[Link] Spide: The Lost Tribes has been released today in print through Amazon.
[Link] Four by the week posts on my NanoWrimo experience.
[Link] to interview with Eileen Walsh of Derry Drive 105 were we talk about 24 hour comics, Absence, Spide and NaNoWrimo.
[Link] I’ll be reading brand new poetry at Mixed Jam, on December 10th from 5-7pm. That’s at East Belfast’s 248 East Bistro, which is a lovely venue.
‘Bout! The Fight-Zine’ is a new short comic by John Robbins. I love how John tells stories. ‘Bout!’ is funny, a bit deranged and prime twisting. It’s free: go and read it via @ComicsWendy this half hour!
Spide: The Lost Tribes is out on Thursday. In case you missed it, capsule review: two Belfast louts get roped into a Free Presbyterian grail quest, sped by the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise train and through the pages of history. The narrator, Dan Spide, is sat backwards on the journey, now that I think to tell you. I’ve caught most of everything else in the wee novella. The link to give out is https://tinyurl.com/thelosttribes – why not pre-order it in case Amazon crashes?
Advance feedback’s good and today the first full review is up from Chris McAuley at Talking Comics:
The excellent cover is by @TheMarcSavage who was shooting for the Drew Struzan movie poster scale and succeeded. You can also find Marc at @media_large. I’ll be talking about it to Eileen Walsh on @Drive105 FM in Derry Wednesday morning.
At the weekend I was in Derry for Comics City Fest where a good time was had by alcohol. My comrades for the too-old-to-do-this nights drink were the wildcard Darren McCay, and No-Selfie Will Simpson. Here’s a shot of ‘The Ambassador’ with Lightspeed Stephen Downey.
The Comic City event at the Guildhall was bustling popular. Thanks to Dave Campbell and all the staffers who worked to make it be.
National Novel Writing Month is upon us: extreme prose writing and I’m using it to catch up on an outstanding project. When not smashing up telephones, I’ll be scowling at loud grandparents in cafes up and down the country.
Filling in on Patreon this month: 24 hour comics never seen before. That’s pretty big news actually. Should probably be a headline somewhere. Cough, cough.
(All calls are screened before the telephone ejection policy is decided)
Hello me hearties, and thanks for leaving behind Facebook for my blog, which was once in the Top Trillion websites but is now a speck of salt. Beezer time to us all.
Dan and Ape must make community films with religious fundamentalists or risk losing their dole. Before they can do a bunk, they’re implicated in a three thousand year old conspiracy and a cross-border rail trip they’ll nat forget.
Spide: The Lost Tribes is a wild west quest through the pages of the Old Testament and Irish mythology. From Andy Luke, award winning author of Gran, Absence, and Axel America and the U.S. Election.
I’ve been taking some shots of my bed hair alongside the cover by Marc Savage. Maybe this’ll catch on…
You know, with you posting photos of your comical bed-hair…
…thus launching a meme whereby Spide enters the Top 100 and pays rent?
Priced 99p, October 13th pre-order; November 1st release.
I wanted to say something about Carlos Ezquerra but I imagine I’ve little to say that hasn’t been felt. I met him a couple of years back at Enniskillen for all of five minutes When he passed it seemed sudden, because though an age, he was full of hope and life. Anyone who read 2000 AD or IPC casually, most over 40s in the UK I’d think, knew Carlos’s work. That clotted ink style seemed to bleed through to all the other pages. His inventiveness with Mega City One ensured he was on a par with Jack Kirby, before we get to Stontium Dog, Al’s Baby and Third World War, one of the greatest influences on my own life.
24 Hour Comics Day #24HCD was last weekend. Eleven people showed up at Farset Labs to create around eighty pages of work. I was one of two who made the full 24, despite falling six hours behind. Silas Rallings made the count by 1am and his effort will show up on his poetry and cooking blog in the future. I’ll be sharing mine exclusively on patreon.com/andyluke as well as the unseen 2014 effort. I’m quite happy with the quality. Feast your eyes on the contributions, starting with our sponsors, the wonderful Comic Book Guys.
If you turn the image sideways you can make out some Transformers art brought to me by one of my younger fans. Thanks Alex and Jawine! I’m still tickled about that.
Image Source: Roelli, P. (2005) The Thanka Wall overlooking Tasilhunpo. Retrieved online
June 9, 2018 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tashi_Lhunpo_Monastery
Hamburg, British Zone of Occupation.
