I've long been fascinated by the Heydrich assassination. One of the most important figures in Nazi Germany was killed at the height of the war by a daring secret mission--
and yet few people know about it. Ever since I saw Callum MacDonald's history of the event on a bargain bookshelf as a teenager, I've wanted to write a novel about it and bring the story to a wider audience.
It would have been relatively easy to write a straightforward story, but I didn't want to do that. (If you're looking for something short, simple, and less nuanced, you'd be better off reading MacDonald's book, or Miroslav Ivanov's Target: Heydrich.
) The more I read about Czechoslovakia's history, the more this story seemed like a great Shakespearean tragedy, and the peak of a much larger arc. So I wanted to write something more epic and arty than past books on the topic, something with the sweep of a David Lean epic and the psychological insights of Dostoyevsky's major novels.
I have no idea whether or not I accomplished that--
obviously that's for you, the reader, to judge.
But if I didn't, it wasn't for lack of effort. I went to Prague three times and traveled extensively around the Czech Republic. I rented a bicycle and retraced the routes the assassins would have taken. I dug deeply into the stories of the men who set them in motion and the men who tried to stop them, and I tried to bring those stories to life as well.
I even wrote each third differently--
the first part exclusively via laptop, the second on a typewriter, and the third by hand, with spellings and place names that vary according to the political biases of each narrator. Some readers have loved this approach, and some have hated it, for it isn't one narrative, but three--
a triptych in which each piece has its own arc and the assembled whole has a greater arc. And history isn't just told by the men we admire, but by the ones we despise as well.
In writing this way, I hope I've put together something that gets at the very nature of history itself. We strain for objective truth, but we can only approximate it by cobbling together a lot of subjective narratives. We try to repeat our great successes and avoid our great failures, and in the process, we run into new successes and failures that we didn't see coming because we were too busy looking back. We seek enemies who are worse than us, but in fighting them, we come to resemble them.Again, if you're looking for something simpler and more comfortable than that, I hope you go elsewhere; I don't want you to waste your time or take your money. But if you're looking for something thought-provoking and worthwhile, something that will be even better on a second or a third reading, I hope you'll give this a shot.