Sebastian is one of my personal favourites. At the last book fair readers commented how I glow when I present the book to people, so I felt it was worth re-sharing this old post from Sebastian’s early days.
Sebastian is one of my personal favourites. At the last book fair readers commented how I glow when I present the book to people, so I felt it was worth re-sharing this old post from Sebastian’s early days.
Today begins a series of posts from the archives of author Christoph Fischer who in his research for books has found it difficult at times to discover the truth of events. History is usually written by the victors…. in the days before World War I and II the only source of information was state owned media in print and then in radio. If that is the only truth you are fed then it will colour your observations and also recollections of events.
Is history the agreed upon lie? by Christoph Fischer
I must say that this is an excellent question and one that I have often thought about before writing historical novels.
When the Berlin Wall came down, the German press was full of Chancellor Kohl walking along a river with President Gorbachev and the myth was created that on this “walk-and-talk” only Kohl’s diplomatic skills led to the German reunification. Praise the hero and superman Kohl. But was it really likely that anyone wanted two separate German states or cared in the period that was Glasnost? At the times many bought into the story, after all, didn’t it sound nicer than the idea that Russia had no longer an interest in the broken satellite state? Still, the myth made its way to history books and has always slightly bothered me because in my view it was created for all the wrong reasons.
In my research for “The Luck of the Weissensteiners”, I came across quite a few sources that seemed politically coloured. One history book about Slovakia as a state from the middle ages to the present only had a short chapter about the entire WWII era and it pretty much painted a whiter than white picture of Slovakia, an axis power at the time. Although it appears that the author didn’t even speak the language and had not researched within the country archives, there was no dispute about the book since it agreed with the polished version of events that many people in present day Slovakia would prefer to agree upon.
Archives have been destroyed by the axis powers, collaborators of Hitler managed to find their way back into the important positions, Communist regimes tried to white wash the former fascist past to bring the nation in line with its policy and many other factors might have come into play and make efficient research admittedly difficult. Let alone human sentiment and forgetfulness.
Mary Heimann learned Czech and did enormous research of her own for a book on Czechoslovakia as a state, but her findings are highly disputed, partially because they may not be totally waterproof and partially probably because they are painting a much less favourable picture of both Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
One example: Jews in Slovakia were safe for an extremely long time compared to other axis power states. The religious wing of the Fascist party claims credit for it. Others claim that the high price per head for each Jew that had to be paid to the German Reich had something to do with the reluctance of the then government to comply with Hitler’s demands.
Personal presidential exemption papers to save individual Jews from transportation allegedly were used in multiple thousands according to some sources but in much smaller numbers in others.
Admittedly, with so much original data destroyed and with such strong political and personal agendas to portray one’s country retrospectively, with eye witnesses dying away, who is to say which version is indeed true?
During my research for “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” I saw so many references made to the golden days of Vienna before WWI, the tolerant multi-cultural city and the Jew-friendly times. It was why I decided to set “Sebastian” in that period. My research for the new book however showed a much more complex and less favourable picture than I had anticipated. Particularly the work of Stefan Zweig, a Jew living in those times, challenges those assumptions strongly. Of course his work is mainly fiction and the history books can dismiss him easily as non-academic. So who do we believe?
Somewhere in my research a source wisely suggested that because of the horror that came twenty years later people’s memory changed their perception of the times and idealised the times in comparison, which makes a lot of sense.
The consequence for me as a writer is to keep checking data, to read all sides to a story and remember that history books are all relative when it comes to unquantifiable data. It is a continuous dispute and in most cases a wonderful challenge to think for yourself and maybe to find the occasional source material that brings in new light and aspects to what you think you knew.
I tried in my books to use the controversy in my favour, to let different characters make opposing statements, assumptions and predictions. Many of those characters didn’t have a television, radio or any type of reliable data to find out about what goes on beyond their own little corner of the world. And who can claim to have the comprehensive view, the complete information and can be sure to draw the right conclusions. All of this makes history exciting and a living process as long as it is not deliberately falsified. The line between misinterpretation and lie however are often more than blurred.
©Christoph Fischer 2013
About Christoph Fischer
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he now lives in a small town in West Wales. He and his partner have three Labradoodles to complete their family.