Thursday 20 May, 1948.
She is seventy-one: thin, quietly drained; a pale feat of a woman. Her expression is sour. Time has pressed her cheeks inward, clamped her mouth shut. She might have been happy, but that time has passed. They all knew he would meet a bitter destiny. Margarethe pours the pan’s boiling water into the teapot and replaces the cover. Margarethe Lincoln: always faithful to him.
Sun light fades and then bursts through the windows in the kitchen and the lounge. Indifferent, it pushes through the blind onto the brown chairs and carpet. Margarethe’s home is a simple two-up, two-down; her brother-in-law in the guest bedroom. Her youngest, Clifford, stokes the fire. His Uncle Simon’s face is in the paper. Simon is sixty-eight. He resembles his brother with balding thin black hair. The pot is wrapped in an oven glove and set on the table. Margarethe is glad Simon will spend another few days here.
Deep black coal smokes in the lounge. Clifford pours the tea, and they talk about his Uncle Lajos, now Louis. Still living in Cleveland, reading his socialist papers, but too ill to travel. Simon’s step-brother, Julius, at fifty-five is still serving in the army. There is an unspoken agreement between the men to avoid talking about ‘their famous one’.
The Abbot Chaokung was reported to have died in Shanghai on October 6th, 1943. They said it was an intestinal virus. In death there are as many stories of him: that he spent his remaining days with drug dealers and white slavers; that the FBI knew he was operating as a Nazi spy; that he was interred in Shanghai’s Hongkou Ghetto. There were reports that he had been poisoned. That he had written a letter to Hitler full of demands and threats. A friend saw him in hospital, but the next day she found a different man in his bed. In her search for him, she was repeatedly turned away until she learned he was in a private suite and private meant private. There was a funeral but no one saw a body. The German National Observer claimed he died in Vienna. American troops allegedly found his grave but the coffin was empty. Since then he has been sighted at his home-town Paks, in New York, and in Argentina. Simon wanted to write a book about his brother fifteen years ago. The British consulate in New York were cold to him and it put an end to the idea. Ignacz and he quarrelled but Simon thought he could put the hate behind him. Coal crackles and splashes cinders over the hearth which disappear in the mesh fireguard.
When Margarethe returns they are talking about Sandor. He never left the Budapest family home, and so Clifford never met him. The sun glares through the living room blind and subsides again. Margarethe recalls Sandor. They met once or twice. He appeared shy, but likeable. Then she thinks of his fate: taken to Auschwitz, never to return. She is shaking. The good son helps her to her seat. Simon bows his head. The fire provides some heat now and his eyes are watering too. He knows his sister-in-law’s tears are not over Sandor. He is here because news reached them a week ago that John is dead. His mother, who left him on Java, struggles to work past the fault line, and to grieve properly. When the Japanese occupied Indonesia, John was interred in Lapas Sukamiskin prison. After years of torture, he moved to Western Australia. He struggled to adapt. His restaurant crashed and John took his own life. opened up a restaurant. Sorrow drips from Margarethe’s chin as she goes for fresh bedding.
Simon listens for her reaching the top of the stairs before picking up his paper. He removes a sheet, stands and pulls out the fireguard. Clifford takes the paper out of his hands. Simon shakes his head but the nephew is already reading. The sun light expands, from the kitchen and the lounge, coalescing in the doorway between them. It is faded, like a spectre of something here long ago. A void: an outward expression of an inward fear. Clifford is reading that his father, Trebitsch Lincoln, has been sighted at a monastery in Darjeeling. The journalist suggests perhaps it is a stop-off on his journey toward Tibet. The off-white light creeps towards the dimpled edges of the tabloid. It is a near humanoid shape, a no-detail silhouette, fluctuating. Trebitsch Lincoln has passed on. He is no longer alive: on this earth, this plane; certainly, not in this room.
“Lies! Lies!” the void shouts. “Do not listen to them, son. They will print everything and anything about me if it serves their own devilish ways!”
The rest of the column is the usual potted biography: Canadian preacher; British MP; double agent; military advisor and Buddhist monk.
“Don’t bother reading that,” says Simon.
“Simon?” says the void, “What is he doing? Here in my home? This is not your family, robber!”
“Your father treated me appallingly,” said Simon. “He took money from me. When the FBI were looking for him, they arrested me.”
