Book Jacket


rank 2826
word count 123029
date submitted 02.01.2010
date updated 05.01.2010
genres: Fiction, Thriller, Historical Ficti...
classification: universal

Lion At Bay

Harvey Ardman

Africa, 1935. Mussolini's army attacks the barefoot Ethiopians. Can Emperor Haile Selassie thwart Il Duce? Can FDR's agent, David Nathan, save the African leader?


Africa, 1935. Every square inch of the Dark Continent is a European colony—except for the legendary kingdom of Ethiopia, ruled by its tiny, fearless and highly civilized Emperor, Haile Selassie. But he won’t rule it for much longer, if the Italian megalomaniac Benito Mussolini has his way. Mussolini has sent his modern, mechanized army over the Mediterranean to conquer the land of King Solomon’s Mine and the Queen of Sheba, and revive Roman’s ancient glories.

Selassie mobilizes more than 300,000 gallant, barefoot, spear-carrying warriors to repell the Italians. They’re led by a group of ambitious Feudal lords, all of whom—but for their skin color—could have sat at Arthur’s Round Table. But these warriors are no match for Italy’s tanks, bombers and poison gas.

As Mussolini’s forces roll over Ethiopia, Haile Selassie becomes a worldwide symbol of resistance. Fearing he might not survive, and that his death would embolden Hitler, FDR dispatches to Africa his private agent, the young NYC police detective David Nathan. “Save Selassie, if you can,” FDR orders. What follows is a harrowing flight through exotic terrain, complete with improbable assassins, unlikely heroes, dazzling women and startling plot twists.

rate the book

to rate this book please Register or Login



1930s, adventure, africa, assassins, combat, ethiopia, faciism, fasciism, fdr, franklin roosevelt, haile selassie, historical fiction, interwar era, i...

on 15 watchlists



Text Size

Text Colour



report abuse

Chapter Eight







    The contrast was inescapable.

    Haile Selassie had sat on this same chair, on the same beaten earth, in front of the same Royal cave less than a week ago, but nothing else was the same.

    A week ago, the mountainside below him had been teeming with soldiers, their families, their animals, laughing, caring for each other, preparing for a battle they fully expected to win. The mountainside had thrummed with life and pride and hope.

    No more. Oh, the setting was identical, and the mountainside was populated with warriors, their women and children and their livestock. But there were many fewer of them, and many wounded, and there was no laughing, no braggadocio, only an absence of hope.

    And he was one of them, no more no less.

    He’d been a fool last night. A fool to lobby for an immediate attack. Militarily, it was a good idea—it might have caught the Italians by surprise. But these brave warriors of his  needed time, and inspiration—if he could find it within himself to provide it.

    Somehow, he had to do just that, because anything else was unthinkable. If he could not rouse them—and himself—everything was over for him, for his family, for the nation. That was simply unacceptable. If nothing else, it would make a mockery of the sacrifices of those who died in his service, as well as the suffering of the wretched survivors.

    He sat outside for awhile longer, self-pity in command, wallowing in the silence of the shocked and the defeated, wincing at the pitiful moans of the wounded, the cries of the mourners, the sad muted he-haws of the wounded mules, who understood none of this, who were innocent victims of the senseless conflict between those of a reputedly higher order. 

Finally, he walked back into the torchlit cave, where a dozen priests and monks were chanting, burning incense, invoking the blessings of God, as if he had any to spare for the nation of Abyssinia. A servant approached him. “Find me Ras Kassa,” he said. “Tell him I want to have a council of war, here in the cave, as soon as he can assemble everyone.”

It took the better part of an hour to assemble everyone—Ras Kassa, Ras Getachu, Ras Seyum, Dejaz Aberra, Imperial Fitaurari Wolde Gabriel, Ras Desta, Ras Imru, Ras Kebbebe, Col. Theodore Konovaloff, the head of the Swedish Red Cross mission to Ethiopia, and many lesser noblemen, lords and governors. It was a restless bunch, agitated and grumbling. And there were some conspicuous absences, dead, wounded or fleeing for home.

Ras Kassa shouted for order and he had to repeat himself, which was rare. When he had everyone’s attention, he yielded to the tiny, determined, somber man who was their Emperor

“My Lords,” he began, speaking with his customary softness, “We all know what happened at Maichew. We fought with unequalled courage and with exceptional ferocity. We killed or wounded thousands of the enemy, perhaps tens of thousands. History will record that we acquitted ourselves with great honor …”

“What about our losses?” asked someone in the back of the group.

“Our losses were heart-breaking. Unbearable. It was the single saddest event in our history. I know you have all lost loved ones. So have I. People I have known and loved for decades, people who were an essential part of me. I am lessened by their death.”

He paused and looked the group, at the faces of his friends and colleagues, his loyal supporters, the people he had brought to this terrible place whose lives were his personal responsibility. The burden was almost unbearable.

“There are those among us who believe that we were vanquished at Maichew.” There were murmurs of dissent, although not as loud as he would have wished. “There are those among us who feel that all the Italians need do now is march into Addis Ababa and declare our country annexed to theirs.” More murmurs. “But I am not among them.”

Now there were shouts of approval.

The Emperor drew a deep breath and continued. “I believe we have not won—yet. I believe victory is ahead of us. I believe that if we work together and fight together, despite our losses, we will send these vicious Italian dogs back to their homeland, with their tails between their legs.”

More approving murmurs, but fewer than he had hoped.

“I am asking for one last attack, nothing held back, one last attack with all of our people, all of our resources, all of our strength, all of our guile, one last ferocious attack to crack through the Italian lines and prove once again that no European army can defeat us, even when the rest of the world is unwilling to lift a finger on our behalf.”

Mixed reception—murmurs, some shouts of approval, more silence.

“One last time, that’s all I ask. I know it’s a lot, but our enemies are at the breaking point. And they think we are finished. One last strike will astonish them and destroy their will. We will shock them and overwhelm them. Let us re-form our divisions and our battalions and be ready by late afternoon.”

This time there were no shouts of approval. The Rases and Dejazs looked at each other and said nothing. The Emperor turned to Ras Kassa, the huge man who, after himself, was the greatest and most respected prince in the land. “One last attack,” he repeated.

Kassa took a very deep breath, then exhaled slowly. “I am not sure, Janhoy,” he said. “I don’t know if we have it in us.”

“I am not ready to give up,” the Emperor replied.

Ras Getachew rose, nervous and a bit befuddled, minus his usual prinz nez. “Janhoy, my heart is with you. But I do not think we can mount another attack now. Perhaps we could regroup further south…”

The Emperor turned his gaze toward the handsome, self-confident Ras Seyum, who stood. “I concur,” he said. “If we can find some respite from the bombing and the poison gas, perhaps we could march again. But as it is…”

One of the Emperor’s servants, a young man, quite light-skinned, ran into the cave, shouting. “They’re stealing!He yelled. “They’re stealing from the Royal storehouse!”

The war council broke up in disorder as everyone, the Emperor included, rushed out of the cave to see what was going on. The commotion was centered on the next cave, one that contained all of the Royal goods that had been brought north from Addis Ababa.

This included a vast pantry of expensive foodstuffs, the Royal furniture—most of it imported from Great Britain, enough oriental carpets and silken draperies to assure a Royal ambiance no matter how remote the Emperor’s headquarters, a wardrobe suited to Royal dinners, diplomatic ceremonies or military operations, and every other form of luxury good that could be transported by mule wagon.

The storage cave was situated a few dozen feet below the cavern occupied by the Emperor’s personal quarters, and its opening was close by one of the camp’s widest paths, a path that was now swarming with soldiers, wives and camp followers heading across the mountain and down to the main trail south.

As they passed the Emperor’s storage cave, a number of battle refugees detoured inside and snatched anything portable—canned food, liquor, expensive fabrics, clothing, tableware, even chairs.

The Rases and Dejazes, outraged and horrified, recklessly plowed into the crowd, though they were vastly outnumbered, wresting goods from the hands of the thieves, yelling at those beyond their reach and threatening to shoot anyone else intent on looting the Royal stores.

