Munich by Robert Harris

Having read Fatherland, Conclave, Imperium, Dictator and many other great Historical Fiction novels by Robert Harris, I would like to read his latest Gripping intelligent historical thriller Munich. It is set just prior to the outbreak of World War II in October 1938 as Hitler seeks to fulfil his promise to the German people to bring ethnic Germans into the fold of the Fatherland. He plans to do this by annexing the Sudetenland and invading Czechoslovakia, a country that has only been in existence since the end of the First World War.

In order to avert war, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, has been involved in a game of shuttle diplomacy, trying to curb Hitler’s ambition. As the clock ticks down to the expiry of Hitler’s ultimatum to Czechoslovakia. With Peace hanging by a thread, Chamberlain, with the help of Mussolini, manages to persuade Hitler to attend one last peace conference, between Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Neville Chamberlain and Deladier It is the prelude to that conference and the conference itself, in Munich, that forms the basis for this book.

Chamberlain comes across as a man of conviction and strong politician who earnestly believed that peace could be brokered to avoid dragging Britain into another costly war and, yet, with guile enough to set the scene for Hitler to be seen to have broken his word should he ignore the agreement they sign in Munich.In turn, Germany is shown not to be full of Nazis but, at the top levels in society, the elite allow Hitler sufficient freedom to act as an over-zealous gamekeeper.

Against this background is the fictional story of Hugh Legat and Paul Hartmann who are old friends from their student days at Oxford, and have drifted apart after falling out over a girl. They are both now junior diplomats, Legat with the British Foreign Office, on loan to Number 10, and Hartmann with the German Foreign Ministry.

Hartmann is involved in a plot to depose Hitler, but for that to succeed the Munich negotiations must fail, so that the German Army will join the plot against Hitler rather than go to war. Then When sensitive documents, outlining Hitler’s real plans for Europe, are handed to Hartmann he sees the opportunity to sabotage the talks, however he cannot find a way to get the documents into British hands? His former friend Legat seems to provide the only opportunity.

World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day, is observed annually on June 20. A refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely. World Refugee Day is dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world. In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 55/76 decided that, from 2001, 20 June would be celebrated as World Refugee Day. In this resolution, the General Assembly noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The legal definition of international refugee status applies to any person who

“is outside the country of his nationality or habitual residence owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and is unable or unwilling to return there owing to serious and indiscriminate threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from generalized violence or events seriously disturbing public order.”

Such a person may also be called an asylum seeker until granted refugee status by the contracting state or the UNHCR if they formally make a claim for asylum.
The lead international agency coordinating refugee protection is the United Nations Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNHCR has a mandate to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, and assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. UNHCR was created in 1950, during the aftermath of World War II. Following the demise of the League of Nations and the formation of the United Nations, when the international community became acutely aware of the refugee crisis following the end of World War II. The International Refugee Organisation was an international agency set up in 1947 to deal comprehensively with all aspects of refugees’ lives. Preceding this was the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, which was established in 1944 to address the millions of people displaced across Europe as a result of World War II. However In the late 1940s, the IRO fell out of favor, but the UN agreed that a body was required to oversee global refugee issues. Despite many heated debates in the General Assembly, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was founded as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly. However, the organization was only intended to operate for 3 years, from January 1951, due to the disagreement of many UN member states over the implications of a permanent body.

UNHCR’s mandate was originally set out in its statute, annexed to resolution 428 (V) of the United Nations General Assembly of 1950. This mandate has been subsequently broadened by numerous resolutions of the General Assembly and its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland and it is a member of the United Nations Development Group. The UNHCR has won two Nobel Peace Prizes, once in 1954 and again in 1981. The United Nations have a second Office for refugees, the UNRWA, which is solely responsible for supporting the large majority of Palestinian refugees.

African Refugee Day was already celebrated in several countries prior to 2000. The UN noted that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had agreed to have International Refugee Day also coincides with Africa Refugee Day on 20 June. Each year on June 20th the United Nations, United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and countless civic groups around the world celebrate World Refugee Day in order to draw the public’s attention to the millions of refugees and Internally displaced persons worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution. The annual commemoration is marked by a variety of events in more than 100 countries, involving government officials, humanitarian aid workers, celebrities, civilians and the forcibly displaced themselves.

