Something quite rare happened in the Amazon best sellers lists last week, something which made the sharp eyed analyst sit up and take notice. As you may be aware, Amazon separates all books into specific categories in order that the buyer can narrow down their preferences when searching for a book. Take warfare for example. The reader can not only define his or her search to World War II but can narrow the field down further, to WWII in the air and further again if they so desire, with books associated only with the RAF for example. That way, when the book drops through the letter box or is downloaded onto an e-reading device, the reader can rest assured that they will be reading something which specifically interests them.
As an author it is always nice to see one of your works top a specific category and I'm fortunate enough to have witnessed this a few times. I've topped the charts in Autobiographies (as a ghostwriter) Prisoners of War, and managed to scale the dizzy heights of the top ten with a crime fiction book and a true crime story.
And while browsing the Amazon charts last week I was surprised to see a certain book topping the division - 'German Historical Biographies' not least because the book was based on a former British soldier who served with 2nd / 5th Battalion Leicester's during World War II.
Briefly, 'Do The Birds Still Sing In Hell?' is the true story of Horace 'Jim' Greasley, who found himself facing the might of the German army in a muddy field south of Cherbourg in Northern France in the early days of World War Two. Horace's war didn't last long. He was taken prisoner on 25th May 1940 and forced to endure a ten week march across France and Belgium and a three day train journey to Polish Silesia. By the time the train arrived the corpses of at least twenty allied prisoners lay on the carriage floor.
Imprisoned in the Nazi death camps where he would spend the next five years of his life he embarked on an incredible love affair with a German interpreter. The only way to carry on the forbidden affair was to escape. Horace found a way and after each meeting the two lovers raided the surrounding villages for much needed food for the starving prisoners. Horace promptly broke back into the camp with the additional supplies. Towards the end of the war they would supply radio parts so that nearly 3000 prisoners would get daily news reports from the BBC. Incredibly, Horace escaped over two hundred times.
The book was a Sunday Times top ten best seller and the film rights have been optioned; it seems that Horace has left a legacy that will run and run.
But number one in German Political Biographies? Surely that must be his quirkiest achievement to date, a real two fingers up to Nazism and everything it stood for?
The section was dominated by a certain Mr Adolf Hitler. The top twenty five books contained no less than sixteen 'Hitler' books including 'Hitler' by Ian Hargreaves, 'Hitler' by Rupert Colley, Hitler - a study in Tyranny, Hitler's Spies, 'Hitler - 1889-1936, 'Hitler' by Robin Cross and of course Mein Kampf.
There were other books in there too, books that were not about Hitler but they all had that German link, books like 'Commander of Auschwitz,' 'Wilhelm II' and 'Spitfire on my Tail' an intriguing book in which a former Luftwaffe pilot describes what it was like to be on the wrong side of a Spitfire.
To see former British prisoner of war, Horace Greasley sitting at the top of this pile tickled me slightly and I wondered if Amazon had somehow mixed up the categories. Not at all, they replied swiftly, the book charted Horace's five years in captivity at the hands of the Nazi's, it was most certainly a historical biography and because he was fighting the Germans, qualified the category. There was no mistake.
I emailed the link to his widow Brenda, who is now living back in Leicestershire since the death of old Horace three years ago. She emailed me back later that evening.
"Horace is still fighting the Nazi's from beyond the grave," she said. "I can see his cheeky smile now, he would be delighted."
I'm sure he would, he had a wicked sense of humour and now it seems the friends of Horace on Facebook have picked up on this peculiarity too and it's about to go viral. Please share this article if you are reading it online and who knows, the story of the late, great, Horace Greasley may yet have another strange twist.