The Emperor reacted very differently. He called off the Rases and the Dejazes, made them put their weapons down, and gathered them to him. “Let us give the people want they want and need. Their loses have been far greater than mine.”

And Haile Selassie himself began handing out goods to the passing multitudes, waving off their gratitude, taking pleasure in the tiny sparks of life his gifts inspired, trying, in his own way, to provide for his people. After their initial reluctance, the other nobles joined him, and copied his example, dropping their hostility and, with a zeal that sometimes bordered on hysteria, gave away supplies to anyone who would take them. But cooler heads eventually prevailed. The cave mouth was closed off and the better part of the Royal supplies preserved for their rightful owner.

Ras Kassa approached the Emperor. “Shall I reconvene the war council?”

    Selassie gazed at the irregular column coming down off the mountain. It looked like the emigration of an entire people, not the retreat  of an army..


    “No. I have heard from the nobles. And my warriors are making their own decisions, with their feet. I am out of options. Order a general withdrawal. Tell the commanders that we will attempt to re-form at, Dessie.” He spoke haltingly, and even more softly than usual.

    Kassa regarded Selassie with great tenderness. Janhoy,” he said. “I know how difficult this decision has been. What about you? We need to assure your personal safety.”

    “Have my servants pack my possessions and personal effects in the Royal mule wagons. I will join the retreat. Also tell the Rases and Dejazs that they are free to return home by whatever route they deem safe.”

    “Many will want to accompany and protect you, Janhoy,” Kassa told him.

    The Emperor nodded. “I will welcome them.

    They heard a buzzing sound in the distance, growing louder. The source became visible—a quartet of white-winged Caproni bombers, flying low. They came over the mountain strafing the Ethiopian solders on the ground, creating uncontrolled panic among those who thought sprayed gas would be coming next.

    The bombers attacked the rear of the Abyssinian horde, like a dog owner swatting his pet on the butt to get it moving. And those in the rear tried to move faster. They tried to escape the strafing and the poison gas they expected, but the trail was already crowded with people on the move.

    The Italian pilots, understanding the problem, flew on and started strafing the leading edge of the great throng of defeated solders, evidently intent on speeding up their progress as well. And the tactic worked. The throng had been moving slowly, trudging along the trail. Now, they were fleeing in terror.


Capitano Bernado Falcone emerged from his tent, tall, blond and supremely self-confident. He checked his tailored uniform one last time, admiring the way it emphasized his athletic body. This, he thought, is what a soldier should look like. He glanced around at the encampment, at the neat rows of tents and cook fires. The men were returning—must be a lull in the fighting, or maybe the battle was over. Certainly, the sounds of war had faded away. 

Well, if that was the case, it had been inevitable. The Abyssinians never had a chance against a modern, mechanized force, such as the one the Italians had brought to this Godforsaken continent. Sooner or later, civilization always prevail over savagery, in this case, apparently, sooner.

He was a bit disappointed not to have participated in the slaughter. He would have enjoyed testing his skills against human beings instead of targets, but he knew that Marshal Badoglio was right--he was simply too valuable to risk in ordinary combat. His mission was much too important. So, he wondered, when would it begin? It wasn’t just that he was impatient to get to work. He wanted to finish the job and get back to Rome. He missed the club life and the women, and he had no doubt that he was missed as well..

It wasn’t until mid-morning that a pale, harried young adjutant summoned Falcone to come to Marshal Badoglio’s field headquarters, a group of large tan tents halfway up the mountain. The adjutant led the way through the rows of tents, stopping occasionally to deliver messages to other officers, every stop annoying Falcone, who felt this junior officer was not paying him sufficient deference..

Falcone walked carefully, not wanting to get his custom-made boots muddy, determine to present  Badoglio with a picture of perfection. As he made his way, he confirmed the impression of the camp he’d formed yesterday, when he arrived. The brown faces of the Eritrean auxiliaries, the dubats and askaris, far outnumbered the white faces of the Fascist Milizia Volontaria per la Securezza Nazionale, the Regio Esercito and the Regio Corpo Truppe Coloniali.

Despite his disdain for the Eritrean fighters, Falcone had realized this disparity had its advantages. Marshal Badoglio had put the dubats and the askaris, who occupied the grey zone between slave and hirling, in the front lines, letting them take the brunt of the ferocious Ethiopian attacks. Once the initial carnage was over, Italian regulars could take possession of the battlefield. And Mussolini could brag about how cheaply the victory had been won.

Mussolini…that was how all of this started, an audience with Il Duce himself, one of the more memorable events in his young life. It had started with a hand-written note, delivered a month ago by one of the dictator’s servants, summoning him, without even the hint of an explanation, to a 10 a.m. meeting the next morning at Mussolini’s private office on the first floor of the Palazzo Venezia in central Rome.

Of course, Falcone had been astounded by this. What in the world could the great and powerful dictator want of him? They hardly traveled in the same social circles, He had met the man once, in passing, when Mussolini had greeted the Italian Olympics team returning from Los Angeles in 1932, but he couldn’t imagine how that encounter might lead to this summons

So why, out of 32 million Italians, had Mussolini picked him out? And for what? It was unlikely to be for some malign purpose, something that might negatively affect him, but that only deepened the mystery. For a man governed by impatience and curiosity, the 24 hour wait for an answer would be pure torture.

The next day, he’d risen at 6 a.m., as usual, then pondered his choice of wardrobe. What did one wear when summoned—without explanation—to see a Head of State? There was the houndstooth suit from Bond Street and the fine leather hunting jacket from Germany, and the newest addition to his wardrobe, the finely tailored captain’s uniform—the very outfit he was now wearing. This, he’d decided, would present him at his best, which was very good indeed.

He’d appeared at the Palazzo Venezia at 9:45, excited and nervous, struggling to suppress his curiosity. Precisely on timeMussolini insisted that everything be punctual, not just the trains—he’d been ushered through massive double doors into what had once been a giant map room, a chamber about 50 feet square, with a 30 foot ceiling­–as large a space as has ever been devoted to any one man, with the possible exception of the Pharaoh Cheops. 

For a moment, Falcone’s eyes had involuntarily darted around the room. Its ceiling was covered in muted frescoes, its floor with mosaic tile. Twenty pale green marble columns lined the walls. Vast as it was, the compartment had seemed even larger, because it was totally devoid of furnishings except for Mussolini’s huge rosewood desk. That occupied the corner farthest from the door, adjacent to a fireplace so enormous that a marching band could have entered it without stooping.

His gaze had then turned to the Dictator himself. Mussolini had been sitting behind his desk, his black, worsted wool uniform draped with a white silk cloth. Hovering over the Dictator’s compact, muscular body had been a tall, cadaverous man with arms and face so densely covered with black hair that he seemed almost simian. In the man’s right hand was an ivory-handled shaving brush, with which he was deftly lathering the Duce’s naked cranium. The Italian leader had adopted the shaven head look three years before, when his hair—what there was of it–had started turning gray.

Mussolini had glanced up and given a perfunctory wave and Falcone began the long diagonal trek to the dictator’s desk, the click of his heels echoing through the chamber. While the barber stropped his gleaming straight razor on a wide leather belt, Il Duce, his head covered by a fluffy white helmet of shaving lather, signaled to an orderly standing at the door. “Chair,” he said. The young orderly scurried past Falcone, lugging a straight back wooden chair. He placed it exactly two feet in front of Mussolini’s desk, then retreated to the back of the room.

“Have a seat, Bernardo,” Il Duce had said graciously.

“Thank you,” Falcone had said. So far so good. The rumor was, most of Mussolini’s visitors found themselves forced not only to make the long, lonely walk to ll Duce’s desk, but also to stand once they arrived, like 4th graders summoned to explain themselves to their principal. But this had seemed much more promising.

Falcone had sat down obediently and looked at the great man expectantly.

“I have been following your career,” Mussolini had said. “Very impressive for such a young man.”

“Thank you, Duce.”

