blog tour, Extract

*EXTRACT* from The Germans and Europe, A Personal Frontline History by Peter Miller.

Welcome to The Bookwormery, I am pleased to be able to share an Extract from Peter Millar’s book, The Germans and Europe, A Personal Frontline History.

1
Berlin
A special party in a special pub, the mouse that roared, from obscurity to oblivion, a tale of two cities and an unexpected resurrection happy Birthday


In the summer of 2013 my wife Jackie and I attended a party in a pub in Prenzlauer Berg, one of Berlin’s trendiest and most sought-after residential areas. Just a few decades earlier it had been the most dilapidated district on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall. It had also been our home.


Some 32 years previously, in the late winter of 1980–81, I had arrived in East Berlin as a young and relatively inexperi- enced foreign correspondent for Reuters news agency. When I got married six months later my wife came out to join me, making our ‘choice’ of first marital home improbable enough to feature in her hometown newspaper, the Scun- thorpe Evening Telegraph.


My posting to East Berlin, where I was the only non- German correspondent on the ‘wrong’ side of the Wall, was an accident that changed my life, gave me what amounted to a second family, and an umbilical cord to a city that perhaps more than any other had embodied the 20th century: seduc- tive, scarred, ugly. And utterly magical. Even if the magic had at times been frighteningly black.


The Germans and Europe.indd 6 27/06/2017 11:22

    That party in the summer of 2013 was held on 1 August. A century earlier Kaiser Wilhelm II had unveiled a monu- ment to the Battle of the Nations fought in 1813 outside Leipzig. The victory of Prussia, Austria, Sweden and Russia over Napoleon had seen 54,000 killed and another 27,000 wounded in the bloodiest battle in European history to that date. No one had any idea of the catastrophe to occur just one year later, in August 1914.

That same summer a Berlin housemaid called Clara Vahlenstein had a lucky lottery win, and she and her husband Hermann changed their lives forever by buying a pub in the bustling working class district of Prenzlauer Berg, dominated by six-storey Mietkasernen (rental tenements). They initially called it Vahlenstein’s Destille, and sold spirits as well as beer and coffee to the hardworking locals of an inner-city suburb typical of the rapid expansion Berlin had undergone in the late 19th century as it was transformed from a medium-sized northern German provincial city into the capital of a huge new nation. In the end, however, Berlin tradition won out: the pub stood on the corner of Metzer Strasse, named for the siege of Metz, one of the battles in the Franco-Prussian war that had created the new Germany. And as most Berlin pubs stood on corners and were named for them, Clara’s became Metzer Eck.


I first stumbled (literally) into Metzer Eck on a cold night in the early winter of 1981. Despite its label as capital of the Cold War; East Berlin in the early 1980s was something of a slow news city, a dull Soviet fiefdom without even the usual crop of dissidents to be found in most of Moscow’s satrapies. My first story had been, ironically given my Northern Irish upbringing, a football game between Ballymena and a team from Leipzig: Reuters had a broad distribution network. An office in drab East Berlin was rare and something Reuters was determined to hold on to: one day something exciting might just happen.
To pad out my salary I was required also to cover events
berlin ⋑

7
The Germans and Europe.indd 7 27/06/2017 11:22


in the isolated exclave of West Berlin. It was coming home via Checkpoint Charlie from a chaotic night covering riots in the student, squatter and Turkish immigrant district of Kreuzberg to the relative peace and calm of the totalitarian East, that I first found myself in Metzer Eck. I got out of the U-bahn at Senefelderplatz and, seeing a rare light in the dark- ened streets, ventured in, hoping for a nightcap, or at least a bit of warmth, and maybe – though I doubted it in East Berlin’s cautious, mistrusting society – a bit of conversa- tion. I found both, and a whole lot more: an open back door into the heart of real Berlin, a culture of ordinary, charm- ing, friendly people of all classes – regulars included bakers, builders, musicians and actors – who over generations had hunkered down and taken the shit that history had thrown at them.


