Friday, December 14, 2012

IN PURSUIT OF PLATINUM The Shocking Secret of World War II by Vic Robbie


Today, I'll thrilled to welcome Vic Robbie who has kindly agreed to tell us all about his bestselling book, In Persuit of Platinum, and give us a sneak peak. Over to you Vic!

IT’S always one of the first questions you’re asked when you produce a new book: “How long did it take you to write?”

Sometimes in more flippant moments I’ve felt like saying ‘I knocked it out over the weekend.’ But I’ve never had the guts, fearing a putdown along the lines of ‘Oh, it read like that.’

How do you quantify the time spent writing? Is it from the moment you sit down to write, or from when the idea first comes into your head and you spend hours, days, weeks thinking about what you can do with it which is all part of the writing process.

If that’s the case, IN PURSUIT OF PLATINUM took me more than twenty years.

It’s so long ago that I can’t remember the date and I have since mislaid the original press cutting from The Observer newspaper in London that told the story of a very special Bentley that was up for auction to wealthy collectors of classic automobiles. The car, which at one time had reportedly been part of Ralph Lauren’s collection, was known as ‘The Bullion Bentley’ and part of its provenance was that it had been used by the director of the Banque de France to smuggle platinum out of Paris in 1940 as the Germans were about to invade. The newspaper report went into more detail which I won’t go into here lest I spoil your enjoyment should you ever read it.

The story gripped my imagination and every so often I would take out the cutting and read it again and it stayed with me and with every reading I added another layer to my version of the story. But the demands of international travel and daily deadlines for newspapers and magazines and, more probably, my doubts about being able to capture the atmosphere of the period meant the project was delayed.

But a couple of years ago I decided I could put it off no longer and the writing of it was in itself a journey of discovery and an education about the amazing courage and perseverance of brave people who fought a tyrant and won.

The more I researched the more it evolved into an amazing secret that the government didn’t want you to find out – buried in archives and not to be revealed until 2045.

The Bentley, driven by an American Ben Peters, was carrying an even more valuable human cargo, a mysterious Frenchwoman escaping with her young son and a secret that could change the course of the Second World War.

Alena and Ben were the targets of Adolf Hitler's ruthless investigator Ludwig Weber, whose family would be executed if he failed. His orders were to silence Alena before she could reveal her secret; capture her young son and take him back to Berlin; and recover the Banque de France's platinum.

While the story is about the stark and tragic realities of war and the raw emotions of two brave people living on the edge of fear, it is also about Ben and Alena’s developing relationship.

But not everything was as it seemed. Who was Alena and what was her secret that could destroy everything the Nazi movement stood for?

My research took me to three countries and it caused me to experience one of the most surreal moments of my life. I had written several scenes about a specific location never having been there and in subsequent research visited the area.  And the first time I walked in it took my breath away – it was as if I had just walked into my own book.

So if you have any ideas hidden away for a book, dig them out, and write them and find a good book cover designer like Stuart Bache, who has also designed covers for the likes of Stephen King and John Le Carre. It’s never too late.

 

For more information, please visit www.vicrobbie.com


Twitter: @VicRobbie


To get the book as an eBook or paperback















 

EXCERPT

 


 
01


SHE knew she must kill her beautiful son. The decision was made in a moment of ice-cold clarity before panic took over and tears began to flow in rivulets of sorrow.

Dressed in a dark blue Chanel suit and a cream silk blouse fastened atthe neck by a ruby and gold brooch, Alena lay under filthy hessian sacks on a rough wooden floor. A rare red diamond ring glinted like a droplet of blood on her left hand, but her pale blonde hair was streaked with dirt and her stockings torn and suit creased.

Her breath guttered like a candle flame in a breeze as sweat coursed down a forehead lined with stress and she tasted its bitter sweetness. Pain squeezed her chest and she believed that the pounding of her heart would betray them. And to her surprise, as fear crowded in with a crushing intensity, she found she was praying although she had long since left religion behind.

She had always known it would end this way. As surely as evil follows good they would never let her go free. Now she accepted that flight was futile. The boy squirmed around, his head a Medusa mass of brown curls and his pale blue eyes sparking with a mischief that usually made her smile,  and she kissed him on the lips with a tender passion as her hands encircled his fragile neck.

 

02


HE looked out of the window of his office onto a deserted Voss Strasse and sighed with satisfaction. This was how it should be, not a single person allowed to impede his view unless they wished to incur his wrath.

The morning sunshine streamed through the window accentuating the deep lines on his face and making his blue eyes water, and a weary smile threatened to trouble the corners of his mouth. It was ironic - no matter how high you soared, no matter how powerful you became just one small slip and you could fall back to earth with the rest of them.

He had an idea what information the young Gestapo officer Huber wanted to share with him. That he had decided to come alone declared his intent. Huber would have brought a chaperone if it had been on the record. He suspected that one day it would catch up with him. There were many who would endeavour to take advantage of any breach, and just when his plans were going so well. But better now than later, he convinced himself.

