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Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 11, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1ST edition (February 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006230755X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062307552
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Blum specializes in nonfiction narrative showcasing explosive periods in U.S. history, as in the Edgar Award–winning American Lightning (2011). His latest focuses on the period before WWI, when German saboteurs in the U.S. attempted to use bombs and even biological weapons, hoping to weaken the country enough to keep it from entering the war on the side of the Allies. The hero of the piece is New York Police Inspector Tom Tunney, who thwarted many of the plots and captured numerous enemy agents in New York. One problem common to books of this kind is that the author tries to make everything relate to the plot, sometimes pulling the rug out from under the reader in the process. For example, the opening describes a bomb plot aimed at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, prompting the reader to think, “Wow! I didn’t know the Germans did that.” We learn later that Blum is only setting the scene of an unstable era, and that the plot was actually the work of anarchists, not Germans. A bit hyped but still intriguing. --Connie Fletcher


“Howard Blum’s riveting and perturbing Dark Invasion…is well-researched and written, and it maintains a fairly high level of suspense, which is difficult to bring off in a book about historical events.” (Wall Street Journal)

Dark Invasion…will move you to the edge of your seat with the facts alone, but the author’s suspenseful detective-mystery narrative is what keeps you there.” (USA Today)

“Wonderfully gripping…cleverly crafted tension.” (Washington Post)

“Howard Blum’s story of the sinister and scary German terror attacks on America 100 years ago reads more like a LeCarré novel than a meticulous reconstruction of history.. This is a terrific spy story.” (Cokie Roberts, author of Founding Mothers)

Dark Invasion is a must-read for lovers of suspense and anyone who wants to understand how the basis of our homeland security system was born.” (Tom Reiss, New York Times bestselling author of The Black Count and The Orientalist)

“History is all about retelling tales that need telling. In Dark Invasion, Howard Blum has rescued a batch of compelling ones and woven them into grim, fascinating remembrance.” (Dallas Morning News)

“Throws light on the war of espionage and terror Germany waged against the U.S. in 1915.” (Vanity Fair)

“Blum briefs us on early homeland security with tales of German terrorists, including military officers, a germ-warfare expert, a Harvard prof and a document forger.” (New York Post, “Required Reading”)

“a spy thriller of the first order….Dark Invasion is another page-turner that is compelling…. [Blum] has a remarkable talent for both uncovering history’s most inexplicably forgotten stories…and for writing non-fiction paced like a big-budget thriller.” (Daily Beast)

“Sounds like a pretty good espionage thriller…In fact, it’s nothing less than authentic—albeit long-forgotten—American history, brought to vivid life…Dark Invasion reminds us…that ‘the past is never past’.” (Life.com)

“Terrifically engaging and pertinent tale of the New York City bomb squad that foiled German terrorist plots against the United States at the outbreak of World War I.… Instructive, yes, but also as engrossing as good detective fiction.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Compelling … a grim, fascinating remembrance.” (Columbus Dispatch)

“Blum’s narrative of America’s first exercise in homeland security is a worthwhile page-turner, combining the best features of a police procedural and a spy novel with a firm base in verifiable events.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A suspense-filled tale, Dark Invasion uncovers a fascinating corner of history when courageous New York City police officers fought insurmountable odds to defend America against sophisticated German saboteurs at the start of World War I.” (Ronald Kessler, author of The Secrets of the FBI and In the President's Secret Service)

“In his gripping and expertly crafted narrative, Blum demonstrates that the best stories are true. Told in the great tradition of spy thrillers, Dark Invasion is the startling tale of German secret agents operating in the United States.” (Scott Miller, author of The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century)

“I read Dark Invasion without stopping. It is a well-researched and exceedingly well-written account of a pre-World War I series of terroristic attacks on the United States, in this case perpetrated by Germans. It is full of good stories and characters.” (Norman Stone, award-winning author of The Eastern Front: 1914-1917 and World War One: A Short History)

“This is a wonderful story, with a cast of characters out of a Cecil B. DeMille epic, told in a style that is lucid, lyrical, even electric. Narrative history at its very best.” (Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of FOUNDING BROTHERS and AMERICAN CREATION, on American Lightning)

“Howard Blum has given us a fascinating–and hugely entertaining–glimpse into early 20th-century America.…And–eat your hearts out, novelists–it’s all true.” (John Steele Gordon, author of EMPIRE OF WEALTH: THE EPIC HISTORY OF AMERICAN ECONOMIC POWER, on American Lightning)

“Blum…writes a gripping epic of a sordid terror plot and murder most foul …. [He[ makes great use of short chapters and episodic shifts that both prevent tedium and compel the reader forward through each twist and turn.” (Library Journal (starred review))

“The author’s eye for scene-setting and subtle explication perfectly mimics a Griffith-style camera. Blum is at his best…. Unfailingly entertaining.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review), on American Lightning)

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Customer Reviews

Mr. Blum has done a marvelous job of boiling down thousands of pages of books, articles, and transcriptions into a very readable story.
Michael E. Martin
This book is so good I don't want to finish it - for the last couple of nights I've limited myself to only 10 pages or so and will finish it tonight or tomorrow.
Linda Smiles
The story of Tom Tunney, head of the NYPD Bomb Squad and original terrorist hunter, tasked with ferreting out the saboteurs is riveting.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Indy Reviewer VINE VOICE on December 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Howard Blum's "Dark Invasion" brings to light a long lost series of attacks by Imperial Germany on the US during World War I, most notably a series of bombings and an anthrax poisoning. A half star off for slightly breezy writing and another half star off for skipping a proper conclusion leaves this at 4 stars.