The night of that party in the summer of 2013, 32 years after I had first stumbled through the doors, the current landlady of Metzer Eck, Sylvia Falkner, Clara Vahlenstein’s great-grand-daughter-in-law, stood on the steps before a crowd of several hundred and news cameras of unified Ber- lin’s local television channel and declared: ‘We survived two World Wars, the Wall going up and the Wall coming down, and we’re still here!’
In almost any country, at any time, the survival, almost totally unchanged, of one small pub in the hands of the same family for a century is a rare thing; in the circumstances of Berlin, it is almost a miracle. During the Vahlenstein/Falkner family’s tenure Germany’s borders changed more than a dozen times; they had been under the rule of an emperor, a socialist democracy, the Nazi dictatorship, a Soviet-style Communist dictatorship and since 1990 once more a democ- racy. Five currencies had crossed the bar, from the Kaiser’s Reichsmarks to the Rentenmarks invented to rescue the infla- tion-plagued Weimar Republic, to the East German ‘Marks of the German Democratic Republic’, to the D-Mark of post-1990 unified Germany, and eventually euros.


The Germans and Europe.indd 8 27/06/2017 11:22

    Two young men called Horst had lost their lives: Syl- via’s husband, conscripted into the East German National People’s Army when I first arrived in Berlin, who tragically succumbed early to cancer shortly after celebrating the fall of the Wall. And his uncle: conscripted into the Hitler Youth in his teens, then taken away by the invading Russians and left to rot of consumption in a repurposed Nazi concentra- tion camp at Sachsenhausen, just north of the city. Berlin and Berliners have lived Europe’s most terrible century close up and personal. Far from all of them deserved it.

Just another Brick in the Wall?


Almost my first introduction to my new home had been a literal overview of Berlin’s real geography thanks to the British army, who in 1981 still nominally controlled one of the three (American, French and British) sectors of West Berlin. Their forces were based near Nazi architect Albert Speer’s Olympic Stadium, since transformed into the national football stadium that hosted the 2006 World Cup final.


An army helicopter took me high above the divided city – taking care never to make the potentially dangerous mistake of crossing into East German airspace. The 1971 Four Power Agreement – signed as a form of normalisation during the détente years – was so complex the Western Allies and Soviets had had problems even defining what they were referring to. Neither side admitted the division was final but neither had the faintest intention of withdrawing its troops. All that had to wait for the events that followed November 1989. Both sides insisted (relatively accurately) that it was not they but the German civilian authorities that ran things. Seen from a bird’s-eye vantage point in early 1981 the grotesque artificial- ity of the Wall and the ‘death strip’ that lined it like a scar on a wound, stood out in the landscape like a crooked con- crete lasso encompassing the western two-thirds of the city.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Millar is an award-winning journalist, author and translator. Born in Co.Down. Ireland, Peter read French and Russian at Oxford, lived in Paris, then Brussels as a reporter for Reuters. In early 1981, at the age of 26, he was sent as correspondent to East Berlin, then to Moscow, where he lived three years, from the death of Brezhnev to the rise of Gorbachev. His career, including the Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and European, took him to Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Bucharest and Belgrade, as well as throughout Germany.

blog tour, Guest post

A *GUEST POST* from Billy Moran, Author of Don’t Worry Everything Is Going To Be Amazing.

Good Morning and welcome tomThe Bookwormery. Today I am lucky enough to be sharing a GUEST post from Billy Moran. He is the author of Dont Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing…..

Here he shares his 10 Amazing Lockdown Reads…….enjoy!

10 Amazing Lockdown Reads, My Books of 2020

Wow. What a horrible year. Let’s face it, if life in the UK peaked at the London Olympics in 2012, it’s been a bit of a slippery slide ever since. Life seems very ‘divided’ these days. We hoped, as Prof. Brian Cox and his pals once sang, that things could only get better, but 2020 has brought suffering not experienced on a mass scale in this country since World War 2.  And on a surface level it hasn’t been a great one for me personally either.

