Story Line
Deadly Secret of the Lusitania

A German submarine sank the RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915, causing the death of 1,200 civilian passengers. This horrifying crime began the chain of events that dragged the United States into the First World War. In this historical novel, set in New York City in 1915, an insurance investigator and his fiancée have undertaken to assist a stevedore’s widow unjustly deprived of her husband’s life insurance benefit. But the couple then find themselves unexpectedly in possession of the suppressed, secret truth about the Lusitania’s cargo and for this reason under threat from German and British spies, Irish republicans, a rogue socialist, New York’s waterfront criminals and the newly-created Bureau of Investigation. The gripping story unfolds in thrilling scenes that sustain the suspense and finally leads readers into a long-suppressed truth.
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Categories: Historical Context.

When it came to war, how decisive was the Lusitania?

For more than a century, Americans had followed George Washington’s advice to stay out of European “entanglements.” Isolationism was America’s default foreign policy, and it had worked to our advantage. Additionally, for reasons of heritage, many big immigrant communities (Irish, German, Jewish) supported the Central Powers. Unable yet to vote, women demonstrated against sending “our boys” to a bloody foreign war. Socialists of all stripes rejected imperialist war altogether as did Wilson’s Secretary of State. All that constituted a formidable bloc of opposition to joining the war on the side of the Entente. To overcome it, Wilson demonized the Germans, billing them a “Huns,” and buying into the list of war crimes the Entente had laid at their door. The Lucy’s sinking was the crown jewel in the Entente’s list of German war crimes and a such helped to push the United States into the First World War. We now know that the Lusitania was a joint British/German war crime, not a German war crime. Thanks to the political cover-up on both sides of the Atlantic, the American people could not know that in 1915-17. But, had the true facts been in evidence then, the American people would have understood the Lusitania tragedy as confirmation of the wisdom of our policy of neutrality, not an argument for war. Because other causes combined to encourage intervention, notably the our relentless arming of the British and consequent submarine warfare, no one can assert that the truth about the Lusitania would have prevented the United States from entering the Great War. But the truth would have shifted the Lusitania case from the war column to the neutrality column, and all its influence would have resisted (not encouraged) the war drums.
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Categories: Historical Context.

After “Dead Wake”

After “Dead Wake” The political cover-up began after the Lusitania sank, precisely the point at which Erik Larson’s Dead Wake goes silent. On both sides of the Atlantic, authorities intended to conceal the truth from the public. As a result, the actual destination of 217,000 pounds of cheese on board the Lusitania did not become known until 1972 and then only because of detailed historical research. Why would the Royal Navy Weapons Testing Center in Essex need 217,000 pounds of cheese? That is still an unanswered question which, if asked in 1916, might well have prevented the United States from entering the Great War.
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Categories: Historical Context.

“When the Lusitania Went Down”

Two weeks after the Lucy sank, Tin Pan Alley produced a song about the disaster, and the song (click here to listen) tells  a political story. “When the Lusitania went down” says “they should be ending this warfare” if women and children must die. Who is they? Clearly it’s the Europeans, not the Germans. The song writer blames the Europeans (Allies and Central Powers together) for this war crime. That was the state of American opinion in May, 1915.  In fact, that was the correct response to this event, which really was a joint British/German war crime. However, the “two torpedoes” lie enabled the British and the Wilson administration, their collaborator, to deceive and misinform the American public, which wrongly came to believe that the Germans alone were responsible for the war crime. That erroneous belief, deliberately induced by deceptive propaganda, changed American opinion from neutralist to interventionist. Why intervene on the British side to avenge a war crime for which the British were partially to blame? But if the Germans alone were responsible, as the two-torpedoes lie maintained, then entering the war on the side of the Allies could be depicted as revenge for Hunnish war crimes. In this way, propagandistic lies pushed the United States into World War 1. Can anyone think of other, more recent  lies that pushed the United States into wars?
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Categories: Historical Context.

