Adult, BOOK PROMOTIONs, Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical

RABT VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR – BOOK REVIEW : WOLF BY HERBERT J STERN & ALAN A WINTER

TITLE : Wolf

AUTHOR : Herbert J Stern, Alan A Winter

GENRE : Historical Fiction

FBRC RATING : 4.5 stars


Historical Fiction
Date Published:  February 11, 2020
Publisher:  Skyhorse Publishing

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 Perhaps no man on earth is more controversial, more hated, or more studied than Adolf Hitler. Yet many questions remain about his personal life and how he gained power. Based on extensive research, the extraordinary novel WOLF, by Herbert J. Stern and Alan A. Winter (Skyhorse Publishing; February 11, 2020), lifts the curtain so that the reader can observe through the eyes of a fictional character, how a seemingly unremarkable corporal who was denied a promotion for lack of “leadership ability” became dictator of Germany. The result is a gripping page-turner, a masterful historical novel.

The story begins in the mental ward of Pasewalk Hospital as World War I ends. A gravely ill soldier, who has lost his memory and is given the name Friedrich Richard, encounters a fellow patient: Adolf Hitler. Suffering from hysterical blindness, Hitler, also known as Wolf, becomes dependent on Friedrich for help with the simplest, day-to-day tasks. By the time Hitler’s sight returns, the two have forged an unbreakable bond.

Upon release from the hospital, Friedrich heads to Berlin to work as a nightclub bouncer, while Wolf moves to Munich where he focuses on turning a fledgling political club into what will soon become the Nazi party. After accidentally killing a man, Friedrich flees to Munich and reunites with his close friend.

Persuaded by Hitler’s convictions about how to rebuild Germany in the wake of its defeat, Friedrich joins the Nazi’s inner circle. Hitler, who in real life often played one advisor against the other – and was not one to rely on any of them – trusts the fictional Friedrich so much so, that he calls upon him to help resolve both personal and national crises that are historically accurate. Throughout the sixteen years covered in WOLF, Friedrich interacts with dozens of people who largely lived the lives the authors depict – from Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels to Berlin brothel-owner Kitty Schmidt and film star Lilian Harvey.

While history has painted Hitler as a man unable to forge lasting relationships, the authors’ research has uncovered that, in fact, he built many lifelong friendships. Hitler was attractive to women and had multiple affairs with young women as well as with the wealthy society matrons who backed the party. These relationships, which are portrayed in WOLF, “have been documented in numerous interviews over the course of seventy years, yet they have rarely, if ever, been reported by historians,” Stern and Winter explain.

During the course of the novel, Friedrich struggles to reconcile his loyalty to Hitler with his own rejection of the party’s anti-Semitism. He never wavers in his friendships with Jews, such as nightclub owner Max Klinghofer and police chief Bernhard Weiss. It is Friedrich who saves Weiss, the highest-ranking Jew in the German police when Goebbels orders him arrested. After this incident, Friedrich promises Weiss to remain by Hitler’s side in the hope that he can help lessen the severity of increasingly harsher laws meant to drive Jews from Germany.

WOLF is a historical novel that will satisfy history buffs and fiction fans alike. For those who want more, the authors’ meticulous research can be accessed at http://www.NotesOnWolf.com. In combination, the novel and the notes deftly answer the question: how did a nondescript man become the world’s greatest monster? This is truly a lesson that no one can afford to ignore.


FBRC REVIEW :

DISCLAIMER : Thank you so much, RABT Tours for having me as a host and providing me with an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Wolf is the story of an amnesiac patient who finds friendship and loyalty and a sense of family in the unlikeliest person ever. Friedrich Richard wakes up with no memory of his life after surviving several fatal injuries from a shell attack. The amnesiac soldier who is taken to the Pasewalk hospital finds himself assisting A hysterically blind person. They form an unbreakable bond at the hospital which then leads our protagonist into making every decision based on his loyalty and friendship for this individual. The story gives us a fresh perspective in understanding Adolf Hitler as a human being, his background and his story without any preconceived bias. The man who is probably the most feared and hated individual on this earth also happens to have a side that is completely charming, captivating and loyal is mind-boggling. This book will definitely shatter our image of Hitler and give us the bare-bones of his story and his life through Friedrich’s eyes. 