“He compromised my security! Scoundrel! How dare you???” asks the void, throwing it’s hand in the air, holding its head with the other.
“But, Clifford, I forgave him long ago,” said Simon.
He takes the news-sheet back. The fireplace gives out a coughing fit sending white coal dust into the ray of light. Simon tears the newspaper into strips while the void stamps: fury without sound.
“I was a Christian minister and a Buddhist monk. I am completely sure I practised forgiveness before you knew the meaning of the word!”
“He tried his best with you, and your brothers. The notion of him in Tibet,” says Simon, “Well, it is just newspaper lies. You don’t want your mother to see that.” He scrunches the paper into balls.
“Tibet, yes! That is the place I will go to now. I will guide it, help it build railways to other realms, and reclaim my status ushering in a future universe of equal rights for all people!!”
In the stomach of the fireplace, the newspaper flickers slowly into flakes of rising ash which fall at the big feet of the void creature.
“T o T i b e t!!” it exclaims.
The void disperses into silver grey molecules, floating between sun-ray and dust, and then settling on the carpet.
Four thousand, two hundred and fifty two miles away above the city of Shigatse, monks walk the walls of Tashi Lhunpo. The gilded turrets and canopies are charged by the sun. The delicately painted Thanka wall stands on a hill over the temple, in blue sky. A moment later, there is a black dot in the heavens, a lone aeroplane shaped dot.
Brought to you by patreon.com/andyluke where you can read dozens of commentaries, poems, shorts and comics strips.
Image Source: Tri Relbachen, one of famous 3 dharma kings of Tibet (Aug 3, 2015) The Off:
About Best Himalayan Adventures. Retrieved online June 1st, 2018 at
Wednesday 5 February, 1941
German Consulate, Shanghai.
Martin Fischer is a family man. A pastor’s son with a Norwegian wife and three children. For thirty years he served as German Consul at Beijing and Mukden. On joining the Nazi Party in ‘37 he’s transferred to Shanghai. Ribbentrop trusts Fischer, but more and more the Wilhelmstrasse Office pushes him to take a hard-line. Fischer is the conduit when the Japanese are asked to restrict immigration; to treat enemy nationals as such; when Nazi reach is to be extended with a local HQ and propaganda bureau. Fischer cannot prevent the influx of party members to consular services. They weaken co-ordination of German political affairs in China. Men like Louis Siefkin, who use diplomatic cover for intelligence gathering.
Siefkin’s Abwehr spy ring brings the embassy a procession of callers. Staff must deal with boat-spotters, librarians, crooks and couriers. There are engineers and announcers for the half dozen radio stations run from the back room. The best, XGRS, supplies China with news-casts, commentaries and sketches in six different languages. XGRS is the pet project of Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, so Fischer tows the line. SS and Abwehr operations are required to be kept apart from the Foreign Office. Conversely, protocol requires consul staff must read all incoming and outgoing messages. Siefkin infuriates them by using his own personal code. When the Abwehr in Berlin ask for more details of Siefkin’s meeting with Chaokung, Fischer makes sure to hunt down the original transcript.
“A mutual friend, Mr. Erben, suggested I meet you,” said Siefkin. “And Flicksteger at XGRS. He said you had ideas of travelling to Tibet, to bring that country under German influence. What qualifications place you as a person fit for that task?”
Fischer remembered the Abbot in the hall that morning: the physical attributes of a vulture inside a death black cloak; a gliding spectre disappearing behind Siefkin’s door.
“For many years,” said Chaokung, “I have been a member of the Grand Council of Lamas who possess special influence in India and Tibet. Captain Siefkin: this is my proposal. Tashilumpo, to the south of Tibet, is the seat of the Panchen Lama. Also an area of anti-British sentiment. It is perfect for transmitting XGRS into India.”
Reading the transcript Fischer didn’t chuckle. On one hand he knew Chaokung was an unreliable charlatan. On the other hand, his pitch hit key aims Siefkin and the Abwehr had long desired.
“I think it would work,” said Chaokung. “I foresee myself going there, accompanied by a General Staff officer, an aviation expert, a wireless operator, a courier and the transmitter. We might go via Kabul, or, I am willing to go and meet them in Berlin.”
Siefkin was a broad-shouldered man with a tanned, stout face. Silently, he considered the Abbot’s idea. A workaholic, Siefkin was permanently frustrated, but this had merit.
“What do you know of India?” he asked.
