By Marilyn Baron
I’ve heard and read many times the Faulkner quote that, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” Faulkner was paraphrasing the popular piece of writing advice by British journalist, critic and novelist Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a Professor of English at Cambridge, who advised his students to “…murder your darlings.”
Sounds like a novel about serial killers (which I do write), and the quote has many interpretations. But essentially I take it to mean that during the revision process you should do away with superfluous words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, even entire chapters, if they don’t move the story forward, even though you may be sentimentally tied to them.
I believe my editor at The Wild Rose Press had this quote in mind when she suggested I cut two chapters from my romantic thriller Under the Moon Gate.
“I believe you lose the reader in the parts that have a lot of historical detail that doesn’t move the story of Nathaniel and Patience along, or even that of William and Diana. I’m referring in particular to the scene where Canaris visits Hitler at the Eagle’s Nest and the one where William accompanies his father-in-law to London to visit Churchill in his War Rooms. The information these supply could more palatably be rendered in conversations in Bermuda, one with Nighthawk, perhaps, and the other at the dinner table or at a social gathering of some other type where the men are talking. Our readers are after the romance; my preference is to educate beyond that, with historical fiction or any other, but the romance must still be primary.”
I did end up cutting those two chapters, but I’d like to share one of my “darlings,” that ended up on the cutting room floor. I was especially sad to lose this chapter since I had visited Hitler’s retreat on a trip to Austria and I’d also seen Churchill’s War Rooms in London.
[The former] Chapter 10
“That will leave the U.S. coast defenseless when we turn our attention to America.”
Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s Retreat in the Village of Obersalzberg on the German-Austrian border
July 16, 1940
Rear Admiral Wilhelm Franz Canaris had misgivings as he rode the cavernous brass-lined elevator four hundred feet straight up the mountain for a private meeting with Adolf Hitler.
On a clear day, the view from the Führer’s mountaintop retreat in the German Alps, near Berchtesgaden, was magnificent. You could see all the way into Salzburg. But today, it was eerily overcast, and the cloud cover and fog had rolled in suddenly and ominously. July was usually the warmest time of year, but it was a different story at 1,834 meters above sea level. The mist all but obstructed both the outline of the mountain range in the distance and the view of the valley below.
Canaris walked softly and tightened his jacket in a futile attempt to stay warm against the unseasonal chill. Known as the “Prince of Shadows,” Canaris looked every mysterious bit his part.
As the men strolled past the main reception hall and the large panoramic window, then outside the shelter of the modest chalet-style structure, down the stone steps, and out to the terrace, deep in discussion, the wind had whipped into a frenzy, and the precipitation gave them a light soaking. Visibility was so poor the Admiral couldn’t see two feet in front of him. These inauspicious conditions didn’t bode well for this particular strategy session.
Canaris, also affectionately known as “Old Whitehead” because his hair had gone prematurely white, knew how superstitious the Führer was and how he was governed by his belief in the decree of Providence. The weather forecast was disappointing in more ways than one. As the Admiral tried to mask his nerves and growing sense of unease, a hint of a scowl formed on the Führer’s face even before he started speaking.
Canaris detested Hitler but he loved Germany and, by nature, was deeply pessimistic about Germany’s readiness and the outcome of the war.
“Today, I’ve issued Directive No. 16, ordering preparations for the seaborne invasion of England to begin and to be completed by mid-August,” said Hitler in clipped tones as he gestured dramatically. “I’ve set the date for the start of Unternehmen Seelöwe—Operation Sea Lion—for September 21—and will order the total blockade of Britain by sea and air.”
“Blockade, mein Führer?” asked the Admiral, whose usual habit was to answer a question with a question.
“As you know, Herr Admiral, our plans are for the Luftwaffe to begin attacking England on August 13 to destroy RAF airfields and gain air supremacy against England in preparation for the operation. Once it is under way, we will continue our blitz.”
“Blitz, mein Führer!” the Admiral echoed.
“For insurance purposes, I’ve issued the Bermuda subdirective we discussed earlier,” Hitler added, lowering his voice.
“Subdirective, mein Führer!” Canaris nodded.
“Unternehmen Teufels Insel—Operation Devil’s Island,” clarified Hitler, who was beginning to tire of Canaris’ annoying affirmations. “Are you ready?”
As was his habit, Canaris gave neither a definitive yes or no answer.
“The Island Eagle has assured me that all is in readiness,” said Canaris. “He awaits our signal.”
“And do you trust this Island Eagle?”