Recent themes for the UNHCR World Refugee Day have included: one family torn apart by war is too many, 1 refugee forced to flee is too many and Home and Protection. Individuals and community groups are encouraged to mark the day by attending a local World Refugee Day event, watching and sharing World Refugee Day videos, and raising awareness for refugees on social media

John Taylor (Duran Duran)

John Taylor, English basss guitar player with the band Duran Duran was born on 20th June 1960. Born in Solihull, then in Warwickshire, John Taylor grew up in nearby Hollywood, Worcestershire, England. As a child he attended Our Lady of the Wayside Catholic school and the Abbey High School, in Redditch, enjoyed James Bond movies and the hobby of wargaming with hand-painted model soldiers. In his early teen years, he discovered music, choosing Roxy Music as his favourite band, and before long was collecting records and teaching himself to play piano. His first band was called Shock Treatment.

He then joined the band Duran Duran in 1978. They were formed in Birmingham by Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Stephen Duffy, with the later addition of Roger Taylor and, after numerous personnel changes, Andy Taylor and Simon Le Bon. (None of the Taylors are related, and Roger Taylor is not to be confused with the Queen drummer of the same name.)

Duran Duran went on to become one of the most successful bands of the 1980s and a leading band in the MTV-driven “Second British Invasion” of the United States. Since the 1980s, they have had 14 singles in the Top 10 of the UK Singles Chart and 21 in the Billboard Hot 100. Their debut single “Planet Earth” was released n 1981, with their self-titled debut album, Duran Duran, released in June the same year. By 1983, the band was a global success story, and went on to have many other hits including Union of the Snake, Girls on Film, Rio, Wild Boys, The Reflex, Hungry like a Wolf and New Moon on Monday.

While they were generally considered part of the New Romantic scene along with bands such as Spandau Ballet when they first emerged, they later shed this image. The band worked with fashion designers to build a sharp and elegant image that earned them the nickname “the prettiest boys in rock.” The band’s controversial videos, which included partial nudity and suggestions of sexuality, became popular in the early 1980s on the then-new music video channel MTV. Duran Duran were among the first bands to have their videos shot by professional directors with 35 mm film movie cameras, which gave their videos a much more polished look. The band were also early innovators with video technology in their live stadium shows.

The group has never disbanded, but the line-up has changed to include guitarist Warren Cuccurullo from 1989 to 2001 and drummer Sterling Campbell from 1989 to 1991. The reunion of the original five members in the early 2000s created a stir among the band’s fans and music media. Andy Taylor left the band in mid-2006, and London guitarist Dom Brown has since been working with the band as a session player and touring member. Duran Duran’s latest album “All You Need Is Now” was released in 2013.

Robert Crais

The American crime fiction author, Robert Crais was born June 20 1953, in Independence, Louisiana. He was adopted and raised as an only child. He attended Louisiana State University and studied mechanical engineering. He later moved to Hollywood in 1976 and began a career writing scripts for television shows such as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Quincy, Miami Vice and L.A. Law.

Crais started writing detective fiction, this was inspired by the novels of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, Robert B. Parker and John Steinbeck. He was also nominated for an Emmy award. Following the death of his father in 1985,  he published his first novel, The Monkey’s Raincoat, which won the 1988 Anthony Award for “Best First Novel” and the 1988 Mystery Readers International Macavity Award for “Best Paperback Original”.

In 2006 Crais was awarded the Ross Macdonald Literary Award and in 2010 the Private Eye Writers of America’s (PWA) Lifetime Achievement Award The Eye. In 2014 he is scheduled to receive the Mystery Writers of America’s (MWA) Grand Master Award.his novels include: The Monkey’s Raincoat, Demolition Angel, Hostage, Suspect, and The Two-Minute Rule, all of Crais’ books feature Cole and Pike, with The Watchman (2007), The First Rule (2010) and The Sentry (2011) centering on Joe Pike. The 2012 Detctive Novel Taken is the fifteenth in a series of linked novels centering on the character Elvis Cole and the 2005 film, Hostage, was also an adaptation of one of his books.

Lionel Richie

American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer and actor Lionel Richie was born 20, June 1949 in Tuskegee, Alabama. From 1968, he was a member of the musical group Commodores signed to Motown Records. Richie made his solo debut in 1982 with the album Lionel Richie and number-one hit “Truly”. As a student in Tuskegee, Richie formed a succession of R&B groups in the mid-1960s.