“I understand you were first in your class, in all four years at the Accademia Militare in Modena, and that you hold many riding and sharp shooting records.”

“It was my good fortune…”

“I’m sure luck played no role in your success,” Mussolini had said.

The barber had interrupted. “Excuse me, Duce.”  He’d toweled the few remaining bits of lather from Mussolini’s shaven scalp, anointed his client with a generous helping of witch hazel,  then held up a large, ebony-handled mirror. The dictator had examined himself as carefully as a matinee idol on opening night. He’d pointed out a stray hair that had escaped the blade, and the barber had dispatched it with a razor swipe so graceful it had reminded Falcone of Douglas Fairbanks.

“Very good, Gustave,” Mussolini had said. “Thank you.”

Gustave had untied the white silk cloth from around Mussolini’s neck, carefully folding it so that none of Il Duce’s shaven whiskers fell on his uniform or even on the mosaic floor. Then he’d departed.

“And your Olympic success,” Mussolini had continued. “That was a glorious achievement. Every Italian was proud of you.”

“You are too kind,” Falcone had said. Would the man ever get to the point?

“Do you intend to compete again at the Berlin Olympics this summer?”

“Of course. I’ve been training very hard.”

“Do you think you’re as sharp as you were in ’32?”

“I believe my scores will be higher, if that’s what you mean.” Was this about the Olympics somehow? Falcone had wondered.

Mussolini had smiled. “That’s what I was hoping to hear. By the way, I understand that your father was a great military hero.”

“He was killed in October, 1918, at Vittorio Veneto.”

“The greatest Italian victory of the war,” Mussolini had said. “Please accept my condolences.”

“Thank you.”

“And your mother?”

“A featured performer at La Scala.”

“Hmm. Perhaps I have seen her. I’m sure she’s very proud of you.”

Falcone, feeling like the fool rushing in where angels feared to go, had decided to take a chance. “With all due respect, Duce, why have you sent for me? Do you have a task in mind for me?”

The dictator had laughed. “You are very bold. That’s another quality in your favor. Your teachers have told me about your leadership qualities and your determination. Now, meeting you, I am sure you are the man for the job.”

“What job?”

Falcone, how would you feel about killing a man?”

“An enemy? I would not hesitate.”

“An unarmed enemy?”

“If I am called on to do so. Are you perhaps looking for an assassin?

Mussolini had smiled.

“Whom do you wish me to kill?
    “The Emperor of Abyssinia, Haile Selassie.”

“I see,” Falcone had said. Somehow, he’d suppressed his surprise.

“I want you to hand-pick a team, go to Abyssinia, track him down and silence him forever. I will provide you with every resource you might need.”

Falcone had sat back in his chair and contemplated what was happening here and what it could mean to him. Certainly, it would make him famous in military ranks, if not in public.  If he accomplished nothing else in life—which was unlikelythis alone would earn him a place in history.

He sat forward and took a deep breath. “I will need four men, the finest sniper rifles, mountaineering attire and equipment and the best Olympic eventing horses in Italy.”

Mussolini had smiled. “You will have the authority to requisition any animal in the kingdom. Anything else?”

“Plenty of money,” Falcone had said, earning another grin from Mussolini.

I have a question, Bernardo,” the dictator had said. “You’ve accepted the assignment, but you haven’t asked me why I wanted this done.”

Falcone had known the right thing to say. “I need no explanation, other than knowing you wish me to do it.”

Il Duce had shaken his head in admiration, melodramatic tears filling his eyes. He’d gotten up from his throne-like chair, walked around to the other side of his desk, coming up behind the young soldier, and he’d put his hands on Falcone’s shoulders. “I feel as though you are the reincarnation of a Roman soldier, Bernardo. It is your spirit that I hope to reawaken in our nation.”

“Thank you, Duce. I am humbled in your presence.”

Mussolini had stood on the mosaic floor, in his customary tripod stance, chin lifted, eyes focused on something distant. “Bernardo, I am but a man, just like yourself. However, it is my destiny to restore our country to its former glory. With your help.

Falcone had fought the urge to smile.

I want to share my reasoning with you, Bernardo. It’s simple enough. Haile Selassie must not be allowed to survive the war. If he does he could rally opposition to our civilizing mission and make our task harder.”

“I understand, Duce.”

“Furthermore, we don’t want him running around Europe, accusing us of imaginary atrocities and looking for allies.”

“Of course.”

“So, Bernardo, the mission with which I am entrusting you is critical to our national security—and our national renaissance.”

Falcone, as usual, had known exactly what to say. “I will not fail you, Duce.”

Mussolini’s eyes had locked on Falcone’s and for a moment, the young soldier felt the dictator’s famous animal magnetism.  “I know you will not.”  He scribbled a note and handed it to Falcone. “Give this to my assistant. He will see to it you get everything you need.”

Then, rather abruptly, the dictator had extended his right arm in a fascist salute. Falcone had returned it with equal conviction.


Fare attenzione della merda,” said Badoglio’s adjutant.

Falcone looked down. Another two steps and he would have walked directly into a field latrine. “Grazie.”

Enough of this daydreaming. His moment was upon him. As soon as Badoglio gave him the go-ahead, he had to summon his men and get the horses ready. Then, the chase.

It had not been an easy trip to Africa—a long voyage from Rome to the primitive and crowded Eritrean port of Massawa, where thousands of tons of Italian military equipment was being offloaded and sent south toward Ethiopia. Except for the horses, Falcone and his men might have come by aeroplane.

His men. Even before he’d left Mussolini’s office, Falcone knew who he’d ask to join him. It would be, of course, his nightclub entourage, the inseparable three musketeersthe loyal Salvatore Brusca, Luigi Finola, silent and unyielding, Guido Fusco, young, impetuous, handsome and full of potential, and their impossible-to-get-rid-of companion and hanger-on, Guido Mangano, stupid but study, ready to take any risk for his friends. They were his Athos, Porthos and Aramis, just as he was their D’Artagnan.

Mussolini probably wouldn’t have approved—an assassination team made up of drinking companions—but Falcone felt he couldn’t have improved on them. They were all with the horses now, preparing for the great adventure, waiting for him to summon them, which is exactly what he would do, as soon as he got the go-ahead from Badoglio.

It took Falcone about 20 minutes to reach Badoglio’s field headquarters, passing through a huge bee hive of activity-- battalions of troops being fed, re-armed and resupplied in advance of the next battle, if one was coming, trucks and tanks being repaired and refueled, carts of ammunition being delivered to artillery emplacements, wounded being tended to.

The adjutant parked Falcone on a camp chair just outside of the field headquarters tent and told him Badoglio would be with him momentarily.  It was the perfect spot for eavesdropping on the Marshal’s subordinates, as they delivered oral reports... the chief surgeon, reporting on casualties—many more than expected, but mainly askaris and dubats, and not enough of them to affect tactics or stragegy; then another senior officer, reporting on the condition of the enemy—very heavy casualties, disorganized and defeated, probably no longer capable of offering organized resistance.

Then, it was the air force chief telling Badoglio they were almost out of ‘special canisters,’ but were expecting a new delivery within the hour;  the colonello who handled radio communication saying they’d intercepted nothing from the Ethiopians in the last two hours; and finally, the quartermaster talking about supplies, which were arriving in good order.

By the time the Marshal’s subordinates left the tent, Falcone felt he knew almost as much about the war situation as Badoglio did. It was obvious that the main fighting was over. The vicious battles of the last two days had all but crushed the Ethiopians. All the Italians needed to do now was follow up their victory, seize the battlefield and head south. But Badoglio was in no hurry. He was a methodical man, a cautious man.

“Ah, Capitano Falcone,” Badoglio said, as Falcone was ushered into his tent. They exchanged salutes. “I am happy to meet you. I wish we could have talked earlier, but as you know, I have been occupied with other matters. Please sit.”

“Good to meet you too, sir.”

A moment of silence followed, while they took stock of each other. Badoglio was trim, dark-haired, well-mustached and nicely uniformed. He had that air of authority that radiates from men accustomed to command. Falcone rather liked him.

