Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reichspräsident Speer

Albert Speer is one of the althistory's brightest stars. No wonder we meet him in the Strangers' Journey - only as a background character though.

Here's an extract from an article published in the New York Times Literary Supplement, June 1972:
An unemployed architect who turned out as chief decorator of Hitler's short-lived dictatorship; who reached ministerial status under the military rule; who was appointed a Vice-Chancellor of the interim government and finally appeared at the steering wheel of the new Reich - isn't it a success story so popular among us Americans? But Speer's career is too far from this popular genre. No business or politics of his own. Just service to the State. And quiet (no flashes, no scoops, not a single scandal) transformation of the State he serves so well.
Безработный архитектор, ставший главным декоратором недолговечной диктатуры Гитлера, поднявшийся до министерского поста в годы военного правления, назначенный вице-канцлером в переходном правительстве и получивший в руки государственный штурвал нового рейха – чем не история успеха, любимый жанр американцев? Но нет ничего более далекого от этого жанра, чем карьера Шпеера. Вместо собственного бизнеса или собственной политической платформы – служение государству. И постепенное, без вспышек и сенсаций, преобразование системы, которой он служит.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sir Alec Douglas Home

Formerly 14th Earl of Home (renounced his peerage before the October 1964 General Election). MP since 1931. In 1937-9 served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Neville Chamberlain.
British Prime Minister in 1963-1964 (OTL), and in 1969-1973 (Strangers' world). Close friend of Ernest, Duke of Edinburgh. Main driving force behind the Special Research Bureau.
Cricket player, president of the Marylebone Cricket Club from 1977.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Après Toi - Eurovision Winner, 1972

"Après toi" (French for "After you") was the winning song of the Eurovision Song Contest 1972 performed in French by Vicky Leandros representing Luxembourg.

The song was performed seventeenth on the night (following Belgium's Serge & Christine Ghisoland with "À la folie ou pas du tout" and preceding the Netherlands' Sandra & Andres with "Als het om de liefde gaat"). By the close of voting, it had received 128 points, placing it first in a field of 18.

The song was released in Britain in an English translation, "Come What May", also sung by Vicky Leandros, it reached no. 2 in the charts.

(Info: Wiki)

"Après toi" is mentioned in Strangers' Journey as a 'summer anthem played here, there and everywhere just like Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime" two years before'.


For decades Humber was the favorite mount of British Army, special services and government agencies. No wonder that Special Research Bureau has chosen this car. More precisely, different cars: agent Dora drives a compact Humber Sceptre (above) while big brass travels in spacious Super Snipes (shown below) or luxury Imperials. Mark Toma was taken from Heathrow airport to Charing Cross hotel in a 'big Humber' - model not specified.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Typewriters. Why?

There are at least two mentions of typewriters in our project: a Rheinmetall supposedly used at the Military Counter-Intelligence HQ and Mark's own device, no name given.
Well, the military could of course use a Rheinmetall shown in the previous post, but most probably they would emloy another German wonder nicknamed 'the Mercedes-Benz of typewriters' - Olympia SG1:
Being an Anglophile, Mark Toma could easily buy an Imperial portable just for the label. But he could also go with the crowd purchasing the most popular portable of its time - Olivetti Lettera 22:

Thursday, May 28, 2009


British Imperial Good Companion portable, 1961
German Rheinmetall Standart Gs, 1960

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mark's camera

April 13, 1972. Mark Toma buys an Icarex SLR with a wide angle lens (presumably 35/3.4 Skoparex) from Panorama shop. Icarex is a trade mark of Zeiss Ikon. In OTL this camera was a German response to budget-priced Japanese SLRs. In the Strangers' world it has much larger share of the market. Given the Arrested Development Factor its looks are too modern - so probably Mark's Icarex looked like 1963 prototype (branded Voigtlaender):

Btw, real Icarex was discontinued in 1971.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Malcolm McLaren - Jazz is Paris

