In his acknowledgements at the back of this debut novel Schumacher gives credit to;
“the men, women and children who fought and died in the darkest hours mankind has ever known. Your sacrifice inspired and gave us all a free voice.
I hope I used it well.”
And do you know what– he has. In this alternate-history thriller Schumacher recreates the time after the Second World War, a world where the Nazis successfully invaded Britain and have installed Oswald Moseley as Prime Minister, with the previous administration in exile in Canada.
John Henry Rossett, whose heroics in the war earned him the nickname “The British Lion” has been transferred to the department of Jewish Affairs. Not one to question orders his job has been to discover groups of Jews and arrange for their deportation out of the country. He believes they are being sent to Poland to work. A routine operation on a dingy property changes his life for good as an elderly Jew from his past recognises in Rossett some sense of charity and humanity which fear of the present regime had not beaten out and pleas for his help. Not everyone makes it onto the train and that is the start of Rossett’s adventure.
I found this really quite gripping and it was tense until the final words of the novel. Rossett, by not obeying orders finds himself in danger not only with his immediate employers in the SS, but also the Gestapo, the British Resistance, Royalists and Communists. This is a world where no-one can be trusted and everyone will do what it takes to stay alive. There’s a good cast of characters and there seems to be a lot of mileage in Rossett, a man damaged by the murder of his wife and son in the days after the Invasion in a bomb planted by the British Resistance. His life has shut down to the point where he follows orders without question and joins the Nazi Party to keep his job and avoid the beginning of the decline which could see him unemployed and sent to work in a labour camp on defences against the Russians.
There’s plenty of action, in fact in a couple of places, the action is so detailed that it slows down the plot but the story being told here is a simple tale of human survival and escape, and it’s a good one. Set in a London of foggy nights, dingy pubs and people looming in the shadows all serves to crank up the tension.
Schumacher, residing just outside Liverpool is one of those people who have done so many different things that really they just have to become writers. He has worked as a Policeman for ten years, an actor and stand-up comedian, taxi driver, bouncer the list goes on. You can tell he’s someone who’s spent a lot of time around people as he is able to flesh out his characters in a way in which a lot of writers in the adventure book genre find difficult to do. On his website at tonyshoey.com he expresses his willingness to arrange Skype calls with book clubs and writing groups and I think any reading group with a predilection for a novel with thrills and spills will do well to seek this one out.
I have already lined up his soon to be published follow-up “The British Lion” to be read and I hope it maintains the standard set by this first book.
“The Darkest Hour” was published in the UK by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins in 2014.
11 thoughts on “The Darkest Hour – Tony Schumacher (2014) – A Running Man Review”
Just an update on London spy. I tuned in for the 2nd part and my patience run out after 10 mins. Sorry, I experienced the vagueness and mysterious beginning again. The book Gone to Ground by M. Simon is nicely done, uncomplicated narrative of her life.I really enoy it
I forgot. On a similar note as “The Darkest Hour”, keep an eye on the Amazon Prime “The Man in the High Castle.”Obviously it depends on a director, how he adapted the content of the book, but so far, it had great review by the Independent (Friday 20th November 2015)
Hi Monika. I did watch the second episode of “London Spy” and it went into a direction I certainly wasn’t expecting and it didn’t live up to the expectations I had when I wrote the review. I have the third episode recorded but haven’t got round to watching it yet (and I don’t feel the need to rush to view it). I’ve seen the trailer for the Amazon Prime series “Man In The High Castle” and it looks promising. I’ve made a note to check it out. It looks similar to how I imagined “The Darkest Hour” in my head. Thanks for the comments!
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I have read both of your books, just in reverse order. I had many questions after reading the British Lion, but that was soon self-corrected by reading the Darkest Hour. It was a holiday and I ran out of reading, so started first on the 2nd book.
What I found fascinating was the relationship Koehler v Rossett. Despite Rosset’s ruthlessness to protect Jacob (John’s ferocity for Jacob’s survival contradicts almost fatiqued way and mundane approach to dispatching Jews to their uncertain fate.) , Koehler found in him an unlikely ally, as for his own daughter’s ultimate rescue. Despite their mutual animosity, which was caused on Rosset’s side by a slow realising he is on the wrong side and his feeling of being trapped, he eventually finds his own and truthful way out of the situation.
Looking forward to meeting Rosset again in 1950s thrown in cold war era.
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Phil here, Monika. I hope Tony sees this – he should do as he has made a comment which should keep him in the loop in the conversation about his book. I’m sure he will be fascinated to read your observations – hopefully he will get back to you on this site!
have you read any of Tony’s books – in the right order? If not, I would squeeze them in on your reading list. It is just like one of Philip Kerr Bernie Gunther books. Style of writing that feels like you slipped on your comfortable slippers and off you go, on an adventure.Do not expect to fall asleep, on the contrary. It is hard to put it down.
Hi Monika, and thank you so much for your comment. I love it when my work causes people to think long and hard about the characters it contains!
I think it is fair to say the John and Ernst’s relationship is a difficult one. I think they both are finding it difficult to come to terms with what they have done in the past, especially John, whose guilt runs very deep, since it was awoken by Jacob. I think the guilt makes their “friendship” a strange one. John’s emotional damage, coupled with Koehler’s nationality, will never make them “true” friends, but I think the both realize that they are all each other have, so they make the best of it, in the hope things will improve.
I hope that helps!
And once again, thank you so much!
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