The Man Who Killed Hitler by Andre Pronovost

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The Man Who Killed Hitler by Andre Pronovost

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A weighty tome of speculative fiction, where just one more pass could have shown its merits off in better ways.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 374 Date: May 2019
Publisher: Baron House Publishing
ISBN: 978-0999442357

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Germany is split. Some of her is in favour of Hitler and the Nazis, but much isn't. Some of her is stuck to the east fighting the Soviets, but some will soon have to be on the other front, against the Americans coming into the continent to put things right as they see it. Finding out that the war to the east isn't working, due to Hitler's tactical ineptitude and inability to heed advice, some people reckon Stalin is five seasons away from being in Berlin. The only way to shore things up, and repair the splits, is to kill Hitler, and luckily the Baron Nicholas is the man to do it. He's aristocratic enough, he knows enough people in industry, society and other circles of power, so once he's succeeded he might be able to keep a German presence in Europe. But will he still be able to keep the predatory American capitalists and the blatantly communist Soviets from meeting in the middle?

This is speculative fiction, therefore, of a kind we've seen a lot. I sought this for the fact it didn't do the usual thing, of looking at us and how the Nazis winning would alter us, but what would happen if their own history panned out very differently. If the author had done his homework, I thought it wouldn't matter that it was an outsider looking in at Germany and playing with that particular toy set.

So it's annoying that the homework didn't extend to proof-reading, for one. Germany is not split into Gauls, but Gaus - an unexpected lapse. What I did get used to was seeing an apparent mix of two different drafts, for it drifted from first person to third in the same paragraph at times. Often times the Baron is reporting his own dialogue, elsewhere he's summarised by an omniscient narrator. A narrator, what's more, who wants us to know much more than normal, for every aspect of the scenario is filled in for us.

Those aspects certainly did show a welcome reach to the book – who knew the Dutch Queen's oil contracts would feature, or indeed Portuguese tungsten? But the way the book breaks out to teach us the ins and outs of the economies of war efforts, and so much else, was a bit awkward at times. It had already been guilty of telling, not showing – the actual death of Hitler, earlier, had been the most blunt, affectless incident. Never mind about that someone says overleaf from it. OK, then, we won't.

The author also likes to drop in scathing comments here and there – comparing the efforts for Lebensraum with how Americans shunted their indigenous peoples into reservations etc. One character is allowed to declare that dealing with a Nazi is like dealing with a Catholic priest, and we later learn what a vile man [Churchill] was. Repugnancy is what he stood for. So it's lucky he can still drive the book back to what it should be about, namely the possible post-Hitler problems Germany would have had (and would continue to cause) in 1942. And beyond the assassination he changes little initially with his scenario, although he gets the V2 ready earlier than in real life, and seems to have Churchill still sleeping at No 10, which he didn't. Yes, some of the smaller fictional detail can tend to the risible – a woman just happening to build her own private railway station – but what we're here on board for is at least present and correct. In all, there is nothing here that is sinfully off-putting, and as lengthy as this is, another rewrite would have made sure it hit many spots. It actually has a wider point to make, finally, which is a very salutary one. So it can't be dismissed entirely as a read.

I must thank the author for my personal copy to review.

Comments here in the foreword about what caused Hitler to lose immediately put me in mind of Fatherland by Robert Harris, which is still a great thriller, but lays the blame at the effort needed for the Final Solution.

You can read more about Andre Pronovost here.

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