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Harris, Robert Munich: A novel ISBN 13: 9780525436430

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9780525436430: Munich: A novel
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From the internationally best-selling author of Fatherland and the Cicero Trilogy--a new spy thriller about treason and conscience, loyalty and betrayal, set against the backdrop of the fateful Munich Conference of September 1938.

Hugh Legat is a rising star of the British diplomatic service, serving at 10 Downing Street as a private secretary to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Paul von Hartmann is on the staff of the German Foreign Office--and secretly a member of the anti-Hitler resistance. The two men were friends at Oxford in the 1920s, but have not been in contact since. Now, when Hugh flies with Chamberlain from London to Munich, and Hartmann travels on Hitler's train overnight from Berlin, their paths are set on a disastrous collision course. And once again, Robert Harris gives us actual events of historical importance--here are Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini, Daladier--at the heart of an electrifying, unputdownable novel.

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About the Author:
ROBERT HARRIS is the author of eleven novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, An Officer and a Spy, Dictator, and Conclave. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his wife, Gill Hornby.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

Copyright © 2018 Robert Harris

Shortly before one o’clock on the afternoon of Tuesday 27 September 1938, Mr. Hugh Legat of His Majesty’s Diplomatic Service was shown to his table beside one of the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Ritz Restaurant in London, ordered a half-bottle of 1921 Dom Perignon he could not afford, folded his copy of The Times to page seventeen, and began to read for the third time the speech that had been delivered the night before in Berlin’s Sportpalast by Adolf Hitler.

HERR HITLER’S SPEECH FINAL WORD TO PRAGUE PEACE OR WAR?

Occasionally Legat glanced across the dining room to check the entrance. Perhaps it was his imagination but it seemed that the guests and even the waiters moving back and forth across the carpet between the dusky pink upholstered chairs were unusually subdued. There was no laughter. Soundlessly beyond the thick plate glass, forty or fifty workmen, some stripped to the waist in the humid weather, were digging slit trenches in Green Park.

There should remain no doubt for the whole world at this time that it is not one man, or one leader, who speaks but the whole German people. I know that in this hour the whole people—millions strong—agree with every one of my words (Heil).

He had listened to it on the BBC as it was delivered. Metallic, remorseless, threatening, self-pitying, boastful—impressive in its horrible way—it had been punctuated by the thumps of Hitler’s hand pounding the podium and by the roar of fifteen thousand voices shouting their approval. The noise was inhuman, unearthly. It had seemed to well up from some black subterranean river and pour out of the loudspeaker.

I am grateful to Mr. Chamberlain for all his efforts, and I have assured him that the German people want nothing but peace. I have further assured him, and I emphasise it now, that when this problem is solved, Germany has no more territorial problems in Europe.

Legat took out his fountain pen and underlined the passage, and then did the same with another, earlier reference to the Anglo–German Naval Agreement:

Such an agreement is only morally justified if both nations promise one another solemnly never to wage war against one another again. Germany has this will. Let us all hope that those who are of the same conviction will gain the upper hand among the British people.

He put aside the paper and checked his pocket watch. It was characteristic of him not to carry the time on his wrist like most men of his age but rather on the end of a chain. He was only twenty-eight yet seemed older—his face pale, his manner grave, his suit dark. He had made the reservation a fortnight ago, before the crisis had blown up. Now he felt guilty. He would give her another five minutes; then he would have to leave.

It was a quarter-past when he glimpsed her reflection between the flowers in the wall of gilded mirrors. She was standing on the edge of the restaurant, practically on tiptoe, peering around blankly, her long white neck extended, her chin tilted upwards. He studied her for a few more moments as if she were a stranger and wondered what on earth he would make of her if she were not his wife. “A striking figure”—that was the sort of thing people said of her. “Not pretty, exactly.” “No, but handsome.” “Pamela’s what one calls a thoroughbred.” “Yes, tremendous breeding—and entirely out of poor Hugh’s league . . .” (This latter he had overheard at the party to celebrate their engagement.) He raised his hand. He stood. Finally, she noticed him, smiled and waved and moved towards him, cutting quickly between the tables in her tight skirt and tailored silk jacket, leaving a wake of turned heads.

She kissed him firmly on the mouth. She was slightly out of breath. “Sorry, sorry, sorry . . .”

“It doesn’t matter. I’ve only just arrived.” Over the past twelve months he had learned not to ask where she had been. As well as her handbag she was carrying a small cardboard box. She placed it on the table in front of him and pulled off her gloves.

“I thought we agreed no presents?” He lifted the lid. A black rubber skull, a metal snout and the vacant glassy eye-sockets of a gas mask stared back up at him. He recoiled.

“I took the children for a fitting. Apparently, I’m to put theirs on first. That will test one’s maternal devotion, don’t you think?” She lit a cigarette. “Could I have a drink? I’m parched.”

He signalled to the waiter.

“Only a half-bottle?”

“I have to work this afternoon.”

“Of course you do! I wasn’t sure you’d even show.”

“I ought not to have done, to be honest. I tried to call but you weren’t at home.”