However, I’m an optimist – I think good times are on their way, and, I’ve always believed that when times are bad, art is good. And I honestly think 2020 has been a real corker for new books (especially that Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing J, that’s great that is!). Here are the ones that have helped me get through lockdown – maybe give one of them a try if you get a vouchers for Christmas…and let’s face it, this year you probably will! Billy.

Flake by Matthew Dooley

I loved this brilliantly British graphic tale of Howard and his ice cream wars – love the expressions on the faces. Also my publisher is called Howard – so that’s bonus points.

A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin

Rebus is my No.1 go-to character in fiction. Autumn has not been complete for a long time without a Rebus. In truth the last few – since the arrival on the scene of Malcolm Fox – have been a little disappointing, but I can’t see a day when I will pass up on a Rebus, and this was certainly my favourite for a few years, with John’s troubled relationship with his semi-estranged daughter at the heart of things, and the great man as busy as ever deliberately irritating most of those who cross his path.

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith

This is meaty. When you’ve finished it, you can use it to hold doors ajar – or perhaps to keep them shut and stop certain activists from coming to get you for the heinous crime of reading a book. Normally I have a limited capacity for weighty tomes. 500 pages is about the limit of my attention span. But occasionally they are worth it. The Strike novels work because they are novels. The characters are as important as the crimes – Strike and Robin’s relationship is one of my favourites in modern fiction – and the things the books says about life, are as important as the whodunnit/howdunnit/whydunnit elements. The brilliant writing in this one kept me going all the way to the end.

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

One of the highlights of the year for me as a debut novelist was reading Rosamund Lupton’s review of my book. In turn, Three Hours was a truly gripping read, perhaps her best yet. Curl up with it on Boxing Day!

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

A dark, distressing, but stunning read.

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

This is a pretty extraordinary book – but not for the faint-hearted. Not sure how many readers really care about the Booker, but I can’t help having a peak at award nominees each year, and I’ve got to say that after Girl, Woman, Other last year which I loved, nothing on this year’s list really grabbed me apart from this one. I have some kind of unbreakable link with Scottish fiction – from Ian Rankin to Irvine Welsh, Gail Honeyman to William Boyd, pretty much all my favorite writers come from north of the border. My dad was born in Aberdeen, so it must be something in my genes! The above writers all base themselves in Edinburgh, but Shuggie requires a quick trip along the M8 to gritty Glasgow.

Harry’s Kebabs by DJ Dribbler

Published in 2019, but not noticed by anyone until 2020, DJ Dribbler’s naïve, naughty and utterly authentic romp through the lives of some morally sound 90s London scammers, was right up my street. It had all the irreverence, characterisation and colourful inventiveness of Irvine Welsh, but with a ring of truth that can only come from personal experiences. A lot of people will struggle with this book if judged in all the ways books are ‘supposed’ to be – it’s clearly self-published and there are a lot of typos, but I’d take that over most of the over-edited fiction that mainstream publishing houses serve up. Bad writing can’t afford mistakes – but I’ve seen mistakes in Booker Prize winners too. What really matters is connecting with your reader, and this book offered that to me in spades.

Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I love Matt Haig – The Humans in particular was a big influence on me as a writer. I love the fact that he always heads into a book with a big concept, but page to page, they remain really authentic, touching and real in the way they explore how we feel and live our lives. A new Matt Haig is always a highlight.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

I’ve read a few campus novels in my time and this probably wasn’t one of my absolute faves. But it’s so relevant to the big theme of the year other than the Coronavirus – the movement towards greater racial equality – that it just squeaked onto the list!

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

And finally…I haven’t read this one yet! But I loved the book/audio-book/movie of Ready Player One, so I’m officially excited about tucking into it during that weird period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve (or the next lockdown!).

Here is a bit about Billy Moran and Don’t Worry Everything Is Going To Be Amazing….

BLURB

DON’T WORRY, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE AMAZING…

Chris Pringle: simpleton, casualty or local hero?

