ARCs AVAILABLE NOW: A Reluctant Spy – Miller Caldwell
‘A Reluctant Spy is just what the best historical novels should be; the individual’s story from the heart of great events.’
Following the death of her German husband in 1938, Hilda prepares to visit her native Scotland to help her ailing parents when she is approached by the Gestapo and asked to report all northern airfields and any troop movements to them.
Upon her arrival in the UK she reports this to the authorities and is interviewed by MI5, who learn that she will be returning to Germany. They ask her to spy on the German Reich.
As the war begins, Hilda is trained in espionage by the Germans before being sent to Portugal to receive messages from America from recently naturalised German citizens. Realizing the consequence of these messages, she feigns her suicide and reports to the British Embassy in Lisbon who fly her back to the UK.
She reveals the American spy ring and 33 individuals are subsequently convicted. Hilda spends the rest of the war working at Bletchley Park, sharing her knowledge of Germany and translating technical German documents for the British.
At the end of the war Hilda is cited as a witness in the case of Gerhardt Eicke at the Nuremberg trials, where her evidence is cruelly challenged.
Hilda’s post-war life takes her abroad as a British Ambassador’s wife.
This extraordinary story is based on the life of the author’s great aunt and includes several authentic accounts.
Mathilde Vuillermoz has been responsible for European TV channel, ARTE buying screen rights of the book for a documentary, a testament to the quality of the research and authenticity of the story. Mathilde first contacted Miller after coming across an article mentioning his Great Aunt and her extraordinary life story in a local newspaper, explaining that Miller was in the process of turning her unique and fascinating life story into a book.
About the Author
He has been writing since 2003 when he retired from being the Regional Reporter to the children’s Hearings (The Scottish legal system for supervision requirements and for cases of freeing for adoption or fostering.)
Miller has previously published 3 children’s books, 10 novels, 4 biographies and 3 self-help books and has also written the as yet unpublished Caught in a Cold War Trap. A Reluctant Spy will be published in September.
All of Miller’s books can be seen on his website.
The author has served time as a committee member of the Society of Authors in Scotland, and was their events manager. His book, 7 point 7 On the Richter Scale, in which he recorded his confrontation with Usama bin laden in 2006, led to him being interviewed by the BBC. An interview on BBC Orkney was the result of the island of Rousay being used as the setting for The Crazy Psychologist. Miller has also been interviewed by BBC Solway about most of his other books, starting with his first, Operation Oboe, which book – thanks to the Co-operative Society – he took on a tour of Scotland.
President J J Rawlings of Ghana was given a copy of Restless Waves (a travel book) when Miller called at his residence to give him photos of his late Scottish father.
Herr Eicke took a cigarette from a silver swastika emblazoned case. He tapped the cigarette twice against the case. He lit up and inhaled a second time before blowing a stream of blue smoke towards the ceiling. Then he turned to look at her. His eyes seemed to be closer together than ever, his eyebrows almost colliding. Eventually, he said, ‘Since 1912 you have been a German wife. You will be the mother of a brave German soldier soon and so I expect you will retain a firm loyalty to the ideals of our Fatherland in all its aspects?’
Hilda felt the atmosphere change for the worse.
‘Yes, of course,’ she replied firmly, keen for her conviction to appear genuine.
‘It would be good if you would keep in touch with me, not on a personal basis of course, although I would always value your friendship if it were granted.’
Hilda’s lips tightened. ‘I am confused, Herr Eicke. I am going to be in Scotland for a while. I cannot see how I could be of interest or assistance to you when I am there.’
‘Forres is in the north of Scotland, isn’t it?’ he asked curtly.
‘How do you know that?’ Suddenly she was on edge once more.
‘Otto has only told the truth. He told me you would be staying with your parents in Forres at their hotel, is that not so?’
‘Well, of course, I have to go somewhere when I arrive, and it is my parents’ home.’
‘Of course.’ Herr Eicke placed his cigarette ash in the ashtray on the mantelpiece. His spectacles slipped down the bridge of his nose and his expression grew more and more solemn.
‘We have our contacts in that area.’
Hilda let out a gasp of astonishment. ‘I doubt that, Herr Eicke. What a claim. It is in a remote part of Scotland, and it is most unlikely that you have German agents there. It would be a waste of their time.’ She laughed at the thought of German men entering Mr David Harvie’s baker’s shop in Forres without being noticed. Herr Eicke seemed uncomfortable as he threw his cigarette end into the fire.
