December ’41, by William Martin

A good old fashioned suspense thriller.
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8th December 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, German assassin Martin Browning plans to kill Franklin Delano Roosevelt on Christmas Eve when the American President lights the National Christmas tree on the South Lawn of the White House. Browning’s trail is picked up by FBI Agent Frank Carter, who tracks him across America from Los Angeles to Washington D. C.  An ensemble cast of characters become drawn into Browning’s conspiracy as he rides the Super Chief across America. While the clock runs down, all that stands in his way are Carter, Kevin Cusack, a Hollywood script reader and Vivian Hopewell, an aspiring actress. They must discover the truth about Browning’s plan and stop him at all costs.

Set in 1940s America, December ‘41 is a good old fashioned suspense thriller that draws on elements of Dashiell Hammett, Alfred Hitchcock and Raymond Chandler. William Martin also has George R.R. Martin’s gift of killing off characters the reader becomes invested in, giving this novel the feeling that anything can happen. However, December ‘41 largely follows Fredrick Forsyth’s ‘The Day Of The Jackal’ model; with an assassin planning to kill a historic figure while the hero battles against the clock to hunt him down.

This type of narrative has the inherent problem that I also had with my novel The Assassins that was about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Namely that the reader knows the historical fact of whether an assassination does or does not take place. My hope with The Assassins was that the historical events around the assassination of Franz Ferdinand were so extraordinary that the reader becomes drawn into the story and forgets what they learnt at school. William Martin employs a similar technique (as indeed did Fredrick Forsyth) by creating a wholly fictional event that so enwraps the reader in the characters and the fast moving twists and turns of the plot that they don’t think or care about what actually happened historically.

Alan Bardos is the author of the Johnny Swift thriller series.