“A great deal. For example, Sahay the nationalist leader, is in Shanghai this very week. Well, he could be directly influenced! If Germany was to back the movement for independence, why, a great many advisors could be sent to them. They could be directed in military and aviation tactics; trained to use the equipment!!”
“What would you get? What is your interest?” asked Siefkin.
“The adventure of visiting Tibet. An important role in unfolding matters. Revenge on Britain. Apart from travel and living expenses, I have no financial demands.”
A green-eyed coarse-faced thug looked at the date: four months after Siefkin’s report.
Josef Meisinger was a large, bald, perpetually grinning and ugly man. His callousness was cemented when over two years in Poland’s Kampinos Forest he ordered the mass shootings of 1,700 people. From there he went to Tokyo, acting as Gestapo liason for the embassy, and now he was the new military police attaché at Shanghai embassy. Meisinger intended to round up and kill Soviet spies while in the city. He drank hard and talked often. His brutality threw everyone’s nose out of joint. In his first week, he pressed Japanese commanders to exterminate the German and Austrian Jews living in Shanghai. They expressed their disgust to Fischer. Subsequently, Fischer forgot all about Siefkin.
He dare not challenge Meisinger. The Butcher of Warsaw instilled fear in whomever was around, though Chaokung seemed to be an exception. They met during Meisinger’s second week, arranged again by Siefkin’s man Hermann Erben. Erben had been monitoring the port and interviewing sailors, and assured them he had known the Abbot some time.
“Thank you for agreeing to see me, Colonel. I wondered about the lack of response after my previous visits,” said the monk.
Meisinger said, “Simple protocol. Or just protocol run by simpletons.” He cast a glance over at Fischer. “Consul Fischer asked to sit in and observe this meeting. I consented to this request.”
“Of course. I am glad to have you here, Consul Fischer.”
Meisinger said, “I have read the file on the ‘Radio Tibet’ proposal. Tell me what you told Siefkin.”
Chaokung rattled off the XGRS proposal as Fischer sat quietly. He did not speak at all in the meeting; did not like working closely with Meisinger. Only the chirpy sound of the Abbot’s voice kept him from being sick; kept him from passing out, for while they talked Fischer’s skin was clammy and eyes watering. Initially he wasn’t aware he was zoning out. Then he jolted out sharply from the black of sleep.
“Fischer! Maybe you need to lie down! Show some discipline,” Meisinger said.
He apologised, and Meisinger told Chaokung to continue. Chaokung said he would recommend Fischer a qualified teacher in meditation, and Meisinger laughed.
“I understand that spiritualism plays a large part in German life,” continued Chaokung. “That Police Chief Himmler sees the SS as a modern day version of the Teutonic Knights. The SS lightning bolt symbol is derived from runes, the sun, and victory.”
“It is in honour to our ancestors, and the purity of our race,” said Meisinger.
“Yes, Colonel. These ideas are old, and mystical. Knowledge rooted in the occult, understood by a privileged few.”
Fischer’s ears perked up. Chaokung seemed to be directing Meisinger along an unusual road.
“The solstices, winter and summer, for example. The practices around these events form the rough drafts of the new German baptismal and funeral rites. Deputy Hess is a champion of astrology, seers, mediums and the like. I am told the Fuhrer believes in these ancient powers: do you, Colonel?”
“If these primal sources wish to decontaminate the earth of Jews, cripples, homosexualists, then yes. Cut the weakness off at its head!”
“I am glad your mind is open to this, sir, and here is why. I have been employed by the sages of Tibet to bring a message. The sages commune with a spirit world government. They cannot be seen by the untrained human eye. I was told to tell you that the time is ripe for Germany to make peace.”
There was not a shred of suspicion on Meisinger’s brutal face. The Abbot, Fischer noticed, was also completely convinced of himself.
“I have been authorised by my Tibetan Masters to take the necessary steps. To that end, I wish to travel to Berlin as soon as possible for a meeting with the Fuhrer.”
“What evidence can you offer? If your claims are correct, how can you persuade Hitler to see you?” asked Meisinger.
There was a certainty the Abbot conjured with his hands, his voice; as if some ethereal force was sparking to life in the room. He gestured to their seating arrangement.
“We would sit, like you and I do now. Just the two of us: there are some things that need to be secret; I would reveal to him these divine ways. Hidden knowledge and ritual for recognising these immortal energies.”
