Publish or Perish’, so it’s very satisfying to finally be in possession of a copy of the novel. Allan Russell chose in the end to design his own cover and have the book printed by Lightning Source, distributed through The Book Depository and Amazon.com.
Allan Russell is a very interesting person - he has Bachelors Degrees in Anthropology and Education, but has also studied Archaeology and History. He lives near Melbourne Australia with his family and is a social worker, currently working for a charity supporting the homeless. He is also a wonderful wildlife photographer - as his blog testifies - and now a published author.
I see a lot of ‘self-published’ books, as the judge of a small regional literary award, and my heart often sinks in anticipation, because so many of them are so poorly edited and badly produced, however good the content. Veiled in Shadows is very different - a lot of thought has gone into it and the result is a quality product.
The novel itself was also a surprise - though it shouldn’t have been. I think there is still an inbuilt prejudice against ‘self-publication’ and an expectation that the quality will be of a lower standard than mainstream publishing. Not a bit of that with this one.
World War II fiction is not my first choice, so that was another reason to be wary. I opened Veiled in Shadows when it arrived, just for a glance over a mug of coffee; half an hour later I was still reading and my coffee had gone cold. Al is a born story-teller and I was quickly wrapt up in the characters and their lives - I’ve been compulsively reading it ever since. The ending didn’t disappoint either.
Briefly, Ebi Gausel is an ambitious young SS officer who, in 1938, meets the half English Princess Victoria Katharina von Brunnenstadt and they fall deeply in love. When war breaks out, their engagement is broken off - Ebi believes because of a misunderstanding over another woman - and Victoria is taken to England by her father. There she meets a young RAF officer, Peter Robinson, and grows to love him too. At the beginning of the war, Victoria is recruited by the English secret services and played back into Germany, involved from then on in a dangerous double game at the risk of her own life. To tell you more than that would spoil the plot. One of the other female characters, Jena, is a Polish jew who survives a massacre and is subsequently recruited by Victoria as both friend and agent. Jena was one of the characters I most cared about - feisty and vulnerable and utterly real. Even Ebi, the ‘bad guy’, has his human side, as all the Nazis did, though his deeds are graphically depicted.
Veiled in Shadows isn’t literary fiction, but it’s a very good read, and more than that it’s a book that has a moral and emotional core. The characters and their lives will be with me for a long time. Allan Russell is a very good writer. I know he’s working on his second book and I will be reading that one too!