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Written by Christopher ReichAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Christopher Reich



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On Sale: August 20, 2002
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-440-33451-4
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Tags for this book (powered by Library Thing)
fiction (21) germany (8) thriller (8) wwii (5) mystery (4)
fiction (21) germany (8) thriller (8) wwii (5) mystery (4)
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Christopher Reich dazzled readers and defied expectations with his New York Times bestseller, Numbered Account, a breathtaking classic of modern suspense. Now Reich returns to the world of international thrillers with a no-holds-barred powerhouse of a novel set against the seething backdrop of post—World War II Germany....

July 1945. U.S. attorney Devlin Judge has come to Europe as part of an international tribunal to try Nazi war criminals. But Judge has his own personal agenda: to find Erich Siegfried Seyss, the man responsible for his brother’s death.

An SS officer and former Olympic sprinter, Seyss has just escaped from a POW camp, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. But he won’t escape Devlin Judge.

Between the two men are miles of German countryside ... and the beautiful daughter of one of Nazi Germany’s most powerful families — a woman loved by them both.

But as Judge hunts his prey across a devastated nation, he finds himself caught up in a staggering conspiracy. Because Erich Seyss is no rogue SS killer. He is a man running a final race to make one last, unforgettable contribution to the Fatherland. And he is acting on orders from the last person anyone would ever suspect.

Excerpt

At nine o’clock, on a warm July evening in the Bavarian Alps, Erich Seyss stepped from the doorway of his assigned barracks and walked briskly across the grass toward the burned-out stable that housed the prisoners’ latrine. He wore a shapeless gray uniform that carried neither rank nor insignia. No cap adorned his head. Only his arrogant gait and undaunted posture remained to identify him as an officer of the German Reich. In the distance, the sun’s last rays crowned snowcapped peaks with a hazy orange halo. Closer, and less angelic, twin barbed-wire fences and a succession of spindly-legged watchtowers surrounded a five-acre enclosure, home to three thousand defeated soldiers.

POW Camp 8, as it was officially designated by the United States Army of Occupation, sat in a broad meadow on the western outskirts of Garmisch, a once chic resort that in 1936 had played host to the Winter Olympic Games. Until three months earlier, the compound had served as the headquarters of the German Army’s First Mountain Division. Like Garmisch, it had escaped the war unscathed — weathered, perhaps, but untouched by a single bomb or bullet. Today, the assembly of stout stone buildings and low-slung wooden cabins housed what Seyss had heard an American officer refer to as “the scum and brutes of the German Army.”

Seyss smiled inwardly, thinking “the loyal and proven” was more like it, then jogged a few steps across the macadam road that bisected the camp. In contrast to his relaxed demeanor, his mood was turbulent, a giddy mix of anxiety and bravado that had his stomach doing somersaults and his heartbeat the four-hundred-meter dash. To his left ran the prisoners’ barracks, a row of stern three-story buildings built to sleep two hundred men, now filled with a thousand. Farther on hunched a weathered cabin that housed the radio shack, and ten meters past that, the camp commander’s personal quarters. Barely visible at the end of the road was a tall wooden gate, swathed in barbed wire and framed by sturdy watchtowers. The gate provided the camp’s sole entry and exit. Tonight, it was his destination.

In ten minutes, either he would be free or dead.

He had arrived at the camp in late May, transported from a hospital in Vienna where he had been recovering from a Russian bullet to his lower back. The wound was his third of the war and the most serious. He’d suffered it in a rearguard action against lead elements of Malinovsky’s Ninth Army, maintaining a defensive perimeter so his men could make it across the Enns River and into the American zone of occupation before the official end of hostilities at midnight, May 8. Surrender to the Russians was not an option for soldiers whose collar patch bore the twin runes of the SS.

A week after his surgery, a chubby American major had showed up at his bedside, a little too solicitous of his good health. He’d asked how his kidney was and confided that a man didn’t really need a spleen. All the while, Seyss had known what he was after, so when finally the major demanded his name, he gave it voluntarily. He did not wish to be found in two months’ time cowering in his lover’s boudoir or hiding beneath his neighbor’s haystack. Peeling back his hospital smock, he had lifted his left arm so that the SS blood group number tattooed on its pale flank could be read. The American had checked the group number against that written on his clipboard, then as if declaring the patient cured, smiled, and said, “Erich Siegfried Seyss, you have been identified by the Allied powers as a war criminal and are subject to immediate transfer to an appropriate detention facility where you will be kept in custody until the time of your trial.” He didn’t provide any specifics as to the nature of the crimes or where they were alleged to have taken place — on the Dnieper, the Danube, the Vistula, or the Ambleve, though Seyss acknowledged it might have been any one of those places. The major had simply produced a pair of handcuffs and locked his right hand to the bed’s metal frame.