The Lusitania’s Two Conspiracies

The sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915 linked two conspiracies, one before and one after the event. The pre-sinking conspiracy has attracted most of the attention, but, oddly enough, it is harder to prove than the post-sinking conspiracy. The pre-sinking conspiracy theory alleges that Admiralty Lord, Winston Churchill wanted the Germans to torpedo the passenger liner in order to outrage opinion in the United States and thus to bring the United States into the First World War on the side of the Entente against Germany. The desire of the British to encourage German submarines to attack neutral shipping is indisputable. Churchill said so in writing although his words, for obvious reasons, were not made public. The only dispute concerns whether the British intentionally fed the Lucy to the German submarine, U-20, in pursuit of his plan. There is plenty of evidence that they did. Of this evidence the most damning is the failure of the British admiralty, which knew the precise location of the U-20, to bring that information to the attention of the Lusitania’s captain, and to dispatch a destroyer to escort the liner to port. It is strange and suggestive as well that, the day before the sinking, King George V asked the American ambassador what would be the reaction in the United States if the Lusitania were sunk by a German submarine. Of course, the British denied this culpability and continue officially to deny it. Available evidence is circumstantial. Conclusive evidence is still missing. Therefore, I regard the pre-sinking conspiracy as very likely, but unproven. No such uncertainty attends the post-sinking conspiracy. Broadly speaking, the post-sinking conspiracy was a political cover-up of the known facts about the actual sinking. Every historian agrees that there was a political cover-up of the facts, The core of the cover-up
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Categories: Author Commentary and Historical Context.

Book Review from Neal Furguson on “Bookin’ With Sunny”

This review was originally published on http://bookinwithsunny.com See the original article here: http://bookinwithsunny.com/deadly-secret-of-the-lusitania-a-novel-approach/ When I was a boy in school, the tor­pe­doing of the Lusi­tania figured promi­nently in American history classes about the entry of the United States into World War I. Now, in 2015, a hundred years after its sinking, I wonder if the fate of the Lusi­tania is still deemed to be con­se­quential. Is World War I even still taught in 8th grade American history classes? No matter, the sinking of the Lusi­tania is intrin­si­cally more inter­esting than that of the equally famous Titanic three years earlier. The Titanic hit an iceberg whereas the Lusi­tania was caught up in the Great War and her sinking became a) another example of Hunnish atroc­ities, b) a reason for the U.S. to enter the war (but not till 1917), or c) jus­ti­fiable because she was car­rying war goods: bullets, cordite, artillery shells, and the like. If the latter, then the German U-boat U-20 had reason to sink her and the British (and U.S. ?) gov­ern­ments bore some respon­si­bility for the loss by putting the ship and her 1900 pas­sengers and crew in harm’s way. More to the point, if the U.S. had been unable to take and defend the moral high ground afforded by the Lusi­tania, might its official 1915 policy of neu­trality have con­tinued? Might U.S. sol­diers never have gone “over there”? Who would have won the war then? Ivan Light, in Deadly Secret of the Lusi­tania, uses this his­torical backdrop to deftly propel his mystery and espi­onage thriller. The pro­tag­onist is an unlikely but likeable insurance adjuster. Trevor Howell’s day job is to help his insurance company avoid paying legit­imate claims by finding loop­holes in the fine print. He rou­tinely saves his company $100,000 or more per year. He has a real future in that heartless business if he can keep his con­science under control. But two beau­tiful women com­plicate his life, his
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Categories: Book Reviews.

Letter to Hal D

Dear Hal, Of course, as you protest, it’s quite possible that the US would have entered World War 1 in April, 1917 even had the truth been told about the Lusitania in 1915. However, in that case, the USA would have entered the war despite the Lusitania and not because of it. Also, it would have entered the war on the side of one warring empire against another rather than on the side of civilization against barbarism. Those stakes would have been harder to sell the American public.   I should also point out that it is now known that Edith Clavell was indeed a spy. The British denied that in 1915, and turned her execution into an international human rights martyrdom. But a recent program on the BBC brought to light long-suppressed evidence that Clavell had run a spy ring for the British and the British “jolly well” knew it at the time and lied just as they lied about the Lucy.   If you don’t study history, you’re doomed to repeat it.  In my lifetime, Americans have blundered into two unnecessary and useless wars (Vietnam, Iraq) precisely for this reason. Deadly Secret of the Lusitania gives Americans the history they need to become more skeptical of war propaganda. Deadly Secret of the Lusitania is about the propaganda and lies that concealed the truth about the Lusitania’s sinking from Americans in 1915 and 1916, thus pushing the nation into war in 1917. The truth about the Lusitania was America’s first casualty in World War 1.   Obviously the USA has the right to defend itself against aggression and to maintain armed forces for that purpose. I fully approve of all that. However, spreading lies about bogus attacks is not self-defense and is unjust and cynical as well as destructive
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Categories: Author Commentary.

