Out Now – My Berlin Thriller – Suspense suspended by comedy.


The Last Stop – A Berlin Story

Endstation – Eine Geschichte aus Berlin – jeztz auch auf Deutsch.

Clive’s latest thriller. Get the videos from YouTube

The BNBS cover to look for!

Sample Pages

Chapter 1

‘The bus or train?’

Jack Precious was not ashamed of talking to himself. After all, a simple decision can change a life, and discussing it, even as a monologue, often clarified things. He wanted nothing but a speedy transfer to his hotel.

Jack was the wrong side of sixty, comfortably plump round the middle, thinly thatched on top, spot on the median height for a north-European white male and uninteresting to members of the opposite sex, unless they were widowed or divorced, in which case his more than useful pension as a retired tax inspector would make up for physical shortcomings.

He knew the bus would be quicker, but it was also riskier. Buses always are. They get held up in traffic, are subject to unknown deviations and, as a stranger in town, he hated the pressure of wondering where the next bus stop would be. Furthermore, this particular bus journey would involve a change. Always tricky in a new city. So he did the steady-Eddie routine and headed off, under the sign of a train, towards the station. At heart, that’s what he was – a steady Eddie.

Jack still doubted the wisdom of this move. The bus stood panting and hissing right outside the airport exit – the station was a full five-minute drag of a heavy case, followed by stairs down and up, in order to get to the trains. He could take the ramps, but they seemed endless. However, the weather was bright, cool and fresh so the walk seemed good.

Had he chosen the bus, he later reflected, the following months of his life would have been so different. No! That was wrong. The rest of his life altered the moment he rejected the bus. He was to be thrown from his predestined orbit like a meteor that had come too close to a star. The star was a woman. He would have missed Maria, twenty something, high cheek bones showing an eastern European origin, medium height, dark blue, darting, observant eyes, dressed in a tatty overcoat, despite the fine weather, sitting on her tattier suitcase, in the shadows of the entrance to the station, looking with imploring eyes at passers-by.

If a girl stands in the shadows, then the imploring looks do not attract much attention. He would have overlooked her, too, but Jack was a face person and noticed Maria’s face. Although not pretty, it was interesting. It looked puffy from old tears and the eyes were reddening in preparation for new ones.

Awesome 19th Century Gyles


One of the major contributions to craft brewing

https://tinyurl.com/wkqcnwt

Pale Ale played a pivotal role in the development of commercial brewing. As such it was the beer that defined the industrial revolution. It began the search for industrial, mechanised brewing. It was where modern brewing began. It gave us the discipline we now call biochemistry.
Scientific advances during the early 19th century revealed the folly of dark beer brewing. Business demanded optimisation, but for a short time around 1840 quality was still the number-one consideration. It was the moment in history when the very best beers were brewed – Pale Ale for the domestic market and IPA for the overseas Empire. Essentially the same beer but with a different destination.
Clive La Pensée set out to see if these super-pale beers could be recreated.
He describes what drove the charlatans and the honest brewers, how they prepared liquor, mashed, sparged, what hops they used and how much, how the yeast was pitched, fermentation and conditioning were carried out.
25 classic gyles are described in detail, with Imperial, US and metric units.
Critical notes are included. Everything is ready for you to step back in time and brew some awesome historic ales.
Clive La Pensée has been brewing for 40 years, and his first book – The Historical Companion to House-Brewing was a watershed moment in modern homebrew. He helped the name-change to craft brewing along with his second book, The Craft of House Brewing. Now, Craft Brewing is an internationally recognised concept. Craft breweries abound. You can have one, too. Clive adopted House Brewing to describe the macro-breweries we now have at home, where we hand-craft beers of about 10-gallon length.
This book is a major input to the genre, was first published by CAMRA books and is now home again in a fully revised form.

Gift – Or imagining the dark side.


We are writers. Imagination is our most powerful gift. Imagine the impossible – being a Spitfire pilot in a dogfight, being your sister, especially if you don’t have a sister. Then you have to imagine her brother or sister, too, who isn’t you.

And you can safely imagine your dark side. Crime writers imagine the illegal, without fearing arrest. A vivid imagination keeps one out of trouble. You don’t have to live the risk of a bungee jumper or have the bravery of a gay man coming out to his family at Christmas.

I can imagine things too awful to contemplate, such as now, when I’m imagining a Christmas gift – a very special gift, given to the world Christmas 1941.

The German word for poison, is Gift. Exactly the same spelling and etymology, both words, English and German, come from the Low German, or Dutch word for ‘to give’.

To give a present – to give poison. Giftgas – poisonous gas, such as mustard gas or chlorine, used in the trench war of 1914-18. Gift – a poison or a present.

Hamlet knew! Claudius killed King Hamlet by pouring poison into his ear. Shakespeare continually illustrates that words can function as poison in the ear as well. As the ghost says in Act I, scene v, Claudius has poisoned “the whole ear of Denmark” with his words (I.v.36). The running imagery of ears and hearing serves as an important symbol of the power of words to manipulate the truth.

It’s easy when a gift doesn’t have to be a joyous event.