Propped up by biscuits, benefits and a baffling faith in his plan, he lives in a world where every day is obsessively the same: wedged in his recliner, watching murder mysteries, taking notes. Until the day a serious and peculiar crime stumps the local police – and Chris announces he can solve it.

Accompanied by a loyal crew of chancers, committed to making amends, and pursued by a depressed Detective Inspector, trying to join the dots, Chris heads back to the raves of his past, where a heartbreaking personal tragedy lies abandoned. But what exactly is Chris Pringle looking for? Has he really worked out the way to find it? And what will happen if he does?

A quirky, nostalgic, heart-warming mystery for fans of Gail Honeyman, Agatha Christie, Jennifer Egan, Ian Rankin, Matt Haig, Irvine Welsh, Ben Aaronovitch, Dave Eggers, Jon Niven, John Kennedy Toole, Belinda Bauer and Harland Miller.

ABOUT BILLY MORAN

Billy Moran is an award-winning television writer for shows including Horrible Histories. He grew up in the West Country, where his teenage years were rudely interrupted by the Second Summer of Love. Since then he has been embracing mysteries, craving solutions and writing lots of lists. He lives in London and has two children, two cats, one football team and several favourite detectives. Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing is his debut novel.

PRAISE

‘Zany, energetic and completely original!’

★★★★★ ROSAMUND LUPTON (AUTHOR, THREE HOURS)

‘An absolute blast – a riveting mystery that will satisfy any crime buff.’

★★★★★ JAMES NALLY (AUTHOR, THE PC DONAL LYNCH THRILLERS)

‘A murder mystery full of surprises and revelations – it made me laugh, it moved me, and I enjoyed every single page.’

★★★★★ BOOK AFTER BOOK BLOG

‘Forrest Gump meets Columbo at a rave. Moving, laugh-out-loud funny and truly original – I was completely hooked.’ 

★★★★★ MARK DIACONO (AUTHOR, A TASTE OF THE UNEXPECTED)

‘Will have readers reaching for their glowsticks and magnifying glasses.’ 

★★★★★ THE SHEFFIELD STAR

‘Fills in the missing link – most entertainingly – between Poirot’s little grey cells and the battered brain chemistry of an ex-raver.’ 

★★★★★ LUDOVIC HUNTER TILNEY (PRESS CLUB ARTS REVIEWER OF THE YEAR)

‘Edgy, buzzing and pulsing with life.’

★★★★★ PIERS TORDAY (AUTHOR, THE LAST WILD)

‘A unique story full of intrigue, mystery and suspense, as heartwarming as it is hilarious.’

★★★★★ CAL TURNER BOOK REVIEWS BLOG

‘Highly recommended.’

★★★★★ THE DIVINE WRITE BOOK BLOG

‘A rollercoaster of buried memories and emotions, all wrapped up in a gripping detective thriller – I loved it.’ 

★★★★★ GAVIN WATSON (AUTHOR, RAVING ’89)

‘Simply the best book I’ve ever read about what rave was really like.’

★★★★★TJ, PHUTURE ASSASSINS (FUTURE SOUND)

HERE ARE A FEW LINKS

BUYING/REVIEW LINKS

The book is available from:

AMAZON UK

WATERSTONES

https://www.waterstones.com/book/dont-worry-everything-is-going-to-be-amazing/billy-moran/9780992767815

BOOKBUB

https://www.bookbub.com/books/don-t-worry-everything-is-going-to-be-amazing-by-billy-moran

GOODREADS

SOCIAL LINKS

#dontworryeverythingisgoingtobeamazing

http://www.instagram.com/sauce_materials

http://www.twitter.com/saucematerials

http://www.facebook.com/saucematerials

READERS CAN ALSO JOIN THE SAUCE MATERIALS VIP CLUB AND RECEIVE A FREE COPY OF ‘THE FACEBOOK PERSONALITY BIBLE’

http://www.saucematerials.co.uk/vipclub