I was simply watching the words appear unbidden on the screen before me. Anyone thinking of taking a Cruise from the US to Liverpool will SEE the Museum opposite our brand new Cruise Terminal. Get on the famous “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and you can be there in ten minutes …!
- 9. I first heard of Class Act through being a ‘regular’ at www.thewriterschatroom.com
[Sundays & Wednesdays]. The same ‘self-help’ chat group were also my link to the publishers of my first books, Whimsical Publications [Florida]. Class Act recently re-opened for Submissions after a few months dealing with a backlog, and if my own experience is typical, their turnaround time from acceptance to production is impressive! The Submission process itself seems pretty straightforward, even for a Technophobic dinosaur like me!
- 10. At the moment I have on my bedside table a twin-language collection of Celtic Fairy Tales in Gælic & English, forcing me to learn a bit faster! I’m a local patriot, so I always read the local newspaper looking for inspiration for a story. I also keep several notepads on my night table. Lots of my yarns are based on DREAMS … that could be the start of another four pages of Interview, so I’ll leave that for another time!
- 11. Next up for me: before “The Spear of Destiny” I’m having a Childrens’ book called “Rocking Horse Droppings” published on World Book Day, March 2, thanks to a local publisher, another proud Scouse patriot www.BeatlesLiverpoolandmore.com
About the author:
Born in the Year of the Tiger, Paul’s natural curiosity combined with the deep-seated feline need to roam has meant that over the years he’s never been able to call any one place home. His wanderlust has led him from one town to another, and even from one country to another.
“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write – my father claims to possess a story I wrote when I was six, which filled 4 standard school exercise books. What I do remember from that time was being told off for doing the Liverpool Echo crossword before he got home from work.”
While Paul was living in Denmark, he allowed himself to be persuaded to write for a purpose instead of purely for his own amusement. Perhaps it was the catalyst of breathing the same air as Hans Christian Andersen.
Paul’s IT guru (aka his talented daughter!) has recently constructed a website for him:
Paul frequently lurks at: www.thewriterschatroom.com (Sundays & Wednesdays)
In 1945, U-boat Kapitän Herbert Nollau must deliver a weapon which will turn the war in Germany’s favour. His orders are delivered verbally. There will be no written records… and no witnesses.
Alone, far from home, hunted by the Danish Resistance and the might of the Allied Forces, he must obey either his final Orders…or the inner voice of his conscience.
Uberlojtnant Herbert Nollau stood with his Zeiss nightglasses glued to his eyes, impervious to the rain whipped across his cheeks by half a gale. This howled almost exactly at ninety degrees to the tide, which had just reached the full but had not yet begun its retreat. His command craft, U-534, sat uneasily at anchor, dipping at bow and stern in the current, yawing appreciably as frequent Force Ten gusts buffeted her broad flanks. Low, heavy rainclouds hunkered closer, seeming to settle on the upper branches of the natural pine forest which spread untamed, unculled, across the low hills of Schleswig-Holstein.
An identical pair of black Opel staff cars bracketed a canvas bodied Mercedes half-track transport wagon, all three vehicles picking their way carefully along an unmarked country road. The headlights were taped down to the size and shape of a feral cat’s vertical slits, acknowledging the strict rules governing all traffic during the hours of darkness. The road to the harbour just outside Lübeck was neither tarmac’ed nor enhanced with any form of lighting. The drivers were obliged to steer cautiously around every twist, using the gears and brakes more frequently than the accelerator.
“Amateurs,” he thought to himself, as the three sets of headlights crawled slowly closer.
He blanked the thought as soon as it intruded on his consciousness, forcing himself back into State-approved Wehrmacht thinking, based on purely practical matters directly related to carrying out current instructions, with maximum efficiency, without question. He pulled the collar of his oilskins closer around his throat in a futile attempt to prevent the rain from seeping through, soaking his uniform. Raising his night glasses once more, he cursed the weather, the Wehrmacht and the world in general, feeling more exposed and vulnerable with every minute that passed as he waited for the convoy of lights to crawl closer, carrying the equipment which he had been ordered to collect. It bothered him that he was expected to set sail immediately, and await orders concerning his destination by radio once he had cleared the bay and entered Store Bælt: technically, that section of the North Sea was neutral Danish waters, and if he were to remain on the surface for any length of time in order to receive orders …
As the lights snaked around another pair of curves and began their final descent to the shoreline and the jetty where U534 was waiting, Herbert Nollau realized that he had on board a much more powerful sender/receiver than any other U-boat: in fact, not just one but two radios equipped with the Enigma cryptographic programme had been installed, ostensibly for testing. With a sudden jolt, the deceptively young-looking Überlojtnant realized that this technology was far more sophisticated than that which had previously been regarded as the best in the world: apart from being guaranteed unbreakable as a code, it could also send and receive radio signals without his craft needing to surface.