In 1968 he became a singer and saxophonist with the Commodores who became established as a popular soul group. Their first several albums had a danceable, funky sound, as in such tracks as “Machine Gun” and “Brick House.” Over time, Richie wrote and sang more romantic, easy-listening ballads such as “Easy,” “Three Times a Lady,” “Still,” and the tragic breakup ballad “Sail On.” By the late 1970s he had begun to accept songwriting commissions from other artists. He composed “Lady” for Kenny Rogers, which hit #1 in 1980, and produced Rogers’s album Share Your Love the following year. Richie and Rogers maintained a strong friendship in later years. Latin jazz composer and salsa romantica pioneer La Palabra enjoyed international success with his cover of “Lady,” which was played at Latin dance clubs. Also in 1981 Richie sang the theme song for the film Endless Love, a duet with Diana Ross. Issued as a single, the song topped the UK and US pop music charts, and became one of Motown’s biggest hits. Its success encouraged Richie to branch out into a full-fledged solo career in 1982.

He was replaced as lead singer for The Commodores by Skyler Jett in 1983. His debut album, Lionel Richie, produced another chart-topping single, “Truly,” which continued the style of his ballads with the Commodores. Richie’s 1982 self-titled debut contained three hit singles: the U.S. #1 song “Truly”,”You Are” and “My Love.”His 1983 follow-up album, Can’t Slow Down won two Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, propelling him into the first rank of international superstars. The album contained the #1 hit “All Night Long”. Several more Top 10 hits followed, the most successful of which was the ballad “Hello” (1984), Richie had three more Top Ten hits in 1984, “Stuck on You” (#3), “Running with the Night” and “Penny Lover” in 1985 Richie wrote and performed, “Say You, Say Me,” for the film White Nights, winning an Oscar for his efforts as well as reaching on the U.S. charts. He also collaborated with Michael Jackson on the charity single “We Are the World” by USA for Africa, In 1986, Richie released Dancing on the Ceiling, which produced the hits “Say You, Say Me”, “Dancing on the Ceiling” , “Ballerina Girl” and “Se La”

Richie remains popular to this day and in 2004, he appeared on Top Gear as the “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” where he was interviewed by host Jeremy Clarkson and During his lap, the Suzuki Liana he was driving lost a wheel due to hard cornering. In November 2005, he performed with Kenny Rogers on a CMT Crossroads special. Richie was also the headliner at a 2000 Fourth of July tribute concert with Fantasia Barrino at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On May 7, 2006, Richie performed on the main stage (Acura Stage) at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Richie released his eighth studio album entitled “Coming Home” on September 12, 2006. The first single of the album was “I Call It Love” and was premiered in July 2006, becoming his biggest hit in the U.S. in ten years. The album was an incredible success for Richie in the United States, peaking at #6. His adopted daughter Nicole Richie stars in the music video for this track.

On December 9, 2006, Richie hosted and performed live on the British television show An Audience with Lionel Richie. Two months later, he performed “Hello” on the 49th Grammy Awards show. On November 25, 2007, he made a surprise appearance on the Australian Idol grand finale performing “All Night Long (All Night)” at the Sydney Opera House. Richie donated to Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign. On May 2, 2008, he became the 21st recipient of the George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award at UCLA’s annual Spring Sing and Recently, he announced that he would like to get The Commodores back together soon, “or in the next 10 years no one will care.” On December 31, 2008, Richie performed in Times Square for the New Year’s Eve celebration and ball drop. He also performed on the 2009 season finale for American Idol with Danny Gokey. On July 7, 2009, Richie performed “Jesus is Love” at Michael Jackson’s memorial service and the album, Just Go was released in spring 2009.

Jaws

The film Jaws was released 20 June 1975 it was inspired by the novel by Peter Benchley who was himself inspired by reports of several great white sharks caught in the 1960s off Long Island and Block Island by the Montauk charterboat captain Frank Mundus. Steven Spielberg initially found many of the characters unsympathetic and wanted the shark to win. Book critics such as Michael A. Rogers of Rolling Stone shared the sentiment however the book struck a chord with readers. Benchley also co-wrote the screenplay with Carl Gottlieb (along with the uncredited Howard Sackler and John Milius, who provided the first draft of a monologue about the USS Indianapolis) for the Spielberg film released in 1975. Benchley made a cameo appearance as a news reporter on the beach. The film, starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss, was released in the summer season, with editing by Verna Fields, score by John Williams and directed by Steven Spielberg who was credited with infusing the film with such an air of understated menace that he was hailed as the heir apparent to “Master of Suspense” Alfred Hitchcock. Jaws became the first film to gross over $100 million in United States and grossed over $470 million worldwide.

