Friday, July 07, 2006

Now on sale: Twilight of the Dead

The final volume in my trilogy of FIENDS OF THE EASTERN FRONT novels is now on sale, at least according to To whet your appetite for the book, here's an extract...


Sometimes there is little difference between fiction and reality, a narrow margin between the truth and a lie. One person’s fervent belief is another’s falsehood, one man’s recollection merely propaganda in the eyes of a different witness. When it comes to telling the story of the Great Patriotic War between Russia and German, such differences become even more blurred, such distinctions even more meaningless. Much of what happened in that fateful conflict is a matter of public record, as proven by military documents and eyewitness accounts. But the whole truth about what happened remains secret, hidden from the light. I believe it is long past time the truth was told. I was there, so I will tell it - whether or not you believe my version of events is up to you. But everything I am about to tell you is true, no matter how fantastical it may sound.

My name is Victor Danilov Zunetov and I was a soldier in the Red Army during the Second World War. At first I was a kommisar, a political officer charged with ensuring the rank and file showed due deference to our masters in Moscow. My father was an important man in the Communist Party and did his best to ensure I remained safe. But I was determined to fight the fascists who invaded Mother Russia in the summer of 1941. Eventually I secured a posting to Leningrad (now known as St Petersburg), arriving at the besieged city in January 1942. It was there I first met Grigori Eisenstein, a disgraced former officer who served with a shtrafroty, a penal company. These small squads were given the deadliest, most dangerous jobs within the blockade, undertaking suicide missions no sane soldier would attempt.

Fate and my own stupidity conspired to have me join Eisenstein’s company of the cursed. There I discovered the war’s greatest secret, the truth that remains buried to this day. It is a well established, documented historical fact that German armies posted along the Eastern Front were supplemented by soldiers from other countries, such as Rumania and Italy. But one of the war’s dirtiest little secrets is that among the Rumanian warriors was a squad of sinister soldiers from the region of Transylvania. These men were inhuman, a troop of undead parasites who sustained themselves by drinking blood from living humans. German soldiers found themselves caught in an unholy alliance with a cadre of supernatural creatures, monsters they called vampyr. Not all the Germans were happy to fight alongside these fiends. During my time in Leningrad I met a squad of enemy troopers hell-bent on deserting to our side, rather than become thralls of the vampyr. Twice I heard tell of an attempted mutiny against the Rumanians in 1941, led by three brothers named Vollmer. Such tales gave me hope when I came face to face with the bloodsucking fiends.

The leader of the vampyr was an austere, aristocratic figure called Constanta. He wore the uniform of a Hauptman, yet seemed to have a power and command over German troops far in excess of his rank. Constanta’s fate become inextricably linked to that of Eisenstein when the two fought behind enemy lines. The vampyr attacked my commander, tainting Grigori with the vampyr lust for human blood. But Eisenstein used the power of his Jewish faith to delay the infection’s spread, forcing a Star of David emblem into the wounds left by Constanta’s fangs, cauterising the flesh. I helped him stave off the infection, becoming his unofficial second in command. Together we discovered a terrible truth: Eisenstein would never be free of the inhuman taint while Constanta lived. But the Rumanian was one of the most powerful vampyr to walk the earth, created by the father of all the vampyr, a creature known only as the Sire.

By the end of January 1943, the blockade of Leningrad had been broken. Many hundreds of mile further south the brutal German attack upon the city of Stalingrad was finally defeated. The tide was turning in the Great Patriotic War, the German Blitzkrieg had been blunted. For the first time, the Russian people truly began to believe we would prevail against the Nazis. But Eisenstein and I knew there was a menace far greater than Hitler and his cronies abroad in this conflict. All of mankind faced a foe bullets and bombs would not defeat. Until we all recognised the vampyr as our common enemy, the war between nations would continue.

I told the story of my time at Leningrad in a previous volume, a book my publishers entitled The Blood Red Army. Now I will finish the story of my involvement with the vampyr, how it took me to the streets of Berlin and the terrifying interior of Transylvania. The fact I’m writing these words proves I survived – would that I could say the same of my friends and comrades from those final, fateful months of the war. I have pieced together the story of what happened on both sides of the conflict, thanks to what I saw and what others told me. I cannot claim to be the most reliable of narrators, but what follows is as accurate a record of events as my limited skills can create. Most of all, this is the story of my friend Grigori Eisenstein and the sacrifices he made for us all.

Now, I must choose where best to begin my narrative. There is much I could tell you about the events of 1943 and the early months of the following year, but I suppose the beginning of the end came in August 1944, when we invaded Rumania. It was there we first encountered Karl and Gunther and Ralf, there where I first set eyes on my beloved Mariya. Yes, that is as good a place as any to begin. You may choose to believe what follows is fiction, but I know the truth. Read on and judge for yourself…

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