Click Here To Purchase The Grand Mirage

Author: Darrell Delamaide

ISBN: 978-0-9839958-0-7

Publisher: Barnaby Woods Books

Recreating history in the form of fiction has always piqued my curiosity as it forces me to do a little background research to fully understand what the story is all about. And such was the case with Darrell Delamaide's The Grand Mirage where I vividly and graphically traveled back to the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s and the building of the Bagdad Railway- a grand project and the effort of two empires, the German and Ottoman.

The importance of the railway to Germany cannot be over exaggerated as it would enable transportation through modern day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq to Baghdad and then onto Basra. Basra had direct access to the Persian Gulf presenting an immense threat to England, as the Gulf gave directly to the Arabian Sea, the waterway to the coast of India and the jewel of Britain's imperial crown. In fact, the railway did become a source of international disputes prior to World War I and some have even argued it was one of the leading causes of the war.

In addition, during this era there was a great deal of upheaval in this neck of the woods where we had a coalition of various groups favoring reformation of the administration of the Ottoman Empire. The group was called the Young Turks and their movement was against the Ottoman Sultan, favoring a re-installation of the absolute monarchy and resurrecting the Ottoman Empire. In 1908 they established the second constitutional era, which become the Young Turk Revolution and they kept the Sultan as a figurehead. The Young Turks exercised control over the government through the Committee on Union and Progress. Also, there was animosity concerning ethnic minorities such as the Armenians, who were Christian and the Kurds, who were Muslims, the latter having slaughtered 300,000 Armenians in 1894.

Cleverly using all of the aforementioned background material, Delamaide spins his tale around the actions of his principal protagonist, Richard Leighton, 9th Baron Leighton, an Orientalist scholar. Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, recruits Leighton to act as a spy to keep watch on the building of the Baghdad Railway. Leighton doesn't exactly cherish this role as it seemed to him deceitful and in some respects cowardly. Nonetheless, his loyalty to Britain overrules whatever unwillingness he may have initially shown, particularly when he considers the danger if the Kaiser succeeds in getting his Berlin to Baghdad railway. The result could be disastrous to Britain as Germany would become extremely aggressive in Europe and perhaps lead to war. Not to rock the boat, however, the Germans are selling the project on the advantage of rail for trade rather than the possibility of using it as a means of transporting troops to the battlefield.

Leighton agrees to fall in with a caravan to Baghdad and to act as a British scout under the guise of working on some Koran translations. All of this sounds innocent enough and devoid of any great danger, however, as the yarn unfolds, Leighton discovers that the Germans are not very thrilled with his snooping activities and will do anything, including assassinating him, to stop him from finding out their plans. Joining Leighton on the caravan is his loyal valet as well as an American engineer on assignment from the USA who at one time was a member of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders.

Delamaide delivers into the saga all the hair pin turns involving espionage, double dealing, cunning diplomacy, foxy maneuvering on the part of The Deutsche Bank, which is the primary financial backer to the Germans, an unexplained slaughter of railway workmen and international intrigue. Not to be omitted is a love story involving Leighton's ex-Armenian girlfriend Elena -someone we do not learn too much about until the final chapters where she plays an important role.

Although at times I felt the novel`s pacing was a trifle slow, particularly in the early chapters, nonetheless I must commend Delamaide`s awesome achievement in that he has succeeded in intelligently assembling facts and fiction to attain realism that makes the historical setting as chaotic, as well as dangerous, as anything that may exist today in the Middle East. This is a novel that could have easily spun out of control, however, thanks to expertly voiced narration and a skilled evocation of time and place, the tale will linger in your imagination long after you lay it to rest.

Darrell Delamaide is a veteran journalist who has reported from five continents. He is also the author of The New Supperregions of Europe, Gold and Debt Shock.

Click Here To Read Norm's Interview With Darrell Delamaide

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