Book review by Richard Parks,
photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz
I don't normally do reviews on historical novels or fiction, but Lynn Wineland deserves recognition. Lynn was an editor, writer and reporter in the early days of hot rodding, drag and oval track racing. He worked with and knew my father, Wally Parks, when car magazines were first getting their start and reaching out to future success. Novels aren't a good seller among car guys, who would rather spend their money on a how-to book or a coffee table book with lots of pictures, limited text and appropriate captions. Those pictorials are fascinating and from a historical sense, the reader can get maximum exposure to the hot rodding scene for a fair price. But there was something very intriguing about Wineland's background and history and so I picked up his book and began to read. In Shadow of the Devil had a catchy title, but the first thing that seemed odd was the lack of a second "the." Shouldn't it have been In THE Shadow of the Devil? Okay, I'm being cute, but this is a novel right and car guys have trouble with novels, right? It's a pretty book, well crafted with lots of care. It measures 6 1/2 by 9 1/4 inches in size and is 1 1/2 inches thick, or 558 pages. The black and orange dust cover jacket is embossed and gives the book a stunning look. Beneath the jacket is gold lettering on the front and spine of the book. The paper is acid free, non-waxed and bound to the book by an excellent cloth binding. In Shadow of the Devil is meant to outlast us all. The book comes in a hardbound and softbound version, but I am reviewing the hardbound edition. The publisher is Adventure Publishers and the printer is M. Squiggle Press. Check with the printer at SquiggleAP@aol.com or at your local bookstore under the ISBN#0-9672907-0-8. The listed price for the hardbound edition is $29.95. Wineland adds some things you don't normally expect in a novel or a historical novel. The Table of Contents lists each chapter and the dates that the chapter covers. There is a background and biography on the author, an acknowledgement, disclaimer, introduction, foreword, prologue, epilog and 24 chapters. But just to make sure that you get your money's worth he adds a glossary of terms, bibliography, index and ends with chronological notes. This is a historical novel on steroids with Cliff Notes.
It becomes obvious why he includes the glossary, because the book is filled with German terms, code words and anagrams. This is a book that makes you think and ponder. When you have read, studied and learned the lessons of the 1930's and World War II, the author gives you a bibliography to turn to other books and become an educated man. It is time to leave the garage and your tools behind, for after reading this book the shade tree mechanic has a grasp of the world other than cars and machinery. But including an index; isn't that overkill? Not if you know Lynn Wineland, for he was passionate about his country and its place in the world and just because cars were a major part of his life does not mean that we can't be more than a mere car person. However, I think the author's fatal mistake was to include the Chronology notes at the back of the book, for by reading these brief five pages of notes based on points of time in the book, Wineland gives the story away. He should know that hot rodders don't like to waste time and will take the easiest and quickest approach. After reading the notes I knew the story plot, but was that good enough to lay the book aside and go on to other tasks, or would the notes simply whet my appetite for reading all 558 pages in detail. Another aspect was the testimonials and foreword written by the author's friends. You see a short synopsis on the dust cover jacket and sometimes that will tell you whether you should buy the book or go on to another subject. I decided to read these testimonials and see what they had to say first about the book and its author. These men testifying to the worth of the book included Colonel Russell E. Schleeh, General Robert C. Oaks, Burt Misevic, a past president of the Porsche Club of America, Greg Sharp, the curator of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, Gordon Ryan, author of Dangerous Legacy, Colonel Carleton W. Rogers, John Nunes, English teacher, Colonel William G. Barnson, Wilma White, and Adina B. Kappius. This was an eclectic group of people, all writing enthusiastic praises and each of them sound and responsible people.
The book turns out to be a very historical work, yet Wineland uses a few fictional characters to explain what is going on. The Great Depression followed World War I, a war that was started to end the debate on the fraticidal infighting among the nations of Europe. Great empires died and new nations were formed after the war ended in 1918, but little was solved. Russia imploded and became various small states, torn apart by the loss of life and the destruction of their economic viability. The Bolshevic Communists would wage an unholy war, first against their socialistic brothers and then against every real and false perceived threat. Germany would totter under war reparations that they could not pay and smarting from the loss of respect as former masters of Central Europe. The Austro/Hungarian Empire split apart into fractious pieces. England and France were exhausted both monetarily and from the loss of millions of young men. European colonies desired their freedoms and saw how weak the strong men of Europe had become. China and Japan were seething with hatred against each other. Maybe a hundred million people had died in that war and its aftermath and yet for all the carnage nothing had been settled. After the war the world simply slid into a malaise and finally into trade wars and unemployment. Stock markets crashed, money supplies dwindled, deflation was everywhere and the Great Depression threw its huge cloak over the world. Dictators arose in many countries around the world, but the worst were Lenin and Stalin in the Soviet Union, Hitler in Germany, Musolini in Italy and the Japanese Imperial military in Japan. World War II is the inevitable outcome to the mess that began at Sarajevo in 1914 and the outbreak of the First World War. It actually begins in the depths of the depression with the invasion of China by Japan on July 7, 1937. The world turns a deaf ear to the screams of war until Germany invades Poland on September 1, 1939 and Europe can no longer cover its eyes. America everts it eyes, warily hoping to be spared, until Japan bombs our ships at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and finally, the entire world is at war with someone, someplace.
The author uses this backdrop to begin his story, but he continues it decade by decade as he follows his fictional characters through a real historical record up to the year 1997, when he ends his narrative. How much of the story is fiction and how much is autobiographical or related to people that the author knows can only be known by those closest to Wineland. The name that he chooses for the family is Graham. British born Belmonte Graham meets Hede von Schonfeld in Germany, they marry and immigrate to the United States, where their son, Clement is born in 1917. The plot line is thick with all the great events that mark the Twentieth Century. The author weaves in events like Lindbergh's transatlantic flight, the Long Beach earthquake of 1933. Clement, or Clem as he is called, experiences the normal life of anyone who has lived during the post-WWI era. He witnesses the stock market crash of October 1929. Clem becomes an Eagle Boy Scout, enters the Soap Box Derby, works on his father's Packard, graduates from high school and enrolls at USC. He restores the Packard and sells it to Gary Cooper, the well-known Hollywood actor. Clem takes flying lessons and this tells us where the story is going to lead. In 1936 he accompanies his parents to the Olympic games in Berlin. Clem will do everything that a normal young man would do who is raised in Southern California during the 1920's and '30's. He will meet interesting people, become involved in events and intrigue, race cars on the dry lakes of the Mojave Desert and enter the Army Air Corp after the United States reluctantly enters World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Nothing will be simple for our hero. He works and races with the Oka brothers who are Japanese Americans. He will fly bombing missions against his mother's people in Germany. Clem represents the American people at a crossroads, having to confront evil within and without. As a people the world intruded on our idyllic lives and made us face the realities of life. How would we respond and what kind of people would we become. The plot twists and turns, a new generation is born, and the old one passes away. Each generation is faced with new problems and new issues that tries our character and yet presents us with promise. In Shadow of the Devil may not be your cup of tea, but I guarantee that all hot rodders will find names and characters that they know and understand. Some of those characters will be real people from history, like Ed Winfield, Barney Navarro and the Oka Brothers. Other characters will be fictional, but just as riveting and just as real. For fans of historical novels, this is a 7 and a half sparkplugs out of an 8 rating.
I rate this book a 7 1/2 out of 8 sparkplugs.
Pick One Up Today!
You can buy the book at a major book store near you. Also there are some used copies online