It was postmarked New Jersey and came accompanied with a printed letter of thanks. I hadn’t ordered anything from America so at first I was a little baffled but not overly because the reviews ed is always finding things for me to do. I receive endless books to review and some, like this one, come hot off the press with the authors blessing. So, what would it be?
A book on Pearl Harbor or the history of the 82nd Airborne, or a complete manual for a Jeep? No, none of the above. It was in fact a novel entitled The Nazi Account.
This DID baffle me. A novel? What? This wasn’t blood and guts and guns and tanks!
This book needed further investigation.
The cover didn’t really give much away. Neither did the synopsis on the back. The prologue was relatively short though very descriptive. Everything about the book was ….well …. secretive. It was unassuming, it was simple but most importantly it was a bloody good read! Now to write a fictional book in the genre that is the age old ‘What IF the Nazis………’ is a brave move. It’s not like there’s a shortage of them though to be fair some are dubious. Nazi Zombies. Nazi Zombies in the snow. Nazi Zombies on the Moon. Joking aside some of the biggest selling and most successful books of the 20th Century were in fact just that. Fictional accounts and stories based on the Nazis be it pre, during or post war.
Written in 1972, Fredrick Forsyth’s Odessa file was made into a film in 1974. This book and film opened a whole new genre to the public . By no means the first it was one that opened people’s eyes and imaginations. Set in the 1960s, Journalist Peter Miller basically moves through Germany aided by Mossad hunting down a story and searching for a Nazi officer whilst looking for revenge for the death of his father. Its obviously more complex than that, but the mould had been cast.
Jack Higgins’ 1975 novel The Eagle has Landed based on a supposed invasion of mainland Britain, was controversial because it also included an IRA Nazi sympathiser. That said the film of the book was released just a year later and its ‘hero’ Kurt Steiner, played by Michael Caine , in full cockney accent , was supported by a huge and famous cast including Robert Duvall and Donald Sutherland.
Another film of this genre was the 1965 book The Quiller Memorandum written by Elleston Trevor and the subsequent screenplay version by man of the moment, Harold Pinter. Again set in the 1960s the film had an allstar cast Including Sir Alec Guinness, Max Von Sydow and George Segal. Quiller , played by Segal is sent into Berlin to uncover ‘Phoenix’ a Neo-Nazi organisation. Cue murders, spy rings, car chases and double agents.
This genre of books slowed down and the public wanted other more up to date and relevant titles. It all but disappeared until Robert Harris released Fatherland in 1992 to massive acclaim. Again set in 1960s Germany it included all the usual suspects; detectives, secret police, underground organisations and over zealous Journalists; and in this case a love interest. By 1994 it was again on the silver screen and a whole new generation sat fascinated by the ‘what if’
So, who exactly would dare to write a novel based on the theory that the Nazis were all conquering? Well one Larry Roth, thats who. To say he’d be brave to take on giants like Harris and Forsyth would be an understatement. Somehow though, Roth seems to skirt around already familiar territory and doesn’t tread on the toes of those leviathans of literature before him.
The Nazi Account is, I guess, a humble story of an American accountant who, as the title suggests, is given the task of keeping the Nazis financial books in order in the US. Sounds a little like reading a tax return form? Well think again.
This may have not have the shootings and car chases of Odessa File but its gripping and compelling all the same. If you want more ‘bang for your buck’ The Nazi Account is worth every penny. Be it the Pound, Euro or Dollar. Just don’t ask an accountant to help!
Reviewed by Phil Hodges for War History Online.
THE NAZI ACCOUNT
By Larry Roth.