For Carsten Huber the intimidating walk through the new Reich Chancellery was the ordeal it was intended to be. Albert Speer had designed the monolithic building to reinforce man's insignificance in relation to the authority of the state, and Huber could feel it working on him. Every step of the way he questioned his motives for being a good German, his footsteps echoing like a drumbeat on the red marble floors. What he was about to do was either the most audacious action he had attempted or the most foolish. Only history would tell.

Having driven through the imposing gates, he had entered the Ehrenhof, the court of honour that led to a reception room. Tall double doors opened onto a large hall clad in mosaic, and he ran up a couple of steps, passed through a rotunda with a domed ceiling and out into a gallery that stretched for almost five hundred feet.

Halfway down, outside the office where he was expected, two large carpets floated like rafts on a sea of marble. On each, there were several small tables surrounded by chairs on which perched those waiting an audience with fear and uncertainty shining out of their faces.

Two guards called him forward and, after checking his papers, the huge double doors were opened to reveal a cavernous study with the man he had come to see sitting behind a large marble-topped table and staring out of a window.

Huber hesitated holding his black fedora in both hands. He could feel his legs trembling and the more he thought about it the more they shook. He'd wanted to meet this man but the fear of confronting him was threatening to overpower him.

'Kommen,' the man said and wheeled around in his seat to face his visitor.

Huber coughed and took several uncertain steps forward, wondering if he should say something or wait until spoken to.

'So?' The man asked lifting up the corner of a book with an index finger,  distracted as if expecting an insect to break cover. He thought the Gestapo officer to be very young, possibly in his early twenties, perhaps someone a German father would think was appropriate for his daughter to marry, but a devious look in his eyes and a smirk betrayed a secret he was eager to share.

Huber had mentioned one word in his telephone call, requesting to see him face to face, and he knew that Huber knew but how much?

Knowing not to make eye contact, Huber coughed again. 'I have information which I believe is important to the Reich and to you personally.'

The man raised his eyebrows as if indicating to the young man that he had overestimated the importance of his intelligence. 'So, why me?'

'I'm sorry?' Huber wondered if he had made a mistake coming here.

'You should give this information to your superiors. That is the correct procedure.'

Huber surprised him by breaking into a smile showing a mouth full of white, even teeth. 'I think, perhaps, this information is for your ears only.'

The man looked away from him. 'Why are you doing this?'

'For my country, for you,' Huber smirked again knowing his reasons were far more personal.

'And a reward, perhaps?'

'No, no,' Huber cleared his throat and looked genuinely affronted. 'I only want to serve the Reich.'

The man kept staring at him, showing no emotion.

'Well, if you believe I have been of service,' Huber continued, 'perhaps a promotion, a small promotion?'

The man gestured, impatient for him to get on with it

He listened with a concentration that suggested that this was news to him. Huber knew some of the story, but not all of it, and even that was too much.

The revelation at the end was explosive. Something he hadn't known. Even Huber seemed embarrassed to reveal it. It hit him like a blow to the solar plexus and he wondered what his face showed at that moment. The young man's words filled him with a fear that he hadn't known since he was a small boy. An anger that he struggled hard to contain soon replaced it. How had this come about? At first he thought he might be to blame although that quickly graduated to condemning those around him for failing to protect him. The poison had defiled him. He couldn't understand it. It was against everything he stood for and he couldn't tolerate it. And he was the perpetrator. It was like being accused of a crime he hadn't known he'd committed. He had a sudden desire to wash, to scrub the contamination from his skin and cleanse himself.

Deep in thought, he didn't realise that Huber had stopped talking and it took several minutes before the shuffling of the young man's feet brought him back to the present.

Glancing around for confirmation that no one else was present to have heard what Huber had just told him, he got to his feet. 'Thank you for this information.' His face contorted into a smile that the young man thought more frightening than when his face was in repose. 'Who else have you told?'

'No, no one,' Huber stuttered.

'Good, good.' He smiled again, knowing that they would now have to find out how Huber had come about this information and whether anyone else knew. 'What should I do with you, Huber? If it's true, then this information

is a personal attack on me -'

'No, I wouldn't -'

He silenced the officer with a raised hand. 'If it's not true, then you are guilty of spreading anti-German propaganda, and that is treason.'

Huber swallowed hard and felt that he might collapse.

'On the other hand, if you are merely doing your job and will let this information rest with me so that I can investigate its veracity, then perhaps you should get what you deserve.' Not looking at him, he dismissed Huber with a wave of his arm.

Huber nodded in gratitude and made his way backwards to the safety of the door. Outside, he felt dizzy and his footsteps appeared to grow louder the more he progressed towards the exit and fresh air. He'd gone two-thirds of the way down the great gallery when two burly storm troopers fell in either side of him and guided him without touching him deeper into the bowels of the building.

As soon as Huber had left his office, the man balled a fist and slammed it into the top of his desk. Someone else must know and if this got out the ramifications would be immense. He had to find them.

He picked up a phone and spoke to an aide. 'Bring the woman to me.  Alive!'

 

 

2 comments:

  1. Great excerpt! Great post Kathryn. The book cover is wonderful and the story seems like it as well. Can't wait to read this. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Paul R. Hewlett

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    1. Thank you Paul! Glad you enjoyed the post.

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