“I think the time has come for your mission to begin,” he said. We’ve fought our last major battle with Haile Selassie’s forces. According to our observation aeroplanes, the Ethiopian army is melting away, no longer capable of serious resistance.”

    “And the Emperor?”

    “Our observer puts him and his chiefs at his cave on Maichew as recently as an hour ago.”

    “Excellent.” Falcone said. With a little luck, he thought, he might be able to complete his job before the day is over. Then, home.

    “Yes,” Badoglio agreed, “and I have arranged for some help to make your job easier.”


    “Bring in the professor,” Badoglio told his adjutant, who left the tent momentarily and returned with a grinning, moon-faced, black man in his mid-fifties wearing a business suit. “Professor,” Badoglio said, “I want you to meet Capitano Bernardo Falcone, one of the finest officers in the Italian army. You’ll be attached to his unit.”

    He turned to Falcone. “Capitano, this is Professor Ibriham Nawd, dean of the school of languages at the University of Eritrea. He’s fluent in English, Italian, Amharic and Ge-ez. He’s agreed to serve as your interpreter along the road.”

    Falcone was flabbergasted, but all he could think to say was “What’s Ge-ez?”

    “It’s the ritual religious language of Ethiopia,” said Professor Nawd, extending a hand.

    Falcone ignored the hand. “I didn’t ask for an interpreter,” he told Badoglio. “And I don’t want one, especially this one. This is a mission for combat soldiers. Italians.”

    “And what will you do if you have to question the natives?” Badoglio asked. “Sign language has its limitations.”

    “We don’t have a horse for him.”

    “I’ll provide a horse.”

    Falcone tried to think of another objection, but none occurred to him. “Can we at least get him into a military uniform?”

    “Of course,” said Badoglio. He signaled to his adjutant, who led the professor out of the tent, still grinning, for a change of attire.

    “By the way,” Badoglio went on, “I’ve concluded that your unit is too small and unfamiliar with the terrain. I’ve arranged for three of our most experienced askaris to accompany you.”

    Falcone was incredulous. “Askaris? Eritrean native soldiers?”

    “Yes,” Badoglio told him. “There are some fine men among them. They will be of great help to you. And they have their own horses.”

    “I want to offer you my sincerest thanks for your concern with my mission,” Falcone said, “but my unit is experienced with every terrain. I know them and trust them completely.”

    Badoglio contemplated the problem. Realizing what was bothering Falcone, he found a way around the capitano’s objection. “Okay, no askaris. But I have to insist that you take three Italian soldiers with you, good strong men.”

    “I would be willing to do that,” Falcone said, having no choice.

    And so Falcone and Badoglio paid a visit to the headquarters of the the 5th Alpine Division, where Falcone would be allowed—required—to accept three members from the elite mountain unit.

    The truth was, they weren’t so elite. They were mostly sheep herders, farmers, good country boys, the majority barely literate. But they did know what it took to operate in the mountains.

    The division commander reluctantly trotted out a company of mounted regulars for Falcone’s inspection and selection. Falcone walked down the line, having no idea whom to choose. One fellow in the front line stood out—blonde, movie star looks, the easy confidence of a man who knew women were attracted to him.

    Falcone motioned to the man who came over to him smiling incandescently. “What is your name.”

    “I am Beppe Ubertini, Capitano.”

    “Beppe,” Falcone said. “Do you know the rest of these men well?”

    “Yes, Capitano. Quite well.”

    “Who’s the best rider—outside of yourself, of course.”

    “Let me see—outside of myself—I’d say Aldo Baltori.”

    He pointed and Falcone looked. “Front and center, Aldo.”

    Aldo, raw and big-boned, stepped forward shyly.

    “Aldo,” said Falcone. “I assume you are well acquainted with these men.”

    “I know them like my brothers, if I had any brothers. I only have sisters.”

    “Very interesting. Now tell me, which of them is the best shot, not counting yourself?”

    Aldo’s brow furrowed. “There are several…”

    Falcone interrupted. “Okay, choose a friend who’s also a very good shot.”

    “Aldo—pick me!” someone whispered from the ranks.

    Aldo shrugged and pointed at a small, swarthy man with comically large ears, a large nose and a single dense eyebrow that ran from temple to temple. “Rodrigo,” he said, “Rodrigo dell Rocca.”

    The swarthy Rodrigo joined Falcone and his other two choices, Aldo and Beppe. “I hope I will not be unduly depleting your ranks if I take these men,” Falcone said to the division commander.

    The commander smiled slightly. “We will do our best to make up for the loss.

    Falcone wondered what he’d done to himself.

    Less than an hour later, the team had been briefed and was ready to go, Falcone and his well-mounted drinking buddies, their burnished sniper rifles slung over their shoulders, as well as the three farm boys and il professore. Mortars, entrenching tools and ammunition cases hung from their saddles.

    Marshal Badoglio stopped by to wish them good hunting. “You are about to undertake a glorious mission, a mission of enormous importance to our country, a sacred calling. If I were younger…well, no need to dwell on that. I am sure Il Duce has chosen well.

Remember that we will be out of contact, but if you should need help, send back one of your number and I’ll return him with reinforcements. And if you succeed—when you succeed—inform me as soon as possible so that I might share the wonderful news with Il Duce.”

    Falcone saluted sharply, and Badoglio returned the gesture, with respect.

    Then the assassins rode out of camp, in search of their prey.


















report abuse

To leave comments on this or any book please Register or Login

subscribe to comments for this book
Lj Trafford wrote 1636 days ago

This is really accomplished. I was drawn straight in from the first chapter. The second dealing with Nathan's interview with the president was extremely well done. There are a lot of complicated political matters in that dialogue but not once did I feel confused, drowning in information or like I was being given a lecture. You handled this material brillantly and what a good plot. Nathan must rescue Haile Salaisse. I expected to be taken straight back to Nathan but you threw me a left hook and took me to the Emperor's Palace in Abyssinia.
I don't know what else I can offer apart from a well done. This has the makings of an enthralling read.

T Mackenzie wrote 1650 days ago

Sheepers! This was a slice of history of which I was unaware, which you handily remedied in a most entertaining, enlightening way! Who knew how fascinating, and iconoclastic figure, this Selassie was?? As for the rest of the characters - improbable, unlikely, dazzling. . .indeed! I hope this David Nathan fellow is the basis for a whole gut load of books to follow. . .he's perfect for the part. I smell a sequel. . .many sequels, by the 'look' of your profile!
BACKED. I will comment again when I finish the book.

harveya wrote 1649 days ago

The pitch lured me in...I'm so very delighted it did.

This is a powerful--fast paced--and highly visual reading experience. I want to read all of it. I have BACKED this with great pleasure.

If gut instinct is anything to go by...this is heading for the editors desk....FAST.

Wonderful writing. BRAVO.

Suzannah Burke
Dudes Down Under

Thanks for the generous comments, Suzannah. I'm going to take a look at Dudes Down Under very shortly. I have a feeling we're on the same wavelength.

Jared wrote 1649 days ago

Harvey, I backed this book already on the strength of the pitches and the opening two chapters. I've now read eight chapters and would have read more but for time constraints. This is a remarkable book, I'd buy this book. You understand the specific demands of a thriller, your research is prodigious and this is a remarkable story very well told. I loved the settings and the opportunity to experience your version of life in this tumultuous era.
Backed with admiration. This will do very well here.

Andrea Taylor wrote 525 days ago

You take us right into the story on the first line; brilliant! This is well written, tense and believable. Its hard to say so much without actually telling us, but you have succeeded admirably. This is mature writing and an excellent story.
The de Amerley Affair

Baobab wrote 584 days ago

I have been to Ethiopia several times and studied its history. But, your book brings to life more on this period of iEthiopia's history than any non-fiction account I have read about Italy's invasion of Ethiopia. This is indeed a great accomplishment and in my opinion your book should be highly rated and already published. I love your writing style and I hope you benefit us with more books like this one.

