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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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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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There was a strong movement in the United States to join the Allies against Germany but President Woodrow Wilson was holding fast to a policy of neutrality.
Nevertheless, the Germans felt the sting of not being able to buy goods from America while bullets, canned food, horses and other weapons were being sold to the Allies in great numbers. They decided to do something about that but it was important that the German government not be seen as a belligerent to the United States for fear of pushing them into the war on the Allied side. So they established a secret terrorist/spy cell in American to wreak havoc and disrupt the flow of supplies to the Allies.
President Wilson was deaf to the transgressions of these German agents for fear of being pushed into declaring war. Therefore, he was not aggressively trying to expose the German terror cell or spy network for fear of what he might find.
It fell to the police department of New York City to determine the root cause of a number of suspicious tragedies that had befallen the city.
Howard Blum does a remarkable job of documenting the activities of the German terrorist cell in America which was sanctioned by Abteilung IIIB, the highest intelligence agency of the German government. Among its efforts was the attempted assassination of J.P. Morgan, a financier of the material being sent to the Allies. Some of the more strident acts of sabotage was the planting of fire bombs on ships heading to England and France. They also planted rudder bombs to disable ships at sea.
At the height of their terrorist activities were the bombing of the Capital Building, the attempt to infect horses with glanders disease and the plan to start a plague in New York City using the anthrax virus.
After blowing up the Black Tom dock ammunition depot in Jersey City, the newly formed NYC Bomb Squad took the lead in tracking down the terrorists.
Many believe the sinking of the Lusitania brought America into WWI. Others credit the Zimmerman Letter in which Germany promised Mexico aid and support if it attacked America. But it’s clear in Wilson’s declaration of war speech that the subversive activities that he ignored so long played a pivotal role in his decision to ask for a declaration of war.
John E. Nevola - Author of The Last Jump
U.S. Army Veteran
Military Writer's Society of America