He looked deep into Meisinger’s soul, as if Fischer was not in the room, and then gestured to the back wall. “Then… when our world and the spirit worlds align, they will show themselves!”
He swept his arm inward. “Three of the Wise Men of Tibet will appear through the wall. To the Fuhrer they will repeat the message I have conveyed. They will give to him many other essential revelations. This will be the best proof to provide Hitler. Proof of the supernatural power at the disposal of the Supreme Initiates!”
That evening, Rudolf Hess climbed up to his Messerschmitt bomber and took a final look back across Augsburg-Haunnstetten airfield. Back to his Bavarian home where he’d laid his provisions in the case on his bed: maps, goggles, a torch, dextrose tablets and two vials of sacred liquid from the Panchen Lama. One last look before he climbed inside the cockpit and turned the key in the ignition.
The Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was the Nazi leader all other Nazi leaders hated. He fought with Heydrich and Himmler particularly, over matters of foreign intelligence and police attachés.. He’d acquired his position through marrying money, pushing people around and always saying what Hitler wanted to hear. His pale eyes were the bottom of a toadstool forehead, the top a slithering silver hairpiece. At his office in Berlin’s Wilhelmstrasse, he paid particular attention to Cable 117: Meisinger’s endorsement of Chaokung as a particularly authoritative Tibetan voice. So important, wrote Meisinger, that Berlin ought to personally invite him there to launch his plan. Fixed to the bottom of the message was Cable 118, marked ‘secret – for the Foreign Office only’. Therein Consul Fischer laid bare the truth of Trebitsch Lincoln: a political adventurer whose Tibetan qualifications were a sham. He wished only to be politically important and even had approached Roosevelt. The ice in Ribbentrop’s eyes melted into red. His forehead wrinkled into jaws with the indignity. He called in Luther, his hatchet man and aide, to compose a reply to Fischer. He would inform Meisinger a precondition of his work at the embassy was to deal only with police work. He was not entitled to report on or deal in Foreign Office matters. When Luther had transcribed the note, Meisinger said he had another job for him.
It was two days later at Police HQ, where Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler was struggling. On top of his usual workload he was compiling data for ‘Aktion Hess’, the planned arrest of hundreds of astrologers, faith healers and occultists. Many of Himmler’s own friends would be on the list. He and Hess had recommended them to Hitler already.
Himmler gave the dossier a rest and dealt with the newly arrived telegram from the Foreign Office. Ribbentrop had forwarded a copy of Meisinger’s Cable 117. As he read it a drop of sweat trickled down Himmler’s chin and pounced on the page. The evidence of Meisinger’s indiscretion was akin to a mob warning: another of Ribbentrop’s power plays happening. There was a knock at the door. Himmler jumped but it was Heydrich, his trusted Chief of Security. Yet Heydrich was pale. He had a letter, sent a letter by Luther. Himmler took it from him and read it over. Luther was also loyal to Himmler, so he hoped for the best, expected the blow to be cushioned. It was not.
By explicit instruction of the Foreign Minister, Heydrich had been advised Lincoln was by birth a Hungarian Jew with insignificant credentials. Meisinger was to be firmly instructed by his his superiors in the Reich criminal Police not to step beyond the boundaries of his job. The Foreign Office outlined that the same applied to the rest of the Abwehr and SS. Politically, Heydrich and Himmler had just both been given a serious bollocking.
A few mornings later, Consul Fischer entered the embassy to the sound of Meisinger swearing. His journey to his office took him closer to the source: The Butcher shoving Louis Siefkin against the wall, twice: arschloch! Flick dich! Bloder dummer Fickkopf! Meisinger smacked Siefkin about the head with a sheet of paper and Fischer whistled as he passed.
By the end of the day, Meisinger’s response to Ribbentrop went through the prescribed service channel, namely Fischer’s office. The language was all defensive: he had only met with ‘T’ in relation to a complaint; the declarations were made on T’s own initiative; he told ‘T’ he had no authority but would relay the proposal to Berlin. Fischer remembered Meisinger grabbing Siefkin’s head in his hand, and decided he would guard his own flank. He wrote another classified shadow telegram for Ribbentrop under Meisinger’s. It coolly stating he’d not interviewed ‘T’ himself. However, Fischer was aware the Hungarian had been invited to the embassy in February by members of the Abwehr.