‘You know the airbase at Lossiemouth and the garrison at Fort George?’ he asked.
Cold sweat trickled down Hilda’s back as she realised Eicke was quite serious and was playing his hand with both caution and precision. A moment’s silence seemed to pass at a snail’s pace. The rhythmic ticking of the grandfather clock in the hall stopped as it prepared to strike four.
‘If you already know about these places, what use am I likely to be?’ she asked guardedly.
‘Frau Richter, there are bases we would need if there was war against Russia and a naval attack on our country. We would rely on the British in such an event. If they refused, well… we would have to take the matter into our own hands. I’m sure you understand?’
‘I see. You need British assistance.’
‘Exactly. Our agents may not speak such fluent English as you do. They may need some help; some reassurance perhaps. Or even just the opportunity to speak to someone who is familiar with both languages and cultures and who shares their love of the Fatherland.’
She felt trapped. ‘I would have no hesitation in helping any stranger who needed it, whether they were German or any other nationality.’
Eicke gave a long sigh. ‘Yes, true, I am sure you would. Nevertheless, if there should be a war, would you help our cause? In fact, Frau Richter, exactly where would your loyalties lie?’
This question had been at the forefront of her mind many times over the last few months, and she had gone to great pains to avoid answering it. She turned away from Herr Eicke in an attempt to compose herself.
‘Why would Germany be at war with Britain?’
‘We have no intention of being at war with our friends, of course.’ Herr Eicke began to walk up and down the room, staring at his feet awkwardly. When he looked up, his eyes seemed to pierce through to Hilda’s heart. ‘Should it come to war, you realise the Gestapo has to secure its borders.’
‘Naturally. That makes sense. Herr Eicke, I think you have a lively mind. You seem to enjoy playing games. Britain has no land borders, you realise?’
He seemed annoyed at her attempt to lighten the mood. ‘Then let me make myself clearer, Frau Richter. Your sister-in-law Renate and her husband Karl, Otto’s guardians. We don’t want any weakness there, do we?’
She looked down at her hands and found them so tightly clasped together that her knuckles were white. Beads of sweat broke out on her forehead and nipped her eyes as they ran down. Why was he mentioning her brother and sister-in-law? She took out her handkerchief and dabbed her running sweat.
‘Most loyal Germans are keen to attend rallies when the opportunity arises,’ he went on. ‘I think I can say quite confidently that neither Karl nor Renate Richter have ever attended such grand occasions.’ He paused to allow her to absorb his allegations. ‘They may have to be given some… encouragement… perhaps?’
‘And just what do you mean by that?’ she asked, placing a defiant fist on her hip.
‘Times are changing. Everyone must change with them, everybody, with no exception, including Karl and Renate. We must all support and serve the Fuehrer.’
She was incensed. ‘Karl and Renate do support him, as does Otto as you know. Karl is a busy dentist and his wife is his secretary. They work long hours.’
‘It’s my job to mend the cracks, Frau Richter. You don’t see them, do you?’
‘I only see what is right.’
He nodded slowly, clearly impressed by her determination. ‘Then we agree.’
Hilda had a strong sense that she had already lost the argument. She could not compete with Eicke; she could only confront him. She drew herself up to her full height and raised her chin.
‘What exactly are you expecting of me, Herr Eicke?’
Now he spoke a little more warmly, ‘Troop movements in Scotland, Frau Richter. That would be interesting information for us. New and existing air bases too. We need their exact locations, please. Nothing else at present, I assure you. We will contact you when we need to.’ He clicked his heels and gave a little bow. ‘I am glad you see the need to remain loyal to the Fatherland. Rest assured that Renate and Karl will be treated fairly. As I said, you will hear from me or one of our agents abroad at the right time.’
Hilda was speechless. The wind had gone out of her sails. She stood aside to let him pass as he headed out of the lounge. He made for the front door with a parting shot.
‘Frau Richter, I have a very high regard for you and know you will not disappoint me.’
She opened her mouth to reply, but no words came out.
As the door closed firmly behind him, she sagged against the wall and groped for her handkerchief to dab her forehead once more. The German war machine had found her. She had become a cog in its grinding wheel. It had entrapped her. She bit her fist.
It took her no time to realise exactly what was required of her. She was to spy for Germany against Britain, her real homeland.