The film takes place in Amity Island, Where the grisly remains of a young woman who went swimming in the ocean are discovered. The medical examiner rules the death a shark attack which leads Police Chief Martin Brody to close the beaches. However Mayor Larry Vaughn overrules him, fearing it will ruin the town’s summer economy. The coroner now concurs with the mayor’s theory that the girl was killed in a boating accident. Brody reluctantly accepts their conclusion until another fatal shark attack occurs shortly after. A bounty is then placed on the shark, resulting in an amateur shark-hunting frenzy. Local professional shark hunter Quint offers his services for $10,000. Meanwhile, consulting oceanographer Matt Hooper examines the first victim’s remains and confirms the death was from a shark attack.

When local fishermen catch a large tiger shark, the mayor proclaims the beaches safe. However no human remains are found inside it. Hooper and Brody find a half-sunken vessel while searching the night waters in Hooper’s boat. Underwater, Hooper retrieves a sizable great white shark’s tooth embedded in the submerged hull. He drops it after finding a partial corpse. Vaughn discounts Brody and Hooper’s claims that a huge great white shark is responsible and refuses to close the beaches, for the Fourth of July weekend, when tourists pack the beaches.

Following a juvenile prank, the real shark enters a nearby estuary, killing a boater and Brody finally convinces a devastated Vaughn to hire Quint. Quint, Brody, and Hooper set out on Quint’s boat, the Orca, to hunt the shark. While Brody lays down a chum line, Quint waits for an opportunity to hook the shark which suddenly appears before disappearing beneath the waves. However the Great White returns later and damages the boat which starts sinking so they make for shore but the engine gives up. So Hooper dons scuba gear and enters the water in a shark-proof cage, intending to lethally inject the shark with strychnine using a hypodermic spear. However The shark demolishes the cage before attacking the boat directly, killing Quint. Trapped on the sinking vessel, Brody is left to deal with the shark himself.

The film spawned three sequels, two video games, Jaws in 1987 and Jaws Unleashed in 2006 and was also adapted into a theme park attraction at Universal Studios Florida (in Orlando, Florida and Hollywood), and two musicals: JAWS The Musical!, which premiered in the summer of 2004 at the Minnesota Fringe Festival; and Giant Killer Shark: The Musical, which premiered in the summer of 2006 at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

Summer Solstice/ Midsummer/ St. John’s Day /Litha

Midsummer, also known as St John’s Day, is the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, and more specifically the Northern European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice or take place on a day between June 19 and June 25 and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary between different cultures. The Christian Church designated June 24 as the feast day of the early Christian martyr St John the Baptist, and the observance of St John’s Day begins the evening before, known as St John’s Eve. These are commemorated by many Christian denominations. In Sweden the Midsummer is such an important festivity that there have been serious discussions to make the Midsummer’s Eve into the National Day of Sweden, instead of June 6. It may also be referred to as St. Hans Day.

European midsummer-related holidays, traditions, and celebrations are pre-Christian in origin. They are particularly important in geographic Northern Europe – Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – but is also very strongly observed in Poland, Russia, Belarus, Germany, Netherlands, Flanders , Ireland, parts of the United Kingdom (Cornwall especially), France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine, other parts of Europe, and elsewhere – such as Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico, and also in the Southern Hemisphere (mostly in Brazil, Argentina and Australia), where this imported European celebration would be more appropriately called “Midwinter”.

Midsummer is also sometimes referred to by some Neopagans as Litha, stemming from Bede’s De temporum ratione which provides Anglo-Saxon names for the months roughly corresponding to June and July as se Ærra Liþa and se Æfterra Liþa (the “early Litha month” and the “later Litha month”) with an intercalary month of Liþa appearing after se Æfterra Liþa on leap years. The fire festival or Litha – Summer solstice – is a tradition for many neopagans.

