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Interview

Lifeline Bookfests p1

Fictional character Norman Wallis gives a heads up about the Lifeline Bookfests scheduled this year in Queensland…

Imagine tables and tables of second-hand books neatly lined up. Fiction, Penguins, biographies, text books, histories, religion, filling a giant convention-style room. Talk about the halls of Valhalla. And these books have been published any time between the nineteenth century and the present day, all donated to the charity Lifeline by people in the community. Brisbane Bookfests can have literally a million of these books for sale. And there are smaller Bookfests, just as good, in other towns. The books are so inexpensive you can pick up anything on a whim and give it a go, reading out of character, as it were. There are always books you would never find or even hear of anywhere else. They should have Bookfests around the world. Imagine all the wonderful old books people would be willing to donate to a worthy charity’s Bookfest-style event.

Here are a few of my favorites from Lifeline Bookfests.

No Bugles for Spies. Tales of the O.S.S. by Robert Hayden Alcorn. The O.S.S. was the precursor of the C.I.A.. This memoir has many great stories. During World War 2, the O.S.S. sent agents into Nazi-occupied countries like France, conducting various missions, such as sabotage and training of resistance fighters. But they needed foreign currency, for example francs for their agents to survive in France. So the O.S.S. had to send agents to neutral countries to buy French currency. The Gestapo anticipated this, and sold French francs and other required currencies. The Gestapo recorded the serial numbers. Then they reported to French post offices and banks that these runs of notes were stolen in bank robberies, and instructed them to report anyone who handed over these notes. Luckilly, the O.S.S. had someone who hated the Nazis working in a prominent position in a German bank. He recorded the numbers of these hot runs of notes on microdots. He stuck these microdots to the skin of an agent, so that it looked like one or two of the moles on his skin. The agent travelled to France and passed the microdots to the O.S.S.. These runs of notes were then kept from agents.

The Law of the Sea by William McFee, published about 1950. This was full of stories of piracy and mutiny; Phoenician sailors crossing the Mediterranean to Carthage and Rhodes; salvagers fighting over stranded vessels.
In 1492 Ferdinand and Isabella threw the Moors out of the Peninsula, ending what the author describes as a fertile artistic, architectural and scientific period in Spain. They drove the Moors into exhile in Africa. The Moors retaliated by becoming pirates. They attacked Spanish coastal towns carrying off slaves for their galleys. So Spain attacked North Africa, setting up strategic forts. The Moors became more ferocious and skilled. Two men of Malta, Arouj and his brother Kheyr-ed-Din became their leaders. Charles V, the grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella sent out missions to destroy them. Arouj was killed in battle, but his brother allied himself with the Turkish Sultan at Constantinople, Solyman the Magnificent. Kheyr-ed-Din declared war against Spain, Venice and all Christian states. His piracy was a massive business. He died in bed in Constantinople, mourned by the Sultan. He had laid the foundation for Turkish power in Africa.
For more takes from my favourite Bookfest books, read on.
– Norman Wallis continues next page…
– copyright Simon Sandall.