Author's Words on Fallen Beech

08/05/2015 21:47

What is the basic plot?

Britain in the 1930s was still luxuriating in its role as the largest empire ever created. Half the world map sported the colour pink, confirming that it was subjugated to the wishes of a tiny island in the north of Europe. What could make this possible? It was surely the nation’s prowess in controlling the seas which in that day was the medium through which most transport and travel had been conducted. This right was won in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and had been maintained ever since. With the advent of air travel and the rise of the rival empire builder Germany and the enlightened view of America, Britain's position as a world empire was wobbling.

In the twentieth century, the balance began to totter, first through the ruinous loss of life and expenditure of World War I and then by the depression that crippled most European economies during the 1920s. Yet, the empire survived and in parts it even flourished. Hong Kong and Shanghai concession were outposts of this empire and not only did they thrive, but they had become a lucrative link in this almighty chain. Their prosperity was founded on ‘The Opium Trade’. This business had made the fortune of several British traders and accounted for as much as one fifth of the income of India. Within this society lay a veneer of respectability whereby cars, hotels and servants were in unlimited supply, despite the fact that you could only drive the car within several miles of your house, other roads being an unpassable maze. In this society, the British controlled the pinnacle, whilst below them existed a myriad of peoples all feeding off the same carcass. Jewish refugees traded with Chinese gangsters, Russian émigrés acted as bodyguards whilst their educated wives played piano in the brothel, local Chinese fled from ruthless Japanese and French and Germans lived in their concessions side by side in the knowledge that their people were killing each other in Europe.

Matthew Dixon came into this society full of hope, having studied in that most British of institutions, Oxford University. On arrival, he is seduced by the beautiful Eurasian Judith only to find out that she is daughter of Green Gang commander. Their affair is supported by the doubtful amity of local tycoon Maurice Harbloom. Matthew’s naivety leaves him ill prepared for the Japanese invasion, which abruptly ends his affair, leaving behind a drug habit. Seeking refuge in Hong Kong, his freedom again comes to an abrupt end, when he again finds himself forced to flee through the crumbling edifices of the British Empire. He becomes a soldier, but his unconventional tactics leave him in trouble with the traditional officers who still believe in ‘Fair Play’. As a result, he is assigned to the sleepy backwater of administering POW camps.

Here, he meets Lukas Armbrecht who believes himself the immortal owner of a legacy handed down through the generations. He speaks of a long forgotten Phoenician race that inspired generations of empire builders and influenced European culture to a profound extent. Through Lukas, Matthew finds out about the Pagan side of the Nazi movement. Even the Christian faith that Matthew holds so dear is not safe as he hears of how the cross and the swastika are one and how the legend of Jesus Christ may have been inspired by an earlier God Tammuz

Where did the title come from?

'Fallen Beech' is a play on words. The most significant element is the Beech trees surrounding Wayland's Smith, a prehistoric site that plays an important role in the story. It is also a reference to the fall of the British Empire that Matthew reflects in his own fall. The Beech tree is probably as English a tree can get and unlike its continental rival the Ash, the tree does not regenerate itself. The second play on words is in the role played by the Americans in WWII. Through the Marshall Plan and their invasion of Normandy, they demonstrated the way forward by conquering the beaches and restoring tolerance to a corrupted Europe.  

Who are the main characters of the book?

Franz Wolff  is the main character of the book of the two earlier books, but plays a remote role in this book. Instead, he is seen as the friend of Lukas though Franz eventually turns against the Pagan nature of the Nazi movement.

Lukas Armbrecht  is a cynical opportunist and womanizer who finds himself proclaimed as Tyr an immortal. He becomes the master of a secret society of ex-Nazis and leads them in a bizarre ceremony based in Wewelsburg.

Matthew Dixon is an English man who finds himself in the colonial world of Shanghai shortly before the outbreak of WWII. There, he falls in love with Eurasian Judith, daughter of a local Opium gangster. As the Japanese invade, he escapes to Hong Kong only to find himself again on the run. His whole belief framework falls apart as the war progresses and when he meets Lukas, his faith undergoes a similar threat.

Jeremy Dixon is the grandson of Matthew. He finds out the bizarre story of his grandfather through a set of diaries bequeathed to him on Matthew's death. Just as with his grandfather, Jeremy's balance is put to the test as he grapples with the questions raised about what faith really is.

 Judith  is the Eurasian lover of Matthew. She is westernized, seductive and full of fun, yet also ruthless in her despisal of Western values. We are left to ponder whether she was really in love with Matthew. Later in the book, we find out that there is an unsolved mystery regarding Jeremy's connection to Judith.

Ilan Reubarie & Maurice Harbloom are Sephardic Jews who own Asian based hotels. Their role in the story is largely background, though we think it may be much more when we find out that Ilan was Matthew's rival for Judith's love.

Griguri Elliot is an American who befriends Matthew, both occupying posts looking after German POWs.

Are the characters real people?

The characters are loosely based upon real people and events; Lukas and Franz are modelled upon guards that actually served in Auschwitz (see my comments in Whispering Birches). Matthew and Jeremy were vaguely modelled upon members of my own family, though with some artistic license. The Shanghai gangster is again loosely modelled upon the Green Gang mobster Du Yuesheng. Ilan Reubarie and Maurice Harbloom share some similarities with Victor Sassoon and the Kadoorie brothers Horace and Lawrence. It should be noted that the book is a piece of fiction and that no opinions or actions related therein are those of real persons.

What is the role of the Pagan Gods?

The book explores the Pagan religion and focuses particularly upon the parallels that exist between the early religions and those of Christianity. We see that the cross has been a religious symbol many years before Christ died on it. Most Christian festivals are reworked versions of the Pagan diary. Even hot cross buns are found to have been around during Phoenician sun worship and that Easter is remarkably similar to the festival to celebrate the fertility God Astarte. 

In the story, we find out that Lukas Armbrecht believes with some coincidence that he is the God Tyr. In the Poetic Edda, Tyr is the man who puts his arm into the mouth of Fenrir when he agrees to take on the trap of Gleipnir. it seems that Franz Wolff is also very alike with the beast Fenrir.

Please explain some of the terms used in the book:

Many terms are specialized to the topic of Nazism and Paganism. A Glossary is included in the book to help the reader understand terms used. By clicking this link, you will see the main terms explained. Please click here.

What inspired the story?

This was a book that wrote itself. When I began the book Whispering Birches I never had it in mind to write a sequel with such a plot. The name Wolff and Armbrecht were selected long before I became aware of the legend of Tyr and Fenrir. That their surnames and circumstances fitted their character so well and that Lukas was chosen in WB to be one handed was pure coincidence. The notion that Christianity has Pagan roots is not a new or unique idea and the theories expounded are there to be found on the internet. I would suggest you think before you look. Some of it will test your faith.