“Well, now you know where I was. A perfectly innocent explanation.” She smiled and leaned towards him. They clinked glasses. “Happy anniversary, darling.”

In the park, the workmen swung their picks.

She ordered quickly, without even looking at the menu: no starter, Dover sole off the bone, green salad. Legat handed back his menu and said he’d have the same. He couldn’t think about food, couldn’t rid his mind of the image of his children wearing gas masks. John was three, Diana two. All that cautioning of them not to run too fast, to wrap up warm, not to suck on toys or crayons because you never knew where they might have been. He put the box under the table and pushed it out of sight with his foot.

“Were they very frightened?”

“Of course not. They thought the whole thing was a game.”

“Do you know, sometimes I feel exactly that? Even if you see the telegrams it’s difficult not to think it’s all just some ghastly joke. A week ago it looked as though it had all been fixed. Then Hitler changed his mind.”

“What will happen now?”

“Who can say? Possibly nothing.” He felt he should try to sound optimistic. “They’re still talking in Berlin—at least they were when I left the office.”

“And if they stop talking, when will it start?”

He showed her the headline in The Times and shrugged. “I suppose tomorrow.”

“Really? As soon as that?”

“He says he’ll cross the Czech border on Saturday. Our military experts reckon it will take him three days to get his tanks and artillery in position. That means he’ll have to mobilise tomorrow.” He tossed the paper back on the table and drank some champagne; it tasted like acid in his mouth. “I tell you what—let’s change the subject.”

From his jacket pocket he produced a ring-box.

“Oh, Hugh!”

“It will be too big,” he warned her.

“Oh, but it’s charming!” She slipped the ring on to her finger, held up her hand and turned it back and forth beneath the chandelier so that the blue stone glinted in the light. “You are a wonder. I thought we hadn’t any money?”

“We haven’t. It was my mother’s.”

He had been afraid she might think him cheap, but to his surprise she reached her hand across the table and laid it on his. “You are sweet.” Her skin was cool. Her slim forefinger stroked his wrist.

“I wish we could take a room,” he said suddenly, “and stay in bed all afternoon. Forget about Hitler. Forget about the children.”

“Well, why don’t you see if you can arrange it? We’re here. What’s to stop us?” She held his gaze with her large grey-blue eyes and he saw, with a sudden insight that caught him in his throat, that she was only saying it because she knew it would never happen.

Behind him a man coughed politely. “Mr. Legat?” Pamela took away her hand. He turned to find the maître d’, palms pressed together as in prayer, grave with self-importance.

“Yes?”

“Number Ten Downing Street are on the line for you, sir.” He was careful to say it just loudly enough for the neighbouring tables to hear.

“Hell!” Legat stood and threw down his napkin. “Will you excuse me? I’ll have to take it.”

“I understand. You go and save the world.” She waved him on his way. “We can have lunch any time.” She started packing her things into her handbag.

“Just give me a minute.” There was a pleading edge to his voice. “We really have to talk.”

“Go.”

He hovered for a moment, conscious of the nearby diners staring at him. “Do wait,” he said. He assumed what he hoped was a neutral expression and followed the maître d’ out of the restaurant and into the lobby.

“I thought you’d like some privacy, sir.” The maître d’ opened a door to a small office. On the desk was a telephone, the handset beside it.

“Thank you.” He picked up the receiver and waited until the door had closed before he spoke. “Legat.”

“Sorry, Hugh.” He recognised the voice of Cecil Syers, one of his colleagues in the Private Office. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to come back right away. It’s about to get rather hectic. Cleverly is asking for you.”

“Has something happened?”

There was a hesitation at the other end. The Private Secretaries were told always to assume the operator was listening in. “It looks as though the talking’s over. Our man is flying home.”

“Understood. I’m on my way.”

He replaced the receiver on its cradle. For a moment he stood paralysed. Was this what History felt like? Germany would attack Czechoslovakia. France would declare war on Germany. Britain would support France. His children would wear gas masks. The diners at the Ritz would abandon their white linen tablecloths to crouch in slit trenches in Green Park. It was all too much to grasp.

He opened the door and hurried back across the lobby into the restaurant. But such was the efficiency of the Ritz’s staff their table was already cleared.

In Piccadilly there was not a taxi to be had. He danced back and forth in the gutter, vainly waving his rolled-up newspaper at every passing cab. Finally, he gave up, rounded the corner into St. James’s Street and set off down the hill. From time to time he glanced across the road in the hope he might see his wife. Where had she gone in such a hurry? If she was walking straight home to Westminster, this was the direction she would have to take. Best not to think of it; best never to think of it. Already he was sweating in the unseasonable heat. Beneath his old-fashioned three-piece suit, he could feel his shirt sticking to his back. Yet the sky was dull, threatening a rain that somehow never came, and all along Pall Mall, behind the tall windows of the great London clubs—the Royal Automobile, the Reform, the Athenaeum—the chandeliers glittered in the humid gloom.