The Midwest Book Review

The Deadly Secret of the Lusitania recently received a book review fromThe MidWest Book Review. The review will appear in the October issue of the online book review magazine, Reviewer’s Bookwatch.     “Impressively well written, absorbing, and terrifically entertaining from beginning to end, Deadly Secret of the Lusitania is very strongly recommended as an enduring addition to public library collections. (For personal reading lists, it should be noted that the novel is also available in Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iBooks editions.”) —Michael J. Carson, The Midwest Book Review    
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Categories: Book Reviews.

The Mersey Commission: Two Torpedoes

The Mersey Commission: Two Torpedoes “WWI ARGUS ARCHIVE: No guns onboard Lusitania” Click here to view original source South Wales Argus, Friday 17 July 2015 Lusitania catastrophe No masked guns aboard Germany’s baseless inventions Lord Mersey, on Saturday, delivered judgement in the Lusitania Inquiry. The Court found that the ship fulfilled all the requirements of the law and that the life-saving appliances were satisfactory. The company’s efforts to induce the crew to become efficient were successful and his Lordship commended one of the crew; Leslie N. Morton, a look-out man who gave notice of the approach of torpedoes and subsequently saved 50 or 60 passengers in a collapsible boat, after being thrown into the water. Morton was only 18 years old and showed great courage, self-possession and resource. The Court was satisfied the officers and crews behaved well, and worked with skill and judgment. More than half their number lost their lives. The total crew of 702; of the 1,257 passengers’ conduct 785 were lost; of 39 infants, 35 were lost. The Court could speak well of the passengers’ conduct, though there was something approaching panic in the steerage quarters. Some passengers probably did more harm than good with attempting to launch boats. The 5,000 cases of cartridges on board were stowed 50 yards from where the torpedo struck the ship and there was no other explosion on board. The Court found untrue the German allegations that the ship was armed. These baseless inventions only condemned the persons making use of them. The steamer carried no masked guns, nor was she transporting troops. The reported warnings to the passengers that the ship would be torpedoed only aggravated the crime by showing its deliberate intention. The passengers ignored the threats regarding such an atrocity as impossible. The ship sailed with six
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Categories: Historical Context and Relevant Resources.

IVAN LIGHT REVIEWS: Erik Larson’s Dead Wake: Last Crossing of the Lusitania

21 July 2015 Erik Larson’s Dead Wake: Last Crossing of the Lusitania The chief librarian at the Berkeley (CA) public library asked me to comment on Erik Larson’s Dead Wake: Last Voyage of the Lusitania (2015) because that book addresses the same general topic as does my own book, Deadly Secret of the Lusitania. It is a serious and important challenge. I greatly admire Erik Larson’s book which I found entertaining, carefully and accurately researched, and historically informative. Like others of Larson’s books, and consistent with his general philosophy, Dead Wake enables readers to relive history by dint of his close attention to mundane detail. A reader learns from Dead Wake in elegant detail how pleasant life was on board the Lusitania and how squalid it was aboard the German submarine that attacked it. But, in addition to coverage of life at sea, its main preoccupation, Dead Wake also covers the activities of all the major actors, including not just the Lusitania’s passengers and the crew of the U-20, but also the troubled German Chancellor, the romantically bemused President of the United States, and the cynical First Lord of the British Admiralty, Winston Churchill. Larson even mentions the big conspiracy theory, still very much alive, according to which the British Admiralty set the Lusitania up for destruction by a German submarine, hoping to draw the United States into Britain’s war with Germany. All that is quite an accomplishment. Can there be more to say about the Lusitania?  I think so. After all, as in any historical event, what mattered most about the Lusitania was not what really happened to it, but what people were led to believe had happened to it. Unfortunately, the beliefs and the truth were discrepant. In a political conspiracy on both sides of the Atlantic, politicians
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Categories: Author Commentary and Book Reviews.