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APPOINTMENT IN PRAGUE by Michael & Kathleen McMenamin, HistoricalThriller, 160 pp., $12.95 (paperback) $4.99 (Kindle)

 

Title: APPOINTMENT IN PRAGUE: A MATTIE MCGARY + WINSTON CHURCHILL WORLD WAR II ADVENTURE
Author: Michael McMenamin & Kathleen McMenamin
Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing
Pages: 160
Genre: Historical Thriller

In the novella, Appointment in Prague, one woman, a British secret agent, sets out in May 1942 to single-handedly send to hell the most evil Nazi alive—SS General Reinhard Heydrich,
the head of the SD, the domestic and foreign counter-intelligence wing
of the SS; second in rank only to the head of the SS himself, Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler; and the architect of  “The Final Solution” that will send millions of European Jews to their doom.When British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
authorizes the SOE—the ‘Special Operations Executive’— in October 1941
to assassinate Heydrich, he is unaware that the entire operation has
been conceived and is being run by his Scottish goddaughter, the former
Pulitzer Prize-winning Hearst photojournalist Mattie McGary.
The SOE is Churchill’s own creation, one he informally describes as the
Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare and, at his suggestion, Mattie
becomes one of its Deputy Directors.

Mattie has a history with Heydrich dating back to 1933 and a personal
score to settle. In September 1941, when the man known variously as
‘The Blond Beast’ and ‘The Man With the Iron Heart’—that last coming
from Adolf Hitler himself—is appointed Reichsprotektor of
Bohemia and Moravia, the remnants left of Czechoslovakia after the
Germans had dismembered it in 1939, Mattie is determined—now that he is
no longer safely within Germany’s borders—to have him killed. She
recruits and trains several Czech partisans for the task and has them
parachuted into Czechoslovakia in December 1941.

An increasingly impatient Mattie waits in London for word that her
agents have killed the Blond Beast. By May 1942, Heydrich still lives
and Mattie is furious.  The mother of six-year-old twins, Mattie
decides—without telling her godfather or her American husband, the #2
man in the London office of the OSS—to parachute into Czechoslovakia
herself and  “light a fire under their timid Czech bums”. Which she
does, but her agents botch the job and Heydrich is only wounded in the
attempt. The doctors sent from Berlin to care for him believe he will
recover.

On the fly, Mattie conceives a new plan to kill Heydrich herself.
With forged papers and other help from the highest-placed SOE asset in
Nazi Germany—a former lover—Mattie determines to covertly enter Prague’s
Bulovka Hospital and finish the job. After that, all she has
to do is flee Prague into Germany and from there to neutral Switzerland.
What Mattie doesn’t know is that Walter Schellenberg, Heydrich’s protégé and the head of Foreign Intelligence for the SD, is watching her every move.

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Interview:

What initially got you interested in writing?

 

Mostly curiosity about politics and economics and a desire as a libertarian to share my views on them with others, but being paid to write had its attraction also.

 

My first article for which I was paid was a cover story in the March 1975 Reason magazine “Milk, Money & Monopoly” based on my then book-in-progress Milking the Public, Political Scandals of the Dairy Lobby From LBJ to Jimmy Carter published in 1980 by Nelson-Hall. Since then, I’ve had well over 200 articles published in Reason magazine where I am a Contributing Editor; the Cato Institute’s now defunct Inquiry magazine where I was also a Contributing Editor; and Finest Hour, the quarterly journal of the International Churchill Society where I am an Editorial Board member.

 

What genres do you write in?

 

In non-fiction, it’s politics, economics, foreign policy and Winston Churchill.

 

In fiction, it’s historical thrillers set in the 1930s where Churchill is one of the fictional characters.

 

What drew you to writing these specific genres?

 

I knew a lot about Churchill and the 1930s and writers should write about what they know.

 

How did you break into the field?

