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SS-GB is a very rich novel, offering multiple reading levels; one is that of a post-WWII alternate history where Nazis won the war; another is the detective story, with a complex plot blending murder, state secrets, political intrigues and espionage, which turns soon into a wilderness of mirrors. I thought the character development was decent, I guess. I could not quite decide if the ‘main character’ [Douglas Archer] is a neutral party, a collaborator, or a ‘patriot’ in sheep’s clothing. I still cannot quite decide what the man is. I know at the end of the book he appears to finally decide ‘where he stands’, but I am still not 100% certain of his motivations. Oskar Huth was an ‘interesting’ antagonist, I guess. He is an SS officer with his own motivations who was brought in to investigate the murdered man. He seemed to take an interest in Archer to the point of protecting Archer from some bad decisions as well as offering Archer a place on his [Huth’s] staff. Fritz Kellerman is the man in charge of occupied-England, and he wishes to see what he sees as stains on the German Army’s honor removed as well as to maintain his ‘kingdom’ in England. I thought it was morbidly ‘fascinating’ how the Brits wanted the King to be freed from London Tower, but they also wanted him killed before reaching North America. Well, specifically, some of the leaders of the ‘resistance’ movement wanted the King killed. He was too old and ineffectual to be of any political use to anyone, and in North America he would be revealed to be even more powerless than he was previously believed to have been. The resistance leaders wanted either the Queen or one of the Princesses in power, and that could only happen if the King were removed. By having the Germans kill him while attempting to escape, the resistance made a martyr of the King. This gave the man more political power than he ever had while alive.

As Deighton makes clear at the outset, this is a novel about a fictional event. The British base at Warley Fen, the Luftwaffe base at Kroonsdijik, and the bombed village of Altgarten (hit by mistake) are all inventions. To hammer home this point, the raid takes place on June 31, a date that Deighton cheekily reminds us, never occurred “in 1943 or any other year.” While reading Len Deighton’s Bomber (1970), I was reminded of Solzhenitsyn’s line – ‘To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good.’ Bomber is a novel about the area bombing of Germany during the Second World War. Targeting German cities and civilians is a part of Britain’s war that is still extremely controversial. It doesn’t fit into the heroic narrative of the Battle of Britain, the Blitz or D-Day. Almost alone among British forces, bomber crews were not issued with a campaign medal when the war ended. The debate as to whether the bombing was a necessary evil or simply just evil continues to exercise historians and writers to this day. Outside Europe and Japan, most people who give any thought to the Allies’s bombing missions in World War II think first, if not only, of the nuclear weapons that dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But those who know are intensely aware that the loss of life in those two cities, horrific though it was, paled beside the toll of the British and US use of strategic bombing (or area bombing, as it’s sometimes known). The firebombing of Tokyo alone left 100,000 civilians dead and one million homeless. That’s about as many who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. And it’s less than a third of the overall civilian death toll in Japanese cities, which was at least 333,000. I came to appreciate all of the characters (100+) in this book and welcomed a chance to see the war from the British and German perspective. Granted, this book is a work of fiction but based on careful research of actual bombing campaigns during the war. I have to believe that anyone that lived through these events would readily relate to the feelings and actions portrayed by the characters brought to life by Deighton. Sampson, Anthony (1982). The Changing Anatomy of Britain. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-3945-3143-4.


Bomber is highly regarded by some critics. Anthony Burgess, in Ninety-nine Novels, cited it as one of the 99 best novels in English since 1939. [3] Speaking of characters, they're all so... superficial, shallow. Douglas Archer is being portrayed as this superb detective, but let's be honest here- he doesn't do anything of any consequences the entire novel, and I wouldn't trust him with anything. He's incompetent, and seems more interested in bedding the lady than actually doing anything. Even though I know Hitler never made it to the shores of Britain, I still get a chill just reading those words. Winston Churchill eloquently told the runt corporal in Berlin to bring it on and, when you do come, know that every inch of British soil you take is going to be bathed in German blood. Burton, Alan (January 2013). "Mind Bending, Mental Seduction and Menticide: Brainwashing in British Spy Dramas of the 1960s". Journal of British Cinema and Television. 10 (1): 27–48. doi: 10.3366/jbctv.2013.0120. I have always found this the hardest of Deighton's novels to get into, partly because it is so unrelentingly serious, but mainly because its beginning is poor. The first chapter in particular has some really terrible, clunking dialogue, and the mechanics of introducing his large cast of characters are not well handled. Even further into the novel, the prose is ponderous and Bomber is very slow moving for a thriller.

The story behind Bomber is a kind of techno-thriller in its own right, a story about the emergence of a new kind of text, a technotext, mediated not by computer software but by a sophisticated electro-mechanical device for storing and manipulating written words. Yet just as Bomber broke new ground with its complicated portrayals of characters on both sides of the Channel, so too is the story behind the book one of more complex kinds of relationships. The historical coincidence with Steinhilper is one. Another is the role of Handley, the woman who actually operated the MTST as part of an intense collaborative system for producing, organizing, and revising the prose of the novel. The words of this groundbreaking technotext indisputably belong to its author, Len Deighton. But the hands on the high-tech machine that processed them—a true literary first for English literature—belonged to Ms. Ellenor Handley, she who had once “felt very much a part of the process and grew with the book.” Kerridge, Jake (14 February 2009). "The Deighton file: a life of reluctance and intrigue". The Daily Telegraph. p.10.Kerridge, Jake (20 February 2016). "In a hurry to use his organ donor card". The Daily Telegraph. p.29. Burton, Alan (2016). Historical Dictionary of British Spy Fiction. London: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-5587-6.

Description: It is 18 February 1943, and RAF Lancaster bomber FW 183 - call sign O-Orange - is about to set off on its final mission. It is a raid which will touch the lives of hundreds: the civilians in the small German town of Altgarten, consumed by blazing fire, and the crews, both German and British, men and women.

Len Deighton’s Bomber might be the best war novel I have ever read. I should say, however, that I mean “war novel” in a very specific way. This novel bears no resemblance to other, better-known classics like The Naked and the Dead or All Quite on the Western Front. There is very little inward soul-searching about the nature of man as he indulges his ultimate trade. The characterizations are almost nonexistent. The prose, at times, is barely a step up from technical writing (it is, of course, an important step). The stress is on war. Its mechanistic functions. Its technological contours. Its body-shredding consequences. Symons, Julian (1985). Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel. New York: Viking. ISBN 978-0-6708-0096-4. Grella considers Deighton to be "the angry young man of the espionage novel", [64] with the central characters of his main novels—the unnamed protagonist from the IPCRESS series and Bernard Samson from the nine novels in which he appears—both working-class, cynical and streetwise, in contrast to the upper-class and ineffective senior members of the intelligence service in their respective novels. [60] His working-class heroes also stand in contrast to Fleming's Eton and Fettes-educated smooth, upper-class character James Bond. [69] Adaptations [ edit ]

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