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Monday, May 22, 2017

Holy $moke by Derek Robinson

Hungry for a book that snaps your eyes open and dares you to put it down?  Here’s a tip!  Holy $moke, by my favorite living writer, Derek Robinson.  Holy $moke is a smorgasbord of spies, intrigue, laugh out loud fun, and indelible and unlikely characters, all driven by a swiftly moving plot.

About time a book came along that is so startlingly original that I forgot about my afternoon nap and my before dinner cocktail.  All done without the clichés of murder, seduction and gunnery.  Wait a sec…no sex, blood, violence and still spellbinding???  Let me give you the whole picture.  My favorite writer doesn’t depend on weepy and psychologically damaged characters either.

Let’s set the stage.  As World War II ebbs toward its ragged conclusion. Allied forces are advancing by fits and starts through Italy. Southern Italy is liberated, but no one is quite sure what’s filling the vacuum. In the north, German forces are putting up a hell of a fight.  In Rome, the fascist government is deposed, leaving a political and commercial void in its wake.  Ordinary Romans try desperately to put food in the mouths of their families and gather together the shards of their war shattered lives. 

Meanwhile, General “Wild Bill” Donovan, the brainy, bellicose founder and leader of the Office of Strategic Services has his OSS agents scouring the city for leftover scraps of intelligence.  He’s not messing around and neither are his underlings, who haven’t produced viable information in ages.  The pressure is on.  The message is clear:  find new veins of intelligence gold, or find yourself banished to some backwater, where you’ll wait out the war filling out forms and filling filing cabinets, while your brain atrophies and your raw fingertips bleed.

Enter Virgilio del Pronto, an out of work writer, recently released from prison and looking to restart his so-so career.  With Rome’s newspapers and magazines in ruins, finding a writing job is damn near impossible. Plus, more than just an empty belly is pressuring him.  There’s Virgilio’s caustic wife, an unpleasant person in the best of times, who never lets him forget he’s unemployed.  “How lucky I was to marry a writer…Instead of a ditch digger who brought home a wage.”  Yes, I often identify with that.

But some things Virgilio has in abundance are acquaintances, all of whom are very aware of his fluid imagination and gift for the written word.  We’d call his approach ‘networking.’  He calls it survival.

Then, out of the blue, with persistence and a truckload of luck, Virgilio strikes gold.  A vein of it.  And it’s just what the American OSS agents need.

Robinson mines history and inserts vivid strands of humor into another of his seamlessly free flowing tales of the improbable. Reminiscent of his Eldorado series (The Eldorado Network, Operation Bamboozle, Artillery of Lies, and Red Rag Blues), Holy $moke leads you through a neatly constructed and mesmerizing sequence of events, all founded on equally improbable truth.  Along the way, he paints a clear picture of life under Allied occupation, while weaving a magnetic tale of Vatican intrigues, including oddities such as the German Ambassador playing tennis with the Japanese Ambassador.  Yes, even after Rome’s liberation, Axis Ambassadors to the papal enclave still played on.

All of this is preposterous, yet in large measure it happened.  You’ll be turning pages and chuckling as Derek Robinson leads you through this romp of a novel!  Pick up your copy early in the day; otherwise you’re going to lose sleep! 

I always read Derek Robinson’s books twice.  Once for enjoyment and again for even more enjoyment!

Check out his web site: or order directly from the author at;

Although Holy $moke is self-published, don’t forget to look for his other supremely entertaining books on or  There must be twenty, both novels and non-fiction. His series of flying novels, from both World War I and II are the best I’ve ever read.  But, I warn you, all his books are as addictive as potato chips at a cocktail party and while you’re laughing and eagerly flipping pages, you’re also getting sneaky glimpses into real, unvarnished history!

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