Ryan Lemmon is back in wartime Berlin…

…and the reluctant secret agent from the Corridor of Darkness novels has a bit of a problem.

Several serious problems, actually.

Gestapo headquarters has posted his image across the  Reich.

The Criminal Police have him under surveillance in Berlin.

His assigned undercover identity has been compromised beyond repair.

And, to make matters worse, both his covert contact within German military intelligence and his American spy master have gone silent. Dead silent.

Now an echo from his past is about to draw him into a criminal enterprise which threatens the entire Allied war effort.

Enough said?  ECHOES OF SILENCE, A Novel of Nazi Germany, picks up the Ryan Lemmon espionage saga where the Corridor of Darkness novels left off, drawing the reader ever more deeply into the treacherous world of 1941 Nazi Germany. Once again, actual events entangle  our spy in the months before the United States enters World War II.

Available as either eBook or paperback at Amazon.com. 

To all the readers who have enjoyed my earlier novels, I hope this one intrigues you as well. Thanks for checking it out. And should you give it a read, I’d love to see your review on Amazon!

Posted in Corridor of Darkness, Novels of Nazi Germany, European Travel, Historical Thriller, Uncategorized | 8 Comments


Steam loco (2)

During the Cold War era I spent a few years in Germany, first as a twenty-one-year-old graduate student and then with the military. I spent my first Christmas holiday season putting a Eurailpass to good use, randomly hopping on or off trains as I allowed the whims of time and place to determine my next destination.

One bitterly cold night I found myself stuck in a small town on the border between West and East Germany. A blizzard blanketed the region, and here I was stranded before the Iron Curtain. With no choice in the matter, I took to the streets in near white-out conditions. My intent was to find inexpensive lodging at one of those private homes with a small sign offering Zimmer, “a room.” The town was covered in snow and battened down for the cold. Only a few prospective innkeepers even bothered to answer their doorbells, and no one had a room for me. I was pulled along by the sharp smell of burning coal coming from chimneys which suggested a warmth and refuge I couldn’t seem to find.

At last my wanderings caught the attention of the local police. Perhaps someone had phoned in about my meanderings. The cops were suspicious of an American out under such conditions. They eyed my papers carefully before gruffly sending me back to the terminal, and the little green-and-white police car crunched along behind my plodding steps, making sure I didn’t try any escape.

The first train out wouldn’t depart before morning. I curled up on a wooden bench of the waiting room, resting my head on my suitcase and taking comfort in the roof over my head and the little bit of warmth. A railroad worker finally took pity and led me to the empty train standing beside the platform. Already positioned for its morning departure, its locomotive was fired up and pumping welcome heat through the cars. The compassionate rail man unlocked a first-class compartment and encouraged me to curl up and sleep undisturbed. At six a.m. he awakened me before anyone else was allowed to board and I moved back to second class.

It wasn’t long before I found myself on the streets of Munich. Again it was late at night, but this time after a date, and I had over a mile to cover to reach my hotel. There wasn’t a taxi in sight, so I raised my collar against the bitter wind, wrapped my wool scarf tighter, and set out on foot along the deserted streets. Near to my hotel I caught sight of what appeared to be smoke rising from the sidewalk beneath a streetlamp. As I approached, I realized it was a pool of fresh blood, steaming in the winter air. Drag marks pointed toward an unlit alleyway. I didn’t stick around to investigate, but hurried on to my room. (Some might recall this image, which appears in Corridor of Darkness.)

A day or so later, while navigating a crowded train corridor, I came face-to-face with a very large Bavarian man. Both his slurred speech and the odor emanating from his clothing suggested he’d already consumed more than a few liters of beer. Despite our best efforts to get past each other in the rocking train, I was blocked on every move. He kept talking to me in his thick regional accent, each word more slurred than the last. Finally, sensing the futility, I told him I was an Ausländer, “a foreigner,” and couldn’t understand. “Ah,” he replied (and this much I understood), “let me guess…you’re from Berlin!”

With Christmas just days away, I entered a beautiful square in wintertime Strasbourg. Vendor booths were doing a good business selling candles, wax tree ornaments and roasted chestnuts. A quick glance up a side street brought me to an abrupt halt. As if looking back in time, I saw a scene of wartime devastation: deserted multi-storied houses, shattered windows and doors, piles of rubble in the center of the street, torn curtains blowing through broken window frames. A single wooden chair, its caning shredded, sat atop a pile of broken stones. Bullet holes pocked the crumbling walls. Two decades after the end of WWII, reconstruction had yet to reach that part of the city.