“He served under me for a number of years on the Schlesien. He’s brave and intelligent, has already demonstrated superior leadership qualities and a quick mind for codes during his tour of duty as part of his military intelligence training in the B-Dienst. He’s extremely capable. He has a particular talent for foreign languages. And he’s a charmer; very popular with the ladies. That has already proven to be an advantage. I recruited him and hand selected him for this mission. He has accomplished all of his objectives to date. In fact, he’s exceeded my expectations.” What Canaris failed to disclose was that he loved Wilhelm like a son.
Hitler paused, locking his hands behind his back at the waist. Canaris knew better, knew he was treading on dangerous ground, but he had to chance it. The outcome would affect the men under his command, and he would not take chances with their lives. He would not let a crazy wallpaper hanger from Austria dictate terms to him that might jeopardize any one of his boys.
“And, if the Luftwaffe is beaten back, if they can’t defeat the Royal Air Force and the RAF triumphs, what then?” Canaris risked.
The dark head reared, revealing a brooding face that barely masked the violence bubbling below the surface as the Chancellor gripped the wooden rails around the perimeter of the compound.
“We will not fail!” Hitler seethed, spitting fire and flexing his fist at his side in an obvious attempt to remain calm. Canaris detected signs of madness and paranoia slithering out of the cracks of the Führer’s fractured mind. He was obviously losing his already tenuous hold on reality.
“If we do not hold our own in the air, then the Bermuda directive takes on even greater significance,” explained Hitler, attempting to suppress his anger by speaking in a professorial tone as if to a recalcitrant little boy or a feebleminded old man. “We must put our plan into action before the Americans get involved. If we strike at Bermuda now, we stop the flow of food and arms and cripple England for good. The Americans will not be able to justify coming to their defense by meddling in the affairs of a British colony.” The lesson was over.
“Now, do we have the proper controls in place?” Hitler demanded.
“A bird of prey with excellent night vision,” answered the Admiral without enthusiasm. It hadn’t been his idea to have Nighthawk spy on Wilhelm. The man was an amoral butcher. He wasn’t fit to lick Wilhelm’s boots. But he had no choice but to follow orders from higher up.
Canaris could see Hitler had no time for riddles and games. He had other pressing Axis strategy matters on his mind. Canaris’ subordinates held him in high regard, but Admiral Raeder, the navy’s commander, had already made it clear he did not. And Hitler’s impatience was beginning to show. Canaris knew the Führer had controls of his own in place in the person of his Chief of Security Police, one very ambitious Reinhard Heydrich. Canaris had learned Heydrich had his own secret file on Wilhelm von Hesselwhite.
“We’ve got our insurance policy safely tucked away in Dresden,” Hitler confided. “A woman.”
“But my operative is happily married to a woman in Bermuda,” the Admiral objected, realizing Hitler referred to Emilie, Wilhelm’s longtime girlfriend.
“A man never forgets his first love. And now we have an additional bonus to bargain with.”
Canaris hated the idea of causing any more pain to his protégé.
“Everything must be carefully coordinated,” Hitler explained. “We must neutralize the United States before they can come to the aid of the British and resupply their allies. The British will have their hands full. Bermuda will provide a nice distraction. There is no margin for error.”
“At our command, the lights will fall dark and the telecommunications system will go down. The mines have been laid, explosives are in place,” assured the Admiral. “Our U-boats have surrounded the island and are on patrol and on alert.”
“When Great Britain falls, Bermuda will automatically become the property of Germany. But I prefer to err on the side of caution and disarm the island in advance. That will leave the U.S. coast defenseless when we turn our attention to America. When I give you the order, we must strike in concert with our other plans. A great deal is riding on this.”
“When have I ever disappointed you?” Canaris responded.
The Führer seemed satisfied for the moment. “Let’s return to the house before Eva sends out a search party,” he directed.
Canaris welcomed the thought of some steaming hot food and couldn’t wait to warm his hands in front of the massive red-marble fireplace in the rough wood-and-stone dining/meeting room lit by the lonely glow of tapered candles.
“The fog’s so damn thick, I doubt they’d ever find us out here,” the Admiral said, wondering whether he’d ever escape the chill in the air. “I fear we shall never find our way back.”
The chilled air followed them inside.
The prequel to Under the Moon Gate, Destiny: A Bermuda Love Story, was officially released last week. If you’re interested in reading Under the Moon Gate or Destiny: A Bermuda Love Story, Visit my Website at www.marilynbaron.com.
Have you ever had to cut copy near and dear to your heart? If so, I’d like to hear about it.