- Publisher: Replica Books (April 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0735104581
- ISBN-13: 978-0735104587
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,914,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Blood Order Hardcover – April 1, 2001
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"The Blood Order" begins on the fateful day of November 9, 1923, four years after the end of "The Blue Max." The antihero of that book, German fighter ace Bruno Stachel, is now a dissolute playboy stuck in a loveless marriage to an affluenzic heiress, whiling away his time by gambling, bedding anything in a skirt while drinking everything he can get his hands on. Waking up in a Munich hotel the morning of Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch, he accidentally saves the life of his old commanding officer, Hermann Goering, and ends up getting recruited by the burgeoning Nazi Party, who want to enhance the credibility of their movement by exploiting Stachel's popularity with the German people. Stachel, on the other hand, wants to use the Nazis so he can return to the cockpit, the only place on earth he feels he belongs. A mutually parasitic relationship develops, but almost at once so does conflict. Stachel is a cynical opportunist and a borderline psychopath, but his colossal ego and sharp tongue soon alienate Martin Bormann, which endangers his new-found position with the Luftwaffe. His sense of obligation to Ziegel, the Jewish soldier who saved his life in the Great War, also puts him in conflict with HItler's anti-Jewish policy; as does his friendship with Fraulein Heidemann, the widow of his former squadron leader who has become involved in the anti-Nazi resistance. Stachel, always out for himself, gradually begins to feel an ache of dissatisfaction with his perpetual quest for selfish pleasure; but as he begins a fateful friendship with a seemingly disaffected secretary in the American embassy, the sins he and his family have committed against the Nazis come back to haunt him, and he must make a choice between advancing his own interests or -- for the first time in his life -- putting others before Bruno Stachel.
As I said, this is a strange book. It opens very strongly and for at least a hundred pages presents a fascinating and often beautifully written account of Weimar Germany during the slow and tempestuous rise of the Nazi movement. Jack D. Hunter has a remarkable affinity for German culture and for translating German expressions and idioms into English, and between writing "The Blue Max" and this novel he also managed to improve his prose-writing and use his personal experiences as an Allied agent to lend authenticity to the intrigues he describes in this story. Few people think of the Nazis as subjects for a Noir novel, but Hunter approaches Hitler and his men not as political fanatics or demons but as shrewd, ruthless, calculating gangsters, and the approach is both effective and interesting: it is fun to see Stachel try to beat the Nazis at their own game by bringing his own shrewdness, ruthlessness and calculation against them.
On the debit side, Hunter's taste for morally ambiguous characters (the essence of Noir) can make for a depressing read. Bruno Stachel is not quite as big of a #&@ in this novel as he was in "The Blue Max" (where, among other outrages, he casually murdered his best friend just so he, Stachel, could fly a better airplane), but he is a swine nonetheless: nasty, selfish, egotistical, exploitative, and almost entirely without a conscience. There really is no moral difference between him and the Nazis, except that they, unlike him, actually believe in what they are doing. More seriously, Hunter seems to have "lost the mission" about halfway through the book, developing the spy-intrigue elements in an unsatisfying and haphazard way while letting the fascinating picture of Nazi Germany through the eyes of a cynical opportunist lapse into soft focus. If Noir can be depressing, it is at least charismatic, a world of neon lights, cold rain, cigarette smoke, perfume, and gun smoke. Hunter is very good at this type of atmosphere without resorting to a single cliche, yet he trades it up for B-movie spy games which are not at all in keeping with the gritty realism established earlier. The climactic chapters of "The Blood Order" do in fact read like a third-rate spy novel, and Stachel's final decision, on the last pages of the book, simply isn't in keeping with his character or his ego. It's as if Hunter, having created this wonderfully dark and nihilistic landscape, lost faith in its power to interest the reader and elected instead to go down the tired path of a spy-thriller.
Is "The Blood Order" worth reading? The short answer is yes Particularly in the early going it's a gripping and atmospheric page-turner, and there is an undercurrent of menace and suspense throughout most of the novel. His view of Nazism
is questionable but definitely interesting. Plus, while this book can be read as a stand-alone, anyone who also read "The Blue Max" will want to see the further adventures and debaucheries of their antihero. But it's not a great novel, and while that's no major sin, it is frustrating to see how close Hunter often came to delivering one, if only he'd shown more faith in his original Noirish concept.