Wednesday, June 29, 2011


By William Dietrich
Harper Books
417 pages
Available July 2011
ISBN 13 – 978-0-06-198918-6

You realize there are books reviewers are predisposed to like by the title alone.  When the good folks at the New York Journal of Books offered to send me this book, it was because I’d already reviewed an earlier book by the same author and liked it a great deal.  But being brutally honest here, I’d forgotten what that title was until they showed me the cover image to “Blood of the Reich.”  Ah, yes, William Dietrich, I thought, the fellow who created that Revolutionary version of Indiana Jones in his first book, “Napoleon’s Hero.”  Yes, I had enjoyed that historical romp and was curious as to what this new stand alone offering might contain in the way of a fun reading experience.

Once I read the marketing copy, I was hooked.  Nazis scientists racing to Tibet in hopes of finding a hidden mystical power in the lost city of Shambhala.  These plot elements scream pulp pleasure and I knew immediately this was my kind of book.  Dietrich’s background as a naturalist and historian allow him to create outlandish plots against authentic, real world settings and it is that richness of historical data that catapults “Blood of the Reich” into action from page one.

In 1938 Kurt Raeder, a German archeologist, is given an assignment by Hitler’s personal advisor, SS Chief Heinrich Himmler.  Raeder and a handful of loyal Nazis scientists are to travel to Tibet, seek out the lost city of Shambhala and there retrieve an ancient power known as Vril.  Himmler and the members of the arcane Thule Society believe this Vril could tip the balance of the coming war in Germany’s favor and fulfill Hitler’s mad dreams of a Third Reich world conquest.

Raeder is an intellectual sadist and the temptation to achieve personal glory, maybe even immortality, through the success of such an undertaking is much too great for him to resist.  And so the mission is launched.  At the same time, American intelligence agencies discover Raeder’s purpose and recruit their own academic agent, zoologist Benjamin Hood, to go after the Nazis and beat them at their own game.  Failing that, he is to sabotage their efforts and assure Vril never becomes a German weapon.

Now this rollicking race across the world is exciting enough but Deitrich ups the ante by creating a second storyline; this one taking place today.  Rominy Pickett is a computer publicist living in Seattle when she is kidnapped by a mysterious, handsome journalist, who claims her life is in danger from Neo-Nazis.  They believe her to be the great granddaughter of Benjamin Hood.  These want-to-be Nazis have uncovered the records of Raeder’s Tibetan mission and hope Rominy will lead them to rediscover what was found in those rugged mountains back in 1938.  Thus is a smart, witty, normal young woman suddenly hurled head first into a life-or-death race around the globe accompanied by a charismatic stranger who appears to be a physical embodiment of all her romantic fantasies.  But is he really her knight-in-shining armor or someone with ulterior motives using her to achieve his own dark agenda?

“Blood of the Reich” is a barn-storming novel that sets its sights high and never fails to deliver on them.  My singular criticism is that the convoluted mystery of Rominy’s past and her evolution from frightened victim to pistol toting survivalist challenged even my willing suspension of disbelief.  Deitrich’s prose is much more accomplished when dealing with the 30s whereas his modern sequences aren’t as assured.  Still, this book has so much pulp goodness within its pages, I can’t help but recommend it enthusiastically.  It would make one hell of a great film.