On Christmas Eve morning I found myself boarding a train in Zürich. Friends and I had arranged to gather at a chalet high in the Swiss Alps for a holiday celebration and skiing vacation. It was to be a beautiful traditional European Christmas. Arriving at the village, I left the train station and trudged down through the deep snow drifts to the rented house. An idyllic scene stood before me: a meter of fresh snow on the roof, wood smoke curling from the chimney, skis leaning against the wall beside the entry. But the door opened to coughing, fevered sick people cowering beneath blankets and occupying every available horizontal surface in the overheated chalet. The only healthy person left was the wife of a fellow grad student, who pleaded with me to stay and spend some time on the slopes. Anything that didn’t involve waiting on all those moaning and hacking friends. Weighing the benefits of graciously obliging versus the likelihood of suffering the flu over the rest of my month-long vacation, I gave apologies and regrets at the threshold and retreated back up the hill. Not the most thoughtful of moves.

The next local train arrived shortly at the station. I hopped aboard and joined the few other travelers out on Christmas Eve. As we neared the summit of the Oberalppass, we came to an unexpected and jerking halt. The conductor informed us that we would have to cross over the pass on foot, for our electric locomotive had derailed in the snowdrifts. I grabbed my bag and trudged along the tracks, following two unaccompanied little Swiss kids, a brother and sister in traditional dress. Each held a handle on a big basket covered by a checkered scarf. My guess? Christmas presents or home-baked treats sent home by or being delivered to Grandma. A quarter hour later we reached another train waiting to complete our journey. The children jumped off at the next village, while I returned to Zurich.

So there I sat on Christmas Eve, alone at the Hotel Bristol and thinking of past holidays surrounded by a large family. Determined not to fall into melancholy and homesickness, I went out on the icy streets and bought a warm roast chicken, red wine, some cheese and a small loaf of freshly baked bread. Spreading newspapers out on the floor of my hotel room, I laid my feast out before me, then sat with the drapes open, eating with my fingers while watching the sparkling lights of the snow-covered city.

A knock on my door. I opened and found the hotel manager holding a big bar of Swiss chocolate, a Christmas gift for guests forced to spend the evening alone in their rooms.

A nice dessert.

A different sort of European Christmas.


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cover standing figures

From time to time readers have asked how the covers to my novels come together. What you see above is the original proposal for Corridor of Darkness, the first book of the series, designed by Gabrielle Prendergast. Its evocative imagery convinced me to choose her creative services for all three volumes of the trilogy.

If you are interested in how she creates by bringing together different photos, check out this link: How a custom book cover arises

AND IN CASE YOU MISSED THE ANNOUNCEMENT…The final volume in the Corridor of Darkness trilogy, FULCRUM OF MALICE, is now available in both eBook and trade paperback at Order Fulcrum of Malice

fulcrum ebook image

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For all who have asked when they can order the print version of Fulcrum of Malice, Volume 3 of the Corridor of Darkness trilogy, it’s here at last…

fulcrum ebook-fix

To order the trade paperback edition, click on FULCRUM OF MALICE

For the eBook edition, please choose: FULCRUM OF MALICE eBook

And my sincere thanks to all who look forward to reading the further challenges facing Ryan Lemmon and his friends.

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BERLIN 1941 – Are you ready?

Europe lies in chains at Hitler’s feet as midnight approaches in the dark heart of the Reich…

Leaving his friends to foil the Nazis in Occupied France, Ryan Lemmon returns to Berlin. Under deep cover in this city of shadows, the American conspires with a powerful German spymaster. Together they intend to subvert Hitler’s state, but secret agent Lemmon is equally committed to saving the life of a dear friend. Threading his way through the menacing streets, he knows he wears a target on his back.

He may be buying her safety with his own life.

Fulcrum of Malice is the final volume in the Corridor of Darkness trilogy.


 Fulcrum of Malice 




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Just as he thought he was leaving the darkness behind…

fulcrum ebook-fix (4)

…a new corridor opens before him. The conclusion. Watch for it.

FULCRUM OF MALICE, A Novel of Nazi Germany

Corridor of Darkness, Volume 3

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…with his cover blown…

fullcrum ebook (2)

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He’s on his way…

empty corridor

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My brother James and I once built a nuclear reactor at the kitchen table.

Hard to believe? Sure, but even more amazing, it’s still firing people up almost forty years later.


Okay, fine, a little explanation might be in order…

Early in 1979 we had a brilliant idea: build a board game exploring all aspects of nuclear power, pro and con, with a meltdown in the cards if you didn’t play them right. The timing couldn’t have been better: “The China Syndrome” was leaving movie audiences on the edge of their seats, and Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania soon offered America a very real taste of potential nuclear disaster.