Christoph worked for the British Film Institute, in Libraries, Museums and for an airline. ‘
The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; ‘Sebastian’ in May 2013 and ‘The Black Eagle Inn’ in October 2013 – which completes his ‘Three Nations Trilogy’. “Time to Let Go”, his first contemporary work was published in May 2014, and “Conditions”, another contemporary novel, in October 2014. The sequel “Conditioned” was published in October 2015. His medical thriller “The Healer” was released in January 2015 and his second thriller “The Gamblers” in June 2015. He published two more historical novels “In Search of a Revolution” in March 2015 and “Ludwika” in December 2015.
He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.
The Luck of the Weissensteiners: Book 1 of The Three Nations Trilogy
In the sleepy town of Bratislava in 1933 a romantic girl falls for a bookseller from Berlin. Greta Weissensteiner, daughter of a Jewish weaver, slowly settles into life with the Winkelmeier clan. The political climate and slow disintegration of the multi-cultural society in Czechoslovakia becomes more complex and affects relations between the couple and their families.
The story follows their lot through the war with its torment, destruction and its unpredictability – and the equally hard times after.
From the moment that Greta Weissensteiner enters the bookstore where Wilhelm Winkelmeier works, and entrances him with her good looks and serious ways, I was hooked. But this is no ordinary romance; in tact it is not a romance at all, but a powerful, often sad, Holocaust story.
What makes The Luck of the Weissensteiners so extraordinary is the chance Christoph Fischer gives his readers to consider the many different people who were never in concentration camps, never in the military, yet who nonetheless had their own indelible Holocaust experiences. Set in the fascinating area of Bratislava, this is a wide-ranging, historically accurate exploration of the connections between social location, personal integrity and, as the title says, luck. I cared about every one of this novel’s characters and continued to think about them long after I’d finished reading.
One of the many excellent reviews for the book
Following Greta from pre-WWII Bratislava through Carlsbad through Aschaffenburg and ultimately to post-war Frankfurt is a well-written journey. Fischer’s The Luck of the Weissensteiners had me hooked into the journey, turning pages and asking the same question Greta stumbles upon frequently, “Where were friends or enemies?”
The novel is a historically sound piece dealing with loyalty, stigma, love, loneliness and oppression set against a backdrop of Eastern Europe’s turmoil. The characters’ lives were confounded at so many intersections by the results of a powerful anti-Semetic propaganda campaign. They don’t go to an Auschwitz or Buchenwald, but you quickly see that avoiding the camps was not freedom for the articulately drawn and likeable characters. You want to see what happens next to them and can feel the tension Fischer relays so well.
Chapters 3, 10 and 13 capture Greta’s emotion, tragedies and near-misses so intensely I bookmarked and went back for a welcome re-read. The book accomplishes a lot in covering more than a decade and a half without making a reader feeling rushed or missing something in the timeline. It’s paced that well … and the Epilogue cleanly tied together the themes and characters of the entire novel as a great exhibit of Fischer’s talent.
Read some of the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Luck-Weissensteiners-Three-Nations-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00AFQC4QC
A selection of the books by Christoph Fischer.
Read all the reviews and buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/Christoph-Fischer/e/B00CLO9VMQ
and on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christoph-Fischer/e/B00CLO9VMQ
Read more reviews and follow Christoph on Goodreads:http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6590171.Christoph_Fischer
Connect to Christoph
My thanks to Christoph for sharing this post from his archives. Today with televised news on the spot in most countries it is more difficult to subvert the truth, despite some governments best efforts. It will be interesting to come back in a hundred years to see how present day events have been manipulated!
I am now looking for assorted Festive posts for December, recollections of Christmas past, family, humour, short stories, poems, recipes etc.. Have a delve through your previous December posts and if you are not planning on re-using.. pop them over to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A book by a talented Welsh author reblogged today for my Welsh Wednesdays blog series and apt for the season. Enjoy!
Jonathan Jones has written a novel. Losing his job a few days before Christmas means the pressure is on for his book to become a bestseller, but when his partner drops her own bombshell, the festive holiday looks set to be a disaster.
When he’s bequeathed a failing bookshop in their seaside town, it seems that some of his prayers have been answered, but his publishing company turn out to be not what they seem, and when his ex-wife suddenly declares her romantic intent, another Christmas looks set to be complicated.