D K Willis wrote 1349 days ago

I wanted to tell you that I find your synopsis for Lion At Bay very intriguing and my hope and expectation is to read your material very soon. With a limited amount of shelf space and the implementation of the new guidelines, you've no doubt discovered, as I have, that each decision to back a book is more challenging than ever. I do hope your work gets all the attention it deserves. Good luck and best wishes.

Su Dan wrote 1350 days ago

written well. this is very interesting about a fascinating figure,= on my watchlist...
read SEASONS...

philip john wrote 1363 days ago

An interesting yarn, well constructed with first rate dialogue. I could quibble over some of the detail, including one or two points in the pitch. But I shall not bother. The whole story is too good for minor criticism. ( I do , incidentally, agree with your comments on the way some people are exploiting the Authonomy site. A pity that it is being used in this way.)

Best wishes Philip John

CarolinaAl wrote 1387 days ago

This is a captivating historical thriller. Vital message. Pleasingly visual. Crisp dialogue. Vivid characters. Realistic emotional frisction. Riveting pacing. Tension mounts relentlessly. Well thought out, intriguing storyline. Spellbinding writing. A highly enjoyable read. Backed.

Azam Gill wrote 1392 days ago

Lion at Bay.

The writing is as attractive as the cover and title: the strength of the narration ducks and weaves in response to the unraveling of the enviable plot and multi-faceted characters who reveal their depth without clashing with the other components of this polished work.

Literary conventions have been maintained to high standards of craftsmanship without compromising contemporary expectations.

The recent BBC series on Ethiopia presented by Joanna Lumley should reopen interest in Ethiopia, making Lion at Bay timely, further enhanced by the presence of Roosevelt, his secret agent and the geo-political situation of Ethiopia spanning the Second World War.

From ‘Prester John’ to the famine and secession, humanity’s debt to Ethiopa as a repository of tradition, myth and legend has been obscured under layers of received ideas.

It is my belief that while enthralling readers, this work will contribute significantly to reducing ignorance on this subject.

In the final reading, some typos like “behind attended to” will no doubt ask you for a good dusting – as usual, I suppose, thoughts outracing fingers, the telephone, the doorbell …!

Backed with salutations.

Azam Gill

CamilleS wrote 1431 days ago

Excellent! Top notch and ready to print! Backing!

Curse of the Golden Fly

eurodan49 wrote 1448 days ago

Demanding topic you’ve picked.
You’ve got a good narrator’s voice and I enjoyed it (though at time a little lengthy).
Your dialogue’s crisp, easy to follow and advances the story.
Maybe you could spread out some of the backstory, it would help pick up the pace, get the reader more involved and build up your characters. Just my 0.02 worth.
You’ve got my vote.
Maybe you could take a look at TO KILL A DEAD MAN. Backing and comments will be appreciated.

Vanessa Darnleigh wrote 1483 days ago

Very readable and fascinating content...I do agree about the speech impediment whish seriously detracts from the accomplishment of your dialogue...otherwise backed 100%

Pollux wrote 1497 days ago

FDR has been written about at length, and I believe you do him justice in your narrative. I also think you do well with his dialog, where he does not allow himself to be rushed into revealing the reason for the meeting. The historical background, however, I think gets in the way of the story. I should preface the comment by saying that this may well be an entirely subjective opinion, due to the fact that I am familiar with events of that era. Nonetheless, I like the premise and your style of writing, and I will read the rest of your story with great interest (I just finished reading the diary of Galeazzo Ciano, and his references to the African adventures of Mussolini are interesting in a self-serving way).

A couple of typos: Last para, Prologue, behind should be being. “It’s actually makes sense,” chapter 1, should be “It actually makes sense.” Chapter 2A, millions of Lira, should be Lire.

All the best,


pwinkle wrote 1520 days ago

nice opening paragraph, made me want to read on. I'm always leery about prologues for anything but fantasy but this was a good one.

I think you made the villain credible in the prologue, he has reason for his hatred, and not necessarily the right target, but he also has his own behaviours to deal with.

Nathan comes across credibly too.


A Knight wrote 1523 days ago

You have balanced the facets of writing with incredible accuracy to produce a believable, detailed and engaging historical fiction. Nathan makes for a fantastic character, and you describe an area of the world with which I am unfamiliar in such detail that I feel as if I'm walking in your protagonist's footsteps.

Fabulous, there is nothing more I can say. Not only is this entertaining. It's educational and eye-opening.

Backed with pleasure.
Abi xxx

Burgio wrote 1560 days ago

This is a good story. I know so little about Africa's history I didn't know Mussolini ever invaded Ethiopia (my bad). So reading this was not only enjoying a good story but was like a history lesson for me. You've obviously done a lot of research to be able to write this and it shows through.You have good characters. Good descriptions. I'm adding this to my shelf. Burgio (Grain of Salt).

johnjoch wrote 1565 days ago

I like the story a lot as I have had a close relsationship with the Lion of Judah. As a photo journalist I spent ten days with Haile Selassie when he was here on a Royal Visit for the Foreign Office. One of my favourite pics is Selassie with Churchill at No. 10. Funny how ones past suddenley catches up.
I am backing the story and hope you will look at mine, Three Stayed Home a WW2 adventure and love story which I hope you will like. Reagrds JohnJ

carlashmore wrote 1567 days ago

Hi Harvey. I have a rule that I only read three chapters of each book that I back or don't back. This is partly because I'm either at work or trying to look after my baby daughter. However, I have just finished your sixth chapter (and my daughter is crying.ha). I found this enthralling and thoroughly engaging. It is beautifully written and I have no nits to pick. Congratulations, I hope you can see that I've thoroughly enjoyed this. Good luck. carl. The Time hUnters.

Eight Rooks wrote 1572 days ago

Can't offer any comment on historical accuracy, but this strikes me as pretty good in all other respects. I'm surprised it's not higher up the lists. I've only read the first two chapters at this time but the writing comes across as snappy, succinct, engaging and entertaining - as far as I'm concerned you have a very strong grasp of the whole Boys' Own Adventure meets period piece thing (which clumsy description is hopefully something close to what you were actually aiming for). The only possible significant criticisms I could give from a first impression would be occasionally your metaphors and such get a little too florid, and when you break up long passages of dialogue it can seem a tad clumsy. There are two places in the first two chapters where you end up repeating '...(so-and-so) said' unneccessarily because of this (once with Nathan, once with FDR).

Regardless, a lot of fun. I'll definitely give more of this a read. Backed.

WendyB wrote 1573 days ago

Hull's speech impediment has got to go.

But Selassie's relationship with his wife Menem is charming. Firmly establishes him as a sympathetic character.

Wendy Bertsch

WendyB wrote 1573 days ago

I'm always attracted to good historical fiction, and this is an area I've read little about, so I was intrigued.
A lot of significant historical detail is imparted clearly and smoothly, much in believable dialogue.

The homey President stuff was well done. it makes the reader comfortable with the time period, and is a realistic depiction of a politician being folksy...often a calculated ploy to disarm potential presidential wishes.

Nathan is a likable protagonist, and I'm eager to learn more about this conflict which had such an impact on WWII.

However, I have to say that Hull's speech impediment is distracting. The Tennessee accent...fine. But a distinction that could be overlooked in verbal speech is intrusive on paper. He starts to 'sound' like Elmer Fudd after a bit...and it doesn't enhance the mood of the moment.

Wendy Bertsch
(Once More...From The Beginning)

MarkRTrost wrote 1585 days ago

I think this stands with the best prose on this site.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t think it’s commercial. I don’t think mainstream society has the attention span for it. And I’m saddened by that.

Years ago the Modern Library produced a list of the 100 greatest novels of the 20th century and I perused the list and realized that I had overlooked or had been oblivious to almost half of them. And so I went to the local university (the public library didn’t stock most of the novels) and I read the ones I’d missed. They were stunning achievements. Each novel was exquisite. The majority of my friends are literate, educated, and voracious readers. I recommended some of the obscure books - and no one was interested. “Dance To The Music of Time” is an astonishing achievement. Lawrence Durell’s "Alexandria Quartet" should not be missed. Go look at the NYT bestsellers list. It’s heartbreaking.

