Monday, May 25, 2020

A Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Coles (1941)

also published as Pray Silence.

About the author (wikipedia): Manning Coles is the pseudonym of two British writers, Adelaide Frances Oke Manning (1891–1959) and Cyril Henry Coles (1899–1965), who wrote many spy thrillers from the early 40s through the early 60s. The fictional protagonist in 26 of their books was Thomas Elphinstone Hambledon, who works for the Foreign Office.

Major characters:
  • Tommy Hambledon, British intelligence, a.k.a. Klaud Lehmann
  • Franz, his servant
  • Charles Denton, British intelligence, a.k.a. Herr Dedler
  • Reck, former British wireless operator
  • Joseph Goebbels
Synopsis: In the previous book, Tommy Hambledon was lost at sea in 1918 and presumed dead. Now 1933. He had been found washed up on the beach in 1918, and had amnesia. He then accepted an identity as Klaus Lehmann, believes he is a German, and is working his way up in the Nazi party.

Certain events trigger his memory gradually, and he remembers he is actually a British agent. He gets word back to Britain that he is alive via his old wireless operator Reck, concealing the message within a radio play.

Hambledon realizes he is in a good position to sabotage the Reich, and sets about to do as much damage as he can without revealing himself; while getting his associates and friends out of harm's way.

Review: This is the second Hambledon book, the continuation/sequel to Drink to Yesterday. I highly recommend reading these two as one novel, especially as many characters and references are carried over from Drink to Yesterday.

About halfway through the book we begin to get hints of the humorous side of Manning Coles, which will follow through to the remainder of the series. It is rather dark up until the episode of smuggling documents through customs inside a gramophone; when the story take an amusing turn.

Any readers of Manning Coles would do well to begin with these two, as they are foundation for all that follows.

Note: Two occurences of the n-word, in colloquial expressions.

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