Is everything lost, or can the true meaning of words, a dog called Frodo, and the sheer magic of Christmas be enough to save Jonathan’s book, and his skin?
OMG I absolutely loved Away for Christmas! I’m not really one for Christmas books but I do have some favourite authors and if they have…
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…A Story of Politics, Graft, and Greed
Amazon UK £15.95
Amazon US $5.14 $30.83
Amazon CA n/a
Mystery / Romance / Family Drama (and much more!)
California / Washington
A refreshing and hugely enjoyable story set in California and Washington of 1886. Opening with an attention-grabbing scene that hits you like an unexpected train, the story settles nicely into the set-up of its characters: Lord Langford and Sally Baxter.
The chemistry between them is wonderful and they work well together as an unlikely couple – a farmer’s daughter and a Lord. Their bond grows deeper while they are investigating the murder of her brother on a train. Encountering nothing but bureaucracy and evasiveness, they pull out all the stops to get to the bottom of the murder.
I would have happily enjoyed this as historical romance, being so authentic in dialogue and settings. However, the author has woven a complex net of intrigue and background to the murder that makes the entire book so much more than just a mystery. As the title appropriately states, this deals with issues of politics, corruption and greed in a very accomplished way.
One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Highly recommended.
© Christoph Fischer
The last in the Troubadour Quartet the song brings Estrela and Dragonetz’s story to an end. The novel is a wonderful last dip into the realm of the 12th century Europe and Wales.
It starts with a threat to territory that is nowadays Spain but at the time is divided and a mix of various religious groups. An alliance needs to be formed to ward off the threat. I was astonished at the sheer volume of detail on medieval warfare, laying siege to cities etc. The author must have done a lot of research to be able to go into so much detail. She writes not just about the equipment but about psychology and the practicalities of tools and tactics. Absolutely fascinating.
At the heart of the quartet are a troubadour and his lover. They make an interesting couple with a strong bond between them. They are unusual in many ways and provide a great mirror of reflection for the society they live in.
Although lover Estrela can sing beautifully, singing in church in those days is done only by men. The novel is full of such fascinating knwoledge about customs and society in the 12th century.
The story takes the lovers back to Wales, which for me, as resident of Carmarthenshire, was particularly interesting. The mention of castles and towns I know, the depiction of places and the people who ‘walked here before we’ was very rewarding.
The whole quartet is well written, well plotted and beautifully composed -and is brought to a rounded conclusion in this novel.
It is of great interest for Welsh readers and those interested in the period as a whole. Great characters, highly recommended.
Award-winning author Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer now living in the south of France. Since 1988, she has published eighteen books in a wide variety of genres, including four non-fiction works translated from French.
Her credits include: Highly Commended in the Mail on Sunday’s annual prose competition; double winner of the London Writers’ Inc International Competition; finalist in the Wishing Shelf, BookHippo and Cinnamon Press Awards; Winner of the Global Ebook Award for Best Historical Fiction.
A member of the Welsh Academi and Writers on Tour scheme, Jean had to juggle her writing with a career in education and a family until 2003, when she committed to full-time writing and photography.
Her writing and her photos have featured in publications as diverse as France Magazine and poetry anthologies such as Not a Muse, which is on the syllabus of several university literature courses.
‘Song at Dawn’ (Bk 1 The Troubadours) Winner of the Global Ebook Award for Best Historical Fiction FREE http://smarturl.it/dawnsong
Sign up for Jean’s Newsletter http://eepurl.com/AGvy5
IPPY Award for Best Author Website www.jeangill.com
The Troubadours Page https://www.facebook.com/jeangilltroubadours
Youtube book trailers https://www.youtube.com/user/beteljean
This year’s Christmas Book Fair will be just like a Mini-Literature-Festival all over Llandeilo.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce one of our authors and speakers (12:00 at the Fountain Fine Art Gallery)
Travel writer Dr Jacqueline Jaynes
On the day of our Book Fair, Sat Dec 9th, you will be able to find Jacqueline in the Horeb Chapel and at noon she’ll be talking in the Fountain Fine ArtGallery about her book “Walking Wales: The Art Lovers Guide to the Wye Valley Way”. This is a wonderful book about images about places along the route from the National Library of Wales digital collections, ranging from 18th-20th century with well-known artists including Turner and David Cox.
