Sunday, 24 July 2011


Books, like wars, rarely have simple origins; rather they are a confluence of events. So it was with The Afrika Reich (TAR). Although the book was published in February 2011, the first stirrings I had for a story set in Nazi-occupied Africa go back to the 1990s. I began with a title.

I remember a day shopping in London. I was browsing in Dillons (a defunct book store) and came across a new edition of William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Half an hour later I was in Dorothy Perkins in Oxford Street - though can I add not shopping for myself! Inside the store there was a huge TV screen with the BBC news playing. Some story from Africa came on and the newscaster said (I recall this vividly), ‘Now over to our Africa correspondent, Tim Hewitt’.

Africa correspondent. The Third Reich... Somehow the two fused in my mind – and I had ‘The Africa Reich’! I thought it would make a good title and so duly scribbled it down in my note book (I don’t go anywhere without one).

Jump forward a couple of years and I was on the beach in Rio de Janeiro (where I used to live) reading Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. On page 17 of my Penguin edition there is a fleeting reference to Africa: ‘He thought of Africa, and the Nazi experiment there. And his blood stopped in his veins...’ What could ellicit such a response? The thought intrigued me and I remembered my Dorothy Perkins moment.

Gradually an idea for a novel took root and somehow grafted itself on to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, one of my favourite books. I imagined a character journeying up river though Nazi Congo to find a Kurtz-like character waging a war of genocide against the native population. As I began sketching out a plot it was a simple progression from Heart of Darkness to APOCALYPSE NOW (which I’m sure you’ll know is loosely based on Conrad’s tale). At that point the engine of my imagination began to rev up.

Inspired by Coppola’s masterpiece I created a hellish and hallucinogenic version of Nazi Africa, interspersed with journal entries from a world-weary war correspondent called Burton Cole. He was going up river to find the scoop of the century: an interview with the enigmatic Walter Hochburg, architect of the Africa Reich. After more than a year’s writing I submitted it to my agent who said it was brilliant: a fusion of the literary and thriller, philosophical musings and big action sequences.

It was also utterly unsellable.

And so the manuscript joined that pile of other rejected books I have stored away in my office. It was the end of 2002, but although I didn’t know it at the time, not the end of The Afrika Reich.

A is also for ARNIM
Field Marshal Hans-Jürgen von ARNIM was appointed head of the Afrika Korps in March 1943. One of the things I wanted to do with the book was mix fact and fiction and to that end several real people appear in the narrative. I like the sense of verisimilitude this brings, though as you’ll see when we get to ‘H is for...’ I didn’t want to introduce any major historical figures.


  1. Great insight into the genesis of a great book, Guy. Just shows you should never say never

  2. Psst. There's an illicit illicit in your post. Should be Elicit?

    Great to see you blogging!

  3. There's a newscatster in there too but let's not quibble! LOL! I like cats so that's ok! ;-)

    So interesting to learn that the book title came before the book itself - and via shopping and TV! Also most interesting to learn that your originial Burton Cole is nothing like the one in the book too although he retains his moody world weariness!

    B is for blogging 'bout the book! :-) Cos it's fab!

    Take care

  4. Hi
    It's really interesting to hear where the seeds of the idea came from. I've had a few Dorothy Perkins moments myself. Doubt any of them would make for a thriller though...

    K x

  5. As you may have seen I've been having problems replying to people's comments. These are the replies I wrote back in July but wasn't able to post!

    Doug - never say never indeed!

    Justine & Old Kitty - thanks for pointing out these typos. I had actually proof read this piece before uploading it... but now realise I must have posted the uncorrected version. Doh!

    K - Perhaps I should go back to Dorothy Ps next time I need inspiration...

    Thanks to all of your for commenting. Now all I need to do is work out how to syndicate this blog to the TAR FB page...

  6. Q: given the Apoc Now influence is that why Burton is sent to assassinate Hochburg with 'extreme prejudice'. I noticed it's repeated several times in the text. This is a phrase that comes from 60s and CIA missions, so it caused me to twitch when I first read it. Now it's making better sense.

    1. HC - indeed it is. In fact there are various references to APOCALYPSE NOW in the book, some of which are anachronistic (hope that's spelt right!) - but I was more interested in the reference than accuracy (the latter potentially a misnomer anyway in an alternative history).