Historical Notes for The De Valera Deception
The De Valera Deception is a work of fiction but there are historical facts which provide a foundation and framework for the story.
Winston Churchill. It’s not the first time nor will it be the last that Churchill will be cast as a key character in an historical thriller. In fact, you might say Winston did so himself in his 1897 romantic adventure novel, Savrola, where a hero strongly resembling Churchill overthrows an evil dictator in a mythical European country and steals the love of the dictator’s beautiful wife in the bargain.
Churchill’s detractors, of which there was no shortage before 1940, called him an “adventurer”, a “half-breed American” and a “swashbuckler”. He was all these things and more. In addition to fighting Islamic warriors on the Afghan-Indian border and in the Sudan in the late 1890s, bloody no-quarter battles where Churchill killed many men at close range, he also accepted in 1900 the surrender of the Boer prisoner of war camp in South Africa from which he had escaped the previous year. A crack shot, he bagged a rare white rhino in Africa in 1908, drawing the admiration and envy of Theodore Roosevelt who tried to do the same but was not so fortunate. He became a seaplane pilot in the early 1910s after being appointed at age 38 the First Lord of the British Admiralty and survived more than one crash landing in that pioneering era’s flimsy aircraft. In the First World War, while stationed in the same Ypres salient where Corporal Adolf Hitler also served, the two future adversaries drew sketches in their spare time of the same bombed-out Belgian church. Contrary to some views, Hitler was a talented artist but Churchill was better, a gifted Impressionist whose works anonymously won awards.
Churchill’s 1929 North American Holiday. Churchill took a three month holiday in North America in the summer of 1929 with his brother and their two sons at approximately the same time as portrayed in The De Valera Deception. Churchill wrote articles for William Randolph Hearst and was a guest at both his palatial home in San Simeon and Marion Davies’ seaside mansion in Santa Monica. He was present in October, 1929 on Wall Street on Black Tuesday and was badly damaged financially by the Crash.
Bourke Cockran (1854-1923). Churchill’s real-life Irish-American mentor, both a political and oratorical role model, was the prominent turn-of-the-century New York lawyer, statesman and Congressman William Bourke Cockran whose fictional son’s exploits (Cockran was childless) are depicted in The De Valera Deception and subsequent Winston Churchill Thrillers. Everything said by Churchill and others about Cockran in the book is accurate. A Democrat and close adviser to President Grover Cleveland, he was acclaimed by members of both parties, including his friend and Long Island neighbor Theodore Roosevelt, as America’s greatest orator. He was TR’s principal economic adviser in the presidential election of 1912. Churchill was only 20 years old when the two men were brought together in November 1895 by Churchill’s mother, the stunningly beautiful American-born heiress Jennie Jerome with whom Cockran had an affair in Paris in the Spring of that year following the deaths of their respective spouses. Sixty years later, Churchill could still recite from memory the speeches of Bourke Cockran he had memorized as a young man. Those wishing to know more about the close relationship between Churchill and Cockran are referred to Becoming Winston Churchill: The Untold Story of Young Winston and His American Mentor by Michael McMenamin and Curt Zoller and available from Enigma Books.
The Graf Zeppelin. The record-setting German airship made an historic around-the-world voyage in the summer of 1929 funded by William Randolph Hearst. Hearst held a grand banquet in honor of the zeppelin’s crew in Los Angeles but neither Hoover nor Churchill were present.
The Russo-German military alliance in the 1920s. German re-armament after the Great War did not begin with Adolf Hitler. Weimar Germany and the Soviet Union had a clandestine military alliance throughout the 1920s whereby German engineers and industrialists developed in Russia beyond the Urals the most modern weapons sytems in Europe from artillery to aircraft to tanks, all in violation of the Versailles Treaty. The purpose of the alliance was the destruction of Poland. The letter to this effect from General Hans von Seekt, Chief of the German General Staff and mentioned by Trotsky in the Prologue is genuine.
Eamon de Valera and John Devoy. De Valera spent most of the Anglo-Irish war safely in America raising funds in the approximate amount of $5M of which $1M was sent back to Ireland and another $1M was spent by de Valera and his entourage on first class rail travel and luxury hotels where no expense was spared. $3M was left behind in American bank accounts and later used by de Valera to buy an Irish newspaper in 1931. John Devoy’s opinions of de Valera are accurately portrayed as is de Valera’s sabotage of the heretofore unified position on the Irish self-determination planks at the 1920 Democratic and Republican convention. Devoy died in September 1928 but his fictional counterpart was pleased to live for another year and play a role in de Valera’s true nature being exposed and depriving him, if only fictionally, of the $3M he selfishly had kept for himself instead of buying much-needed arms and ammunition for the Irish fighting for their freedom in 1920 and 1921. Dev did famously say that history would record Michael Collins as a great man and that it would be at Dev’s expense. We couldn’t agree more. Check out Neil Jordan’s classic film Michael Collins if you want to know why.
Herbert Hoover and William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan. The First World War Medal of Honor hero and later head of the Office of Strategic Services in World War Two—the predecessor to the CIA—was Hoover’s campaign manager in the 1928 election. Hoover asked Donovan to be his running mate but Donovan had declined, securing Hoover’s promise to make him Attorney General if he managed Hoover’s campaign. Hoover later reneged on his promise solely because Donovan was a Roman Catholic. Hoover had reaped the benefit of a vicious anti-Catholic campaign against his Democratic opponent, New York Governor Al Smith. As a result of Hoover’s bigotry, his cabinet was exclusively white, male and Protestant. Hoover’s intense dislike of Churchill stemming from his time in London during the First World War in charge of food relief for Belgium is accurately portrayed. Churchill didn’t personally have Hoover arrested in 1915 but thought he should have been.
Miscellaneous. Jack Manion and his San Francisco Chinatown Squad, LA’s police chief “Two Gun” Ed Davis and Woodrow Wilson’s secret organization “The Inquiry” are accurately portrayed except that The Inquiry had no “Irish Section” and Irish self-determination was never seriously on the table at Versailles. Woodrow Wilson’s famous 14 Points didn’t include Ireland.
Michael McMenamin & Patrick McMenamin, March, 2010