Джазовых клубов в пределах досягаемости оказалось не меньше двадцати, десять из них работали ежевечерне, в пяти обещали играть «великую классику». Я выбрал тот, который громкими словами не злоупотреблял, а сулил всего-навсего «стандарты и мелодии прошлых лет». И не прогадал: в уютном зале играли французы, играли старый-престарый свинг и немолодой бибоп, без проблесков гениальности, но так, что хотелось слушать еще и еще. Увы, музыка стихла, когда я как раз собрался заказать третий бокал коньяка.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Borgward. Why?

Borgward is a German automobile, produced in Bremen between 1929 and 1961.
One of the models, Isabella TS Coupe, is a real beauty:
But gracious Isabella is not the point.
Lieutenant Rudolf Kovacs of Military Counter-Intelligence, Southern District, Mark's colleague pro tempore, drives an 'old-fashioned Borgward' to the final stage of investigation.
Car shown here is probably too old-fashioned even for the Strangers' 1972. So Rudolf's official mount might look like 1959 Borgward P100:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jeans, Memphis... Why?

Well, Jeans Story in the Strangers' world is quite different from OTL. Indigo-colored cotton cloth (denim) has conquered Europe in early Fifties. The mastermind behind its success is Yves Saint Laurent, who displayed his 'classe ouvrière' collection at the Paris Fashion Week, spring 1952. Despite their obvious working-class connection, jeans for years were a part of Haute couture and only in the Sixties finally found their way into the middle-class wardrobe. Both Eva and Mark wear jeans on various occasions.
Memphis is one of the oldest cigarette brands in Europe. First imported to Austro-Hungary from Egypt, Memphis cigarettes were produced locally after the Great War - not only in Austria but also in other parts of Central Europe. Not a de luxe brand any more but still a strong and tasty Oriental blend. Mark's favorite.
Btw, original Memphis has nothing to do with Memphis, Tennessee. It is named after the ancient capital of Lower Egypt.

Photo by joacigpacks, on Flickr


1952 Borgward Hansa 2400

Sunday, May 17, 2009

P38. Why? Also: Jeans and Memphis

Walther pistol is featured here for one and only reason: it is Mark's weapon. Never fired in anger. That's it.
Now an artifact worthy of a proper explanation:

Stay tuned

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Marc Bolan. Why?

Another explanation.
Marc Bolan (1947-1977), born Mark Feld, the famous of all glam rock icons, released his Metal Guru in 1972. In the Strangers' world he is not a star yet, but a kind of underground hero. Mark Toma while staying in London goes to his club gig in Soho - quite unexpectedly with even less expected consequences.
Here's another one by Feld / Bolan - Spaceball Ricochet, also recorded and performed in 1972:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Arrested development factor

We owe you some explanations, so let's start with something really important.
Saunders-Roe (SARO) SR.45 Princess flying boat
In brief, the Strangers' 1972 looks rather old-fashioned compared to OTL 1972. Here are some points of interest. Feel the difference.
  • Flying boat is still a popular way to travel between the North Sea and Baltic ports.
  • Pneumatic mail is still widely used, and not only for in-office communication.
  • Transistor radio is a novelty. You've got television, but cannot enjoy satellite transmission - there are no satellites. And nobody has landed on the Moon yet (no 'Good luck, Mr. Gorsky!'). Actually, nobody has entered the Space.
  • Nuclear threat is pure science-fiction - the Bomb hasn't been tested, it simply doesn't exist.
  • There are battleships in different navies, some of them completed not so long ago.
  • No Japanese cars in the Western world. Japanese cameras and home electronics are illegal, but you can purchase them from a trusted vendor - in case you are a trusted customer.
  • And jazz festivals are held every summer in Fiume, which is still Fiume and not Rijeka. The map is different. Very different from real 1972, very much alike a prewar one.
The pace of progress is slower. Something has never happened.