Recalling the moment, Seyss paused to light a cigarette and stare at the fiery silhouette of the mountains surrounding him. He considered the charge again and shook his head. War crimes. Where did the war end and the crimes begin? He didn’t loathe himself for acts from which other, lesser men might have shrunk. As an officer who had sworn his loyalty to Adolf Hitler, he had simply done as he’d been told and acted as honorably as circumstances did or did not allow. If the Allied powers wanted to try him, fine. He’d lost the war. What else could they do?

Dismissing his anger, Seyss cut behind the hall, then traversed a dirt infield littered with bales of firewood. Dusk brought quiet to the camp. Prisoners were confined to their barracks until dawn. GIs freed from duty hustled into town for a late beer. Those staying behind gathered in their quarters for heated games of poker and gin rummy. He walked slower now, guarding the shambling pace of a man with nowhere to go. Still, a sheen of perspiration clung to his forehead. He ventured a glance at the wristwatch taped high on his forearm. Three minutes past nine. Tonight everything would hinge on timing.

Fifty feet away, a lone sentry rounded the corner of the latrine. Spotting Seyss, he called, “Hey, Fritz, get over here. Time for bed check. What’re you doing out?”

Seyss approached the GI, pleased he was precisely on schedule. “Just have to make a pee,” he answered in English. “Plumbing’s messed up and gone to hell. No hard feelings, though. It was Ivan’s doing, not yours.” Born of an Irish mother and a German father, he’d grown up speaking both languages interchangeably. He could recite Yeats with a Dubliner’s impish brogue and quote Goethe with a Swabian’s contemptuous slur.

“Just give me your pass and shut up.”

Seyss retrieved a yellow slip from his pocket and handed it over. The pass cited an irregularly functioning kidney as grounds for permission to visit the latrine at all hours.

The sentry studied the slip, then pointed at his watch. “Bedtime, Fritz. Curfew in five minutes.”

“Don’t worry, Joe. I’ll be back in plenty of time for my story. And don’t forget a glass of warm milk. I can’t sleep without it.”

The sentry handed him back the pass, even managing a laugh. “Just make it snappy.”
Christopher Reich|Author Q&A

About Christopher Reich

Christopher Reich - The Runner

Photo © Katja Reich

Christopher Reich is the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Deception, Numbered Account and The Patriot’s Club, which won the International Thriller Writers Award for best novel in 2006.  He lives in California with his family.
 
www.christopherreich.com

Author Q&A

Q: You've spoken about the moment in history that inspired The Runner. Can you describe it for readers, and explain why it sparked this thriller from you?

A: I've been a World War II buff as long as I can remember. Growing up, the Second War was always lurking in my imagination. I read Cornelius Ryan, saw "The Battle of Britain" about ten times, "The Guns of Navarone," too. But I'd never really heard or read too much about what happened right after the war ended. What happened to all the soldiers who surrendered? Where did they go? What did they go? Doing some preliminary reading, I came across a mention of some fanatical German soldiers who called themselves 'Werewolves' who'd sworn never to give up. Just the name 'werewolf' sent a chill through my blood. I was hooked! I began to imagine what one of these soldiers might be like, what he'd do for his country, a man for whom losing the war was worse than death, itself. What came from those thoughts is The Runner.

Q: Numbered Account took readers behind-the-scenes in international finance. THE RUNNER takes readers behind-the-scenes of the post-W.W.II war crimes justice system, as well as back in time. How is writing about the past different from writing about the "now?" How do you thread such fact through the fiction and keep the narrative moving?

A: The greatest difficulty about writing about past events-- certainly events that took place before you were born--is being faithful not only to the facts of the era but to its spirit. The world has certainly changed a lot since 1945. We, as Americans, live by far more relaxed morals and conventions than our parents and grandparents. Just look at how we dress for work, how we address our superiors on the job, or better yet, look at our sex lives. So you can't just bury yourself in a pile of books, you have to listen to the people who were alive then. When I started The Runner, I knew what I wanted to happen ‹ that is, how the plot needed to unfold ‹ but I didn't know how. I let my research write the story for me. Scenes of the German black market and in Jake's Joint, the American Roadhouse outside of Munich, were drawn directly from interview with an American pilot and a former German soldier who after the war became the 'self proclaimed' king of the Heidelberg black market. The key was to select only the stories - the facts, the details - that propel the story forward. Keep those pages turning!

Q: Are your novels a reflection of the kind of fiction you enjoy reading? Who are your author heroes?