IMG_7253 copy

Our board game had playing pieces shaped like cooling towers, obligatory dice, cards with arguments for and against, and a nuclear reactor at its core. The control rods in the “containment” structure rose and fell according to the players’ successes and failures. The game box featured a haunting night-time shot of Rancho Seco in Northern California, a sister plant to the Three Mile Island facility. We even included rules for beginning, intermediate, and the very dedicated advanced player.

And here’s what it looked like:  CONTAINMENT, the Game of Nuclear Energy Controversy, Crisis and Confrontation.

Containment display

We ordered up five thousand boxes in advance, ready to handle anticipated public demand.

The publicity quickly rolled in:  Jane Pauley and Tom Brokaw presented our game on The Today Show and praised its topicality. Playboy Magazine ran a nice photo with a blurb (not as nice as some of their photos, perhaps, but still nice). Television stations filmed us seated before the game board in on a knoll overlooking Rancho Seco, and the newspaper even ran a nice article with photo. So far, so good.

IMG_7260 copy

Unfortunately, the pace of sales proved as sluggish as trying to shut down the tsunami-swamped Fukishima power plants in 2011.

It seems we hit the market just as the American public was turning its collective back on board games in favor of the new video games. And perhaps the idea of spending long hours facing deadly radiation exposure didn’t have the appeal we had anticipated.

So our board-game business, Shamus Gamus, melted down.

Flash forward to 1985 and a letter arrives from nuclear engineers in South Carolina. They pass the long hours at the controls playing CONTAINMENT, and request an arbiter’s call on a finer point in the advanced rules. I settle the dispute, but don’t mention never once having made it through the advanced game.  Too complicated for anyone but a nuclear engineer, perhaps.

Now flash forward to November 2014, when the Nelson Institute Center for Culture, History, and Environment  at the University of Wisconsin hosts academics and artists from around the world. The goal: explore the Anthropocene, the Age of Man, asking “how might certain kinds of objects make visible the differential impacts—past, present, and future—that have come to shape the relationships among human and non-human beings, living in an era of extreme hydrocarbon extraction, extreme weather events, and extreme economic disparity?”

And Caroline Peyton, a doctoral candidate from the University of South Carolina, presents our game to that scholarly audience as one such object of the Anthropocene. She had discovered an old copy of the game on eBay. Here’s the link to her presentation: http://nelson.wisc.edu/che/anthroslam/objects/peyton.php.

In response to Ms. Peyton’s well-received performance, the game CONTAINMENT is now winging its way to Germany to become part of an interactive learning event at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich this summer. The Rachel Carson Center is affiliated with the Deutsches Museum, Germany’s fine museum of technology.

Back in 1979, sitting on thousands of unsold games, James and I thought our first business venture a waste.

Some 36 years later, CONTAINMENT seems to be enjoying the half-life of nuclear waste.

Three Mile Island

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The year was 1964, and I was in high school. I had an adventurous friend named Dan, an older brother Mike who thought pornography might broaden my education, and a dangerous love of chemistry.

The chemicals obviously affected both minds and dress...

The chemicals obviously affected our minds… (Actually, we’d discovered a trunkful of antiquated menswear)

Dan and I were in the same chem class and decided what we needed most was a first-class, personal laboratory. You know, the kind of place where enterprising chemists could risk life and limb in the pursuit of scientific experiments forbidden in any school environment. His father Mel agreed to our using the attic room above his garage for our experimental facility, so we started moving things up the narrow staircase and under the sloping roof. At one end two metal lockers supported a large concrete tabletop. We hauled up a creaking armoire to hold our stock of chemical reagents and outdated chemistry manuals. And then we conned—er, convinced—our chemistry teacher to allow us to take home leftover chemicals at the end of each school day in return for washing up the school’s lab equipment. A win-win: he avoided doing the dishes, and we had open access to a wide selection of dangerous chemicals and elements. Brilliant, no? No.

Wearing long rubberized aprons, elbow-high gloves, and protective goggles purchased at the Army/Navy outlet, we got to work using an old chemistry manual. For starters, we produced a compound which, as it dried, became very volatile. A slight wind could set it off, sending any large glass beaker flying into the neighbor’s back yard in a loud and purple explosion. Placed strategically under a gym toilet seat and left to dry out on its own, this compound was reputed to create quite a surprise when someone sat down. And leave a lasting purple stain. Or so it was said.

