THE FIRST CASUALTY by William Powell


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A ""faction"" novel about the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the Duchess Sophie at Sarajevo. Powell follows the general events fairly closely, but the band of conspirators has been reduced from seven to three, and a few other liberties have been taken (like the homosexualization of an informer named Ciganovitch and his later death by suffocation on his own castrated sex organs). Otherwise, however, all goes pretty much along the historical path: the Slavs have a secret freedom group called Union or Death which has decided to assassinate Ferdinand because he is about to allow the Slavs to own land in Bosnia, a move that will undercut the rebels. So three youths are trained for the mission, given arms, grenades, cyanide capsules in case of capture, and sent off to kill the archduke during his wedding anniversary trip to Sarajevo. The assassination becomes a fiasco, with the wrong carriage blown up -- it is only hours later that one assassin accidentally meets the ducal carriage and kills the royal couple. Moreover, the cyanide has been diluted and fails to kill the one conspirator who takes it. At last the three are given a court-appointed attorney, a drunken old Slav lawyer who hasn't had a case in years but, in the face of court opposition, sobers up as a variety of forces descend on him, rip up his apartment, kill his dog, and threaten his daughter . . . An uninspired but intriguing re-creation, not for historical purists yet not quite convincing as fiction.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1979
Publisher: Lyle Stuart