Read an extract from Damian Stevenson's latest instalment in his series of historical fiction, the 'Ian Fleming Files'
Hargreaves looked stonily at Fleming and asked, "What do you know about Parsifal, Commander?"
Fleming paused. "Parsifal? An opera in three acts by Richard Wagner loosely based on Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenback, a 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival or Percival and his quest for the Holy Grail and on Perceval, the Story of the Grail by Chretien de Troyes. It's also an underground society run by some powerful Nazis said to be disgruntled with Hitler."
"Go on." Hargreaves sat back puffing thoughtfully on his cigar. He liked this man Fleming. They had spent an evening playing bridge together and he had fallen under the famous Fleming charm. Hargreaves watched him closely, eager to see a slip in the mask, a faltering which would expose him to be just as scared and depressed as everyone else in the room.
"The members of Parsifal are bankers," continued Fleming, "representatives of top German businesses like Volkswagen and Bayer, officials from the Navy and Ministry of Armaments, the list goes on. Rumor has it the whole movement is funded and led by industrialist Wolfgang Krupp." "That's not a rumor," said Godfrey who pressed a button causing a motorized wall panel to slide up and retract into the ceiling revealing a cork-board pinned with the photographs of three men.
Outside, rain had started to fall, steady and implacable.
"Wolfgang Krupp, Colonel Martin Zeiss and Captain Franz Stransky," declared Godfrey. "Krupp is part of the combine that built up the German war machine and believes the war is still win-able. Zeiss and Stransky are the two highest ranking German officers connected to Parsifal."
"A rogue's gallery if ever there was one," said Quacker Drake.
"Here's the situation," said Godfrey. "Hitler, as you know, is losing the war. If he continues fighting on two fronts, stretching his armies thin, the Allies will be victorious."
Fleming followed the thought. "They'd have to occupy government ministries in Berlin, Himmler's headquarters in East Prussia, radio stations and telephone offices and other Nazi apparatus through military districts and concentration camps. They'd need more than just the reserve army. Does Parsifal have that kind of entrenched support?"
"They'll never get Himmler," said Quacker.
"Probably not," agreed Blake. "But if they have a plan for the Eastern front, if they can seriously keep the Red Army back with a peace offer to Stalin, then they could theoretically extend the agony of the Third Reich's ambitions indefinitely."
"That's a lot of ifs," said Hargreaves.
Godfrey had grown quiet and was wearing an expression that Fleming picked up on instantly.
"One 'if' is enough for concern," said Dilly fighting a lung eruption. "We need to know what Parsifal is up to."
"With Rommel in their ranks anything's possible," said Godfrey who kicked back and lit his cigar, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
All eyes were on the sly admiral who failed to meet anyone's gaze but merely said, "Thank you, Miss Blythe." The lights came back on.
Fleming's mind was racing. For a brief moment, the faces of Dilly, Blake, Hargreaves and Quacker registered total disbelief before returning to their normal stiff stillness.
"Rommel?" said Hargreaves, with a barely perceptible tremor of agitation in his voice. "You can't be serious."
It's January 1945 and 17F finds himself tasked with the bizarre mission of foiling an assassination plot against Hitler. The Allies are winning the war and the last thing they need is for the Fuhrer to be replaced with a more rational war leader capable of prolonging the conflict. Parsifal is an underground anti-Hitlerian Nazi society led by German industrialist and diamond expert Wolfgang Krupp. Ian Fleming is partnered with a beautiful German double-agent and together they go from Cairo to Eastern Europe to the Nazi-occupied island of Alderney and eventually Tanzania to penetrate Parsifal. With a hidden agenda within the ranks of Parsifal 17F must crack the enigma of Fortress Alderney and save Hitler's life to assure an Allied victory.
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