Another experiment was creating red fuming nitric acid. A single spilled drop proved capable of burning clear through the linoleum flooring and the wood sheathing beneath, and piercing a 2”x8” wooden joist, leaving a nice peep-hole from the lab to the concrete garage floor ten feet below.  You get the idea. Dan and I weren’t perhaps the most sane chemistry students in school, but we certainly were the most creative. And before long our lab was as well-equipped as the best professional lab. Starting with a few beakers, flasks, glass piping, and a Bunsen burner, we eventually scrounged from second-hand stores miscellaneous lab gear designed to risk the lives of the experimenters as well as the neighborhood.

So along comes World War I. Or rather, that was the subject matter in our history class, and Dan and I volunteered to make—as an extracurricular project, of course—a slideshow of the final battle of that war. Our tabletop diorama featured genuine toxic gas clouds, actual explosive landmines and shell blasts, and toy soldiers and tanks. We also had flaming Fokker and Sopwith Camel airplanes suspended from monofilament lines, set afire, and dripping toxic melting plastic and paint on the display below. Snapping photos left and right while holding our breath as we filled the attic with poisonous gases, we got the shots we needed, then fled down the narrow stairs in a desperate attempt to avoid being belated casualties of WWI. We collided with Dan’s dad. who was rapidly ascending with a fire extinguisher in a rush to save his garage from extinction as smoke and gas clouds billowed from the attic windows.

So now comes the porn part. My elder brother Mike was a fraternity man, and had laid his hands on some porn movies from the 1940’s. “Trip to Ma’s, Part One and Part Two.” Yeah, that’s what they were labeled. We assumed Ma’s was a bordello. These were 16-millimeter, black-and-white finds accompanied by a noisy projector of the same vintage. The lot had been purchased from some cop who had confiscated them in a raid. Now please keep in mind that these were different times, when porn hid behind closed doors. Not like today when it pops up on computer and movie screens at an accidental keystroke. In fact, in those days porn possession was illegal. Yeah, I know, hard to believe.

One afternoon Mike asked if I wanted to look after the movies while he sought a suitable buyer. His fraternity had moved on to other sources of entertainment. I agreed without hesitation, as any cooperative younger brother would. Our chem lab now became a covert movie theater, as well. When no showing were schedules, we stashed the reels and the projector in one of the lockers, well out of sight of prying eyes.

Now, just to be clear, these movies would hardly raise an eyebrow by today’s standards. No soundtrack, shaky title cards, and less-than-stellar acting. The male lead wore dark socks, slicked-back hair, a pencil-thin mustache, and an inflamed pimple on his right butt cheek. One female star was a forty-something peroxide blonde who obviously didn’t care much for physical exertion. The other female was a twenty-something with pin curls who endured the man’s frantic efforts with an unchanging expression of boredom. For a contemporary image, picture the woman checking text messages during sex and you’ll have the idea.

So one day Mel comes in from the garage as Dan and I have just finished scrubbing honey from the wall paper. (I suppose an explanation is in order: We’d been snapping wet dishtowels, and Dan’s cloth sent a big container of honey flying, its tip spreading a ribbon of sticky honey all around the kitchen.) Anyway, in walks Mel, pours himself a cup of coffee, joins us at the table, and says: “Those are quite the films you boys have up there.”

Dan and I exchange looks of terror and mumble incoherent nonsense.

Than Mel continues: “Those photos look like actual WWI battle scenes.” He smiles smugly and takes his coffee mug into the living room, whistling. And Dan and I release a mutual sigh of relief.

Now in retrospect, I know that Mel was pulling our leg. He knew. He wasn’t admiring our 35-mm slides up there. He was talking 16-mm. But, what the hell, right?

So then I hide the movies and projector in the trunk of my car, and drive around for months wondering what to do with them. Concerned about a traffic stop, arrest and imminent incarceration, I drop by my brother’s place to give the whole kit back. He and his wife are out, so I put them in the bottom drawer of an old dresser in the garage, hidden way in back, and promptly move on with my teen life.

A couple of months later Mike asks about the movies. Ever the entrepreneur, he had found a buyer. “But wait,” I say to my brother, “Didn’t you find them in the garage?” But now it’s dawned on me that I never told him I’d hidden them there, and recently-married, he and his wife have moved in the meantime.

So that night, under cover of darkness, the two of us sneak up the driveway of his former rental, trying not to wake every dog in the neighborhood along with the new renters, enter the garage from the unlocked side door, and rescue the porn from certain oblivion. Or at least from discovery by the wrong people. And Mike has his sale.

And there you have it. I ended World War I. I nearly blew up a garage. And we saved porn for the world. Well, maybe not that, but two out of three’s enough, right? After all, it was high school.


Copyright 2015 Patrick W. O’Bryon

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