Solstice celebrations still centered on the day of the astronomical summer solstice. Some choose to hold the rite on June 21, even when this is not the longest day of the year, and some celebrate June 24, the day of the solstice in Roman times. Although Midsummer is originally a pagan holiday, in Christianity it is associated with the nativity of John the Baptist, which is observed on the same day, June 24, in the Catholic, Orthodox and some Protestant churches. It is six months before Christmas because Luke 1:26 and Luke 1.36 imply that John the Baptist was born six months earlier than Jesus, although the Bible does not say at which time of the year this happened.In Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Quebec (Canada), the traditional Midsummer day, June 24, is a public holiday. So it was formerly also in Sweden and Finland, but in these countries it was, in the 1950s, moved to the Friday and Saturday between June 19-26. In Wicca, the longest day and shortest night of the year has not had a set date since the retirement of the 13-month Celtic calendar.

The celebration of Midsummer’s Eve (St. John’s Eve among Christians) was from ancient times a festival of the summer solstice. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southward again. In later years, witches were also thought to be on their way to meetings with other powerful beings. The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times. it is customary for cultures following lunar calendars to place the beginning of the day on the previous eve at dusk at the moment when the Sun has set. In Sweden, Finland, Latvia and Estonia, Midsummer’s Eve is the greatest festival of the year, comparable only with Walpurgis Night, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.

Ancient Romans would hold a festival to honor the god Summanus on June 20. In the 7th century, Saint Eligius warned the recently converted inhabitants of Flanders against the age-old pagan solstice celebrations. According to the Vita by his companion Ouen, he’d say: “No Christian on the feast of Saint John or the solemnity of any other saint performs solestitia (summer solstice rites) or dancing or leaping or diabolical chants.” As Christianity entered pagan areas, midsummer celebrations came to be often borrowed and transferred into new Christian holidays, often resulting in celebrations that mixed Christian traditions with traditions derived from pagan Midsummer festivities. The 13th-century monk of Winchcomb, Gloucestershire, who compiled a book of sermons for the feast days, recorded how St. John’s Eve was celebrated in his time. Let us speak of the revels which are accustomed to be made on St. John’s Eve, of which there are three kinds. On St. John’s Eve in certain regions the boys collect bones and certain other rubbish, and burn them, and therefrom a smoke is produced on the air. They also make brands and go about the fields with the brands. Thirdly, the wheel which they roll. The fires, explained the monk of Winchcombe, were to drive away dragons, which were abroad on St. John’s Eve, poisoning springs and wells. The wheel that was rolled downhill On St John’s Day 1333 Petrarch watched women at Cologne rinsing their hands and arms in the Rhine “so that the threatening calamities of the coming year might be washed away by bathing in the river.

In Great Britain from the 13th century, Midsummer was celebrated on Midsummer Eve (St. John’s Eve, June 23) and St. Peter’s Eve (June 28) with the lighting of bonfires, feasting and merrymaking. In late 14th-century England, John Mirk of Lilleshall Abbey, Shropshire, gives the following description: “At first, men and women came to church with candles and other lights and prayed all night long. In the process of time, however, men left such devotion and used songs and dances and fell into lechery and gluttony turning the good, holy devotion into sin.” The church fathers decided to put a stop to these practices and ordained that people should fast on the evening before, and thus turned waking into fasting.

However many Midsummer festivities were frowned upon by the Reformed establishment. The Chester Midsummer Watch Parade, begun in 1498, was held at every Summer Solstice in years when the Chester Mystery Plays were not performed. Despite the cancellation of the plays in 1575, the parade continued; in 1599, however, the Lord Mayor ordered that the parades be banned and the costumes destroyed. The parade was permanently banned in 1675. However Traditional Midsummer bonfires are still lit on some high hills in Cornwall (see Carn Brea and Castle an Dinas on Castle Downs). This tradition was revived by the Old Cornwall Society in the early 20th century. Bonfires in Cornwall were once common as part of Golowan, which is now celebrated at Penzance, Cornwall. This week long festival normally starts on the Friday nearest St John’s Day. Golowan lasts several days and culminates in Mazey Day. This is a revival of the Feast of St John (Gol-Jowan) with fireworks and bonfires. In England Midsummer Day, is the feast of St. John the Baptist, and is one of the quarter days in England. In recent years on the Summer Solstice, English Heritage has run a “Managed Open Access” to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice celebrations.