Following the Passions of your Characters

Captain Franz von Rintelen, the German spy upon whom I based the character of Fehrenbach in my thriller-in-progress, FIREBOMB, published two memoirs. Only one of them is at all famous, and that’s THE DARK INVADER, in which he describes his activities as a spymaster in New York City during the summer of 1915. (And leaves out a few, but that’s where the fiction writer gets to play.) If you read this book, you can see that the charming von Rintelen liked women as much as he liked intrigue, although he doesn’t talk about the women very much because gentlemen don’t kiss and tell.

In 1938, a few years after his first memoir came out, Captain von Rintelen published THE RETURN OF THE DARK INVADER. I would never have known that book existed if Franz von Papen hadn’t mentioned it in his own memoirs, petulantly, complaining about the nasty things Rintelen said about him (well-justified, in my opinion). Burning to know this man better, I got hold of a copy of it. THE RETURN told what happened to Rintelen when the war was over, how he went home to Germany and was badly treated by the government, how he and his wife couldn’t make the marriage work anymore after so long a separation and so many hardships, how he emigrated to England. What I found out about him that I hadn’t known before was how he loved automobiles.

So of course I have to fix Fehrenbach up with a flivver.

Studebaker made a roadster in 1913 that looks like just the thing, so that will be Fehrenbach’s car. Brad Wallace bought one a few years ago, fixed it up, and put pictures and YouTube videos of it all over the internet. It’s a beauty, as you can see in the picture above. You have to crank it to start it up, and when it runs it goes putty-putty-putty.  Fehrenbach would have bought it when he was in New York working as a banker. When he returned to Germany to join the navy he would have put it in storage, little knowing that the next time he came back to New York it would be as a spy. Spies need cars, too.



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