 

In non-fiction, it’s because in Reason magazine, to which I subscribed, the editor asked in one issue for someone who could do an article on the Dairy Lobby. Thanks to the Senate Watergate Committee hearings, I was in the middle of writing a book on that subject so I sent the editor a pitch and he bought it.

 

In fiction, Enigma Books in New York in 2009 bought the trade paperback rights to my biography of the young [age 20-45] Winston Churchill—Becoming Winston Churchill, the Untold Story of Young Winston and His American Mentor—the hardcover version of which had been published in the UK and the US in 2007 by a division of Harcourt. Enigma specialized in non-fiction books on 20th century European and US history. I got to know Enigma’s editor quite well as I would come to New York at my expense whenever he could arrange a venue for me to talk about my book because, at that time, all three of my children lived in the city and their mother and I could visit and stay with them.

 

At that time, I had written with my son Patrick two unpublished historical thrillers set in the 1930s featuring Winston Churchill as a catalyst for our main characters and we were in the middle of writing a third. Our agents [different ones for each of the first two books] had secured for us quite a few rejection letters from well-known publishers praising our work, but alas no sale. I noticed in the backlist for Enigma that, while almost all of its 50+ books were non-fiction, it had also published 3 historical thrillers. I asked Enigma’s editor if he would like to read our first two Churchill historical thrillers. He did and, after he read them as well as a synopsis of the third novel, we signed a three-book deal for them shortly thereafter and became published—and literary award winning—novelists.

 

 What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?

 

I want them to enjoy our books; to find our characters, both good and villains, interesting; and to learn something about history they hadn’t known before.

 

What do you find most rewarding about writing?

I love it when readers understand the story and our characters the same way we do. The comments below about our 5th Churchill Thriller, The Silver Mosaic, illustrate this.

From an Amazon review: “One of the best thrillers I’ve read in a long time. It’s detailed, nuanced and beautifully written. Historical fact and fiction were so seamlessly woven together that I wasn’t sure which was which!”

[Exactly! That’s why we always include an ‘Historical Note’ at the end of every book so that readers can sort fact from fiction.]

From an Amazon review: “I’ve read and enjoyed all of the books in this series and I vote this one as the most exciting yet, full of twists and turns and I really cared about what happened to the characters. It was a most believable page-turner right to the very end. I can’t wait for their next book.”

[The wait will be over in late October 2018 with the publication of our 6th novel, The Liebold Protocol, A Mattie McGary+ Winston Churchill 1930s Adventure set in 1934 Germany and written with a new co-author, my daughter Kathleen McMenamin, who has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from NYU. Until then, readers will find a preview of six chapters of The Liebold Protocol at the end of our short novella Appointment in Prague where our ultimate evil character, Reinhard Heydrich, finally gets what’s coming to him in Prague in 1942.]

And my favorite one, this from a Goodreads review about our main female character: “Mattie McGary is what every woman wants to be: strong-willed, the ability to take care of herself, and who doesn’t take crap from anyone.”

[Exactly! Mattie is a Scottish version of the Irish-American actress Maureen O’Hara in the classic film The Quiet Man and any other film in which she co-stars with John Wayne, right down to her red hair and fiery temper.]

What do you find most challenging about writing?

Achieving verisimilitude. You can ruin it so quickly in historical fiction, e.g., when I stupidly mentioned the Guinness Book of World Records in 1933 when they didn’t begin until 1955. Who knew? Well, some reader did and it spoiled things for him.

 

Whenever I can, I use real historical persons in otherwise fictional settings and I really enjoy bringing them to life as I think they really were during the period in which the book takes place. It’s easier than creating a fictional character to play the same role in your story. But, you’ve got to get that historical person right. It’s rare for me to use an actual historical person unless I’ve read at least one biography of that person. I also don’t use an actual historical person as window dressing or a walk-on. They’ve got to have a role and fit into the story in a logical way. It’s not always easy.

