Saturday, 16 July 2016

U is for URALS

It’s a year to the day since The Madagaskar Plan was published. Have you read it yet?

The URALS are a range of mountains in Russia. If the Nazis had defeated the Soviet Union, the Urals would have become the natural boundary of Germany’s Eastern Empire. Many historians, however, believe a total defeat of the Soviets would have been impossible and that a guerrilla conflict may have continued on the fringes of the new Reich for years. Such a proposition is referred to in other alternate histories such as Fatherland and more recently Dominion. Hitler himself acknowledged the possibility with his infamous quote: ‘People say to me: “Be careful! You will have twenty years of guerrilla warfare on your hands.” I am delighted at the prospect... Germany will remain in a state of perpetual alertness.’

The Urals, looking towards the east

The Afrika Reich began as a more ambitious, five novel sequence. Originally it contained a trilogy set in Nazi Africa featuring Burton and Hochburg, bookended by two standalone novels. The first of these, Seven Bridges to Toledo, was set during the Spanish Civil War and included Patrick, Tünscher and Cranley. You can read more about this project here. The final book in the sequence was called East of the Urals and was set during the collapse of the Nazis’ Eastern Empire. The main character of Urals was Tünscher, returning East on a mission to assassinate a renegade colonel: Standartenführer Kanvinksy, the only SS officer ever to be recalled because his methods were regarded as too extreme – think Kurtz in the mountains. Horrifyingly, he was a real person. Tünscher also had a softer, more personal motive for his journey East, what he describes to Burton as his ‘debts’.

Because I plotted the sequence of five novels well ahead of writing them, much of the Urals story was foreshadowed in Madagaskar. Kanvinsky is even mentioned in Chapter 50. That is why the Urals are such presence in the book, like a gust of icy wind blowing through the narrative. Globocnik would most certainly have served out there too which is why his sections are peppered with references to the East.

For commercial reasons it’s now very unlikely that the Spanish and Urals books will be written. In the original sequence of novels Tünscher was only going to appear in the odd-number books – so we wouldn’t discover the truth about his debts till the fifth book. I have now truncated this – with his debt subtly explained at the end of Madagaskar and the full significance playing out in Book 3.

Beyond the Urals is Birobidzhan. It is never mentioned in the novel (only in the historical note), though Globus and Tünscher occasionally allude to it. Madagascar is where the Nazis planned to deport the Jews of Western Europe; the Jews of Russia were to be exiled to Birobidzhan, in Siberia. If it’s possible, Birobidzhan would have been worse than Madagaskar: monsoons and insufferable heat in the summer, thirty below in the winter.

Birobidzhan is one of the many things I wanted to include in Madagaskar but was unable to because of word length issues. In the final couple of blog entries I’ll discuss others things that didn’t make it into the published book.

U is also for URANIUM MINE

The URANIUM MINE that Hochburg visits in Chapter 7 – Shinkolobwe – is a real place in Congo. The reason I chose it as a location is that it was the source of the uranium used in the two bombs dropped on Japan at the end of WW2. You can read more about the place in this excellent article by Patrick Marnham.

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