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Book Nook: The Seventh Secret

Reviewed by Colin Salt

Swastika. Check. Blood red splash. Check. Black cover. Check.

It's all a bit predictable.

The Seventh Secret by Irving Wallace

In the world of fiction that I call the “cheap thriller”, there has been one common plot device that has probably occurred since May 1, 1945. This can be dubbed: “Hitler LIVED!” Its point of divergence is simple: Hitler did not commit suicide on April 30, 1945. Granted, this tends to fall more into the realm of so-called secret history, where there was a background divergence that did not affect the outside world’s events until the book. But it’s still at least adjacent to proper alternate history, which is why I’m reviewing one of the most prominent authors who dipped his toes into “Hitler LIVED!”

Irving Wallace was the perfect example of a writer who was popular and successful in his time, but was rapidly made obsolete by changing styles and technology. Thus, largely forgotten, he becomes ironically an interesting figure in that sense because the name is so obscure to modern audiences. By the time The Seventh Secret was released in 1986, the literary world had already significantly passed him by.

This is technically a conspiracy thriller with the usual murders, scandals, secrets, and plots. I say technically because it doesn’t have much in the way of thrills. And this isn’t a flaw in execution, as might happen if the author wanted to write a suspenseful and thrilling read but couldn’t quite make it work. On the contrary, the book is mostly just... stuff. Wallace was famous for his immense research, but it was very much the sort of “learn what the exact designation of that pickup truck is” rather than learning about how it felt to ride in one.

It's a 1956 Chevy 3200.

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

And there are the sex scenes, which are – of course – in this book. All that can be said about them is that they are badly written and of little relevance.

As for the actual passage of the novel, it can be described without irony or mockery as “Hitler LIVED!” Hitler survived in his hidden super-secret super-bunker. And then he... painted a picture of a building. I’m serious. The big clue is that a painting that was proven to be drawn by Hitler depicted a building as it appeared in 1952, but not any earlier. And that is one of the most concrete actions that Hitler actually did after his survival and faked death.

A more prominent character is the surviving Eva Braun, who is alive in the novel’s present. She’s the centrepiece of a fairly bland conspiracy with the goal of having the Fourth Reich emerge from the bunker once the Soviets and Western Allies have destroyed each other. I might be spoiled by reading so many books by Jon Land, the master of conspiracy thrillers, but Wallace doesn’t even really try to do much with this literal underground cabal. And then the bunker is gassed and destroyed. The end.

The feeling I got from reading this book is that Wallace considered “Hitler LIVED!” to be enough to sustain a full-length novel by itself without a developed setting, characters, or well, anything. It feels like something more suited for a 90-minute made-for-TV movie. Except even then he was beaten by twenty years with the cult classic They Saved Hitler’s Brain. At least the living but disembodied Hitler there actually had a spectacular plan. The point I’m trying to make is that the farther you got from Hitler’s actual death, the more that “Hitler LIVED!” lost its punch. And since this was almost literally all that The Seventh Secret had, the result is not exactly a quality piece of writing.

Thankfully, “Hitler LIVED!” has been done much better in other works of fiction. But that’s a topic for another time.

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Colin Salt is the author of The Smithtown Unit, an action thriller from SLP


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