 

Churchill and Hitler, for example, were not in 1932 the same people they became in 1940. Ditto FDR who was a character in our last two novels set in 1933. You’ve got to portray them as they were then. For example, Hitler was the biggest anti-Semite in history, but if he knew you were not anti-Semitic, then in private conversations with you, he would avoid anti-Semitic comments from about 1930 through at least the Berlin Olympics in 1936, maybe a little longer. On the other hand, Reinhard Heydrich whose death in 1942 we portray in Appointment in Prague was pretty much the same evil guy in 1942 that he was in 1933.

 

What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?

 

Write. That’s what writers do, whether they’re published or not. If you don’t write, you by definition are not going to enter the field.

 

Or, to quote from my personal hero Winston Churchill [who, by the way, was a writer who made his living entirely from what he was paid for his books and articles and who received the Nobel Prize for Literature] in a talk he gave to the boys at Harrow School in October 1941:

 

“Never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

 

In other words, keep writing and keep trying to sell your work. Ignore all rejections.

 

What type of books do you enjoy reading?

 

Non-fiction: History and biographies. It’s where I get my ideas for our novels.

 

Fiction: Historical thrillers of course. Here’s a small list: Ken Follett’s historical thrillers, Alan Furst’s 1930s spy novels, W.E.B. Griffin’s OSS novels, George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novels, Clive Cussler’s Isaac Bell novels, Upton Sinclair’s Lanny Budd novels, Michael Dobbs’ WW II Churchill novels Susan MacNeil’s Maggie Hope novels; Rebecca Cantrell’s Hannah Vogel novels, David Downing’s John Russell novels, James Benn’s Billy Boyle novels, Stephen Hunter’s Earl Swagger novels, Robert Harris’s Fatherland, Enigma and Munich, Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther novels, Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs novels, Robert Goddard’s WW I novels, Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Fisher mysteries, Joseph Kanon’s post-WW II novels.

 

Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?

 

Maybe. Three things, two are possibly interesting and the third is interesting, embarrassing or humorous, depending on your point of view and/or sense of humor.

 

(1) As a Counterintelligence Agent in the Army Reserve in the 1970s, the government taught me how to pick locks, but I never thought that a career as a cat burglar was that promising, especially since they wouldn’t let us keep our lock picking tools. I was also taught how conduct a three-man surveillance of an enemy suspect on a crowded city street, but I never found an enemy suspect worth following. It came in handy, however, in our first novel The DeValera Deception.

 

(2) Before I became a full-time writer, I was also a lawyer specializing in First Amendment and Media Defense with clients like Readers’ Digest, CNN, Ted Turner, FOX television stations, the Associated Press, Harper Collins, Clear Channel, 20th Century Fox and James Cameron. I once defended the last two clients in a federal copyright lawsuit against the film Titanic [a really great film] where they paid me to watch the film, rather than the other way around. Twice.

 

(3) My son Patrick met his future wife Rebecca (also, unfortunately, a redhead like Mattie and Maureen O’Hara) after we had finished an initial draft of our 2nd novel The Parsifal Pursuit. She joined us at the shore that summer and asked to read the manuscript. We agreed. Our main character, Mattie, has several sex scenes in the book [with the apparent villain, no less] that I initially drafted and Patrick revised, but if a writer is going to be embarrassed by them, then he just shouldn’t write them. So we let Rebecca read the manuscript and she said she liked it. Then I told her that the character of Mattie was patterned after the actress Maureen O’Hara to which Rebecca exclaimed “Auntie Maureen? She’s my Great Aunt!” Seriously. I’m not making this up. I had written steamy sex scenes featuring my future daughter-in-law’s great aunt!

 

What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?

 

Email: wsc_mcmenamin13@yahoo.com

 

Amazon Author’s Page: http://amazon.com/author/mcmenaminbooks

 

YouTube: http://reason.com/reasontv/2012/09/02/mcmenamin-interview

 

The following two links have some really good stuff, but they are not current. It’s more fun to write books than to update the links. Volunteers to do so will be gratefully accepted.