Outside he could hear Meisinger screaming at Siefkin again. This was over the afternoon’s mail from Heydrich to Meisinger, which Fischer also had the pleasure of seeing. Police Chief Heydrich threatened disciplinary action: surely Meisinger realised the man was a Jew! As Siefkin’s head banged off the wall, Fischer used the noise as cover for a good laugh.
A little over a year later, the Trebitsch incident cost both Louis Siefkin and Hermann Erben their jobs. Japanese command refused to build Meisinger’s concentration camp. Instead, he continued to ferret out Soviet spies in Shanghai, and spoke of the job to his drinking buddy Richard Sorge, a Soviet spy.
Drawn from over two hundred sources, including Bernard Wasserstein’s Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln. Brought to you by patreon.com/andyluke where you can read the full commentaries.
The Bund, Shanghai.
Saturday 18 January, 1936.
Under the tower clock and telephone wires Jacintha watched the ships come and go. Sweat trickled on her neck. Maurice borrowed a trolley from the Cathay to move the boxes. Jiahao, who had not left with Willem and Adeline, pushed it along the Bund. Left onto Nanking Road, left again: away from the Bird Market and Great World amusement centre. He swerved the cart from criss-crossing trams and rampaging rickshaws. They waited for the bus outside Park Hotel. All human life was in this city. Indian policemen watched mah-jong players for ivory gambling. Vietnamese in straw pointed hats spoke with French dealers of silk and cotton. An Italian merchant sat high behind household goods, his radio blaring Rudolf Hess’s speech. There were so many stations to choose from and the city seemed to sound them all. In minutes, the Thomas Cook motor bus arrived and they heaved the trolley on board. The ride quickly passed Jing’An Temple. It went far out to Avenue Joffre and further, through the Badlands. The driver stopped for them on Yu Yuen Road: hamburger and corn beef smells from the Hungaria. The restaurant’s aged proprietor, Stella Szirmay, stood at the entrance in a low cut top, greeting ugly Dr. Miorini and his spouse, Ruby Edwards. Jacintha led the monks on into the Book Mart next door. It was a shop full of new age literature and nazi tracts. The ‘Countess’ thumbed the League of Truth books and prepared their receipt. While Jacintha waited, she made the decision to return home to Singapore.
Chaokung glanced to the upper floors of the Glen Line Building: the German embassy. Only twice since Lincoln M.P.’s appendix was removed did the pain hit: on learning of Stephani’s assassination plot, and when incarcerated in Vienna. Quickly, he looked back to the twenty-five miles of wharf. Back to smoke-stacks of bobbing steamers on the Whangpoo’s brown-blue water. The pain subsided, was soon forgotten as he and Margot walked the harbour. Each day he took a different acolyte and they’d look over the boats for sale. It was six months since Hertha’s suicide. His plan was to take them for a leisurely getaway to Madeira Island, south-west of Portugal. He’d read of breathtaking sea cliffs and tiny villages by mouths of ravines. The Mediterranean climate would be good for their health. A hundred foot floating monastery, would manifest his dreams so perfectly: at least until they reached Tibet. He could see it all, beyond the Yellow Sea. All the opportunity. In South Africa, the largest diamonds. Mexico’s revolutionary new President. America’s tribes self-governing their reservations. The sellers were interested in his idea: he’d already found a captain for ‘The Ark’. Margot was silent during each conversation about credit lines and financial backers. They wanted several hundred dollars in advance; money she knew they didn’t have.
He turned his back on the harbour that let the world pollute China. A world of Donald Duck and Monopoly; of Shirley Temple On The Good Ship Lollipop. Bauer’s legacy was a Germany re-arming, growling at it’s own tail. Himmler and Heydrich’s SS murdered their own: Kapp Putschist Gustav von Kahr; White Internationalist Ernst Rohm. Mussolini invaded Abyssinia, and infuriated MacDonald and Laval. Bonnie and Clyde were dead, Elgar too. There was nothing out there anyway, thought Chaokung.
