Dr. John Bart

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Sobbing on a lover's shoulder

Outline This is a love story told by a man who is in retreat in Mexico just after the Second World War. He is close to the group of men who eventually parachute into Czechoslovakia and kill Reynhard Heydrich. The narrator considers himself “The Judas of Lidice”, believing, as he does that information he let slip was used to implicate the village whose innocent inhabitants were are killed in reprisal. To compound his unhappiness, he thinks his lover, a beautiful Russian diva, is lost to him. This series of events is described in Book 1.

In Book 2 an opportunity for redemption presents itself, bound up with the opportunity to reconnect with his lover. He witnesses the assassination of Jan Masaryk, the popular Czech foreign minister, by agents of Beria’s secret service, on orders from Stalin. Though he cannot prevent the minister’s death he helps hold the new Czech Communist government up to ridicule when they proclaim that the minister committed suicide.

The novel is loosely based on real events.

Author: John Bart. Retired family physician. One previous novel: “Middenrammers” (publisher Freehand books) on the strength of which I was short-listed for the Kobo emerging authors prize, 2016. Subject: the plight of women when denied their reproductive rights.

Contact:drjohnb@rogers.com

Bio of real life characters mentioned in the novel

Masaryk: 14 Sept 1886 - 10 Mar 1948
Jan Garrigue Masaryk, son of the first president of Czechoslovakia, was described as a “brave, honest, turbulent, and impulsive man.” A talented pianist and musician, he was the popular foreign minister of Czechoslovakia during and after the Second World War, until his death.

Novotna: 23 Sept 1907 - 9 Feb 1994
Jarmila Novotna, Prague born star of the Metropolitan Opera from 1940 to 1956, lived the greater part of her life in New York, to where she fled at the outset of the Second World War. Accompanied by Jan Masaryk on the piano, she made a record of Czech songs to commemorate the massacre at Lidice. The communist government would not allow it to be played in Czechoslovakia and it was not heard there until after the Velvet Revolution in which the communists were deposed.

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1969-054-16, Reinhard Heydrich

Heydrich: 7 Mar 1904 - 4 June 1942
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich, described by Hitler as “the man with the iron heart,” was a main architect of the Holocaust and instigator of Kristallnacht. He became known as the Butcher of Prague because of his murderous “Germanisation” of the population under his rule, during which huge numbers of Czechs died.

Josef Stalin: 18 Dec 1878 - 5 Mar 1953
Josef Vissarioniovich Stalin, paranoid dictator of Russia, was responsible for the death of twenty million people. He was known to have said, “No man, no problem” and was ruthless in following his own dictum, using gulags and forced labour camps to cull opposition to his rule.

Beria: 29 Mar 1899 - 23Dec 1953
Larvrentia Pavlovich Beria, a murderous serial rapist, was head of Stalin’s secret service, the NKVD. He carried out his master’s plans with such zeal that Stalin called him “my Himmler.” Greatly feared by his peers, he died on his knees, while crying and begging for his life. His wish to become ruler of Russia was thwarted by other ambitious men in the Politburo, who killed him at the first opportunity.

Places in order of their appearance in the novel

Baja Peninsula
This long spit of land in Northwestern Mexico separates the Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico. It stretches 1247km from the town of Mexicali in the north to Cabo San Lucas in the south. It is beloved by sun-seeking tourists and migrating Grey whales.
The Serpentine in London, England
This 40-acre recreational lake in Hyde Park was created at the behest of Queen Caroline, in 1730. Nearby is a well-known bronze statue of Peter Pan. Londoners were in the habit of walking around the lake, or rowing along its curved length in boats they could rent from custodians, known as “Parkees.”

London during WWII
The capital of Great Britain endured the Blitz, aerial warfare perpetrated on the civilian population on Hitler’s order, for fifty-six of fifty-seven days following the 7th Sept 1940. The Luftwaffe’s bombing of the city resulted in 20,000 civilian deaths and the destruction of more than one million homes.
New York.
At the time of the novel the Big Apple was linked to Europe by sea, rather than by air.

Czechoslovakia
This country was created from the rump of the Austro-Hungarian empire, at the end of the First World War. By 1933 it was the only functioning democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. Its population was made up of 51% Czechs, 16% Slovaks, 5% Hungarians, 4% Rusyns, and 22% Germans, who lived mainly in the Sudetenland. Hitler used fictitious claims of persecution by this latter population as the excuse for his invasion. From 1939 to 1945 the country was incorporated into Nazi Germany, though there was a government in exile, of which Jan Masaryk was a senior member. After a brief interlude Czechoslovakia became part of the Soviet Bloc in 1948, where it remained until the Velvet revolution 1989. In 1993 it split into two separate countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Lidice
A small village in the Kladno District of the Czech Republic, it lies 22 km northwest of Prague. The partisans who parachuted into Czechoslovakia and assassinated Heydrich were said to come from Lidice. This was not true. Nevertheless, 192 men, 60 women and 88 children were killed by the Germans in reprisal. Other women and children were sent to concentration camps. Only 4% of all Czechs sent to these camps survived. The village was raised to the ground, as was the village of Lezaky. Many other Czechs would also have died except that Hitler feared that an indiscriminate purge would hamper the war effort, which relied on the expertise of the enslaved population. Thousands of innocent people did die on his orders, however. When the news of the massacre was proudly disseminated by the Germans, who made no effort to conceal their actions, two small villages, one in Mexico and another in the U.S.A. changed their names to Lidice.

MalaStranaFromHill

Prague
The capital of Czechoslovakia is the largest city in the country. It was formerly the capital of Bohemia and the seat of power of several rulers, including Charles IV, holy Roman emperor. At the outset of WWII it had 850,000 inhabitants.

Hradschin Prag

Hradcany Castle
Founded in the 9th Century, A.D., it is said to be the largest castle in the world. It is 570metres in length and 130metres wide. St. Vitus cathedral is situated in its grounds. Jan Masaryk, foreign minister of Czechoslovakia, had his office there, on the second floor. It was claimed that he committed suicide by jumping from its window.

The Whale

Anim1723 - Flickr - NOAA Photo Library

The whale mentioned at the beginning of the novel is a Gray Whale. This species of baleen whales migrates yearly between feeding and breeding grounds. It may reach a length of 15metres, weigh some 36 tonnes and live between 55 and 70 years. One gray whale set the record for the longest recorded mammalian migration by covering 22,000 kilometres across the Pacific.


Dr. Bart shortlisted for the 2017 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

Dr. Bart has been nominated to the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize shortlist. For more details, visit http://news.kobo.com/press/releases/third-annual-kobo-emerging-writer-prize-shortlist-announced.


Dr. Bart's novel: Middenrammers

Middenrammers Cover Photo Set in the UK in the 1970s, Middenrammers follows the story of young Dr. Brian Davis and his efforts to adjust to his new job in a Yorkshire fishing town. The town’s only hospital permits no contraceptive advice, or abortions. Dr. Davis and Woodie—the midwife he falls in love with—regularly come face to face with the terrible repercussions of these policies. Because they refuse to accept the attitude of the hospital administrators—who believe that the right thing to do is to restrict choice and deny reproductive options—the course of their lives is changed as much as those of the patients.

Told in graphic detail, the novel drives home the link between reproductive rights and social justice, while reminding us that a few decent people can make a world of difference.

The book is available in stores now. To order a copy online, visit: