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Stasiland

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Fast-moving thriller in contemporary Central Europe, where the past never really is completely in the past, and the future far from certain.

Synopsis

The Stasi, dreaded secret police of former East Germany, may be long gone, but their influence lingers on, as Ed Blake discovers to his cost.

Ed is middle aged, retired, suffering from a messy divorce and decides on a therapeutic wander through Europe in his silver Porsche. He gets no further than a little town on the river Elbe, when he becomes a murder suspect and his carefree tour is put on hold.

In Germany, as elsewhere in Europe, the extreme right is making a comeback and Ed becomes sucked into the underworld of these politics. History casts a long shadow.

However, this story is far from all doom and gloom. Add a dash of humor and romance and you will be turning the last page with a smile on your face.

   Having been several times in the former GDR and in the reunited Germany, and in contact with people there, I am drawn toward books like covering the Cold War and divided Germany.. Many of them are predictable, but not this one. Stasiland offers a different take on life in places that were once behind the Iron Curtain. It offers a realistic portrayal of life in modern Germany and Central Europe.

    The narrator is a well-heeled Englishman who is emotionally adrift. He is often bemused by what he observes; an exception being early in the story where he has an encounter with the German police. Through unforeseen events he becomes enmeshed in the resurgence of the Far Right in Germany, a movement that creates enormous difficulties in the recently-united nation.

    Some of the action takes place in Hungary, which serves a dual purpose: casting light on a place not well-known to many and giving a glimpse of contemporary politics there.

The book is divided into a series of short chapters. Often this makes for a choppy, not-so-well developed narrative. Fortunately, this is not the case in Stasiland. The author packs a lot of detail in the short chapters. One can easily visualize the places, people, and surroundings. As a result there is an authenticity created that draws the reader into the story.

  The author chooses not to name the town where the story begins and ends. He has chosen to refer to it as die Stadt, (the city/town). Clearly it is in Saxony, near Dresden, and on the Elbe River. Making up a name would have been simple enough to do,. However, that is the author’s prerogative.

    On a lesser note, the German word for silent is stumm, not schtum. The latter is Yiddish, and has made its way into British slang. This minor error does not detract at all from a good book, but I feel compelled to point it out. I am bilingual, and have spent a lot of time in Germany and with its culture.

I would recommend this book to people who anyone interested in German history, contemporary German life, and the resurgence of the Far Right. It is a good read and well-written.


Reviewed by

I am a published poet with four books out there of my own, and two in collaboration with artist Carol Worthington-Levy. Additionally I have drafts of a novel and one short story in the process of being sent out.

Synopsis

The Stasi, dreaded secret police of former East Germany, may be long gone, but their influence lingers on, as Ed Blake discovers to his cost.

Ed is middle aged, retired, suffering from a messy divorce and decides on a therapeutic wander through Europe in his silver Porsche. He gets no further than a little town on the river Elbe, when he becomes a murder suspect and his carefree tour is put on hold.

In Germany, as elsewhere in Europe, the extreme right is making a comeback and Ed becomes sucked into the underworld of these politics. History casts a long shadow.

However, this story is far from all doom and gloom. Add a dash of humor and romance and you will be turning the last page with a smile on your face.

|ONE


If Johann Kästner had to die, he could not have chosen a better place. The burghers of Saxony were proud of their Upper Elbe scenery, far superior in their view to the more famous River Rhine. The Lorelei? Rubbish! Not a patch on the Bastei. That Kästner had also arranged for his demise to take place in one of their superb old paddle steamers was icing on the cake.

Which vessel to choose? The fleet’s Methuselah, the Stadt Wehlen, built in 1879? Or the Meissen from 1885? Maybe the Kurort Rathen dating from 1896? Even the baby of the fleet, the 1929 Leipzig? There were nine possibilities.

Of course I’m being frivolous in suggesting Kästner had any say in selecting where he wanted to shuffle off this mortal coil. It was pure chance, dictated by the Saxon Steamship Company’s timetable. Any premature death is a tragedy – and Johann was only 35 – but life is a joke anyway, so one might as well treat his end with levity.

It was also pure chance that found me aboard the same vessel at the same time; an unlikely conjunction, but again, life is little more than a series of coincidences.

For my presence there I blame Maggie, my ex-wife. We had spent the past twenty-five years blaming each other for just about everything, so why stop now? When our two children left the nest, the tenuous bonds that had kept us together finally snapped. Maggie stayed in the house, allowing me to keep the silver Porsche; an inequitable division of spoils, you might think, but by this time I was prepared to agree to almost anything to get her off my back.

I could afford to be generous. If I had been unlucky in love, the gods had made up for it by allowing me some success in business. I won’t bore you with the details; but suffice it to say, I had enough stashed away to keep me in comfort until the day I received my centenary telegram from the Queen – or, more likely, an email from the King.

Freed of the burdens of family and the need to earn a crust, I did a Peter Pan; regressed to youth. Every kid in the country now has their inalienable right to a Gap year, extended by some to a Gap lifetime. At the ripe old age of fifty-five, Ed Blake – that’s me – would join the Gap club; for however long I pleased and with the help of my trusty Porsche.

The years had wrought some changes. I could now think of nothing worse than the teenage utopia of slumming it on a tropical beach, while listening to rap music and indulging in unlimited sex. My Gap would be more civilised, more cultural. The timing was perfect. It was early June and I would set out to explore the cradle of civilisation: the continent of Europe.

I became a weather fanatic, every day studying the forecasts. What was the intention of that damned jet-stream? If it looked like funnelling depressions across northern Europe, I would dodge south of the Alps, where summers are more stable. But if a dry spell was in prospect over France, Benelux, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, that’s where I would start.

So far I had been lucky; nothing worse than a thunderstorm over Bruges and some iffy weather in Koblenz. I liked to settle in one place for a few days and cover the local area before moving on. It was with this in mind that I had checked in to the Hotel Lindtner. The location? As I was destined to stay much longer than intended, under circumstances that were, to say the least, unusual, I’ll protect its anonymity and only say it lay on the River Elbe, somewhere between Dresden and the Czech border. Let’s just call it ‘Die Stadt’; The Town.


About the author

Rolf Richardson spent 25 years as an airline pilot before turning to photography and cruise lecturing, a lifetime of travel covering some 110 countries. He is now writing 'Easy Read' fiction, set in some of the places he has visited. Seven of his ebooks are available on Amazon view profile

Published on July 17, 2019

Published by Matador

60000 words

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

Reviewed by

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