He shook his head to clear the worst of the pools which had formed in the upturned brim of his sou’wester and made his way down the ladder bolted to the side of the conning tower, aiming to be waiting on the quay before the three vehicles wheezed to a halt. His mechanic’s ear analysed and diagnosed a list of faults he could clearly identify from the laboured chugging of each engine. Furious at this indication of inefficiency, a corner of his mind decided that he would have had the senior officer responsible for each vehicle court-martialled, if the decision had been up to him. In spite of the horrors he had witnessed in three years of naval warfare, he shuddered. His orders, distasteful though they might be, were crystal clear …
Two gaunt, silent shadows slid with simultaneous choreography from the rear seat of each of the Opels: their sleek black trenchcoats almost touched the planks of the jetty, glistening in the starlight as if the officers wearing them had been marching for hours in the rain rather than just stepping out of a warm, dry car. Nollau fired off his most formal salute: the four SS-officers responded with a world-weary, bent-elbow half-salute and pointedly refrained from returning Nollau’s “Heil, Hitler!” One detached himself for a moment and gave a hand-signal to the driver of the canvas-sided truck. The driver immediately hammered his fist twice on the bulkhead behind his seat. Four soldiers appeared over the tailgate of the wagon and began to manoeuvre something long and heavy out of the cargo space.
Turning to face his command meant that Herbert Nollau had to turn his back on the four staff officers. Somehow he managed to do this with an insolence which stated quite clearly that, as far as he was concerned, they were barely worthy of his contempt.
He placed a small, shrill whistle to his lips and blew, one long (but not overloud) blast. Within ten seconds, the deck was populated by about twenty matelots, standing at ease, who somehow contrived to arrive from nowhere and in total silence. Close to the bows, and just for’ard of ’midships , cables were deployed from two small jib cranes. Within seconds, the submariner crew were on the jetty, taking the unidentified cargo from the shoulders of the four soldiers and hoisting it with ease onto the foredeck, thence by some lightningfast legerdemain out of sight below decks. The crew had followed, leaving Überlojtnant Nollau as the only member of the Senior Service still on the jetty. At a silent gesture from one of the anonymous black trenchcoats the four soldiers climbed back over the tailgate, into the truck. After about four attempts, the driver managed to coax the engine into life and began to back and fill, facing back the way he had come.
As he completed the manoeuvre and gunned the engine to set off up the hill, the four SS officers opened their trenchcoats to reveal the muzzles of rapid fire MP40 machine pistols. With one accord they raised their weapons and sent round after deadly round of ammunition into both the cab and the rear of the vehicle, holding the triggers steady. Before the hail of bullets ceased, the fuel tanks of the wagon exploded, sending flames soaring high into the night sky, setting small fires in the tree tops as they lost their intensity and curled back towards the ground.
Suddenly, Herbert Nollau’s orders seemed fractionally less dishonourable.
Having emptied their weapons, the four executioners appeared to have rediscovered some of their habitual swagger and pride. Crashing the butts of the now-empty weapons against the rough wooden planking of the jetty they raised their right arms to the fullest, and screamed: “Heil, Hitler!” as their heels crashed together in perfect unison.
Sick to his stomach at the pleasure his countrymen took from the callous murder of fellow Germans, it was all Herbert Nollau could do to raise his arm, bent-elbowed, in the less formal salute he would never under normal circumstances have accepted from others nor used himself.
The Spear of Destiny will be released by Class Act Books on April 15. It will be available in paperback from the publisher’s website at www.classactbooks.com, and also as an e-book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Draft2Book.