SS-GB - 1978

Other novels

Plot summary

This novel depicts a Britain after a Nazi victory in WWII, one in which the King is a prisoner and Winston Churchill has been shot. The story follows a police detective, Douglas Archer, who in following up a routine murder case uncovers a web of intrigue involving British atomic weapons research secrets, which the Abwehr is keen to get its hands on.

Archer, of course, now has to report into the SS and when he meets Standartenfuhrer Huth things start to develop as the story brings into play secret atomic research which the Germans are keen to exploit and a plot to murder the King.

Why it's enjoyable

If things had happened differently 70 years ago, this is probably as accurate a depiction of what occupied Britain would have been like as you could find. The book is as usual full of a cast of believable, well-imagined characters who drive the story along. For a Londoner, it’s really strange to read about familiar London landmarks and institutions under the jackboot. Deighton's detailed knowledge of the minutaie of the organisation of the German army and SS gives this account real authenticity.

The photo on the back cover - of an SS march past in Whitehall - is chillingly accurate.

Sample dialogue

'"At school they have a new teacher who told them Churchill - and all the British soldiers - were criminals. My boy came home and asked me why."

"I'll speak to him," said Douglas, "and tell him that his father is a fine man."

"They are told to report parents who go against the propaganda."

"These Germans have brought evil ideas with them."'

Related fact

The cover was designed by Raymond Hawkey. It was he who designed the set of UK stamps with Hitler's head on them, which has become collector's items among the philatelic community. The back cover image - of SS troops marching up Whitehall on the Fuhrer's birthday - works because photographer Adrian Flowers took a photo of Whitehall which matched exactly the angle of an archive shot of SS troops marching through Berlin.

SSGB

SS-GB, UK first edition, 1978

First or third?

Len Deighton was three quarters of the way through his first draft of the novel when he determined that the story needed to be in the first person, not the third person. He had to start the whole thing again