Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Excerpt from War Plan Crimson: A Novel of Alternate History, © 2010, by Michael Cnudde:

This is actually a section that my editor insisted I cut out of the final draft of War Plan Crimson. I resisted at first, but I finally yielded.  I'm somewhat saddened to say that it does read better with this gone. Unfortunately, it was the only part of the novel to feature my old friend and writing mentor Juan O'Neill. Before he passed in March, 2006,  I showed him "his" chapter, which I'd just finished. He loved it. He'd been a journalist himself and during the course of time had met Hemingway, interviewed Castro and had faked a flying saucer landing in Mexico which drew the interest of the CIA. So I think interviewing Hitler would've been a career highlight...
-Michael Cnudde

In the fall of ’64, I finally caught up with Adolph Hitler in one of those sidewalk cafes that line the impossibly wide Aveneida 9 De Julio in Buenos Aires. He looked up at me, over his little cup of espresso that I could smell clear across the street and said, his white comb moustache barely quivering, in his German-accented Spanish, “You’re late, Seňor O’Neill.”
I’m sorry, Fuhrer. Traffic.” He liked being called by his old title; it was the least I could do, seeing as he’d agreed to do these interviews for a series of articles as I was doing for Collier’s about the 1936 North American Conflict. Seeing Hitler settle back in his chair and make himself comfortable, I shrugged my shoulders and joined him at the little circular table. We chatted briefly about current events and in particular, President Taft’s chances for reelection before the white-coated waiter came over: I nodded at my companion’s drink. The waiter, about the same age as the ex-leader of the former Third Reich and more than likely a fellow ex-pat, returned my nod and left us.
Ach,” wheezed Hitler. “It wouldn’t have been like that in Germany had we been able to finish the autobahns, you know.” At least it wasn’t about the Jews. I’d heard Hitler go on wistfully about those monstrously unworkable highways before: they’d been one of his pet projects. It was probably good that they were never built, in Germany or anywhere else. I could never imagine what would happen if two cars traveling along at hundreds of kilometers per hour would’ve collided with each other. I shuddered and put myself to the task at hand.
As the waiter returned with my espresso and left us in efficient silence, I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out my little Japanese-made wire recorder and the microphone that went with it. Hitler blinked and looked at the little machine, in its black leatherette case, apparently fascinated by it. “Brand-new,” I said.
I see: for the record, nicht whar?” He chuckled. In his latter years, he had been shunned by the surviving Nazis who had fled Germany following the revolution. They blamed him for their lost glory and the chance at something infinitely greater. Himmler, Speer and the rest no longer spoke with him. While he was in power, they’d hung on his every hypnotic word; now he was a pathetic figure, alone and consigned to history. Hitler avoided the ersatz beer halls of the city’s suburbs, preferring the sidewalk cafes of downtown near the lonely penthouse with its ocean view that he’d shared with Eva before she died. “I am ready, young man. So ask your questions.”
All right.” I set the microphone on the table and pressed the record stud on the little machine. “Tell me about Randall Cray…”
Hitler closed his eyes and slowly opened them again. “If such a thing were possible, I wish the man had never been born.”
Fuhrer, you don’t buy the Great Man of History theory? I mean Cray didn’t cause the…”
Nein.” He raised a boney hand to cut me off, as ruthlessly and as finally any editor ever did. As frail and wizened as he was, when Adolph Hitler spoke, you still listened. For moment, I saw a glimmer of the Old Days in those watery eyes of his. But only for a moment. “You are correct in that Randall Cray was not the cause of our downfall. However, he did set in train a course of events…”
Things seem pretty normal to me.” I said. I picked up the copy of the Buenos Aires Herald, the local English-language paper. The headlines were evenly divided between the first American moonshot and the latest flare-up in the long simmering border dispute between the British in Kenya and the forces of Il Duce’s successor in Ethiopia. Inside, of course, there would be news about the two remaining so-called “police actions” that League of Nations forces were involved in; basically the slow mopping up after the defeat of the old Soviet Union by the Allies when the Second Great War ended, some seven years ago.
Ach,” snapped Hitler, absently falling back into German for a second. He pointed at the picture of the rocket lifting off from its launch pad in New Mexico on a long fiery trail. “You know that young von Braun once...”
I nodded. I’d heard this story before, too. Now Wernher von Braun was working for the British, helping them assemble their giant space wheel, high in orbit above our heads. “The big rockets.”
Si,” he said, switching back to Spanish and waving his hand. The waiter came over, thinking he wanted a refill, but he angrily waved the waiter away. “You cannot find decent help anymore!”
Fuhrer…” I prompted again, “about Randall Cray…”
I ask you Seňor O’Neill, to consider ironies of history. “The American public in all their wisdom, if their damnable polls are to be believed, is about to elect another general whose policies approach the late and unlamented General Cray.”

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