I think you’ve written something amazing and praiseworthy. I hope you find an audience. You’ve earned one. You’ve added me. I’ll sit and listen to your stories.

Good luck.
“Mark R. Trost”
“Post Marked.”

Valley Woman wrote 1596 days ago

This is powerful writing that takes me on a journey back to 1936 and the events of that time. Your writing is rich with detail, but not hindered by them. This flows well, with plenty of intrigue to keep me reading. It's also brings up events not known to me previously in regard to Facism and Ethiopia.

With writing this good, I honestly don't know why this novel is not sitting on the Top 5 at this time. It deserves the number one spot. Hopefully other authors and readers will read my comments and realize this.


zan wrote 1600 days ago

Lion At Bay
Harvey Ardman


I backed this some weeks ago based on your interesting storyline gathered from your pitches. It has been on my WL for a while and I only had time today to read some of it. I haven't seen that many books here on Authonomy with an African setting and this was one of the things which appealed to me. The short pitch in particular I liked - "Africa, 1935. Mussolini's army attacks the barefoot Ethiopians. Can Emperor Haile Selassie thwart Il Duce? Can FDR's agent, David Nathan, save the African leader?" The reference to Haile Selassie to me was quite meaningful because in my part of the world in the Caribbean the Rastafarians worship him as God, starting as you might know several years ago with the Jamaicans when he visited that country and was surprised to find people thinking of him as a God, going so far as to worship him, so naturally the historical details to your story piqued my curiosity, and also because I wanted to know more about the Emperor himself, and of course what happens following Mussolini's attack.
After reading your first chapter upload here I thought you had skillfully hooked the reader to keep turning the pages. I found this exciting, well written, good dialogue, with believable characters. From the poiltical and historical viewpoint, I think your storyline provides much food for thought - to me it's not only good fiction, but an education in itself. I look forward to reading more and truly wish that Authonomy was designed in a way which enabled one to read more books at length. I hope this is published so that one can comfortably read it without having to squint at an electronic screen, which does little justice to books like yours.
I feel this will be picked up - it has to be.
Best wishes,

Phyllis Burton wrote 1607 days ago

Hello harveya, I really like this. Nothing ever changes - self important pushy people are still around. Your descriptive prose is perfect. Good first chapter with a fantastic hook at the end. The reader is forced to go on. The history behind the difficult years before WWII was complicated in the extreme and your writing brings it to life. This has all the ingredients for an exciting, enticing read with strong characters and dialogue.
One little niggle however: I did find Hull's dialogue a little tiresome - all the 'w's instead of 'r's, but what is one little niggle in such well written prose. Would make a fantastic TV drama or film. Well done and SHELVED with great pleasure.

A Passing Storm

Beval wrote 1616 days ago

This is an amazing book about something of which I had only the most passing knowledge. Italian ambitions are part of any history of the 1930s, all the names are so familiar I thought I knew what happened, but its not until I read this that I realise the depth of me ignorance.
You have me hooked, I've read the first five chapters and I've cherry picked others, but now I must go and do some background reading. This is a fantastic book, obviously well researched and highly readable and I know that I will get even more out of it when I have done a tiny bit of the research you've done.
I very much admire the way you captured the real people in this. The only one whose normal voice I know is FDR, but I could hear him speaking in your dialogue, but the tone of the others seemed perfect for their newsreel images.
Great book.

lionel25 wrote 1617 days ago

Harvey, your prologue and first chapter read well. One thing I noticed is that you switched POVs between the immigrant and Nathan in the prologue This works fine with me but might not work for someone who is a stickler for the POV rules. Then again, there are no hard and fast rules in writing.

Happy to back this book.

Joffrey (The Silver Spoon Effect)

yasmin esack wrote 1621 days ago

Great story telling. But shouldn't the immigrant have a name. Dialogue?


Sheila Belshaw wrote 1621 days ago



This is historical fiction at its thriller best. Not my normal genre but the prologue mesmerised me into reading more. The writing is so immediate, so close to something happening right next to you that you can't escape being part of it. Sucked in so that you hold your breath and can't wait for the next adrenaline rush.

A bit of a switch of P.O.V. at the beginning of Chapter 1. But apart from that I found the writing to be just right for the genre, immediate and crisp and flowing.

Backed, with my best wishes for its success.

Sheila (Pinpoint)

Sly80 wrote 1622 days ago

Effective scene setting: the park, the crowds, the immigrant and his hunger, David Nathan and who he is. Then the arrival of the president-elect and a mounting tension as we realise what is about to happen. Nathan makes sure it doesn't and we share his and FDR's relief. On the train we get lots more pointers to the mood and concerns of that period in American history, plus further insights into Nathan's character. In the oval office, you exemplify description with the vivid account of the furnishings ... this is exactly the type of situation that demands such detail. The president's mother provides one of the moments of humour that vary the pace. Then, 'We want you to go to Abyssinia...' could have knocked me over with a feather too.

Your writing is supremely professional, Harvey, and has some memorable phrases: 'Huckleberry Fin in uniform', 'He could have been a mortician', 'Nathan felt harpooned'. The research / historical knowledge strike me as extremely detailed and accurate, and I suspect Roosevelt would not object to your portrayal of him. David Nathan is more of an enigma, a quiet but dangerous man who is about to be stretched to his limits by the job handed him. Anyone with this book in their hands would be obliged to keep reading, as would I while continue to try in vain to distinguish fact from fiction ... backed.

(Possible nits: '"Pa" Watson greeted Nathan cordially' the word Pa baffles me here. 'threw back his head ... threw up his hands'. '"Plus travel," Hull said' twavel, and then thwee, and a bit later he says Mr. President.)

Jah-Jim wrote 1623 days ago

Very nice writing and a fascinating melange of fiction and fact. As a historian, photographer and archivist, I have a number of questions, comments and minor corrections for you. Please email me directly and I'll be glad to share the typos with you that way.

I'm curious where you got the idea that Foreign Minister Herouy didn't want Emperor Haile Selassie I to go to Europe to ask for help from Britain and the League of Nations. You say the vote of the advisory council was 21-3 in favor of going to Europe, so was Herouy one of the three?

I've read a lot about the May 2-May 5th, 1936 period in Addis Ababa (and even had one of the rare and valuable silver medals awarded to the 150 Indian Sikh soldiers who defended the British Legation and 1700 other foreigners who took refuge there), and this is the first time I've read that Gallas invaded Addis. You mention that all of the legations were safe, but the fact is that many from other legations took refuge with the British and even then, some were injured.

May I assume that the bombing of the Ethiopian Embassy at 17 Princess Gate, London was purely fiction?

Herouy said to Selassie while in England: "Retire here in peace?" I need to know more about that or if that's writer's prerogative. Heroy's grandson is a good friend of mine, and I'd like to know of any reference sources on him that I don't already have or know about.

Did Colson attend Geneva with the Emperor? Any good references to mention for this chapter in their lives? I've always wondered if this American adviser Colson was related to Nixon's adviser Colson. Do you know?

I can't imagine anyone (including Herouy) saying "You can't say that" to the Emperor.

My favorite line is "A half hour later, they were standing in the dark, heavily draped lobby of the Carlton Park Hotel, checking in, to the disbelief, if not the horror of (here's my favorite part) a dozen overfed, cigar smoking European bankers, each of them a different artist's caricature of Alfred Hitchcock."

Well done. Jah bless.

Jah-Jim wrote 1623 days ago

Very nice writing and a fascinating melange of fiction and fact. As a historian, photographer and archivist, I have a number of questions, comments and minor corrections for you. Please email me directly and I'll be glad to share the typos with you that way.

I'm curious where you got the idea that Foreign Minister Herouy didn't want Emperor Haile Selassie I to go to Europe to ask for help from Britain and the League of Nations. You say the vote of the advisory council was 21-3 in favor of going to Europe, so was Herouy one of the three?

I've read a lot about the May 2-May 5th, 1936 period in Addis Ababa (and even had one of the rare and valuable silver medals awarded to the 150 Indian Sikh soldiers who defended the British Legation and 1700 other foreigners who took refuge there), and this is the first time I've read that Gallas invaded Addis. You mention that all of the legations were safe, but the fact is that many from other legations took refuge with the British and even then, some were injured.

May I assume that the bombing of the Ethiopian Embassy at 17 Princess Gate, London was purely fiction?

Herouy said to Selassie while in England: "Retire here in peace?" I need to know more about that or if that's writer's prerogative. Heroy's grandson is a good friend of mine, and I'd like to know of any reference sources on him that I don't already have or know about.

Did Colson attend Geneva with the Emperor? Any good references to mention for this chapter in their lives? I've always wondered if this American adviser Colson was related to Nixon's adviser Colson. Do you know?

I can't imagine anyone (including Herouy) saying "You can't say that" to the Emperor.

My favorite line is "A half hour later, they were standing in the dark, heavily draped lobby of the Carlton Park Hotel, checking in, to the disbelief, if not the horror of (here's my favorite part) a dozen overfed, cigar smoking European bankers, each of them a different artist's caricature of Alfred Hitchcock."

Well done. Jah bless.

Bob Steele wrote 1624 days ago

Lion at Bay is a fascinating story set in a turbulent but little known period of Ethiopian history. Your pitch is first class and drew me in. Your opening chapters live up to the promise - you have a clean and economical writing style that I enjoyed, which is something that I aspire to but for me needs lots of editing to weed out surplus words - if you've hit it first time, you've got exceptional talent! The prologue is gripping, your characters are vivid and I can easily buy into your story of trying to rescue Haile Selassi - this seems well researched and hits the right buttons for your chosen genres. I'll be happy to back this.

B. J. Winters wrote 1624 days ago

I read several chapters of your book because I've always found this period in history fascinating (from a sociological point of view). Overall the writing is accomplished, and this was a polished. The dialogue was clear and moved things forward - take your chapter 13 (uploaded as chapter 15) for example. You have them in conversation (rather than telling me too much), and the lines of dialogue are well labled with tone (e.g. he said it with certainty, but even he didn't konw exactly what he felt) with touches of body language (e.g. she put on a pout) that paint a complete picture for the reader. Nice work.

Betty K wrote 1626 days ago

There is much to like here; your research is impeccable and I love the narrative style. And it's a very good premise. However, I did find your prologue confusing with jumping between the two points of view. Sometimes that works but to me is was confusing. It totally slowed me down for awhile as I couldn't figure out how the NYPD guy would be so poor. Didn't realize you were now in the POV of the immigrant. Maybe you could do scenes breaks although not sure how.

Nevertheless, I thought your writing was excellent and this has been on my shelf over my vacation period away.

Are you interested in my book? I've dropped down quite a lot because of being out-of-town for two weeks.
Need help.

Betty K "Destiny's Weave"

klouholmes wrote 1627 days ago

Hi Harvey, You make history into compelling story material, finding the scenes and conjuring the conversation. Nathan's assignment, while it seemed incredible to him, was well portrayed as being a natural consequence of his saving FDR from the assassin. The conversation at lunch showed the way a President might feel out a personality and prepare him for his opinions and command. I really enjoyed the scenes with Haile and the Empress and it was so well interwoven with his hearing the foul news. This historical account can gather you many readers! A pleasure to shelve. Katherine (The Swan Bonnet)

Pia wrote 1627 days ago

Hi Harvey,

Lion At Bay - engaging, well paced, informative and enlightening.
Much enjoyed the read.

Best success, Pia (Course of Mirrors)

AlanMarling wrote 1628 days ago

Dear Harvey Ardman,

Thank you for sharing your story with us. You have an amazing premise; you’ve found a slice of history where I want the underdogs to win against impossible odds. Comparing Selassie warriors to King Arthur’s knights is a great way to depict their noble character and prowess within their limited technology. I can see how this would be important because victory against Africans would give credence to Hitler’s theories of white supremacy. I skipped to chapter five to cover less-traveled ground and was rewarded by a ride in a blimp, which I guess is like riding in a boat in terms of peacefulness but in the air. Next he has to ride in a real ship, a rust bucket. You do an excellent job thwarting Nathan’s desires and creating tension by placing doubt on the seaworthiness of the ship, or that it’ll be too slow. Ah, I see there’s even more tension because he fears he may be discovered and perhaps assassinated. Love the phrase “stability of a #2 pencil”. An extra quotation mark slipped in before “Perhaps a passenger ship”. I am rooting for Nathan to build a relationship with Guinivieve, but you’re right on not making it easy for him. Gretel sounds like an interesting character, and I hope she won’t assassinate him.

Bravo! Backed.

Best wishes,
Alan Marling

harveya wrote 1628 days ago


I get very little from comments about my own book, nowadays. Some people like it, some don't. Some people are too frightened to leave genuine feedback, while others seek to enforce their own style upon me. I want to get to the Ed's Desk to get professional comment. I would rather spend 30 quid than do all this reading and backing. I have got everything I want out of Authonomy community already. So I am backing your book so that you can reach the Ed's desk and get professional feedback, instead of the platitudes and devious backings that account for 80% of backing you receive. Only 20% of comments are genuine, and will add value to your work.

Now, who am I not to back you? I am not godlike. Your work might be flatly written, unoriginal or even down right bad. It could be wonderful. But in my experience, only you can be honest with yourself about your writing... and that is what matters.

So, I am backing you so you can reach the Ed's desk.

There you are.

Hope you reciprocate.

Now that is the most sensible comment I've had on Authonomy and one with which I fully agree. As it happens, my book is pretty damn good and it deserves backing, but it's my judgment about it that really counts. I read the other comments, most of which are of the copy editing variety, and I say "oops, missed that," or "I've now heard your opinion," or "you didn't understand what I was doing, did you," and I realize that no author can write otherwise than with his or her own instincts. Writing according to somebody else's instincts is a waste of time, not to mention impossible.

When I comment on a book, I leave the criticism for a message, not the comment section. And if I don't like something, I won't comment, back or even read--which includes very much that appears here. The main reason that there is so much unworthy stuff is that the people who've written it are poor judges of their own work. This is a particularly devastating flaw for a writer, who, after all, must be a superb judge of the effect on the reader of each of his words. Anyhow, your honesty and insight gets my vote and your book gets my backing. I'll even take a look at it. Best, Harvey Ardman

Jupiter Echoes wrote 1629 days ago


I get very little from comments about my own book, nowadays. Some people like it, some don't. Some people are too frightened to leave genuine feedback, while others seek to enforce their own style upon me. I want to get to the Ed's Desk to get professional comment. I would rather spend 30 quid than do all this reading and backing. I have got everything I want out of Authonomy community already. So I am backing your book so that you can reach the Ed's desk and get professional feedback, instead of the platitudes and devious backings that account for 80% of backing you receive. Only 20% of comments are genuine, and will add value to your work.

Now, who am I not to back you? I am not godlike. Your work might be flatly written, unoriginal or even down right bad. It could be wonderful. But in my experience, only you can be honest with yourself about your writing... and that is what matters.

So, I am backing you so you can reach the Ed's desk.

There you are.

Hope you reciprocate.

R T Ray wrote 1630 days ago

Hi Harvey,
Had a few moments to spare and I played with chapter five of your prologue. Here is what I came up with.

I was a bit confused here about who he is (He was nobody now -----) are you referring to the high school lad or the immigrant? Also I’m told any number up to 999 should be spelled out.

Great Man - capitalized or italicized, or both? I’m not sure.

Maybe a way out would be -

All in all, about one hundred and fifty had assembled to glimpse the Great Man, the last to arrive was the grim-faced immigrant. He slipped unobtrusively into the third row, tucked in behind two fat ladies, their heads jammed close together like fishwives reveling in the latest bit of gossip. From here he had a clear view of the stage and its hastily assembled podium. He was a nobody now, but in a few moments the world would know his name.