They took the train along the coast seven hundred miles northeast, to Tientsin. The League of Truth worshipped at Dabei Temple on Tianwei Road. Like Shanghai there were European settlements and an Anglo-American concession. In the Japanese area they found Shoukei Chogen, a calligrapher who brought new funds but was antagonistic with Jiahao. Chogen regarded the Chinese as a sub-species. At sunrise, they gathered around the Future Buddha in Dabei’s Grand Hall, the statues of the Four Heavenly Kings on each side. They prayed by ancient statues of bronze, iron, wood and stone. In the afternoons Chao led them on walks through the Jewish Cemetery, or to the hilltops for mountain views; teasers for Tibet. Or they sat at the benches on the waterfront and watched the ships. In the evenings they returned to the Buddhist House on the corner of Poppe Road and Romanoff Avenue. They were watched by British agents who scrutinised Chaokung’s meetings with Soviets, and reported back to Whitehall. Meanwhile, Chaokung wrote a new book, ‘Dawn or Doom of Humanity’. Over two hundred and fifty pages he expounded the principles of good government, free press, education, national defence and foreign politics. In each case man had a choice to make: embrace the ultimate potential of humankind; or sink into a deep, degrading abyss which threatened all life on Earth. He appealed to readers to cast off false labels of nationality. Yet he failed to intervene in the bullying of Jiahao. Failed to tell Chogen to recognise their shared humanity.
Mid-May 1937, and the dark prophecies of ‘Dawn or Doom’ appear in bookstores. Early June, the Second Sino-Japanese War begins. At the end of the month, the Japanese navy takes out Tientsin’s forts and aircraft. The city falls quickly to three thousand soldiers, though the foreign concessions are left alone. In August, the occupying forces travel seventy miles to suppress Chinese militia, leaving a skeleton staff of a hundred. From the cornfields, rebels machine gun the barracks. Their bodies are burned by four Japanese bomber planes, first of the vicious reinforcements. Chaokung keeps his monks indoors. Jiahao, ready to abscond, finds he is penned in. Reports have come from Shanghai: unbelievable stories of thousands massacred in city-wide bombardment. He’s sceptical, until he sees the photo. The lone baby crying in the smoking debris of Shanghai Station, ‘Bloody Saturday’, is printed in papers around the world. Weeks later a typhoon, among the worst in Hong Kong’s history, claims eleven thousand lives.
William, the First Baron Tyrrell, signs the visitors book. His Foreign Office replacement, Vansittart, meets him in the hall. Socialising usually takes place at the club, but Vansittart is up to his eyes in it. Tyrrell, now seventy-one, is confident he isn’t going to be put to work. Behind the door they hear loud cursing. The impossible man! Cause of all migraines! Vansittart opens up quickly and dresses down his civil servant. Andrew Scott apologises, but Trebitsch Lincoln; again! Tyrrell empathises; chuckles; feels an anger of three decades here. After Whitehall, Tyrrell went to Paris as their Ambassador, and found Trebitsch staring out at him from a Buddhist lecture poster. No sooner had he returned to Britain than Trebitsch arrived at Liverpool docks. He’d assumed, three years later, he was free of the annoyance.
“You’re William Tyrrell aren’t you?” asked Andrew. “Look at this. Jan 7th, 1934: Telegram to George V. ‘Wholly wanton imprisonment in provocative insult challenge to China!’ What?? 28th June, Alexander Cadogan in Peking: ‘Please, I hope the British Empire and I will reconcile.’ Miles Lampson in Shanghai the following year: more nonsense!”
“I hardly see what I can do about any of it,” quipped Tyrrell.
“This Summer: to the P.M. ‘I am a victim of a diabolical vendetta waged by your government’s machinations. I demand honourable amends for all the wrongs perpetrated against me.’”
“Mr. Scott, that is enough,” said Vansittart. “Baron Tyrrell doesn’t want to hear any of this!”
From Scott’s desk, Tyrrell picked up, ‘Anti-Japanese Propaganda’, a new pamphlet from The League of Truth. “I quite understand Mr. Scott’s exasperation… Listen to this. ‘As a resident of Tientsin I declare: I have never seen a better behaved Army of Occupation than the Japanese. They molest nobody, interfere with no lawful occupation…’” Tyrrell dropped the pamphlet back onto the desk.
“Japanese propaganda, more like,” said Vansittart. “Let’s get out of here, William. I’ll buy lunch.”
They were gone, without Andrew Scott gleaning any advice from Tyrrell. He read on: of Chaokung’s description of the New Japanese Empire: just, tolerant, and peaceful. Then, he recorded his last minute on the last page of the Trebitsch Lincoln file.
‘I think the only comment I can make on this is !!!’
