Valkyrie Day post: Operation Flash, Ep. 2 update

Today, July 20, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of Operation Valkyrie, the last assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler (y”sh).

The original “Operation Valkyrie” was a contingency plan of the Ersatzheer (idiomatically: reserve army, home army) for suppressing internal unrest in such events as an uprising by the millions of coerced foreign workers in Germany, or in the event the Führer was dead or incapacitated. During 1943, the plan was substantially rewritten in secret by several staff officers involved with the Resistance to exclude participation of the SS and other NSDAP-affiliated organizations, to facilitate a quick takeover of the country following a successful assassination. Most of the rewriting was the work of Maj.-Gen. Henning von Tresckow, chief staff officer of Army Group Center and in many ways the mastermind of the conspiracy, as well as of a gravely wounded general staff officer sent home from North Africa for convalescence and reassigned to the General Army Office on Bendlerstrasse: Col. (GS) Claus Schenk, Count von Stauffenberg. It was this fascinating man (I cannot do justice to Peter Hoffmann’s biography by selective quoting) who would eventually carry out the doomed attempt.

Operation Flash, Episode 1, describes an alternate timeline in which a previous plot, Rudolf von Gersdorff’s attempted suicide bombing at the Berlin Arsenal on March 21, 1943 had succeeded. (The one other departure from actual timeline I allowed myself is that the Valkyrie rewrite had been completed earlier than actually happened in our timeline.) Then the conspirators — despite extensive preparations for and political discussions about “the day after Hitler”, in both timelines — discover that killing the Führer and the Reichsführer-SS was actually the easy part.

Normally, Episode 2 would have been released today, but life and day job got in the way. I have just received the annotated rough draft from my editor, and am now aiming for a mid-August release.

Let me end this post on a musical note. Beethoven wrote this composition as incidental music for Goethe’s play Egmont, about the Flemish count who stood up against a different tyrant and paid with his life for it. His name is still remember in the Lowlands to this day as a fighter for freedom of religion and a martyr for (what ultimately became) Dutch independence.


Operation Flash, Episode 2 update

Life happens, work happens, and I’ve been running at peak capacity on both fronts.

Nevertheless, I have been making progress on the sequel to “Operation Flash, Episode 1” and hope to have a first draft ready soon. Actually, after restructuring my time line, a number of already written chapters were deferred to Episode 3.

Episode 1 currently holds a 4.8 Amazon review average (most of the reviewers completely unknown to me), and a number of people have told me they can’t wait for Episode Two. That is motivating and a little daunting at the same time — I would rather spend a bit more time to ensure the sequel is not a letdown.

Now back to the writing desk with me 🙂

Sarah Hoyt on covers for Alternate History novels, and for “Operation Flash”

In a series on book covers that is running on Mad Genius Club, Sarah Hoyt explains some of the challenges in designing an alternate history book cover. One of the examples she uses is “Operation Flash”.

I have, btw, recently done this cover for Nitay, who is a friend, but also the first client for my business (Covers Girl.  The website will be up after Liberty con.  I just haven’t been home long enough to devote a weekend to setting it up.)

In this novel someone kills Hitler, and history diverges.  The problem is that it’s almost impossible to convey in a cover, at first sight. I mean, if Hitler had been stabbed that would be doable, but blown up…  well.

So, I tried to convey confusion and that the Nazis still go on.

Sarah’s cover for “Operation Flash”

She told me at the time she was inspired by Harry Turtledove covers. Most of the image was actually rendered in Daz/Poser, with some details added in by hand.
Note she hadn’t read the book: as she discusses here, a book cover needn’t be “the perfect scene from the book”, because that would only make sense to people who had read it! Instead, you’re trying to get people to pick the book up, and so you want to signal the genre and the general setting and subject matter.

Critical praise for “Operation Flash, Ep. 1”

Excerpted from a long review on Goodreads by frequent reviewer Pat Patterson:

By combining historical figures with fabricated point-of-view characters, Arbel gives us a behind-the-scenes look at a history that was ALMOST ours. It’s really a matter of moments that prevented this scenario from taking place, and it’s a story that deserves wider attention.[…]

I’m not sure exactly how he does it, but to me, Arbel seems to be writing of that time as a contemporary writer would. The scenes and characters seem to me to be thoroughly authentic, and NOT 21st century moments rotated backwards 80 years. Some of it, I’m certain, has got to be his familiarity with the language and the scenes, as they were in this period. I will leave it to others to dissect his technique[…]

I was utterly fascinated by this work[…]I devoured it in one session. It’s that good. I am looking forward, oh, yes I am, to more in this series, and I also hope that Arbel’s work gets the attention it deserves. […] it’s just too good to languish in obscurity.