A: Without question, I try and write the kind of stories I enjoy reading. I've always been a voracious reader. To crib from Jay McInerney, I grew up with the classics: Ludlum, Forsyth, Deighton and of course, Franklin W. Dixon. (Ten points to all you former Hardy Boys fans). Another favorite was James Clavell. I can remember getting lost for days on end in King Rat, Taipan, Shogun and Noble House. My current all-star list includes Nelson DeMille, Tom Wolfe, and Peter Blauner. Still, the one writer whose work I most admire is John Le Carre. Though he's been labeled a writer of spy fiction, he's much, much more. No writer plumbs the hearts of his character like Le Carre, or provides greater insight into their actions. He is nothing short of brilliant. His books taught me everything I know today about writing. I recently had the chance to meet him in Zurich and can say that his talent is exceeded only by his kindness.

Q: Tell us more about how you write. Do you follow a routine? What most surprises you about the process? Do you begin with a character, an idea, or a title? Reviewers all call your fiction fast-paced or page-turning. How do you describe your fiction, and how to you craft the pages to draw readers through the narrative?

A: Writing is a job, a vocation, not an avocation. To those who wait for the muse to dance upon their shoulder, good luck. Writing is hard work and success depends just as much on one's ability to keep his or her butt in a chair and get the job done as it does on talent. I try and put in eight hours a day, beginning by 8:30 and finishing up by 5 or 5:30 with an hour and a half for lunch. I like to tell people to do as much outlining of the story as possible before you start. Have your plot pretty much figured out. Know the main events that have to take place in the book and how it's going to end. Your characters are paramount. The more you can suss out about them beforehand the better. I like to write long biographies about the principal players, so I really know who they are ‹ where they grew up, pivotal childhood events, favorite books, parental memories and lots, lots, more. So much of a story comes out of character. I always keep in mind that I am trying to write top notch commercial fiction. A fast paced story that teaches the reader something about an interesting subject and maybe something about themselves. In doing so, I like to end each chapter on a mysterious note ‹ either something has gone wrong or something big is about to happen. Mostly, though, I want the reader to feel that he or she absolutely has to know what's coming next. The title is the last thing that comes to mind.

Q: What was the most surprising thing about the success of Numbered Account? What was different or surprising about preparing for The Runner?

A: Learning that Numbered Account, my first novel had hit the New York Times Bestseller list ranks among the greatest rushes in my life. You can hope, you can pray, but when it actually happens, it's simply marvelous. I think the biggest surprise about Numbered Account was that the book found such a large audience. Readers didn't shy away because of subject matter ‹ I mean how many people think that they're going to find a rip-roaring yarn about intrigue in a Swiss bank. Word of mouth spread that most of all it was a really exciting story. A young guy gets caught way over his head with some of the savviest, most sophisticated criminals in the world and has to fight his way out. When I set out to write The Runner, I wanted to explore another area that fascinated me - the Second World War and what happened in its aftermath.

Q: Care to share what's coming next?

A: The next book is just getting off the ground. Set in contemporary times, it's the story of a young CIA spy, fresh out of training, who is sent into Russia to bring down the head of a Moscow Crime Syndicate, a smooth type who has plans to harm certain interests of the United States. It's appalling how much of Russia today is controlled by organized crime. Some say up to 75% of all business and industry is mob run. That means the government is involved as well. And that makes good grist for a thriller writer's mill. Anyway, I'll be spending most of the summer in Moscow researching the book. Look for it in the Spring of 2002.

Q: If you could be asked one question by the readers of your books, what would you hope the question to be?

A: The question I like to hear the most is "When is the next book coming out?"

Q: What advice would you give aspiring authors?

A: My advice to aspiring authors is simple: Take a look into the mirror and make sure you have the talent to get the job done. Don't fool yourselves. If you do, sit down and start writing and don't quit until your done. Once their finished, I'd advise them to be humble and be ready to edit, edit, edit!

Praise

Praise

“A wonderful novel of conspiracy, treachery and political intrigue ... Reich evokes the fascinating world that existed between the hot war and the cold war — he is a master of atmosphere and detail.”
— Nelson DeMille, author of The Lion’s Game

“Irresistible.”
The Wall Street Journal

“This is thriller-writing on the grand scale.”
The Denver Post

“Fast-moving ... briskly paced ... The Runner confirms all the promise Reich showed in Numbered Account.”
Chicago Tribune

“Move over, Jack Higgins and Robert Ludlum, Reich has grabbed hold of your genre and made it sing. The Runner is an intriguingly crafted cat-and-mouse hunt.”
San Francisco Examiner

“Reich skillfully keeps us guessing.”
Chicago Sun-Times

“Reich is good news for insomniacs who need an excuse to stay up till the wee hours.”
Daily News (New York)


Don’t miss Christopher Reich’s New York Times bestselling thriller:

Numbered Account

Available from Dell

And look for Christopher Reich’s new hardcover:

The First Billion

coming in winter 2002 from Delacorte Press

  • The Runner by Christopher Reich
  • October 09, 2001
  • Fiction - War; Fiction - Thrillers
  • Island Books
  • $7.99
  • 9780440234685

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