He did not slacken his pace until he reached the top of the steps leading down from Carlton House Terrace to St. James’s Park. Here he found his path blocked by a silent crowd of twenty watching what looked like a small airship rising slowly behind the Houses of Parliament. It ascended past the spire of Big Ben, an oddly beautiful sight—majestic, surreal. In the distance he could make out half a dozen others in the sky south of the Thames—tiny silver torpedoes, some already thousands of feet high.

The man beside him murmured, “I suppose you could say the balloon’s gone up.”

Legat glanced at him. He remembered his father using exactly the same expression when he was home on leave during the Great War. He had to go back to France because the balloon had gone up. To Hugh’s six-year-old ears it had sounded as if he was going off to a party. It was the last time he had seen him.

He edged his way around the spectators, trotted down the three wide flights of steps, across the Mall and into Horse Guards Road. And here, in the centre of the sandy expanse of the parade ground, in the half-hour since he left, something else had happened. A pair of anti-aircraft guns had appeared. Soldiers were unloading sandbags from a flatbed lorry, working quickly as if they feared the Luftwaffe might appear at any moment, passing them from hand to hand along a human chain. A half-built wall of sandbags surrounded a searchlight battery. A gunner furiously turned a wheel; one of the barrels swung around and elevated until it was almost perpendicular.

Legat took out a large white cotton handkerchief and wiped his face. It would not do to turn up red-faced and perspiring. If there was one sin that was frowned upon above all others in the Private Office, it was appearing to be in a flap.

He climbed the steps into the narrow, shadowed, soot-blackened cutting of Downing Street. On the pavement opposite Number 10, a group of reporters turned their heads to follow his arrival. A photographer raised his camera, but when he saw it was no one of importance he lowered it again. Legat nodded to the policeman, who rapped once, hard, with the knocker. The door opened as if of its own volition. He stepped inside.

It was four months since he had been seconded from the Foreign Office to work in Number 10 yet each time he felt the same sensation: as if he were entering some gentlemen’s club that was no longer fashionable—the black-and-white-tiled lobby, the walls of Pompeiian red, the brass lantern, the grandfather clock ticking its leisurely heartbeat, the cast-iron umbrella stand with its solitary black umbrella. Somewhere in the depths of the building a telephone rang. The doorkeeper wished Legat a good afternoon and returned to his leather coachman’s seat and his copy of the Evening Standard.

In the wide passageway leading to the back of the building Legat paused and checked himself in the mirror. He straightened his tie and smoothed down his hair with both hands; he braced his shoulders; turned. Ahead of him was the Cabinet Room, its panelled door closed. To his left, the office used by Sir Horace Wilson, also closed. To his right, the corridor that led to the offices of the Prime Minister’s Private Secretaries. The Georgian house exuded an air of imperturbable calm.

Miss Watson, with whom he shared the smallest office, was bent over her desk, exactly as he had left her, walled in by piles of folders. Only the top of her grey head was visible. She had begun her career as a typist when Lloyd George was Prime Minister. He was said to have chased the Downing Street girls around the Cabinet table. It was hard to imagine him chasing Miss Watson. Her responsibility was preparing answers for Parliamentary questions. She peered at Legat over her barricade of papers. “Cleverly has been in looking for you.”

“Is he with the PM?”

“No, he’s in his office. The PM’s in the Cabinet Room with the Big Three.”

Legat made a noise that was between a sigh and a groan. Halfway along the corridor, he stuck his head into Syers’s office. “All right, Cecil, how much trouble am I in?”

Syers swung round in his chair. He was a small man, seven years Legat’s senior, constantly and irrepressibly and often irritatingly amused. He wore the same college tie as Legat. “I’m afraid you picked rather the wrong day for a romantic lunch, old fellow.” His voice dropped sympathetically. “I hope she didn’t take it badly.”

Once, in a weak moment, Legat had hinted to Syers of his diffculties at home. He had regretted it ever since. “Not at all. Things are on an even keel. What happened in Berlin?”

“Apparently it degenerated into one of Herr Hitler’s tirades.” Syers pretended to str...

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  • PublisherVintage
  • Publication date2018
  • ISBN 10 052543643X
  • ISBN 13 9780525436430
  • BindingPaperback
  • Number of pages320
  • Rating
    3.86 avg rating
    ( 24,591 ratings by Goodreads )

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Book Description Paperback. Condition: new. Paperback. NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER From the bestselling author of V2 and Fatherlanda WWII-era spy thriller set against the backdrop of the fateful Munich Conference of September 1938. Now a Netflix film starring Jeremy Irons.With this electrifying novel about treason and conscience, loyalty and betrayal, "Harris has brought history to life with exceptional skill" (The Washington Post).Hugh Legat is a rising star of the British diplomatic service, serving at 10 Downing Street as a private secretary to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Paul von Hartmann is on the staff of the German Foreign Office--and secretly a member of the anti-Hitler resistance. The two men were friends at Oxford in the 1920s, but have not been in contact since. Now, when Hugh flies with Chamberlain from London to Munich, and Hartmann travels on Hitler's train overnight from Berlin, their paths are set on a disastrous collision course. And once again, Robert Harris gives us actual events of historical importance--here are Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini, Daladier--at the heart of an electrifying, unputdownable novel. Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. Seller Inventory # 9780525436430

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