Friedrich was seeking connections everywhere in this story. His need for a sense of belonging drives him to make a lot of decisions. His memory loss troubles him and makes him discontent with his life. We see and feel his struggle and his vulnerability as well throughout the story. Friedrich’s story is intriguing and quite the dichotomy. On one hand, he is so insecure with himself but is so confident of his position as the confidante and close friend of Hitler. He is someone who keeps on making mistakes one after the other. He is by no means a perfect individual, but he tries to understand and is open to learning more. His loyalty to Hitler and him prioritizing the party matters before personal matters show us his pull towards Hitler. He wanted the security and sense of belonging and drive the party gave him but he also didn’t want to have any part in the hatred and violence against the jews and other people who were targeted. His constant back and forth was quite honestly baffling to me and couldn’t understand his motivation.

Adolf Hitler is probably one of the most hated human beings on the planet. The story of his life is quite interesting and his political journey is awe-inspiring when you read it. It is quite compelling to see how a timid, silent introverted man rises up to be the most confident, eloquent orator the world has ever seen. His ascent to the power was not an overnight story. He was unrelenting and committed to being the savior of Germany. He truly believed that the purification of German blood and casting out and eventually murdering jews would help them be the superior nation. The way he goes after every goal with commitment and extreme focus is quite intriguing. How did a psychopath convince an entire nation to let him rule as a dictator? How did he manage to garner the support of his peers and community? Who is Adolf Hitler? What were the motivations for his actions? All these questions are answered in this book. His life goal and the hatred towards Jews is not something that we understand very well. Every step he took was coldly calculating and towards one goal – Germans first. The propaganda and the tactics he used to create fear, confusion, and divide in the community shows us his influence as a leader. This book also challenges some erroneous reports on him and some historically inaccurate facts as well. The book is so well researched and the way all of it ties together to bring forth a compelling read makes it even more wonderful.

The story has the majority of the characters from history. The people who worked with Hitler and his party are all presented with great care in bringing forward this story. Some of the characters connected to Friedrich’s life are the only fictional ones and they also serve the purpose of bringing the dynamic of this duo to the forefront. It also helps the reader understand Hitler better and from a fresh perspective. I did not expect this book to be so closely tied to the real events and the notes from the authors helped me understand the context and the events better. The story is a mix of history and politics and fiction that is meant to bring forward the real Hitler in a way that is accessible and without any bias or prejudice. 

I loved the book and enjoyed it very much. I just couldn’t put it down and let me tell you this was a big book. For a book that is deeply rooted in history and politics, the authors managed to bring the story to the forefront without it being boring. It was an engaging and a compelling read. I gave it 4.5 stars. The reason why it wasn’t a 5 stars read for me is because of the way the story ended. I felt that the ending was rushed and did not resolve the conflict in our protagonist’s life in terms of the fiction. The part were the story ended is in reality, only the beginning of unimaginable horrors to come. We don’t get to see how Friedrich will deal with the events that leave him conflicted in the end. What will be Weiss’s contribution to it? This book has room for a sequel to happen and also to get the answers about how things will go forward in the future and how it would affect the special bond between Friedrich and Hitler. It will be interesting to read a continuation of this story. 

I highly recommend checking this book out. If you are a history nerd/junkie and love politics then this would be an amazing addition to your TBR. The main attraction of this book is how well all the historical facts and elements are intricately woven together to bring us an engaging page-turner. This book will grip you and masterfully pulls you in to reveal a Hitler you never knew. The ascent of a monster to power and the destruction of democracy will unnerve you. I think everyone should read this book to get an understanding of Hitler and his journey. I guarantee you will not regret it.

About the Authors

Herbert J. Stern, formerly US attorney for the District of New Jersey, who prosecuted the mayors of Newark and Atlantic City, and served as judge of the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, is a trial lawyer. He also served as judge of the United States Court for Berlin where he presided over a hijacking trial in the occupied American Sector of West Berlin. His book about the case, Judgment in Berlin, won the 1974 Freedom Foundation Award and became a film starring Martin Sheen and Sean Penn. He also wrote Diary of a DA: The True Story of the Prosecutor Who Took on the Mob, Fought Corruption, and Won, as well as the multi-volume legal work Trying Cases to Win.

Alan A. Winter is the author of four novels, including Island Bluffs, Snowflakes in the Sahara, Someone Else’s Son, and Savior’s Day, which Kirkus selected as a Best Book of 2013. Winter graduated from Rutgers with a degree in history and has professional degrees from both New York University and Columbia, where he was an associate professor for many years. He edited an award-winning journal and has published more than twenty professional articles. Winter studied creative writing at Columbia’s Graduate School of General Studies. His screenplay, Polly, received honorable mention in the Austin Film Festival, and became the basis for Island Bluffs.


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