Thursday, 19 December 2013

V is for VANILLA JEWS (Book 2, update 2)

The original title for the sequel to Afrika Reich was THE VANILLA JEWS. However, my editor didn’t think it sounded commercial enough, so I changed it. For the past couple of years this blog has been about the original book, now it’s time to start looking forward (spoiler free... ish) to the next one.

So what to tell you? When I first started on Book 2, I meant it as a direct follow-up; as the years have passed, however, it has subtly shifted. I now see it as a ‘parallel sequel’ – although it continues events of the first book, and develops the existing story and characters, certain aspects of the original have been dropped. It is significantly more ambitious with an interweaving, multi-stranded narrative and more emphasis on the characters than action (though there’s still a healthy dose of the latter).

The one thing it is not is a rehash of the first book. There’s a lot of pressure in publishing to create a series and/or repeat an initial success – but I have scant interest in this. What engages me is the possibility of doing something different, something unexpected. As I was recently advised by a wily American film producer: ‘never go for the sure thing’. It could be a maxim for Book 2.

A propaganda poster from the 1930s

At the centre of the story is the Nazis’ plan to deport the Jews of Europe to Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa. Prior to the Holocaust this was to be their fate. Some historians argue that Madagascar was nothing more than a fantasy or smokescreen to cover up the real killing. However, my research shows detailed preparations were made by the Nazis and that the subject was discussed and approved at the highest level. When Hitler was shown the plan in the summer of 1940 he responded that it was ‘very good’. 

Perhaps more disturbingly, as early as 1938 the British were also in discussions to exile the Jews to Africa. We can never know the truth path of a speculative history but the thought of a Jewish Madagascar is not improbable. As an aside, Madagascar is the world’s largest producer of vanilla – hence the original title; vanilla remains of leitmotif throughout the text.

The odious Globus
With this as the background, other elements in the new book include a deepening of Burton’s back story; the fallout of Hochburg’s invasion of Northern Rhodesia; visiting new realms of German Africa such as the ‘pleasure city’ of Roscherhafen (again based on real plans); glimpsing WBU, the Nazis’ military zone in Siberia; as well as a slew of projected Nazi hardware and several new characters. Among these is Odilo ‘Globus’ Globocnik, a real historical character and the villain of Fatherland – though my depiction of him is very different (and dare I say, more accurate) than Robert Harris’s. Did you know, for instance, that Globocnik was a master horseman, drunkard and singer of Austrian folksongs?

Without wanting to be a hostage to the future the new book will be published in time for Christmas 2014. And the title? When my editor said The Vanilla Jews didn’t work I had an instant alternative (no pun intended). It has already been registered and ISBNed. You heard it here first: