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WW2 novel set in Prague, and Talking Location With author, Howard Linskey

20th May 2017

#TalkingLocationWith … Howard Linskey, author of Hunting the Hangman, WW2 novel set in Prague.

WW2 novel set in Prague

My new novel is set in Prague during World War Two. Hunting the Hangman tells the story of the plot to assassinate the infamous Nazi General, Reinhard Heydrich. It follows two incredibly courageous men, Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik, as they attempt to find a way to kill the man widely considered at the time to be Adolf Hitler’s heir. Their attempt on the life of the architect of the holocaust makes for a gripping story and my work involved me quite literally following in their footsteps, thanks to a research trip I organised to the Czech capital.

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Sunrise in Prague (Wikipedia)

Prague is a beautiful and romantic place, noted for its imposing historical buildings and favoured by holidaying couples. These days the Czech capital is also lively enough to attract a fair number of stag and hen-dos keen to take advantage of its myriad clubs and bars. Back in 1942 however it was a beaten, mournful place under tyrannical SS rule and heavily populated by German soldiers, over seen by Heydrich, an atmosphere that could not have been more of a contrast to the city I explored but, if you look closely enough, you can see evidence of the earlier far more distressing time all around you.

The very architecture of Prague gives the city an air of permanency. The Czech capital was captured by the Germans without a shot being fired then retaken by the Russians who were hot on the heels of the retreating Wehrmacht. Subsequently it avoided the mass destruction of other heavily bombed European cities that were forced to rebuild virtually from scratch after the war had ended. Prague then became a Soviet controlled player in the cold war, an atmospheric place full of spies and policed by a ruthless security service. When the Cold War finally ended, Prague was free for the first time in half a century and the city became far less forbidding, opening itself up to fascinated western tourists.

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I devoured books on war time Prague and researched every aspect of life there, taking in subjects as diverse as the documentation required to walk around the city, the ration book system, the role of the church during the occupation and the takeover of the capital’s historic buildings by the Nazi invaders. Then I spent days exploring the locations where the story is set. I could probably write a whole new book about this beautiful city but time will only allow me to point out a few of my favourite places in the Czech capital:

Prague, Charles Bridge, Prague Castle and Hradcany Moldova

Prague, Charles Bridge, Prague Castle and Hradcany Moldova

I had to see Hradcany. This imposing the 9th century Gothic castle has been the home of Kings, Emperors and presidents. Reinhard Heydrich had his offices here and sentenced hundreds of Czech people to summary execution from behind his desk in the castle.

The famous Charles Bridge crosses the River Vlatava and dates back to the 15th Century. Aside from a grand view of the river itself, it’s most notable for thirty impressive statues that make the journey across it a truly memorable one.

The Globe is one of my favourite book shops. I was hoping to find it because I hoped they’d have a book I couldn’t get my hands on, as it was out of print. It featured dozens of images of Prague under German rule. As we came out of our hotel I realised the book shop was on the next street, which was a pretty big coincidence. I was even more shocked to see that there in the window was a solitary copy of the book I was looking for. It felt like fate and spurred me on even more to finish this book.

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U Fleku

U Fleku has been around for five hundred years. Imagine that; a beer hall that is older than a fair number of countries. It’s a great place for a beer and some traditional Bohemian food.

The Church of St Cyril and St Methodius is the scene of the highly moving finale to the true story I have recounted in ‘Hunting the Hangman’. Here Kubis and Gabcik, along with a handful of their comrades, hid from the Germans until they were betrayed by a traitor. A fierce battle then ensued right in the heart of Prague, which involved hundreds of German soldiers. The crypt is now a museum but you cannot help but be moved if you visit the spot where those incredibly brave men made their desperate final stand.

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Thank you so much to Howard for his wonderful insight into research and for his personal top tips for the city. Do connect with him via his website and on Twitter. Buy his latest book here!

 

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Comments

  1. User: Dawn Obrien

    Posted on: 20/05/2017 at 3:38 pm

    Oh, I love the sound of this book, I love books with a wow setting, and I’ve always wanted to visit Prague since I saw the video INXS filmed there!

    Comment

    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 20/05/2017 at 6:51 pm

      We are also reading Prague Nights at the book club, so we have been immersed in the city for several weeks! But this is a good read, definitely worth reading!

      Comment

  2. User: Judith Works

    Posted on: 20/05/2017 at 3:20 pm

    Not long after the Berlin Wall fell we stayed in the former Jewish ghetto in an apartment. The occupants who had been granted the apt by the Communist government were relatives of neighbors in Rome. They were terrified that the new Democratic government, would evict them because they were only 2 people and the apt was very large and needed for families.

    Comment

    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 20/05/2017 at 6:51 pm

      That is so interesting to hear, and really, such “recent” history in some ways….

      Comment

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