 

Website: http://winstonchurchillthrillers.com

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WinstonChurchillThrillers

 

Excerpt: 

KEEPING SECRETS from her husband, Bourke Cockran, Jr., was
nothing new for Mattie McGary as she gently kissed her sleeping husband goodbye
before she left for her office where she had to prepare two pieces of
correspondence. One was an ‘eyes only’ letter to her godfather, Prime Minister
Winston Churchill, telling him everything about her new mission, one he never
would have approved had he known beforehand. The other was a letter to her
husband on the same subject where she most definitely would not tell him
‘everything’. The second letter would be much more difficult to write than the
first.
When she had been a Pulitzer Prize-winning
photojournalist for the Hearst organization in the 20s and 30s, she often had
promised confidentiality to her sources and kept their identities a secret even
from Cockran, both before and after he became her husband. He understood
because, as a lawyer, he never disclosed to her privileged and confidential
communications he received from his clients no matter how newsworthy and
interested she might be in that information.
Once her godfather, Winston Churchill, became Prime
Minister in May 1940 and, at his request, she joined the SOE—the ‘Special
Operations Executive’—Mattie’s entire professional life became a secret from
Cockran, courtesy of Great Britain’s Official Secrets Act. The SOE was
Churchill’s own creation which he informally, albeit accurately, described as
the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.
A year later, in June 1941, at the behest of his
law partner, William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, Cockran began work for a new United
States government agency that became the OSS—the ‘Office of Strategic
Services’—so that his entire professional life became a secret from her thanks
to the America’s Espionage Act of 1917.
Now, Cockran was the #2 man at the OSS station in
London and she was the Deputy Director of the SOE for Central Europe. It had
certainly complicated their marriage, Mattie thought as she softly closed the
door to their suite at the Savoy.
Inter-Services Research Bureau
64 Baker Street
London
Saturday, 2 May 1942
MATTIE STOOD up from her desk in her office at SOE
headquarters, the outside of which carried on a brass plate the innocuous name
of Inter-Services Research Bureau, and walked over to the sideboard. She made
herself a cup of tea and looked down on the traffic below on Baker Street where
it was raining and pedestrian umbrellas were out in full force.
A husband and wife being spies for different Allied
governments raised more than a few eyebrows in the SOE and the OSS, but each
spouse had their own high-ranking patrons, Mattie with her godfather as the
British Prime Minister and Cockran with his old law partner Donovan as head of
the OSS. Nevertheless, they never brought work home to their suite at the Savoy
and never discussed with each other what they did.
Mattie was in a dilemma today, however, because
they had made each other a promise that she was about to violate. For the sake
of their two six-year-old children, fraternal twins Nora and Eric, they had
promised not to volunteer for any dangerous assignments in the field. At
the time, it seemed like a safe promise as both were sufficiently high-ranking
in their respective organizations not to be sent into any countries occupied by
the Nazis.
That was all before Operation Anthropoid—the
assassination of SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the ‘Butcher of Prague’—went off
the rails. No one else at SOE knew the reason why, but she did. The operation
was her idea from the outset. She had conceived it; she had personally trained
the three Czech SOE agents involved; and she was their handler now that they
were in the field.  They had been in
Czechoslovakia for almost six months and nothing had happened. Others might disagree,
especially if they knew why she had pushed Operation Anthropoid so vigorously,
but she thought she was the only one with the necessary background to get the
show back on track.
That was why she was not flying to Stockholm
tomorrow for her bimonthly interview with the SOE’s most highly placed asset in
Nazi Germany—her former lover Kurt von Sturm, a high-ranking aide to the head
of the Luftwaffe, Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring. Instead,
she would be resurrecting from storage the leather flying outfit she had first
worn over ten years ago—a shearling–lined sheepskin flying jacket with matching
sheepskin trousers, boots and helmet—when she had flown across the country in
Cockran’s autogiro in her attempt to break Amelia Earhart’s coast-to coast
autogiro record. Then, that night, she would parachute into Occupied Europe to
kick-start an assassination plan that should have been completed six months
ago.
Travel outside Great Britain came with the job
descriptions for her and her husband. Typically, they told each other when they
left the country unless the destination itself was mission critical. Well, her
destination this time was most definitely mission critical and she would be
breaking her word to Cockran by doing so—she not only had volunteered for the
mission, she had created it. Still, she didn’t want to lie and telling him she
would be away for a month on assignment without adding that she would be out of
the country would almost be the same as a lie.
Finally, Mattie settled on the least deceptive
option. She would tell him the truth, just not all the truth. Isn’t that
what lawyers did all the time? She would tell him she was going to Switzerland
on assignment. Which she was, eventually, if she survived the most dangerous
part of the mission. She just wasn’t going there first. She went back to her
typewriter to finish her letter to the Prime Minister filling him in on her
mission and instructing him on what he was to tell her husband if she didn’t
make it back. She knew Winston wouldn’t like what she was doing any more than
her husband and indeed likely would have forbade her to do so had he known. But
her godfather had a war to run and he could not possibly keep track of every
SOE or MI-6 mission abroad. From her days working for Hearst, Mattie had always
believed begging for forgiveness afterwards was better than asking for
permission beforehand.  After all, it
wouldn’t be a violation of the Official Secrets Act for the Prime Minister to
know what her husband could not.
Over nine years in the making, an old score was
about to be settled. Reinhard Heydrich was about to discover that, just as
Death once had an appointment in Samarra, Mattie McGary had an appointment in
Prague.

