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The Secret War

Posted: Tue 17 Jul, 2007 17:43:54
by Stevie P
'The Secret War' refers to the conflict between Italy and Abyssinia (Now Ethiopia) in 1935.

The official reasons for this war was as follows:
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini had long held a desire for a new Italian Empire, reminiscent of the Roman Empire . Mussolini's new empire was to rule over the Mediterranean. His new empire would also avenge past Italian defeats. Chief among these defeats was the Battle of Adwa which took place in Ethiopia on March 1st 1896. Mussolini promised the Italian people "a place in the sun," as the United Kingdom and France who both had large empires at the time had colonial possessions. Ethiopia was a prime candidate of this expansionist goal for several reasons. Following the Scramble for Africa by the European imperialists it was one of the few remaining independent African nations, and it would serve to unify the Italian-held Eritrea to the north-west and Italian Somaliland to the east. It was considered to be militarily weak, and rich in resources.
The additional points highlighted by DW are, Italy's need for expansion (as well as Abyssinia being rich in Minerals and Oil). So, by starting a war supposedly based on expansion, the Abyssinians, would have to sell Oil and Minerals as concessions to other countries in order to buy armaments to protect themselves from a contrived war in which the propaganda merchants thrive. (Page 56 Arrow paperback)

The main story line asks the question, "Is murder justified if it will save the lives of millions of people caught up in a war?"
The Millers of God, A secret society believe it is justified and are prepared to eliminate the war profiteers who deliberately perpetuate the war for their own financial benefit.

Christopher Penn is American and a "Miller of God" and has been tasked with the elimination of Paxito Zarriff (The man organising the handover of concessions for Germany) with the help of his aviator fiancée Valerie Lorne. Sir Anthony Lovelace (an Englishman) happens to meet up with Christopher in the Union club in New York and is drawn into assisting him in his task in view of his penchant for languages and the fact that Valerie seems so familiar to him.
As in DW's previous novel 'Contraband' there are quite a few plane chases and narrow escapes from death. One of the narrow escapes occurs when Sir Anthony and the 'Abyssinian go-between' whose identity he has stolen (Jeremiah Green) are locked in Zarriff's cellar with water rising rapidly. The only exit being a trapdoor in the roof of the cellar, which is locked. (Page 129 ). Reminiscent of the slow drowning scene in his previous book See 'Contraband book review'.

A few snippets: -

(Valerie's) eyes were large, but rather pale in the photograph, which gave them an almost magnetic look and made Lovelace suspect they were Grey. Yet again a reference to Grey eyes? (Page 24)

A reference to the Volstead act. This apparently was the official name of the Alcohol prohibition which had been implemented just after the end of the 1st World War. (Page 26)

" They (The Abyssinians) consider themselves the chosen people because they've been in possession of The Ark of the Covenant for centuries... One of their Kings pinched it when he was on a visit to Jerusalem. They'd adopted the Jewish faith before that owing to the lapse from virtue of Sheba, the virgin queen of Ethiopia who trekked all the way to Jerusalem to meet Solomon. (Pages 45- 46)

The word 'nigger' creeps back into the vocabulary. (Pages 122 and 126)
One of Zarriffs men talks in great detail of his life during the Russian Revolution. (Page 157-165). DW's next book (excluding the Crime Dossiers) written later in the year was, "Red Eagle" - the story of the Russian Revolution).

To the Abyssinians a Red Cross meant a Brothel. To Europeans it meant the famous medical service.
Once the Abyssinians realised this, they painted Red Crosses on everything knowing that the Italians wouldn't attack it.
(Page 220)

Overall the book was a good informative read but I didn't feel it was one of his best.

Posted: Wed 18 Jul, 2007 19:31:36
by Garry Holmes
Interesting to see DW experimenting with different types of book. There were a lot of these secret societies in sensational fiction at the time. What with THE FOUR JUST MEN and the early Simon Templar, it's a wonder that there were any war profiteers left by the time WWII broke out!

Posted: Mon 23 Jul, 2007 05:30:31
by Alan
>To the Abyssinians a Red Cross meant a Brothel. To Europeans it meant the famous medical service.
Once the Abyssinians realised this, they painted Red Crosses on everything knowing that the Italians wouldn't attack it.
(Page 220)

Would have thought this would have prevented the Italians attacking it either way :lol: