By Arthur P. Hitchofen
So then, George Galloway. MP for Glasgow Kelvin, Bethnal Green and Bow, and Bradford West. Not content with founding two different political parties, he's now branched out into alternate history literature, choosing yet another constituency to appeal to and annoy.
So what alt-hist setting has he chosen?
The Soviets defeating the decadent capitalist West in the Cold War?
Thirty glorious years of Tony Benn as Labour leader, with the Rt Hon. G. Alloway being a leading figure in said ministry, and all the finance capitalists are shipped off to the Shetlands for 're-education"?
He's chosen that hoary old beast, the Nazis defeating and occupying Britain in 1940. Why he chose this well-worn plot path, except to make the enemies in his book too cruel and degenerate to identify with, and to make the people who collaborate with them look like they are the very worst kind of traitors, sadists, or opportunists, I have no idea.
Anyway, for the purposes of this review I shall pretend George Galloway is an author unknown to me, and try to evaluate without referring his political history.
This book begins with a man fleeing something through a London park, the something being a bomb exploding at a party hosted by the Nazi conquerors of Britain, at Whiteleys department store, on the titular Queensway in London. The author describes with macabre glee the numerous deaths of the Nazis and their collaborators, one of them a Windsor, of course. A desire to describe the abject cruelty of Nazi torturers to their British victims, and thereby the reader, is something that runs through the entire book. Chapter 13 opens with a depiction of gruesome execution of relatives of resistance fighters from Tower Bridge, hanging them from the bridge in a manner that would make the river impassable.
I think even the Nazis might draw the line at that one. They are Nazis, yes, but we already know they are bad.
So, how did the Wehrmacht invade, then? Well, apparently the Royal Navy refused to participate in the Dunkirk evacuation. All 315 ships and 60 submarines failed to intervene, even the when the Little Ships were massacred by the Kriegmarine and the Luftwaffe. Churchill didn't fire ALL the mutinous ship captains and the Admiral of the Fleet, and that was the end of that, I suppose. Presumably the German army just swam across the Channel, with neither the Royal Navy or Royal Air Force bothering to attack them. The author seems to buy into the myth that the RAF did nothing to cover the Dunkerque evacuation, and imagines the Luftwaffe were better at precision bombing radar stations than they actually were.
The author is sketchy about the details of which parts of Britain have been occupied. London, and the south east, obviously, capitulated to the waves of Boche without so much as a murmur, and the aristocrats, civil servants and Tories naturally made common cause with Hitler. They didn't even object to Sir Oswald Mosley being imposed on them as Prime Minister and Edward VIII being re-installed as monarch, George VI having fled to Canada (presumably on one of the RN ships that didn't mutiny.) Mosley is described by the author as a baronet, a minor aristocrat and a peer, yet all the characters call him 'Mr Mosley', rather than Sir Oswald. How odd. The new King likes to be addressed by the honorific 'sire', which is amusing as he is unlikely to sire anything.
The north and Scotland is more resistant to Nazi rule, of course, and arms and food are being shipped into Liverpool and unloaded by the brave dockers - though who exactly is shipping it in, and who is paying for it, the author neglects inform us.
There are 300,000 prisoners trapped in France and Belgium, all being kept in conditions similar to those Soviet POWs were subjected to after Barbarossa - rather than more plausibly being shipped off to Reich as labourers, like French POWs were, or sent back to occupied Britain.
Churchill flees the capital and seeks refuge in South Wales, proving they always Keep A Welcome In The Hillsides, even for former Home Secretaries that sent the 18th Hussars to Tonypandy. This location has been chosen solely to enable the author to create a one-dimensional miner/minor character to lecture Churchill on the iniquities of the ruling classes.
There's more than a hint of Escape to Victory meets SS-GB about the entire book. The denouement takes place at Wembley during a football match (two world wars and one world cup) and the name of the East End Jewish terrorist/freedom fighter is 'Harry Kane'. The secret identity he hides is 'Soliman Keyzer' which my extensive research (five minutes on Wikipedia) is an Arab name and a Turkish name. This is the kind of Jewish-sounding name you come up with when you don't have any Jewish friends to check your work.
The Nazis know that a nuclear weapon is technically feasible, despite all the scientists behind it being Jews, and the search is on for Klaus Fuchs, the only man who can build it for them, despite being just a research physicist with little experience of working on fissile materials.
One of the main characters, the SS commander in London, is interchangeably referred to as 'Meuller' and 'Mueller', suggesting the book was not proofread before publication. The author, however, can spell "Aneurin Bevan" and "Reichskriegministerium" but the then Labour leader was named "Atlee" [sic] and there was a Tory politician was called "Bernard Bracken" [sic].
If you like characters that struggle to attain one dimension, faulty and implausible worldbuilding, and gruesome and inaccurate depictions of violence in your alternate history, then I can honestly recommend this book to you.
On the back of this thankfully slim volume are the dread words "To be continued...". Not by me it won't.