The short book is just $0.99 on Kindle at

D-Day plus 75

Never forget D-Day. See also the veteran who at age 97 (!) re-enacts his parachute jump with the 101st Airborne Division 75 years ago:

Cat Rotator's Quarterly

Grandpa Carl’s first visit to France began with the emergency bail-out signal. His plane had been hit by flack and the pilots could not keep it in the air (it was sort of on fire.) Windy, loud, dark, and dangerous was his impression of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He landed in a hedgerow, upside-down. Not the best way to begin an all expenses paid walking tour of western Europe.

He said he was lucky – he wasn’t in one of the gliders or in a tank. Tanks attracted unwanted attention.

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“Operation Flash, Ep. 1” now #3 in Alternate History SF on Kindle

I have trouble believing I am typing this. Here is the screenshot for proof.

In the wider category, “Alternate History”, it is at #8

In both categories it is the #2 new release. In all “War Fiction” it stands at #20.

It takes fewer copies to achieve that than one might think, but more than I dared hope I’d ever sell.

Operation Flash, Ep. 1” is just $0.99 on Kindle, and free with Kindle Unlimited.

RIP Herman Wouk, z”l (1915-2019)

Just days shy of his 104th birthday, the great Herman Wouk peacefully passed away in his sleep. Here is a brief interview with him from 2017.

Below is the author reading from his own work at the Price Center at UCSD.

Mutiny on the Caine (his breakthrough, inspired by his wartime experiences on the minesweeper USS Zane) and the monumental epics The Winds Of War and its sequel War And Remembrance“”,… need no introduction: they are just his best-known works of fiction. (I am quite partial to “The Hope” and “The Glory” as well.) He would occasionally venture into nonfiction as well, notably “This is my G-d”, an eminently readable layman’s introduction to Orthodox Judaism.

But one book I personally cherish especially was the half-hilarious, half-poignant novel “Inside, Outside” — the closest thing to an autobiography this giant of modern American literature ever wrote. Many characters and events around the first-person protagonist, I. David Goodkind, closely parallel people and occurrences in Wouk’s own life. Like Wouk, Goodkind’s parents were Orthodox Jewish immigrants from the Minsk area [then part of Tsarist Russia, now the capital of Belarus], and his “Zaide” (Yiddish for grandfather) was a rabbi of some note back in “The Old Country” who never quite took root in the USA. Goodkind’s father (like Wouk’s) ran a laundry business, and Goodkind/Wouk got his professional start as a gag writer — in real life for Fred Allen, in the novel for the impossibly foul-mouthed, Falstaffian “Harry Goldhandler” (loosely based on David Freedman).

Goodkind goes through a rebellious phase where he gradually turns his back on religious observance and lives as a bon-vivant, until (after a stormy but doomed romance with a showgirl of great beauty and less great brain) he meets “Jan”, the love of his life, whom (like the real-life Betty Sarah Brown Wouk, z”l) he credits with putting some sense into him. Unlike Wouk, Goodkind settles down as a lawyer, while Wouk becomes a professional writer. One legacy of Wouk’s early beginnings is the humor with which he leavens the sometimes dead-serious subject matter of his books: not just verbal wit, but occasional (especially in Inside, Outside) slapstick comedy and even ribaldry.

I do not know if the never-do-well Uncle Yehuda with his ever more bizarre ‘get rich quick’ schemes is based on a real relative. The real Wouk had an older brother, Victor Wouk, who was a pioneer in the development of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Two of Goodkind’s foils were classmates from school: the scoffing, self-centered, sex-obsessed novelist Peter Quat (a thinly veiled Philip Roth) and the physics professor Mark Herz, some of whose ruminations on science and faith were inspired by discussions between Wouk and Richard P. Feynman, his onetime neighbor in Aspen, CO. This passage from the novel hit me like a hammer when I read it:

[Goodkind:] “What can you know about G-d? You either believe or you don’t.”
[Herz:] “[…]You can know almost anything about G-d, provided you put the right questions to Him. You have to learn how to put the questions, and they have to be accurate and airtight. […M]y father, for instance, doesn’t know that two atoms of hydrogen bind with one atom of oxygen to form a water molecule. Yet it’s G-d’s truth, and an important one. You don’t know it […] you believe it because you read it somewhere, or a teacher told you. I know it. I’ve put the question, and He answered, straight out. G-d will answer a high school boy. He asks only that you use common sense, pay very close attention to Him, not be sloppy, and count and measure correctly. G-d ignores sloppy questions. Sloppiness is the opposite of G-dliness. G-d is exact. He is marvelously, purely exact. Theology is all slop. Moses gave the best answers you could get, three thousand years ago, and he was no theologian.” 

In the video below, Wouk’s son Joseph recites Kaddish for him. Yehi zikhro barukh — may his memory be blessed.