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HFC Editorial Review of "Fabyan Place" by Peter Angus

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

Author Bio:

Pete Angus’ goal in writing historical fiction is to provide the brisk suspenseful story telling of Robert Harris combined with the detail and historical precision of Patrick O’Brian.

He spent his early years in New York City and from there it was working and living in Vienna, Belgrade, Warsaw, Moscow, and Paris before settling in his current base, London.

"Fabyan Place", his first novel, is drawn from his own recollections and his extensive study of WWII military history.

Pete has caught the writing bug and is currently working on a new mystery series featuring a military CID officer investigating unusual crimes in the 1940s.

Editorial Review:

Fabyan Place is a singular first time novel and should be viewed on a number of separate levels. In the first instance it is a story of war and may be viewed as a harrowing and unsentimental account of conflict at it most brutal and inhuman. It is an account of two American prisoners of war from greatly differing backgrounds and thousands like them and their treatment by their German captors as the Second World War in Europe enters into its final bitter phase. It is also a painful and honest account and description of the true nature of racism and unthinking bigotry, in both war and peace, in America and Europe prior to, during and following the war. We are led by the Author, Peter Angus, through an account of the very different attitudes and upbringings of the two protagonists; Sonny, a mixed race young man from Newark, New Jersey, and John, also mixed race from rural Georgia. It is also a truly painful account of the effect that captivity and true privation has upon the individual, both physically and emotionally. The wounds and effects of both, the narrative relentlessly hammers home, truly run deep.

Sonny Jacob is a mixed race [Croatian and native Indian] young man from Newark New Jersey, whose fond and vivid memories of happy Christmases and of vast and wonderful spreads of food at Christmas at his family home, Fabyan Place, entertain and comfort both him and his starving compatriots and fellow inmates. He is generous in his invitations to all once the war is over, an invitation extended to his new friend John. The two men come from extremely diverse backgrounds. Sonny, enlisted in 1943, proves to be a highly trained and gifted logistician in the Quartermaster Corps whose flair and true genius for the task is counterbalanced by his wayward habits. His new career brings him into close contact with the predominantly black rank and file of the Corps, assigned tasks deemed too menial for white serving men. His status and rank swings back and forth as his off duty habits come home to roost and Peter Angus takes the reader through his chequered career; from training to England and then to the European Theatre of war. In the German Ardennes Offensive of the bitter winter of 1944 he is captured by the Germans and his first hand observations of the German systematic murder of prisoners, particularly of black Americans, are deeply disturbing.

John Chalmet, a young Negro man from Georgia, the child of a black Senegalese soldier and a German mother, easily passing as white, has a highly complex and complicated history. We are taken through his basic training as one of the 'Buffalo soldiers' in Arizona and where he develops extraordinary fighting and killing abilities [building on foundations taught him by his own father who had in turn learnt these skills as a French soldier in the First World War]. While Sonny on occasion appears to display a tendency to 'muse' on racial inequality and prejudice, John has been on the sharp end, the receiving end, of it all his life. He arrives in the German Labour camp where he is befriended by Sonny, by a different route, being captured on active service in Italy.

In their highly troubled, deprived and dangerous time spent as captives, both Sonny and John reflect often upon the basic truths of intolerance and racial abuse from their shared experiences of it at first hand as they encounter Nazi Germany's own interpretation of the American 'Jim Crow' laws. The reader learns too of John Chalmet's extraordinary life and career to date as the two friends struggle to survive, comforted by visions of a Christmas Feast at Fabyan Place. There follows, and none to soon, liberation, separation and repatriation as invalids to England where they are briefly reunited before moving on to different destinies.

The narrative frequently shifts back to Newark and the first Christmas of peace time. Sonny, missing and presumed dead for six months, suffering from barely healed wounds and much diminished by his experiences, is back home and anticipating the much longed for day of Christmas. He receives a mysterious message calling upon the promise of an invitation to attend and throwing him into stark realization of his own beliefs and uncertainties; an awareness of his own experiences and his own family's acutely held racial prejudice.

Fabyan Place is a heartrending tale based on facts and is also far far more than yet another war story, and is awarded four stars from The Historical Fiction Company.

J. delaMotte Harrison

HFC Editorial Reviewer


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