Improbable Adventures: Eagles Hunt Wolves by Robert Craven
In 2006, I started writing an adventure story in the vein I grew up reading. In June 2011 it was published – Get Lenin. Five years of rewrites, excruciating edits, rejection letters and emails led to it being spotted on the now-defunct peer review site Authonomy. What sealed the modest publishing deal was the principal character Eva Molenaar.
I wanted Eva to be a strong female character and by developing her, I found writing a different perspective on the WW2 book. She’s similar, but opposite to James Bond. A Polish national in Berlin in 1933 who tragically becomes embroiled in WW2. A reluctant spy who develops into a deadly assassin. I didn’t want a series of bodice-rippers, but did wanted her to be sensual. Using sex as a tool, but also conflicted in an illicit love affair with an enemy officer, Nicklaus Brandt. I wanted her to appeal to female readers without making her trite or predictable. I wanted my readers to root for her and I think that side was successful.
She’s stunningly beautiful, intelligent, and ruthless. She’s a mash-up of Princess Leia, Ava Gardener, Louise Brooks, Marlene Dietrich (rumoured to be an American agent, she was mistress to Joseph Goebbels) and SOE Operative Nancy Wake, but capable of compassion too.
The series followed with Zinnman, A Finger of Night and Hollow Point. Each novel pitching Eva into a world of glamour but immersed in ruthless spying and the chaos of war and improbable adventures. This is the world of secret codes, dead letter drops, nothing moves at speed (to make a transatlantic phone call in 1941 took twenty minutes to dial in). Trains, planes and U-Boats in the era before supersonic travel.
And now fourteen years later, I’ve finished Eagles Hunt Wolves. The final adventure.
I wanted to avoid 1944 and D-Day, focussing instead on the collapse of Germany after the war. It is set in 1946. In Berlin, two million soldiers, French, British, American and Russian are carving up the remains of the Reich. Hitler is dead. His inner circle, dead, captured or missing.
Martin Bormann, Hitler’s right-hand man and de-facto head of the Nazi party is shrouded in mystery. He was probably killed escaping Hitler’s bunker in May 1945, but I liked the possibility of his survival as his body was never found.
On holiday in Huelva in Spain, I learned that this harbour was the departure point for the fleeing Nazis to South America. Now I had a U-Boat. A U-Boat with Bormann aboard. A U-Boat with Bormann and the Reich’s bullion on board. The allies in Berlin makes a prime target and Boorman, sailing away to South America has a Nero directive from Hitler’s dying breath – “Even the cities must burn”.
And now I had my story. The wip was initially titled The Nero Directive, but I settled on the three punchy lines
So where is Eva? she happens to be in Spain hunting her missing lover Brandt. From here, the germ of the story began. Eva encounters a U-Boat and gets shot at. She reports back to her old handler in MI6 and then he alerts Whitehall. And now the structure unfolds
I started writing. It’s almost an old-style western, retired agents dragooned into one more mission. I planned only 5 in the series spanning the era of 1933 – 1946. It’s a huge canvas with lots of opportunities, but above all – sheer escapism.
Eagles Hunt Wolves draws deeply on the books I loved reading as a child and teenager – there’s elements of JAWS, a blood-cult that harks back to James Herbert and Stephen King. Add Lionel Davidson, Alastair Maclean and John Le Carre’s style of espionage and you get the idea. I’m a huge fan of the TV series LOST and there are elements of that that surface through the writing, more and more improbable adventures.
I spent a weekend in with my brother who lives near Zurich and he took me to the university where Albert Einstein studied and taught https://www.zuerich.com/en/visit/albert-einstein I then went back to read up on this and the theories he began to work on.
The science behind Hitler’s “Nero Directive” was also inspired by Charles Berlitz’s “The Philadelphia Experiment”. I ordered a copy from the library and read and re-read it. I watched the 1983 movie, which though clunky by today’s standards, still isn’t bad taking a far-fetched concept and grounding it into the story narrative.
“The Philadelphia Experiment “has since been widely disproved, but makes for a good “..what if?…” premise!
And lastly, I wanted a cipher or code for the team to be brought together and crack, but I needed a character to decipher it. Twenty years ago, I wrote a short story about an alcoholic journalist exposing a criminal. The story never got any further than a draft, but the character, Findlay stood out. It was easy to dust him down and slot him into Eagles Hunt Wolves and let a wonderful character develop and grow.
Researching codes and ciphers I found Dr. Yossi Elran of the Weismann Institute in Israel. A mathematician who is an expert on old codes and ancient ciphers, he answered my emails and enquiries and read through my suggestions. He came back with a few recommendations and it was the final piece of the puzzle (pardon the pun).
Eagles Hunt Wolves is at times brutal, cold and unflinching. As the team begin to unravel the details of two dead MI6 agents in Switzerland, leading to the rubble of post-war Berlin it becomes apparent that Hitler’s vision beyond the grave is one of wholesale destruction.
Operating outside of any protection, they are vulnerable and exposed, leading to a heavy price to stop an event that will set the USA and her allies against the USSR.
Typing up The End felt like a grieving process, having these characters living in your head for so long, letting them go is like a sort of empty nest syndrome.
But one I have enjoyed for over a decade.
(c) Robert Craven
About Eagles Hunt Wolves:
For fans of John le Carre, Mick Herron, Ian Fleming, Phillip K Dick and Alastair Maclean – meet Eva Molenaar.1946: The guns have fallen silent over Europe.For now.Searching for her lover Nicklaus Brandt after a mission three years earlier with the French Resistance in Lyon, Eva finds herself in lawless war-torn Berlin.Reunited with her old MI6 handler, Henry Chainbridge, she finds Brandt in a secret holding cell for Allied Intelligence in the British Sector of Berlin.He has information vital to the Allies.Hitler’s last offering; a vengeance weapon of frightening capabilities is now in the hands of the reclusive American billionaire Edgar Halidane and his cadre of fanatics.Under the aegis of Allied command, Eva is dispatched to investigate and finds herself battling with old enemies who have taken the embers of Hitler’s vision and plan to re-ignite a divided Europe.And pays a heavy price on her last mission.It began with Get Lenin and now ends with Eagles Hunt Wolves.
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