Friday, 27 October 2017

Military History Photo Friday: The Volkshandgranate 45, A Grenade Made Out Of Concrete:


I've been reading Antony Beevor's excellent history book Berlin: The Downfall 1945 as part of my research for my Volkssturm novel. The Volkssturm were a German civilian militia formed in October 1944 in a last desperate bid to stop the Allied advance. The Volkssturm called up all able-bodied men aged 16 to 60 who weren’t already in uniform. It also called up some women.

A passing mention in Beevor's book told me of a weapon I didn't know about--the Volkshandgranate 45, or the "people's hand grenade 1945". This crude grenade was developed in the last months of the war and was the product of a chronic shortage of raw material. By this time most of the Third Reich's industrial base had been taken by the Russians, and the Germans resorted to making hand grenades out of concrete. These would be filled with bits of scrap metal, gravel, and nuggets of cement. The whole thing was fitted with a fuse and some explosive. Beevor says the Volkshandgranate 45 was more dangerous to the user than the target, and yet hundreds of thousands of them were produced in the last months of the war and distributed to the Volkssturm, Wehrmacht, and even some elite SS units.

It just goes to show how desperate the Third Reich had become in the last months of its existence. As the Nobel Prize winning author Heinrich Böll, who was drafted in to the army during the war, put it, the men were fighting not for their country, but for survival, and their only hope was that they would somehow survive after they were defeated.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

The Case of the Purloined Pyramid Has Been Selected For Publication!

My detective novel The Case of the Purloined Pyramid has been selected for publication by Kindle Press. Thanks to everyone who voted for it during my Kindle Scout campaign, and a big thanks to my brother-in-law Andrés for the great cover! Everyone who voted for it will get a free ebook copy when it comes out in a couple of months. When I have an exact publication date I'll post it here.

Thanks a million!

I'm off to Cairo in December to write the next book. More on that later. . .

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Last Few Days to Nominate The Case of the Purloined Pyramid!


I'm in the final few days of the Kindle Scout push for my latest novel, The Case of the Purloined Pyramid. If Kindle Press decides to publish it, those who voted for it get a free copy of the ebook. It's the same contest that got The Last Hotel Room a contract.

I could really use some help for the final push. You can sign in with your Amazon account (or take two minutes to create one) and nominate me. Also check out some of the other good books on there. A blurb is below.

An ancient mystery. A modern murder.

Sir Augustus Wall, a horribly mutilated veteran of the Great War, has left Europe behind to open an antiquities shop in Cairo. But Europe’s troubles follow him as a priceless inscription is stolen and those who know its secrets start turning up dead. Teaming up with Egyptology expert Moustafa Ghani, and Faisal, an irritating street urchin he just can't shake, Sir Wall must unravel an ancient secret and face his own dark past.

You can check out the book's page and read a sample here.

Thanks!!!

Friday, 13 October 2017

Military History Photo Friday: Historic Forts in Saudi Arabia


When we think of Saudi Arabia, we generally don't think of castles, but a fair number dot the arid landscape of the desert kingdom. One of the most impressive is Marid Castle, pictured above. Located in the ancient city of Dumat al-Jandal in the north of the country. The city dates all the way back to at least the tenth century BC. It's unclear how old the fort is, but it existed by 272 AD. It was the site of numerous battles, most recently in 1853 and 1909. During the second attack it withstood a siege of ten months before finally falling.


Perhaps the most impressive fortification was Ajyad Fortress, an Ottoman citadel built in 1780 overlooking Mecca in order to protect the holy city from raiders. Despite the Bedouin being Muslims themselves, they weren't averse to robbing Muslim pilgrims. In a controversial move, the Saudi government demolished the historic fort in 2002 in order to build luxury a hotel for rich pilgrims. This has been part of an ongoing campaign to demolish historic sites, especially ones from the pre-Islamic period or sites that remind the Saudis of the time when they were part of the Ottoman Empire.


Many small forts were built at oases along the pilgrimage route to protect the pilgrims from bandits.  Some date to the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (ruled 1520-1566), who had forts built to protect the main routes. This one at Dhat al-Hajj still stands, although in poorer condition than this photo from 1907 shows. It's a simple structure, but that would be all that would be needed to ward off the Bedouin, who lacked artillery.


A similar fort stands at Al-Ukhaydir, and was also built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. This photo from 1907 shows the fort at the center and some Bedouin tents to the left.


Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons, because that's probably the closest I'll ever get to Saudi Arabia.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Travel Tuesday: Traditional Sephardi Costume from Morocco


On a recent trip to Segovia near Madrid I spotted this in the local Jewish museum. It's a traditional boy's outfit from the Sephardi Jewish community in Morocco. Segovia had a thriving Jewish community until they were kicked out in 1492. Many joined their brethren in Morocco. Nowadays the Jewish community in Morocco, once about ten percent of the population, has dwindled significantly. Many left to move to the newly established state of Israel after the war and a few years later more left when Morocco became independent, fearing persecution. For more on Morocco's Jewish community, check out my post on a hidden synagogue in Tangier.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

My next newsletter coming out this week, sign up for a free ebook!

The third issue of my newsletter, Sean's Travels and Tales, will come out later this week. This issue includes an article on an odd artifact I spotted in the National Museum in Cairo, a short story from my Toxic World series, and a coupon for a free ebook.

So click on this link to sign up to my newsletter. I promise not to share your email with anyone, because that's a sure way to tank my career!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Help Me Win Another Book Contract Through Kindle Scout!


I've just launched a campaign for my latest novel, The Case of the Purloined Pyramid, on Kindle Scout. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the program, writers upload their unpublished book for 30 days, and readers get to vote on them. Those with the most votes are considered for electronic publication via Amazon, with a $1500 advance and 50% royalties. If the book is published, those who voted for it get a free copy of the ebook. It's the same contest that got The Last Hotel Room a contract.

My new book is the one I was writing while in Cairo. It's the first in a mystery/suspense series titled The Masked Man of Cairo in which each book is a standalone novel. A blurb is below.

An ancient mystery. A modern murder.

Sir Augustus Wall, a horribly mutilated veteran of the Great War, has left Europe behind to open an antiquities shop in Cairo. But Europe’s troubles follow him as a priceless inscription is stolen and those who know its secrets start turning up dead. Teaming up with Egyptology expert Moustafa Ghani, and Faisal, an irritating street urchin he just can't shake, Sir Wall must unravel an ancient secret and face his own dark past.

You can check out the book's page and read a sample here. Voting requires you to sign in to your Amazon account or create one if you don't have one. Also check out the other titles, there are some good ones.
Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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