What an ambitious undertaking, walking so far in such a short time and facing the best and worst that Welsh weather can provide and the odd bull! Magnificent; you painted a great mental picture. I mentally packed all the essential gear, turned my socks inside out and taken note of the walking tips. I sat comfortably in my armchair and travelled with you without a speck of rain or a blister! Congratulations you ‘two middle aged ladies’; is ‘Andalucía’ your next adventure? Alison
I am a great fan of road movies and travel writing, I like the subplots and the interweaving of parallel stories that unfold, you took me to familiar and unfamiliar places and I could hear you delivering your stories along the way. I wanted to hear more snippets of discussions and conversations that undoubtedly would have arisen when two people share time together as well as the practicalities needed to undertake your mission. Alison – Aberystwyth University
Book has arrived, it looks fab! Nicky & Alistair
I am inspired to try [the walk] myself! Jane – Wye Valley Canoes
Thank you for sending your lovely book on the Wye Valley Walk. We have both enjoyed reading it through and following your adventures. Mike & Lesley, Myrtle Place Monmouth
Non-fiction is my speciality – although there may still be a novel in the background somewhere? – and covers a wide range of topics which generally seem a bit of an odd mix to people. First books published were on Health & Safety in small firms (with a revised version out soon) as I was working in this area, then art history as this is my passion. Working as secretary of Midlands Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOWs) group for 25 years led to my book on how they and their families coped, so social/WWII history.
Oh yes, we made and sold Peg Looms so my book on peg loom weaving is one of the few existing titles that leads the beginner through the process. And finally, my travel writing and long-distance walks combined with the arts has led to my latest title on “Walking Wales: the Art Lover’s Guide to Wye Valley Way”. This has now started a new series so basically I am very busy for the next year or so with new titles.
Dr Jacqueline Jeynes
Aberystwyth University distance learning tutor, Dr Jacqueline Jeynes has been awarded “Writer of the Year” by Freelance Market News/The Writer’s Bureau.
Jacqueline won the award based on the writing of the distance learning History of Art courses for the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University, and has also become a travel journalist and advisor for Silver Travel Advisor aimed at the 50+ age group.
She has already been on three trips for them within the last year, visiting the land of the Magyar’s in Hungary, the lands of the Ancient Greeks in Thessaloniki, and just before Christmas she stayed in the Iberian Peninsula, travelling to the Algarve in Portugal.
This isn’t the first brush with success that Jacqueline has had, having been shortlisted for an innovation and sustainability award from the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning, for the development of the Distance Learning modules that she has written.
2015 looks to be another exciting year, as two new books by Jacqueline will be published in the summer on very different subjects.
The Forgotten Prisoners of War: FEPOWs and their families will be released to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII’s VJ Day on the 14th August.
The second, Walking Wales: an Artists View of the Wye Valley Way, is on a far more relaxing subject and based on a trek of 135 miles over 15 days. The book will include Jacqueline’s photographs plus art images from the National Library of Wales digital collection, and is the first of three in the Walking Wales series.
Explaining the difference in topic between the two books, Jaqueline said: “I have always enjoyed walking, especially the challenge of long distance treks. I’ve previously done one to Venezuela with YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) and have also been to Cuba for the charity MIND, which was hard walking but had fantastic views.
“The other book is on a completely different topic, with the imposed publication deadline being because of VJ day’s anniversary in August 2015, so I’m hoping to publish it before then. My father was a prisoner of war in Japan, and I carried out research, partly in my role as secretary of the Midlands FEPOW’s group, on the families as little has been said about them.
“I had a short article published in Your History magazine about my father’s experiences between the ages of 18-21. All the research is being combined with contributions from families in the UK, Australia and Canada, although there are still opportunities to contribute further recollections before May.”
The narrative voice of the protagonist is intense and compelling, the sense of an important message, unbelievable crime and a revelation that is to come runs through the entire book.
Eileen is shown with a raw honesty and an amazing ability of self-reflection and analysis, which makes her a marvellous character you want to know more about.
We learn more and more about her childhood, her current predicament and her job at the prison.