Bradley Wind wrote 1630 days ago

Wow, this is nice.
I'll start with a few nits that you can probably avoid:
Might take a look at the overuse of the word "here" in those first couple of paragraphs.
and slightly wish there were some dialog to add variation/texture to this opening chapter.
Oh and I see you use a Prologue...hope I didn't offend with my response to you.
I do think your prologue is slightly long and although broken into multiple smaller paragraphs it felt a bit dense.
Do you need the in red explanation of where the quote is from? Takes me out of the story a bit...especially as I don't know who he is.
Smedley Bulter Business...was this the guy who shot at the Pres in the Prologue? I'm a bit lost here as to the timeframe.
I'm thinking this is taking place after he saved FDR in the prologue could be that that happened after he met FDR for visit and was asked to go to Miami to watch out for him.
"alright but it will take me at least week" = I think you need an "a" in that sentence?
Charming conversation = FDR and his mother.
I hate to say it but you may be hitting us over the head a bit much with all the time period references.
I do respect the amount of research that must've went into it to be able to responsibly use them.
I think it a great fun premise to have a "commoner" working as one of the President's men.
Get knocking on those editors doors with this, Harvey.
Best of luck!

lynn clayton wrote 1632 days ago

Harvey, the history is extremely interesting and lends itself to fiction. You've certainly done it proud. It seemed to me well-informed, though I know nothing about it, but you convinced me you do,which is the important thing.There's not a single dull sentence in the chapters I read. On the contrary, it's a gripping book.No need to mention character, dialogue etc.- you're such a good writer,we'll take them as read. Shelved. Lynn

Michael Croucher wrote 1634 days ago

Hello Harvey, I'm a sucker for historical fiction; espescially when its written with authority and style. This engaged from the start and set the hooks often and well.
Michael Croucher (Bravo's Veil)

Freeman wrote 1634 days ago

In chapter one you change POV from Nathan to the conductor and back to Nathan quite quickly. I have been advised to not to do this. The background to Nathan and his lunch with the President where he is given his assignment are well constructed with good description. I like the narratives and especially the lisp. Jumping straight to Ethiopia in the next chapter keeps the story moving at a good pace. This is an interesting plot and is moves at a good pace. I am happy to back you book.

Life Bringer

Raydad wrote 1634 days ago

Hi Harvey. I found this professionally written, polished work and an enjoyable read. The opener with Nathan thwarting the assassin of FDR establishes the groundwork. Then in chapter two Nathan is given an opportunity to rescue Selassie. The interaction between FDR and Nathan was dynamic and realistic. I could see FDR sitting there wearing his green tie and eating that trout. I had the feeling that the oval office was a very busy place and FDR a very busy man. I liked the way the casual conversation interwined with the serious discussion about the mission. Hull and his speech patterns provided some spice to the scene. You've visualized this scene well and the pacing was perfect. This is an excellent work, one which I would certainly purchase. Good luck. Shelved.

Buttermilk Moon

alias miss ferkit wrote 1634 days ago

One of the strange pleasures of authonomy, for me, is being out of my genre - pretty much all the time. So here I sit before an historical thriller - and I may not be well enough versed in either the Italo-Abyssinian war or the conventions of the thriller to make really astute comments. What I can say, as a tourist in your genre, is that your book looks like a fine place to spend some quality time! Your writing is strong, inobtrusive, speaks honestly, allows your characters - and your readers - to see and feel. A clean, well-lighted place. Your characterization of Selassie (and his marriage) has both power and charm; and this lends David's mission great urgency on a human (as well as historical) level.

I do have a couple of questions about PoV in chapter one, and see that JD Revene has beaten me to this. I found the cut from David to the shooter slightly jarring; I also see it as perhaps necessary. How can you finesse the segue? A similar thing happens (on a much smaller scale) in chapter two - the conductor on the train. Were it not for the more extended PoV shift in ch 1, I might not have noticed it - but again I felt manually 'shifted', if only slightly. I agree with JD on the issue of David's clear focus on the immigrant - his ability to fully size up an objective in the blink of an eye - while 'barely noticing' him. What happened on a cognitive level: something alerted David that this man was important; his seeming ubiquity as a type led David to discount him. So -something seemed fishy: what was it?

That said - fine work! Shelved,

Andrea Levin
(Last Days of the Transitional Objects Institute)

R T Ray wrote 1635 days ago

Hi Harvey,

First thank you for your backing my book. I truly appreciate it.

Now onto your novel.

Fifth paragraph. ------ fat lady in a blue flowered dress and a bespectacled high school boy who held a canvas book bag on his lap.

I was a bit confused here about who he is (He was nobody now -----) the high school lad or the immigrant? Maybe a way out would be - He took a seat to the rear of two fat ladies, one in a flowered dress. Unless the HS Lad and the canvas book bag is to play a part later I would drop him.

Paragraph six ----- The immigrant is complaining about “the old Jew charging $8 for a pistol (a fair price) then drops $200 at the track with seemly no problem. I would lessen the amount loss at the track to $15-20 and what’s left in his pocket to three, maybe four dollars. A bit more realistic in my view.

Paragraph seven ---- since he was six years old, when his father had forced him to leave school and go to work. I know times were tough but I don’t think his father took him out of school at age six (first grade) and put him to work. You might want to reword that. I assume he was ill at 6 and it only got worse later when he quit school (maybe at 15 or so).

Thanks again,

KW wrote 1636 days ago

I almost read this when it first appeared since I've been interested about the charisma of Haile Selassie, but for some reason got distracted. David Nathan is rather unlikely hero, but that is what helps make your book very appealing. Not only do you have Selassie, but a short hero, a President obsessed with small talk, a Secretary of State with a twang, and great descriptive powers. In short, you have everything necessary for an exciting read. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that your blending of historical elements into your realistic dialogue sets the time frame and carries the story along very well. I will be back to read more when I get a little time.

JD Revene wrote 1636 days ago


I'm returning your read of Appetites. Thank you again for your support of my work.

Starting with the pitch. This is good, with the key elements all present. I have a couple of observations you might like to take into acount:

--the line with FDR's dialogue I would give its own paragraph, breaking up a long paragraph and gives the words import.

--then the sentence following, for me a lot of this is the sort of value judgement I'd leave to the reader, perhaps you can focus it on the question of whether or not David will succeed.

Into the work proper. The prologue is a good scene, however, I had a few thoughts you might consider:

--in the opening paragraph David provides a lot of detail of someone he's barely notices . . . I think you might need some reason for David to take notice of him.

--the switch of PoV, from David to the nameless assassin, is effective in playing out the drama and extending the time, but also gives the game away and deprives us of insight to David.

--finally, we're told that the shooter is in the third row, some 25 feet from the bandstand; that's a hell of a leap . . .

Into chapter one, and a brief observation passage from the conductor's PoV makes it's apparent that you're using an omniscient PoV.

By the way, you have a note in red-text in this chapter, that I suspect was a reminder to yourself that you never got round to acting on . . .

Reading on I'm finding little to comment on, but there is reference to 'a plot against the US Government by a retired general' that is obscure to me. (Unless it relates to the assassination.)

Otherwise this is already a cracking thriller. Not the Ludlum type, with a gun fight on every page, more in the style of say Robert Harris where historical fiction is intelligently mixed with thriller conventions.

With chapter three the opening exposition feels, to me a little forced, but once news arrives the askari have entered Ethiopa the pace picks up.

This is one of those works that educates at the same time it entertains. Your Haile Selassie is an engaging character, and that's obviously key to this work.

Happy to give this a spin on my shelf.

Francis Albert McGrath wrote 1636 days ago

Don't need to read much to see we are in the hands of a professional. I have no doubt you will write further novels, as good as, and better than, this masterpiece. Fantastic.

William Holt wrote 1636 days ago

Excellent historical fiction. For me this is one of those semi-modern times that is largely slipping away from the national consciousness and needs continual revival by any and all means.

Dialogue and action carry the story along nicely, without the excessive exposition that is a sure mark of the person who has not yet made the leap from writing essays and memos to fiction.

Backed with pleasure.