 

 

 

 

 

Michael McMenamin is the co-author with his son
Patrick of the award winning 1930s era historical novels featuring
Winston Churchill and his fictional Scottish goddaughter, the
adventure-seeking Hearst photojournalist Mattie McGary. The first five
novels in the series—The DeValera Deception, The Parsifal Pursuit, The Gemini Agenda, The Berghof Betrayal and The Silver Mosaic—received a total of 15 literary awards. He is currently at work with his daughter Kathleen McMenamin on the sixth Winston and Mattie historical adventure, The Liebold Protocol.Michael is the author of the critically acclaimed Becoming Winston Churchill, The Untold Story of Young Winston and His American Mentor [Hardcover, Greenwood 2007; Paperback, Enigma 2009] and the co-author of Milking the Public, Political Scandals of the Dairy Lobby from LBJ to Jimmy Carter [Nelson Hall, 1980]. He is an editorial board member of Finest Hour, the quarterly journal of the International Churchill Society and a contributing editor for the libertarian magazine Reason. His work also has appeared in The Churchills in Ireland, 1660-1965, Corrections and Controversies [Irish Academic Press, 2012] as well as two Reason anthologies, Free Minds & Free Markets, Twenty Five Years of Reason [Pacific Research Institute, 1993] and Choice, the Best of Reason [BenBella
Books, 2004]. A full-time writer, he was formerly a first amendment and
media defense lawyer and a U.S. Army Counterintelligence Agent.  

Kathleen, the other half of the father-daughter
writing team, has been editing her father’s writing for longer than she
cares to remember. She is the co-author with her sister Kelly of the
critically acclaimed Organize Your Way: Simple Strategies for Every Personality [Sterling, 2017]. The two sisters are professional organizers, personality-type experts and the founders of PixiesDidIt, a
home and life organization business. Kathleen is an honors graduate of
Sarah Lawrence College and has an MFA in Creative Writing from New York
University. The novella Appointment in Prague is her second
joint writing project with her father. Their first was “Bringing Home
the First Amendment”, a review in the August 1984 Reason magazine of Nat Hentoff’s The Day They Came to Arrest the Book.  While a teen-ager, she and her father would often take runs together, creating plots for adventure stories as they ran.

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