The story, however, tends to drag on, with long stretches with little action and a growing repetitiveness in the monologue as Eileen shares her inner thoughts and retells the story of one week before Christmas, when the arrival of Rebecca awakens something in her that had been dormant.
Many passages that seemed to be leading to the big crime and drama didn’t go anywhere and I felt disappointed.
The long build-up evetually led to a let-down of sorts for me, I expected something different or more Hitchcock, as the blurb promised.
However, I must say I’m really glad I did read the story as the writing in many places is truly superb and Eileen and Rebecca are two characters I won’t forget.
So judge for yourself. This is a book that cannot be dismissed, despite what I felt were weaknesses.
The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman, trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s carer and her day job as a secretary at the prison.
When the charismatic Rebecca Saint John arrives as the new counsellor at the prison, Eileen is enchanted and unable to resist what appears to be a miraculously budding friendship.
In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.
“Across the Mekong River” by Elaine Russell was a most enjoyable and rewarding read. After a gripping prologue the main narrative starts with a courtroom scene in California in 1990 where a daughter and father fight each other. This is interspersed with strands telling the story of this Hmong family from their time in Laos in the 1970ies until then.
The parts set in Laos are the most gripping, with excellent suspense and compelling characters. The thoughtful and well-written portrayal of the complexity of the political situation and the inclusion of plenty historic details made this a very addictive reading for me.
Once the family enters the US, the mood and pace of the novel change. The second part is equally well written and illustrates the immigration experience from multiple viewpoints, although I missed the urgency of the first part a little.
I would thoroughly recommend this book to all who would like to dig a bit deeper into this era of not too distant world history.
In a California courtroom, seventeen-year-old Nou Lee reels with what she is about to do. What she must do to survive. She reflects on the splintered path that led to this moment, beginning twelve years ago in 1978, when her Hmong family escaped from Laos after the Communist takeover. The story follows the Lees from a squalid refugee camp in Thailand to a new life in Minnesota and eventually California. Family members struggle to survive in a strange foreign land, haunted by the scars of war and loss of family. Across the Mekong River paints a vivid picture of the Hmong immigrant experience, exploring family love, sacrifice, and the resiliency of the human spirit to overcome tragic circumstances
Elaine Russell began writing fiction over twenty years ago, finding her true vocation at last. She loves traveling and most of her novels are based in part on places she has visited. She enjoys weaving the culture and history of other countries and people into her stories. All of her books have won numerous awards.
Her newest work is a picture book for ages 8 – 12 years, All About Thailand (November 8, 2016, Tuttle Publishing).
Timothy has it all. The perfect job. The perfect girlfriend. The perfect life. But he feels trapped, and he longs for adventure. Giving up everything, he decides to head for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Africa. It would certainly be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure but not for the reasons he first thought.
Oh. My. Days! What a wonderful adventure I have just been on! African August by Christoph Fischer exceeded my expectations. It was so fast-paced that I barely had time to draw breath. The hours flew by while I completely lost myself in this book.
Mr. Fischer’s wonderfully descriptive prose made me feel as if I was actually in Africa. I adored the characterisation of Timothy, although there was one occasion when I had to stop myself from shouting “No. What are you doing? Don’t be so stupid!” Likewise, the supporting characters are unique, they each have their own voice, and the story itself was fabulous. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
African August is a great book and one I Highly Recommend.
“He got side-tracked by life’s temptations and soon gave up on his ambitions to save or heal the world.”
African August by Christoph Fischer hits home on so many levels. Full of smarts and great messages, I was moved, inspired and excited to take on this ride. The author tells this story and you feel as if you are there in Africa with the characters. An adventure I have never imagined I would take.
I loved the flow of the story and enjoyed the internal voices that were shared. This is a very satisfying read that I enjoyed immensely.
On the day of the Book Fair, Dec 9th, Robert Walton will be showcasing his work at the Horeb Chapel and at 1pm, he’ll read a selection of poems at the Fountain Fine Art Gallery. His poems are about
music, street life, family and natural creatures with strong feeling, wry
humour and sharp observation. He’ll also provide some
soft acoustic musical accompaniment for one poem on thumb-piano and, naturally,
a gentle blues on sax for the title poem.