Guest Post—Shadowboxing; by Anne Barwell
Knights and Pawns
Thanks for hosting me today.
The line between hero and villain is not always as clear as one would think. As a writer I find it much more interesting to write villains who are convinced they’re doing the right thing. In their mind they are the hero fighting for a cause they believe in.
In Shadowboxing—book 1 of my WWII Echoes Rising series—there are several men and a woman who have various ways of justifying their actions. The title for this blog post comes from a recurring chess theme within the story, and the fact that several of the characters enjoy the game, both on the board, and in reality.
SS Standartenführer Karl Holm, the main antagonist in the story, is an interesting character to write. In his mind, his intentions are honourable, and he doesn’t see himself as a villain. Even when he’s interrogating his prisoners, he convinces himself that they brought their torture on themselves. After all, he gave them the opportunity to co-operate, right? He prefers to use good manners and intelligent conversation in order to get the information he requires, only stooping to distasteful violence when it is necessary. Having lost family in the last war, he has little time for traitors and is loyal to the Fatherland.
On the other hand, his subordinate, SS Obersturmführer Reiniger is a man who enjoys violence and hurting people. He is a bully, and unfortunately in a position of power, and will use that to get revenge on those who made him lose face. I’ve written a couple of scenes from his perspective and it was a very unpleasant experience. However, the scenes flowed really well—should I worry about that?
Margarete Huber is a different kind of foe, and although she may appear to be on a particular side, she plays her own game. She isn’t military but has family connections to the person in charge of the project that Holm and Reiniger are tasked to protect. This gives her power that she has no qualms in using for personal reasons, which makes her very dangerous. She is also very manipulative, and influences people and situations from a safe place behind the scenes. Margarete likes to think she can predict everyone’s moves so when someone does something she does not expect, or turns down her advances towards them, she wants to know why. Not only that, but she wants to ensure it does not happen again.
Which of the three would you think is the most dangerous?
Echoes Rising: Book One
Berlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.
For the team sent by the Allies—led by Captain Bryant, Sergeant Lowe, and Dr. Zhou—a simple mission escalates into a deadly game against the Gestapo, with Dr. Lehrer as the ultimate prize. But in enemy territory, surviving and completing their mission will test their strengths and loyalties and prove more complex than they ever imagined.
Michel froze when several gunshots pierced the quiet Berlin night. “Kristopher…,” he whispered. No. Please no.
Beside him, Matt’s head jerked up. He swore loudly. A few moments later, another lone shot followed the first couple.
Walker and Palmer skidded to a halt, doubling back from where they’d gone on ahead.
“Elise’s Kaffeehaus.” Walker panted, trying to speak and catch his breath simultaneously. He and Palmer appeared to be much younger than their companions; Michel wouldn’t be surprised if this was their first assignment in the field. “Gestapo….”
“Matt….” Ken’s previous harsh timbre was replaced by something much gentler, but Matt ignored him and shook his head.
“No.” His voice shook, his words partly echoing Michel’s thoughts. “Not Elise. Please, not her, not now.” Matt leaned heavily against a nearby lamppost, his eyes glazed over.
“We don’t know who fired the shots, sir.” Palmer took over the explanation. At least he could pass for German if he stayed quiet and kept his head down. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that, but there were no guarantees as to which way a particular mission might go. Michel had had that fact reinforced on more occasions than he cared to remember, but too many lives depended on them with this one. It had to succeed. “The Kaffeehaus is swarming with Gestapo, but there is no sign of anyone else.”
“We need to ascertain precisely what has happened before we move in. In order to do that, we will have to get closer.” Ken took charge—although Matt was the ranking officer, he appeared to be in no state to give orders. Whatever his relationship to Elise, this was not the time for him to be dwelling on what might be happening in the Kaffeehaus. Getting Kristopher and the plans to safety was still their priority.
“It’s damn obvious that someone’s been shot.” Matt visibly pulled himself together, although his voice hitched slightly before the word “shot.” “We need to get in there quickly in order to minimize damage. Gabriel, take Walker and Palmer and secure the back entrance. Lowe, Zhou, you’re with me. We’ll secure the front.”
“What if there’s another exit?” asked Liang, disengaging the safety on his handgun.
Matt shook his head, his matter-of-fact tone verifying prior knowledge of both the Kaffeehaus and its owner. “There isn’t. Not unless Elise has done some major renovations, which I doubt.”
“We’re probably more than outnumbered by Holm and his men.” Michel pointed out the inadequacies of the plan. “It would be more sensible to size up the situation first, as Lowe suggested, before we move in. The shot might be merely a warning. We don’t know for certain that someone is injured. If Dr. Lehrer and Elise have been captured, it would pay to wait until….” His voice trailed off, a grotesque image entering his mind—Kristopher lying on the floor of the Kaffeehaus, his fair hair stained red with the blood dripping from a single bullet hole to the temple. Michel quickly pushed it away. Holm needed Kristopher. He wouldn’t risk killing him. Elise could be used to ensure Kristopher’s cooperation. It made more sense that they were both still alive.
“I don’t care.” Matt’s previous calm was replaced by an edge of desperation that made him both unpredictable and dangerous. “I’m not just sitting here and waiting. To hell with procedure.”
About the Author:
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.
Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.
Where to find her:
Dreamspinner Press Author Page:
DSP Publications Author Page: