Soldier, Banker, Diplomat, Spy

I am currently working on a proposal for a non-fiction book based on the unpublished diaries of an unsung British hero from the two world wars who began life as a soldier before becoming a spy involved in the unmasking of Mara Hari (as liaison officer to the Deuxième Bureau), spying in Russia in 1921, and then joining the family’s banking firm. As they say, once a spy . . . and such was the case with this gentleman. He became a favourite ‘go to’ person for high level contacts, served again in the British Expeditionary Forces (BEF) until May 1940, and in 1941 became a diplomat sent to Washington D.C. His mission? To bring the United States into the war. Aristocrats, despite many in Continental Europe having suffered a loss of political and cultural standing after World War I, still rightly viewed themselves as a close-knit multilingual international elite. And Hitler planned to use them to his advantage: as spies, women of mystery, gentlemen infiltrators, diplomats with a remit to penetrate the power circles of the countries to which they were accredited, industrial sabotage agents, and more. . . . They were the trusted voices disseminating his political and cultural propaganda for the “New Germany.” Then, too, there were the German industrialists—45 of whom would find themselves arrested at the end of the war and brought up on charges of ‘crimes against humanity.’ Names like Thyssen, Krupp, and IG Farben are in my cast of ‘aristocrats’, too. Unlike the royal families, it was these corporate aristocrats who rearmed Germany or kept the Nazi Party afloat in the early years and helped to promote the move to a war economy before the British and French declarations of war prior to September 1939. But German aristocrats were only at the beginning in the chain of propaganda promoting Hitler. American banks, most notably the House of Morgan, American corporations like Ford, General Motors and ITT all assisted in the fantasy that Hitler’s Germany meant peace. American isolationists in Congress and the press actively worked to keep Hitler off the political agenda, even when given proof that there was a German fifth column in America. Men like Henry Ford and Jack Morgan helped to spread anti-Semitism in America. James D. Mooney of General Motors acted as both an adviser to President Roosevelt and a propagandist for Hitler. Like the royal families of Europe, their “jobs” and friendships transcended international boundaries. International business had to find ways of ‘accommodating’ Hitler to keep their trade alive. In Britain, social hostesses like Lady Edith Londonderry, American-born Lady Maud “Emerald” Cunard, and even the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII and then Duke of Windsor) fell under Hitler’s spell. Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists and married to the beautiful Diana Mitford, (and brother-in-law of Hitler’s ‘Valkyrie’ Unity Mitford), were the most obvious faces of fascism. But others in the political and aristocratic hierarchy lurked behind the scenes and were equally if not more powerful in the desire to accommodate Hitler. Hitler’s Aristocrats helped promote Nazi propaganda in both Britain and America in board rooms, drawing rooms, cocktail parties, and weekend retreats, carrying out some of his most secret plans. They were the trusted voices disseminating his political and cultural propaganda for the “New Germany.” The question I answer is why by showing how.

Shakespeare’s Daughter (2023) A Novel

The previous edition was self-published to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, coinciding with the time I was the Chief Executive of the British Shakespeare Association. The new edition will be an updated Shakespearean romp where Susanna Shakespeare Hall, still runs hell-for-leather from her life in Stratford-upon-Avon, her philandering husband, and her mother who has lied to her about the safekeeping of Shakespeare’s manuscripts for years. Susanna has myriad scores to settle and questions she needs answering, and only one person can be held to account — William Shakespeare. Naturally, her Shakespearean road trip is anything but smooth, as she encounters infamous highwaymen, footpads, handsome actors, and her father’s ‘frenemies’ in a world far richer in rapscallions than any of her father’s plays. But when she finally meets up with her famous dad, Susanna slowly realises that things are not as they seem. . . that her anger at Will has blinded her to life and love and only he holds the key to her release.

More fiction in the works

Private Collections: Set in England and France, a British invalided military intelligence officer and an American museum curator discover an enormous cache of looted art from World War II. Based on my real-life experiences and my non-fiction book, Hitler’s Art Thief: Hildebrand Gurlitt, the Nazis, and the Looting of Europe’s Treasures.
A Private Party: Set in the Cotswolds in 1937 and based on my non-fiction book, Hitler’s Aristocrats due to be published in March 2023. The body of a Swedish hotel guest is discovered at a rural train station. But was it suicide as the aristocratic family she had come to visit claim or murder? And why was she involved with the family of British Nazi sympathisers. After the body is identified, it becomes clear that the fabulous antique jewel reputed to have belonged to the Queen of Sheba has disappeared. Of course, matters are not what they seem. . . .