Sunday, 27 July 2014

Thoughts Upon Finishing Part Two and the Epilogue and the Appendices

Remind me again, what was it that motivated Rohmer to write write this book? Oh, yeah, something about a Time article about Kluge’s attempt to “discuss surrender”, the Dulles book’s claim that the feldmarschall had “made a futile attempt to surrender”, Dr. Udo Esch’s recollection that Kluge “considered surrendering” and, finally, Hitler’s statement that “Feldmarschall von Kluge planned to lead the whole of the Western Army into capitulation…”

Emphasis mine.

Webster’s dictionary defines marriage as something tangentially related to surrender, capitulation and copulation. Armistice is a different thing altogether. Still, I was willing to give Rohmer a chance. Really, who can resist a tease like this: “Hitler’s statement was only a hint at what had happened on 15 August. It was the tip of the iceberg.”

Surely Rohmer doesn’t mean to suggest that the day’s events depicted in Rommel and Patton are in some way based on fact.

Apparently so.


  1. What indeed motivated him to write this book? Write about what you know, they always say - and he was there, I'll grant. But not with Rommel and Patton, not in the upper echelons of command. So, as Brian points out, on the flimsiest of a "factual" basis, we get this imagined (or not) episode, populated by character that spend all their time telling each other things they already know, speaking not in German or English, but in Narrative Exposition, an obscure language spoken primarily by participants in WW2 and later 70s politicians, hit men and anyone connected to the energy sector.

    I'm trying to get this one finished but will be out of range for a few days.

    What's next?

  2. All I can tell you both is that everything is explained in How to Write a Be$t $eller, which I read over the weekend.

    Next up is Massacre 747 (or 007, depending). Ripped from today's headlines, oddly enough. But also -- judging by the first 50 pages -- the first almost entirely automated production from Rohmer Enterprises. Very little of the master's hand evidenced, stylistically.

    Did you know Rohmer dictated his books? (See HTWAB$.) His advice to you? Hire a researcher or two -- call the local university -- then, from their work, and the articles they bring you about FISA and the SAS, "write" into a tape recorder. Then hire someone to transcribe it. Then hire a copy editor to copy edit it. Then make sure you have a good editor at the publishing house to edit it to your liking for "style." (Rohmer had one he hated, but he won't name names.)

    The fact that he dictates instead of writing explains some of his Homeric stylistic ticks. Imagine a blowhard Toronto lawyer dictating a very long letter. And imagine him looking for something on his desk, and then finding it.

    "The Prime Minister had heard enough. 'Don't tell me about our soft wood exports...'"

    Rohmer looks for a clipping from Macleans. Finds it.

    "... we've exported over 211,000 board feet this quarter, alone."

    Massacre (again, I just started it) feels like it was put together by Team Rohmer in a couple of days, and he didn't have to time to make it wonderfully repetitive, or the opportunity to turn the research he purchased into awful dialogue.

    1. Hey, I thought Starmageddon was supposed to be our reward for reading Rommel and Patton. I'm fine, either way.

      A tape recorder, you say. Gotta get me one of them.

      Chris Bart, retired professor of Strategy and Governance at McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business, was one of Rohmer's researchers. He's thanked in Patton's Gap for "digging out facts for many of my books, both fiction and non-fiction." I think the sort of things dug out - not up? - had to do with numbers of aircraft and tons of bombs dropped on any given day than, say, the distance at which one can read the Peace Tower clock.

      Revelations involving recording technology aside, my favourite piece of new info concerning the Rohmer method comes courtesy of a 29 May 1984 Ottawa Citizen story in which the author reveals that he is "not a library person".

      Writes reporter Noel Taylor: "Instead he hires Dr. Chris Bart, an economics professor at McMaster who doesn't travel much, but whacks up a whopping phone bill." The same article reveals that it took the professor two months to amass "most of the raw material" for Massacre 747.

      Now that's what I call research.

      The Book of Books featured a political thriller put together the Richard Rohmer way. Don't know if it was your dad who wrote that one, Chris. It's in the house somewhere… but where? Next to the extension cords? The fuse box? The space heater?

  3. "The White House is Sinking" by Jeff Greenfield. Hilarious, as I recall.