I know men and women who, when standing under the shower, suddenly imagine it to be the outlet in a gas chamber in Auschwitz. They are jammed in the shower with hundreds of other naked men and women. Intimate body contact is unavoidable. Someone begins to scream. Sobbing can be heard along with clueless questions of little children to their parents.

‘What’s happening daddy? I can’t breathe.’

‘It’s alright my darling. Just remember we have always loved you,’ comes the answer and a tight cuddle.

It’s too late to fight, or even struggle. One wants to live, but considering the terrible things going on around, maybe the end is acceptable. They have walked by the heaps of charred bodies bulldozed into a pit. Is death OK, after that view of death?

The gentle hiss of Giftgas begins. Hands reach up trying to block the jets. Panic sets in. The noise is deafening, the jostling of bodies unable to escape, causes fear to spread. They lose control as the gift wrecks the nervous system, causing them to piss, vomit on each other and defecate. Slowly the panic ebbs and peace sets in. It’s over. 

But not in my imagination. I know the Gift wasn’t quick. If exposure is slow, such as the gas diffusing through a packed room, it took a while. Death, from Zyklon B, preceded by painful convulsions, could take 20 minutes or longer. When used to gas prisoners on Death Row in the US, in a small room, only one victim, times as long as eleven minutes were recorded. That’s a long time to prepare oneself or a child for the worst. For the first time I wonder why they used a cyanide compound in Zyklon B. Carbon monoxide would have been cheaper, more effective and less painful. No convulsions – just gentle sleep.

I’m going to guess the answer. Carbon Monoxide leaves a period of several minutes, in which the victims can still reason and fight, scream, beat the walls of the van, as they did, when it was tried, by diverting exhaust gases into the chamber behind the driver. This upset the perpetrators and their henchmen. The fight for life distracted the driver. They quit after one journey.

With cyanide, there is no way back. By the time you realise, the nervous system is out of control and it is too late.

There probably is another reason I don’t know about, but in that moment of wondering why, I have reduced genocide to an intellectual exercise.

It was a day at the office for someone, when he dealt with that question. Can I imagine being a perpetrator? I just did, when I asked the question about Zyklon B and carbon monoxide.

This is how it works. Someone asked the question, ‘What are we going to do with the Jews?’ Genocide was a solution. That someone sat down and imagined mass murder, ignoring the moral implications. They probably called it ‘planning’.

This planning process happened just after Christmas – January 1942, in a beautiful villa on the Wannsee, outside Berlin. The house still stands and is now a museum to that planning conference. The state needed to know that its various institutions were on board, so that they would commit to their part in the genocide. No opting out, like the drivers.

The so-called ‘Wannsee Conference’ was opened by Reinhard Heyderich, who had already decided the parameters for the mass murder of Jews. He defined, what was a Jew, what exceptions were to be made to Jewishness and that, in the first instance (he still needed to build the infrastructure), Jews would be transported to the East where they would carry out forced labour. He knew this labour would result in the death of the workers, due to the extremity of the work conditions and because he didn’t plan to feed them. He openly spoke about the murder of the Jews. We know all this, because an American soldier found a protocol copy of the Wannsee Conference in a drawer. It was the one that didn’t get destroyed in 1945, when people were covering their tracks. But for that copy, we wouldn’t know there had been a conference, or its outcomes.

I have read the protocol. It is short – barely 1½ pages long, typed on a typewriter, well beyond its sell-by date. What did the typist say when she reached home that evening, when her husband, boyfriend or dad asked what sort of a day she had?

I know that in quiet moments, men imagined committing mass murder. Heyderich mentions a ‘final solution.’ Historians assume the conference members understood what the final solution meant. They imagined death in a gas chamber – not with horror – but with satisfaction. Suddenly, my dark-side imaginings seem sane!

I left the S-Bahn at Wannsee, and because I stood on the wrong side of the road waiting for the bus, I missed it. The next was in 20 minutes but at -15 deg, I figured it better to walk the few kilometres along the lake. I passed the Liebermann House, with a collection of his impressionist paintings. Worth a visit! He was a rich Jew, who died in 1935 and thus avoided deportation. Then I arrived at the villa where the conference took place. I look around, am brave, and go in.

The most awful part of the exhibition is the section on the ones who got away – that was pretty much all of them. A few died as the Russians advanced in 1945 but 90% lived out their lives, post-war, in peace, as respected members of the community, some practicing medicine. That was the State’s gift to men, who had put their imagination to the final test, then shrugged their shoulders and moved on, when it was advantageous to so do.

The state had sanctioned it and the state forgave it.

I wrote in my Berlin novel – The Last Stop.

 ‘He kept listening to it, discussing it, listening to others discussing it, and soon daftness disappeared and lunacy became reason. That’s how propaganda works. If one tells the same lies often enough, one’s brain accepts them as the truth. He had undergone the process.’

 This process was the purpose of the Wannsee Conference and I just imagined, being there. A writer’s imagination can be a curse, as well as a gift.

View from the Wannsee Villa.

Why is this blog under Family History?

I know so many people, who 50 years after the cessation of hostilities, were still so effected by those terrible events.

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