While there's a plethora of books coming out to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I, "Dark Invasion" covers a niche that has largely been lost to history's dustbin: the covert operations of Germany against the United States prior to 1917. Remarkably, despite having the largest spy network in the world, in 1914 Germany had all of one agent in the United States. Through a crash course of recruiting, Germany's patched-together network proved remarkably able to create havoc well beyond their weight over the next two years.

Blum's focus is on the men who conducted these operations along with Tom Tunney, the head of the NYPD bomb squad, whose agency was responsible for the vast majority of captures. Of note are a Harvard professor who murdered his wife, escaped to find a new identity, and then bombed the US Capitol and nearly killed JP Morgan (whose financiering saved the Allies), a devilishly clever chemical cigar fire bomb that, thanks to non German allies, sunk innumerable transport ships, and a largely unknown anthrax attack designed to kill horses that appears to have killed quite a few people. Tunney's work is remarkable, especially given the jurisdictional limitations that faced him through working for the NYPD versus the federal government; an interesting point is that Wilson was made well aware of the intelligence on the German spy network but that it did not appear to factor into his decisions.

Three quibbles.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Q. Publius VINE VOICE on January 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Howard Blum, a New York Times bestselling author, has written a real true-life thriller about German espionage on American soil during World War I. This fast-paced thriller reads like fiction but it is all true. Before America's entry into World War I, it was a neutral country and became a trading partner with its European allies. The Germans decided to strike back at the US by devising a plan to create a series of "accidents" using biological weapons and explosives at targets such as ships, factories and farms. Enter in NYPD Inspector Tom Tunney, the Department's Bomb Squad head. He is helped by some loyal operatives. Their task--to stop the saboteurs who include an expert on biological warfare, a former Harvard professor, and a spymaster. There is a lot of drama in this very readable and exciting book. This tale of terrorism in America rings as true today as it did 100 years ago. Can a small group of cops stop ruthless German terrorists? Was this mostly unknown story the first threat to the national security of our nation? Read the book and find out! Many black and white photographs included in the volume add interest to the story. HIghly recommended!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Alan D. Cranford VINE VOICE on November 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Howard Blum's "Dark Invasion" is a readable bit of overlooked history--Imperial Germany's secret war against America. The Kaiser regarded America's declaration of neutrality as a sick joke because American-made war material was flowing to Germany's enemies: bullets, artillery shells, horses, trucks, medical supplies, boots, canned rations.
This secret war ranged from propaganda to labor strikes to sabotage and assassination. On Sunday, July 30, 1916 at 12:24 AM the Black Tom munitions facility began burning--more than fifty people died and the explosions were heard as far away as Maryland. A German sympathizer named Holt gunned down J. P. Morgan on the Glen Cove estate. Perhaps most chilling were the two germ warfare attacks - the attacks were intended to kill as many horses as possible, but any human deaths were merely collateral damage.
The focus of "Dark Invasion" is Captain Tom Tunney's NYPD Bomb Squad. Formed in 1903, NYPD's Bomb Squad dealt with anarchists, but was never intended to function as a national homeland security office.
I have a few quibbles with the book, but I couldn't put this book down and finished it in one long session. The sixty chapters are short enough for a quick gulp of history--I just kept wanting more and more. Period photos of people, places and things enhance the lively text.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on February 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
A common complaint about many works of fiction is how their unusual plot twists often defy common sense and logic. Those unexpected occurrences on the pages of a thrilling novel require readers to engage in what has been called “the willing suspension of disbelief.” There is no similar action required for reading a work of history because facts are facts. DARK INVASION couples details of a little-known moment in American history with the best features of a fictional spy novel or investigative procedural to create a narrative that is informative, entertaining and thoughtful. In a post-9/11 world where debates over combating terrorism are ever present, Howard Blum reminds the nation that we have confronted this before, and there are lessons to be learned from that struggle.

As World War I engulfed Europe, President Woodrow Wilson sought to steer the United States on a path of neutrality. It was a difficult task for the country because the antagonists viewed America as a source of valuable resources necessary to wage the war. But American neutrality benefited England and France far more than Germany. England controlled the sea lanes and was able to obtain necessary supplies from across the Atlantic. German ability to obtain goods from America was limited. The German government embarked upon a policy to destroy the ability of England and France to obtain American supplies. German spies and terrorists were dispatched to American soil to wreak havoc on factories and shipping.

German ambassador Count Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff was the point man for a vast intelligence organization known as Abteilung IIIB. The organization recruited and trained agents, male and female, across Europe. Now the operation would be expanded to America.
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More About the Author

Having started out my career as a reporter for the NY Times, I've moved on to being an author. And while I'm still writing non-fiction, I'm now more focused in writing books that are driven by characters and a sustained narrative. I live in Connecticut and am the father of 3 teenagers - one in college, one starting next year, and one still struggling through high school geometry. My tenth book will be published by Crown/Random House April 26. It's entitled THE FLOOR OF HEAVEN and its a true story about a cowboy turned Pinkerton detective who goes off to the Yukon Gold Rush to pursue a puzzling and suspenseful case. Twentieth Century Fox just bought the film rights, and I find the prospect of a movie based on the book to be exciting - as do the bursars at the colleges attended by my kids.