Monday, December 15, 2008

DESPERATE TIMES: A TOAST TO TOMORROW BY MANNING COLES


On the day the £ sterling dived to parity with the Euro for the first time I read a short spy novel A Toast to Tomorrow. 
The book published in 1940 was written by two Hampshire neighbours Adelaide Manning and Cyril Coles, and based in part on Cole's adventures in British intelligence. Manning and  Coles were to go on writing together until Manning's death in 1959, but their hero Tommy Hambledon was at his best when battling the Nazis.

A Toast to Tommorrow is the story of a British agent who is washed up on a beach near Ostend in his underwear with no memory of who or what he is. He is given the name Klaus , from Nikolaus the patron saint of sailors, and Lehmann, the name of his doctor in the naval hospital where he is treated. 
On his release from hospital Lehmann wanders through a defeated Germany, on the way meeting Hermann Goering and making friends with Ludmilla Rademeyer, who becomes his elderly adopted aunt.

Then comes 1923 and massive inflation. 'This was the time when the mark soared to an astronomical figure [against the dollar], and people took attache cases to collect the bulky bundles of worthless notes which constituted their wages.'

'they are doing this so that the foreigner may buy more cheaply. Why does the government wish to benefit the foreigner at the expense of its own people?'

The people starve,and freeze while it cost millions of marks to buy a box of matches and then Lehmann meets Hitler.

'And do you think he has a chance?" [of saving Germany]
'I don't know, but .....I have come to the state where I would support  a convicted murderer or illiterate village wench if I thought either could help Germany.'

Lehmann climbs the Nazi party hierachy [he regarded Hitler not as a leader but a useful tool  for the regeneration of the country] and by 1933 is Deputy Chief of the German Police. He has learned that the Nazi leaders are corrupt and evil and then while watching the Reichstag Fire he regains his memory; he becomes Tommy Hambledon the British agent again.

There is an enormous amount of implausible coincidence in this story as well as Boy's Own 1930s style adventures, but it is worth reading because of  the accounts of Germany during the time of the terrible inflation, and of the Nazi treatment of Jews [to the Nazis anyone with a Jewish grandparent]. 
It is hard to believe it was written as long ago as 1940 because it tries to answer difficult questions at a time when survival was the priority. 
How did a civilized nation end up in the hands of a group of barbarous lunatics?

The old lady sighed. "Yet they are Germans who carry out these dreadful orders, how can they? Why don't they refuse? Germans used to be such nice people before all this happened-except the Prussians of course......"  

4 Comments:

Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had not heard of this book or its authors. It may resonate with today's readers for more reasons than just the question about Nazis. If only I could retire to a quiet mountainside with a few good books and a comfortable bank balance.

My v-word should strike a chord with anyone who hs read Ecclesiastes in its original language: hevel

12:26 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Man, I shouldn't jump into the middle of your posts. I thought you were talking about the U.S. (how did a civilized nation ...)

I read Manning Coles many years ago. This title is familiar, but not the storyline.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous marco said...

Again,I recommend this book (and the series)

Review From The Globe and Mail:

HALF A CROWN

By Jo Walton, Tor, 320 pages, $28.95

Got a history buff on your list? How about a trip into alternative history? One where Hitler didn't lose the Second World War. Where Britain made peace in 1941, the United States retreated into isolationist idiocy and the Japanese conquered Asia. Yes, Robert Harris did take us there in Fatherland, but Jo Walton's wonderful trilogy is just as good.

Half a Crown, the third (the two previous are Farthing and Ha'penny), is set in London in 1960. Peter Carmichael, commander of the Watch, Britain's dreaded secret police, is readying his forces for a world conference. The Queen, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and the Japanese will host representatives from the rest of the world (the U.S. ranks somewhere between Afghanistan and Ukraine) to settle into a world of peace, domination and genocide.

At the same time, Carmichael's adopted niece, Elvira, after years of study in Switzerland, is about to be presented to the Queen. How Carmichael and Elvira end up on the wrong side of British fascism is the perfect end to this brilliant trilogy.

Walton, who lives in Montreal, has an incredible eye and ear for the small details of life that make her fascist Britain perfect: e.g. Elvira, dabbing on makeup, casually quotes Leni Riefenstahl. The British class system is preserved perfectly in all its anti-Semitic glory, with torchlight parades considered slumming, but thrilling.

Anyone who gets this book will want to read the first two, so be generous: Give all three.


Ciao,Marco

8:53 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Marco, I will try that series you are a good salesman.

Peter I get the impression you are the only one still working in the newspaper industry. You can't retire.

Barbara, yes 'group of barbarous lunatics' could apply to many countries. If I had used the phrase 'group of incompetent idiots' you would have known I was referring to my own country of England.

2:37 AM  

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