Title: Secret History
Author: Martin Roberts
This book is a fascinating account of a number of criminal cases in the United States and in the United Kingdom, some of which resulted in wrong convictions. The book is part narrative, part analysis. The analysis, in particular the demolition of the reputation of Whittaker Chambers,ex-spy and idol of many Americans (he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom) will arouse debate and rethinking of the real lessons of the cases. The British cases will shock the complacency of many British people. Both parts are relevant to the current debate on how to deal with Islamic terrorists, whose fanaticism recalls that of the IRA and supporters of Communism. The book includes an analysis of Communism and the way in which its supporters manipulate fact for their own ends.
To Purchase Secret History
Do you listen to music while writing?If so, what do you listen to?
No. I used to listen to a station playing rock music when I was in the car , particularly when I was on the way to the sports club, but this is rare now.
Do you have any suggestions for upcoming writers?
Buy a computer and learn how to use it. You can start writing the text with pen and paper, and sketch out the broad lines of your story in parallel while you are learning, but in the end you will have to learn it. I believe you can do it at night school, but publishers and other groups will force you to learn.
Find (yes, I’m afraid so, on the computer) sites like Preditors and Editors which are designed to help starting writers.
Look in the Writers and Artists’ Year Book for the items that will interest or affect you. If this book does not exist in the USA, there will be an equivalent one.
Join likeminded groups like writers’ circles, which are flourishing everywhere. I don’t have any experience of these because I live in a non-English-speaking country, but I do not think all these people can be wasting their time and energy.
When you submit material to a publisher or agent, try to send something eye-catching. The readers do not necessarily read all the way through, and they have to thin out the offerings on the basis of what they already know. Most submissions are not read through. For example, I wrote my book, which is mainly about miscarriages of justice and how paranoia or hysteria warps judgment, and included a chapter about Marxism and communism to show how witnesses from such a background will testify dishonestly. I sent a draft of the book to a publisher and they gave me a contract. After a few weeks they wrote back to cancel the contract, because they had read the chapter where I criticised Marxism and all the rest and said that my book was unbalanced because I had not given a similar criticism of US ‘imperialism’. This showed that they had not understood the structure or purpose of my book, in which left-wing politics was a side-issue. In fact, they had given me a contract without reading part of the book.
Publishing is a hard game, with no place for sentiment. If you want to grab the attention of the publisher or agent, it might be a good idea to send not portions of the book, but an outline which sets out things that interest them. If you visit their website you will be able to study what rings their bell.
I don’t have much experience so far. A book which is very helpful is Aiming for Amazon by Aaron Shepard. Amazon is a good resource to use. There are many books about how to learn to write. The Complete Plain Words by Ernest Gowers is said to be very good.
What is it you like to do when you are not reading/writing?
I used to be involved in sport and hope to get back to it soon. I use a Bullworker when I have an opportunity. I am fond of crosswords and other verbal games.
I am interested in foreign languages and have just connected up with a learners’ group to learn Welsh, of which I already have some knowledge. When I have finished I will leave a pause before starting on another one.
I am a bit of an anorak about Belgian beer and drink one or two glasses every day.
Is there an author/authors that have inspired you?
I have read a lot of George Orwell’s books though 1984 is the sort of book you can only read once. But there are others, for instance satirical writers like Jonathan Swift and Evelyn Waugh. When we were young, my sister and I both read C.S. Lewis’s childrens’ books which affected our lives generally.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was at primary school, I wanted to be the man who operated the cement mixer, and if not him, the bricklayer. This was because they were building a new annexe at the school, and it fascinated me. I have been told that when I was older I wanted to be an actor or a minister of religion. I suppose that I must have thought the hours were good. Later, I wanted to be a professor of Classical Studies, but I was limping behind the other candidates who had a better background in Greek. One thing I never thought about was being a writer, which is what I ended up doing.
How do you /would you react to a bad review of your book?
I have already reacted. I hope to continue in the same way. I ignored the abuse and answered any points that the writer raised. I was prepared for a lot of abuse because my book criticises Whittaker Chambers, whom some Americans regard as a sort of lay saint and prophet. I do not think that he deserves this reverence, and my book treats him as a rather sad figure, who lived to some extent in a world of his own. It is true that he warned in dramatic style of the dangers of Communism, but there is a whole set of values that he heralds which I regard as unattractive.
He had a dreadful childhood and a restless, disjointed adulthood. There is little sign of happiness in his life, except for his marriage. I feel very sorry for him.
Martin Roberts is a British subject living in Belgium. He began to study contested verdicts in criminal cases when he started to study for a law degree, and this book is the result. He trained as an archivist and worked in that field for 26 years. This has given him a lot of patience and a bit of scepticism about what records tell us. He has sought to make his book user-friendly by quoting online sources and allowing the reader to find his way through the facts and arguments to reach his own conclusions.