John Richard Bell
The Circumstantial Enemy
Endeavour Press 2017
We all imagine that, when put to the test, we will end up on the right side of history, however we define it. Nowhere is that statement more true than in reference to World War II. But sometimes people end up on the wrong side for reasons outside their control—even on a side they don’t believe in. Such is the fate that confronts Tony Babic, the hero of John Richard Bell‘s debut novel, The Circumstantial Enemy (Endeavour Press, 2017) based on the true story of his father-in-law’s life during the war.
Tony, when we meet him, is a young pilot flying for the Croatian Air Force. His experience of causing one death and witnessing another—that of his commander—has left him eager to find a more peaceful way to exercise his talents. But his country, in an effort to escape both Serbian control and Nazi conquest, has chosen to ally with Germany in return for nominal independence as a puppet state. Tony has little choice but to fly for the Luftwaffe and is soon taking part in the Siege of Leningrad. Meanwhile, his best friend and the woman they both love (the daughter of Tony’s dead commander) become ever more deeply involved in a different epic battle: Josip Broz Tito’s campaign to unify all the Southern Slavic states under a single communist banner.
Tony eventually escapes his service to the Germans only to fall into the hands of the Americans. Soon he’s on his way to a POW camp in Illinois. But circumstances conspire to make him an enemy even there, not least in the eyes of the people he has left behind.
C. P. Lesley is the author of seven novels, including Legends of the Five Directions (The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, The Swan Princess, and The Vermilion Bird), a historical fiction series set in 1530s Russia, during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Find out more about her at http://www.cplesley.com.