Image: (Global Aviation Resource)

Walther HP / P38 / P1

The Walther P38 is a 9 mm pistol that was developed by Walther as the service pistol of the Wehrmacht at the beginning of World War II.
Its earliest version was called Heeres Pistole (HP). A slightly modified version of the P38 called the P1 was adopted by the Bundeswehr in 1957 and remained in service until the early 1990s.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Austin-Healey Sprite Mark I. Why?

This small sports car powered by Austin-A 948 cc engine was advertised as a low-cost model that 'a chap could keep in his bike shed'.
Mark I Sprite, aka Bugeye or Frogeye, is Mark Toma's personal mount for at least four years. Its fate is sad - smashed by drunken owner on a December night in 1971, hastily repaired and sold. But Mark is still proud: long before others he spotted the trend and opted for a British roadster when everyone was buying German cars. In OTL it was in production from 1958 through 1961. Arrested development factor (explanation to follow) places it in the mid-60s. So if you see a Sprite in our text, please associate it with the first model and forget about less spectacular Marks II-V.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

First Step to the Project

Let us begin.
The main action takes place in 1972. Now the artifacts start making sense, don't they?
But here and there are memories of the past: 50s, 40s, even 30s. Memories of what never happened in our world. Memories of our world, but unheard of in the world of Mark Toma.
Typical flashback, from the Prologue:

Near the post office my tram slowed down. A neon slogan happily shined through the evening dusk: 'With Deutsche Lufthansa - to Munich Olympics!'. Myriads of red and yellow bulbs twinkled right above the slogan forming the shape of jet-propelled Junkers.
Then I moved through fifteen hundred yards of luxury: best hotels, most fashionable shops, brand-new posh cars. And girls, dressed after future summer fashion.
Once again came a memory of things that never happened. Strange year when we didn't go to Lago di Garda and spent the whole summer in a country house. For hours my father was sitting beside the radio - usually not his favorite device.
And sunny September day, when lessons were suddenly canceled. My classmates and I stood on department store roof watching the Germans. Nobody looked for us. And we looked at the troops marching through this luxurious boulevard. Rolling in half-track carriers. To Hell the carriers, they had half-track motorcycles, fantastic machines we'd never seen before! Now we looked and looked... A huge piece of cloth was pouring from the roof right to the pavement. Red cloth with a swastika inside a white circle.

Illustration: Vienna, 1938. © Bundesarchiv. Cropped image, full version here.

Dedicated to (Real) Munich Olympics, 1972

France Gall - Ich Habe Einen Freund in München

Olympic pop song performed by evergreen Mlle Gall. Many of today's Frenchmen can not believe she ever sung in German. But she did.

Real 70s. For background only

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Real 70s. Op-art

It's 1972. Chess:

Fischer-Spassky. 1972 World chess championship, Reykjavik
There are no laurels in Iceland, and the winner was crowned with a wreath of Icelandic birch leaves

Teletype. Why?

'Printing telegraph' was introduced by Morkrum, an American company that in 1910 installed first devices for Postal Telegraph Company in Boston and New York. Fist general purpose teletype was produced by the same company in 1922.
Teletype is an electro-mechanical typewriter which can be used to communicate typed messages from point to point and point to multipoint over a variety of communications channels that range from a simple electrical connection, such as a pair of wires, to the use of radio etc. For many decades it was an important instrument of news agencies, government institutions, private corporations and armed forces.
Actually the correct name is 'teleprinter', and 'Teletype' is a trade mark of Teletype Corporation of Skokie, Illinois, USA. German teleprinters made by Siemens & Halske were called 'Fernschreiber' (telewriter).
From 1920s teleprinters were an integral part of Telex networks.

