24 November 2017

A Lost Book

by
O'Neil De Noux

A few days ago, I spotted the spine of a book on one of my bookshelves and felt a stab in my chest. I pulled the book down, ran my hand across the cover, sat on the floor and started reading the book. Again. My chest tightened as I read the only novel written by my friend.

THE HEYDRICH DECEPTION by Daniel Savage Gray (paperback, 317 pages, Zebra Books, 1989) is a World War II espionage-caper novel in the vein of Ken Follett and Frederick Forsyth and another friend, Greg Iles. Check out Greg's BLACK CROSS (1995).



Set from 1939 to 1942, the book centers around a scheme by "the most dangerous man in the world" - SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich, Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia and a main architect of the Holocaust. Heydrich is producing counterfeit British pounds by the millions to distribute to world banks in a plot to destabilize the pound and throw Britain's economy into turmoil.

The main character is Professor Victor Boden, an Austrian forced to work on the project by Heydrich. Boden decides to help the British and the book takes a breathtaking trip through intrigue, murder, double-crosses - everything necessary in a good espionage novel. It's not all men-and-guns, there are women the reader will care for immediately and there is heartbreak and a wonderful twist at the end.

I had to slow down reading the book to savor this well-written historical spy novel.

Professor Daniel Savage Gray taught me at Troy University, became a good friend and encouraged me to write fiction. He wrote a couple non-fiction books about Napoleon and Waterloo but THE HEYDRICH DECEPTION was his only foray into fiction. My first novel, also a Zebra paperback, came out a few months before his novel.

When Gray's marriage disintegrated he moved across country and I lost touch with him, briefly talking to Gray on the phone once in 1992. I did not learn he died of a medical condition in 1995 until years later. Hit me hard.

THE HEYDRICH DECEPTION is a classic example of a good book written by a good writer that went out of print shortly after publication and is lost. Back then Zebra printed books, opened their back door and tossed them into the wind to see if anyone snatched up enough for a second printing. THE HEYDRICH DECEPTION remains of out print, a lost book like so many excellent books. By a forgotten writer.

Think about it. How many excellent short stories appeared in the pulps that are lost forever? How many cool adventure novels, mysteries, SF - you name the genre - are gone except for copies in used bookstores and sometimes online? How many writers have been forgotten? I'm sure y'all know a few. Share them if you wish.

As I said earlier - there is heartbreak in this book and when I finished reading the book again, I felt choked up. Old men get choked up easily. This time it was because Gray wasn't talking to me anymore. It was his voice in the story and the story ended and Gray's voice faded. I'm getting too personal now, but all life is personal and a good book is a good book.

6 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

I'm not familiar with the book or writer, of course, O'Neil. But it does sound interesting. And you're right about all the short stories and books that are gone forever. Or maybe not. There's several new small publishers "out there" these days that are reprinting older books. I wonder if the rights are available (for a nominal fee or could even just revert) and you or maybe a relative of Gray's can and see about having one of these publishers put it back in print.

O'Neil De Noux said...

Good suggestion, Paul. I'll try the family.

janice law said...

Every teacher should be so fondly remembered.
I do think success ( as defined by sales and fame) is as much a matter of luck as talent.

Eve Fisher said...

Paul's suggestion is great.
And I agree with Janice, I think a lot of success is all in the luck and timing. Why don't more people talk about John Collier? Or Joyce Carey? For that matter, speaking politically - briefly - my old dean and I were chatting on-line re all the sex scandals, and he said "Meantime, I would note that Gary Hart's presidential hopes came a cropper over perceived infidelity, Bill Clinton was reelected despite being demonstratably unfaithful. Mr. Hart had the misfortune to be ahead of his time." Same thing happens, sadly, with art as well...

John Floyd said...

A fine post, O'Neil. Sounds like an interesting book, and author too. And great memories, for you. Your column reminds me that I should go back through all my stacks and re-read some old favorites.

And you're right, Greg's Black Cross is excellent. Spandau Phoenix, also.

Leigh Lundin said...

I wondered about Paul's question too. After all, WW-II Nazis remain a cypher to most of us.