Weeks after the fall of Shanghai, reports came from the West the Panchen Lama had died. The leader of Tibetan Buddhism had gone. The same day the aggressors set out for Nanking on killing competitions, transmitting plagues of death-by-rape, two to three hundred thousand people murdered in six weeks. A month later the heartless Japanese warriors bombed Chongqing, turning the brown Yangtze red. From America, Roosevelt excuses Hirohito over Americans killed in Shanghai. Chamberlain appeases Hitler over Czechoslovakia. Global forces converge in Spain as Franco leads massacres in Guernica and Brunete. In Hungary, Regent Miklós Horthy tries to distance his government from pro-German co-operation, set up by his late Prime Minister, Gyula Gömbös. Joachim von Ribbentrop and Martin Luther of the German Foreign Office notify Horthy they are not happy about this. At the end of May 1938, Gömbös’s successor passes The First Jewish Law: millions of Jews are restricted from marriage and employment. Sandor Trebitsch has every reason to be worried when a few weeks later a skinhead in black cloak shows up at his door. She introduces herself as Tao Lo, Margot Markuse, a disciple of Chaokung. Sandor has no idea who she’s talking about. When he reads her letter of introduction he’s less pleased. Krausz comes around that evening and Sandor warms to her. They subject her to such quizzing, allowing her to stay seems only polite.
The following day she walks to the Royal Palace, and again twice that week. Unable to get a meeting she leaves a signed copy of ‘Dawn or Doom’, dedicated to Regent Horthy, and a note from Tientsin.
‘Tortured by nostalgia, broken of body and soul, a tired wanderer on this earth returns to his native soil. The path of glory and success is paved but with sorrow and grief until one rests at the place of his birth.’
Local and international papers want to learn Margot’s story and she impresses many readers with her intelligence. Still, the weeks pass without word from the Royal Court. Sandor tires of her love for Chaokung and tells her all about Ignacz Trebitsch. Finally, Regent Horthy sends a man to fetch her. At that moment, she’s on a train pulling out of Budapest-Keleti. Margot Markuse does not return to China.
The Tientsin escalation drives Chaokung, Maurice and Chogun back to Shanghai, port of last resort. Labourers fill craters were once stood the Palace Hotel; the Wing On department store; the Great World amusement centre. Sassoon House is boarded up and the Cathay Hotel lobby is only boards. A bomb had frozen the hands on her clock tower at 4:27. The rising violence does not spare the respectable Cathay. One day, they see a gun battle break out in front, spitting balls of blood. In the past year, say members of the Buddhist Benevolent Society, they picked eighteen thousand cadavers from the streets. Chinese gangsters still move the opium, but a nastier Japanese strain that boils into blood. On Chaokung’s sixtieth birthday, everywhere he walks he sees beggars with festering sores and eye infections. The monks are anomalies: fixed stoic features in a stream of diverse identities; almost. Chaokung claims to be the tenth Panchen Lama; to another, the reincarnated (fourteenth) Dalai Lama; to another, the Lama Dorji Den.
Shanghai feels the coming war and defies it, taking in boat-loads of Jews Canada and Cuba will not. Japanese barricades are around each foreign concession; checkpoints everywhere. The Germans, once slow to Nazism, are pushed to become fully fledged party members. Consul Martin Fischer strongly resents Goebbels’ new posting, Louis Siefkin. From the consulate, Siefkin transmits the speeches of Hitler and Hess to six Shanghai public radio frequencies. Above the houses of the International Settlement, national flags rise like some great pissing contest. Chaokung has Maurice deliver a press release: a universal appeal for world peace. A few days later the Abbot’s bowels are a disaster zone. Through the night he burns on the toilet in excremeditation. In the morning he learns the Third Reich have invaded Poland. After sleep his pain has gone, but the problem has not. Shanghai sees little evidence of the war in the months coming up to Christmas. The New York Times publish his second appeal: all governments of warring European countries must resign at once. On New Year’s Day Franklin D. Roosevelt pleads for world peace. The Abbot tells the United Press he is going to America to meet with him. He says goodbye to Chogen, to Maurice; to Baron Collenberg and Walter Fuchs; to Baroness Soucanton and Lo Chia-Ling. He says goodbye to Dr. Miorini and Two-Gun Cohen; Mickey Hahn and Stella Szirmay. He says goodbye to Shanghai, whose light is dying. The press gather around as he tells them he has been denied a visa, and that the American bureaucrats are stupid, stupid people, but they are tired. Tired of his old rants of turncoats and treachery. Tired with Trebitsch Lincoln, whose international vaudeville act has had its day.