In our AH this bulky device plays a significant role. Mark starts his media career as a petty staff worker with national news agency translating teleprinter feeds from abroad. Then he widely uses teleprinter preparing his news broadcasts. Eva for at least two years is employed as a typist by a regional branch of Pan-European Continental Telegraph Agency. In German-dominated Central Europe the device is called 'Fernschreiber' (see above).

Shown: Telex machine T100 manufactured by Siemens

Teleprinter a.k.a. Teletype

Siemens Fernschreiber 100
early 1960s

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chris Farlowe. Why?

Born John Henry Deighton in Islington, North London, in 1940, he reached his early teens just as the skiffle boom was breaking in England... His first band was his own John Henry Skiffle Group, where he played guitar as well as sang, but he gave up playing to concentrate on his voice, as he made the switch to rock & roll.

He eventually took the name Chris Farlowe, the surname appropriated from American rock & roll vocalist Tal Farlow, and was fronting a group called the Thunderbirds, as Chris Farlowe & the Thunderbirds. They built their reputation as a live act in England and Germany, and slowly switched from rock & roll to R&B during the early years of the '60s...

In 1966, with his EMI contract up, Farlowe was snatched up by Andrew Oldham, who knew a thing or two about white Britons who could sing R&B, having signed the Rolling Stones three years earlier, and put him under contract to his new Immediate Records label. Immediate's history with unestablished artists is mostly a story of talent cultivated for future success, but with Farlowe it was different -- he actually became a star on the label, through the label. His luck began to change early on, as he saw a Top 40 chart placement with his introduction of the Jagger/Richards song "Think," which the Rolling Stones later released as an album track on Aftermath. That summer, he had the biggest hit of his career with his rendition of the Stones' "Out of Time", in a moody and dramatic version orchestrated by Arthur Greenslade, which reached number one on the British charts.

That's the beginning of Farlowe's story according to AMG (click here for full article). Great singer is still alive and kicking, sometimes on stage, sometimes in WWII memorabilia business.
In our AH Chris Farlowe enjoyed a superstar status from the mid-Sixties and well into the Seventies. It will be tedious to name all those who failed to achieve this status. We'll just mention a forgotten combo from Liverpool, relatively unknown London R&B quintet, etc. More important, Farlowe is Mark's favorite singer.

And now to the real Mr Deighton: here's his official website, along with an extensive fansite.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chris Farlowe. Out of Time

For us, this is much more than a song. "Out of Time" sounds so symbolic...
Image: Twenty Flight Rock

Vickers Turboprop. Why?

Airliner featured in previous post is perfectly real. First protype flew in 1959, and a small fleet of 20 Vanguards entered BEA (British European Airlines) service in 1962. Original configuration included 108-seat tourist class saloon and 18-seat first class saloon at the rear. Soon it was changed to 139-seat all-tourist class.
In AH Vanguard's configuration remains unchanged. Mark Toma travels to and from London as a first class passenger, courtesy of Special Research Bureau. The main competitor of this handsome  medium-haul turboprop is German Ju 692 Ostwind, powered by four turbojet engines.

BEA Vickers Vanguard Turpoprop

What is it doing here? See the explanation.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Radio. Why?

1953 Tesla radio set showed in the previous post is not only stylish but symbolic. A guy named Mark Toma worked for a State-owned radio channel. Steady job. Decent salary. A decade and a half of professional experience. Late-night program, all of his own. Scores of devoted listeners. A rare opportunity to break through breaking-news routine, to speak about things that never happened. Things that tear his memory apart.

Then came a lovely September day that changed everything. A charming student trainee from a provincial University stepped into Mark's office. There was a challenge in her eyes and in her smile. A challenge that at once set his heart on fire. But after only two-months-and-something the lady disappeared without a trace, as though she had never been there.
Popular broadcaster lost his love and almost immediately lost his job. A pure coincidence? Any reason? And who was the girl - an angel or a spy? And why Mark's world is so different from ours?
Let's try to find out.

That's for Starters

Tesla 308u Talisman tube radio

Watch the video: