Warning: a detailed plot synopsis (spoiler!) follows. Wally Bayer is a graduate student of physics at Adams College in upstate New York who, along with his professor Alan Earhart and several others, is working on a top-secret time travel project funded by the Pentagon. Lieutenant Colonel Adam Halstead, a military history instructor at nearby West Point and a liaison with the project team, attempts to hijack the “Box” (as the enormous chromium cube-shaped time machine is nicknamed) with the assistance of twelve recruits from an Idaho right-wing militia. Halstead’s men accidentally kill Earhart during their intrusion of the laboratory that houses the Box, then force all of his assistants but Bayer to flee for their lives as they prepare to travel to November 11, 1918. Bayer starts up the time machine, then, to avoid death at Halstead’s hands, leaps into the capsule that is dropped into a vertical tunnel containing an altered quantum state. Halstead leaps onto the outside of the capsule, and follows Bayer into the year 1918. Both men arrive in a subterranean lake beneath the laboratory site, and Halstead follows Bayer to the surface. Once again, Bayer escapes from Halstead, this time leaving him alone in the forest with a twisted ankle. Bayer comes across a horse-drawn wagon on a rutted road, and accepts a ride into the town of Monroe, New York from an odd stranger. Bayer is able to tell himself he is still in the year 2003 until he sees a Model T rumbling along a cross street as the wagon approaches the town. The bewildered visitor from the future manages to find a job on a dairy farm, and settles down to earn a living until he figures out what he will do next. Halstead, meanwhile, has traveled to chaotic postwar Germany via Denmark, and arrives in Berlin to visit the renowned plastic surgeon Jacques Joseph. Dr. Joseph, with the assistance of an anesthesiologist, gives Halstead a new face before both he and his assistant are brutally murdered by the patient. The still-bandaged Halstead, dressed in a Reichswehr corporal’s uniform, travels to the city of Pasewalk, where he begins the trailing of a man upon that man’s release from the local military hospital. Halstead and his quarry travel by train to Munich, where the former murders the latter by means of a lethal injection and drags the body across a pair of railroad tracks in the middle of the night. The defaced corpse of the victim is left for mutilation by an oncoming train, and Halstead reports to the barracks of the Sixteenth Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment as Corporal Adolf Hitler, complete with two iron crosses pinned to his chest. In January 1919, Halstead appears as Hitler at the first meeting of the newly-formed German Workers’ Party. Halstead rapidly takes over the fledgling organization and grows it with carefully prepared nationalistic rants and ingenious organizational methods. In order to gain even more power and prestige, Halstead involves his Ordnertruppe (as the S.A. was originally known) in the spring 1919 right-wing suppression of the short-lived Bavarian Communist regime. Wally has settled into farm life, meanwhile, and begins a flirtation with his employer’s eldest daughter that turns serious with the arrival of spring. Both of Sally Darcy's parents die in the 1919 flu epidemic, and Wally takes over the family farm when he marries the expectant Sally. Wally uses his foresight from the future and arranges a partnership with Frankie Yale of New York City, a mobster and one-time employer of Al Capone. Wally begins the illicit manufacture of gin on his upstate farm, and ships the liquid in milk trucks to New York for distribution by Yale. With the onset of Prohibition in early 1920, the profits start to accumulate, and Wally begins to invest in the stock market. Halstead has also been busy, having traveled to Egypt with Rudolf Hess in search of a collection of Coptic manuscripts that include the Gospel of Thomas, a long-lost alternative to the New Testament, and also in search of the tomb of Tutankhamen. Halstead makes sure that a prominent archeologist and a respected journalist accompany him on his expedition to record his finds, and he finds the treasures he is seeking. Back in Germany, Halstead’s sudden global fame and the local popularity resulting from his defiance of the British administration of Egypt set the stage for his next moves. Much like the real Adolf Hitler, he consolidates all of his party’s power in his person. Unlike the real Hitler, however, he plays a role in the Kapp Putsch of March, 1920. Halstead uses his intimate knowledge of the inner workings of both the legitimate Weimar government and their conservative opponents to manipulate both sides and to seize power for himself. Halstead coerces one of the prisoners captured by his men, President Ebert, into naming him chancellor, ending a debilitating nationwide strike, invoking Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, and resigning his presidency. The invocation of Article 48 allows the new chancellor to rule by decree during the national “emergency,” which lasts until Halstead can assure himself of victory in new elections. President Halstead and his Darbeits (a term derived from the German name of the party) consolidate their power with the Enabling Act and get on with the business of rearming the Third Reich militarily while preaching adherence to the terms of Versailles. Wally has been following European events closely, and eventually deduces the German Fhrer’s true identity. He uses his mafia connections to plot Halstead’s murder, which only results in the defection of the “agent,” a German prostitute recruited in New York whom Wally happens to know from a night of narrowly-averted infidelity. Alabaster Claudel becomes Halstead’s mistress upon her return to her native Germany, and watches as he solidifies his power over the Fatherland, establishes the Wehrmacht, launches new weapons programs with his secret knowledge from the future, and begins new social programs, such as the Hitler Youth. Halstead takes a mysterious interest in ten-year-old Georg Brauhauser, making him the first member of the Jungvolk section of the Hitler Youth and even adopting him after the death of the fatherless boy’s mother. History advances rapidly across the Twenties: General Leonard Wood wins the Republican Presidential nomination in 1920 and becomes an ineffective-yet-scandal-free American leader, Calvin Coolidge is elected President in 1928, and Wally and Halstead both increase their power and prestige. Wally has become a media mogul by March 1929, having launched the publishing house of Simon, Schuster, and Bayer with the idea of The Crossword Puzzle Book in 1920, “discovered” numerous talents (such as Ernest Hemingway), and “daringly” financed the first sound-accompanied motion pictures, “talkies.” By the spring of 1929, Wally has divested himself of stocks that have risen to dizzying heights, eased himself out of the gin business, and, with the ’28 elections, started to give substantial financial support to a certain governor of New York named Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Halstead has turned the Ordnertruppe into a German national army, reinvented the German navy and air force with improved U-boats and revolutionary jet fighters (respectively), and even turned the Teutonic Order, complete with its original headquarters castle in Marienburg, into a modern day officer corps and Praetorian Guard. The British and French governments are unwilling to stop either German rearmament or German reoccupation of the Rhineland (which, according to the Treaty of Versailles, was to be evacuated by Allied troops in three phases, 1925, 1930, and 1935). Mussolini throws his lot with Halstead once he visits Germany and sees her military strength, and Austria soon finds herself being bullied by her northern Germanic sibling. Alabaster, Halstead’s neglected mistress, becomes pregnant by Georg, who has grown into a man and an airborne officer. Halstead’s adopted son has been forced out of the Order Castles (the Teutonic Order’s training program) and forced to become a paratrooper as a result of his refusal to marry Halstead’s strange choice of a mate for him, a very plain girl from Dresden whom the dictator has an unexplained preference for. Alabaster tells Halstead that Georg’s child is his, and he marries her immediately. Instead of being incorporated into the Third Reich in a bloodless Anschluss (the means by which it was taken over in our 1938), Austria is invaded in March 1930 and overrun in a single day. No nations rise to her defense, and neighboring Czechoslovakia is soon threatened with invasion as well. Halstead is given the ethnically German areas of the Sudetenland as part of the policy of appeasement, and he assures the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald that he has “no further territorial claims in Europe.” Halstead indeed has no further territorial claims, at least for the ensuing four years of further military buildup, which includes the German development of an atomic bomb and other secret weapons. In the meantime, Roosevelt is elected President in 1932, is shot in Miami’s Bay Front Park by an obscure immigrant named Giuseppe Zangara, and makes John Nance Garner President when he dies of his wounds. Wally, a generous contributor to the Democratic Party, gets an audience with Garner and tries to convince him of the danger posed by Halstead, but the nuisance is merely given an ambassadorship to Luxembourg. After his arrival in Europe, Wally pays a visit to Berlin, tries to convince Halstead to turn from the darkness and abandon his plans, and slips a note to Alabaster as he leaves the Chancellery. The note threatens to reveal her dark past if she doesn’t pass on vital strategic secrets that she could obtain as Halstead’s mistress. Instead of betraying Halstead and her country, Alabaster commits suicide after showing the dictator Wally’s note and leaves behind her husband and her daughter, whom Halstead raises as his own. Wally receives a note in Alabaster’s hand, and journeys to England to meet Winston Churchill, at that time banished to the political wilderness. Wally shows Churchill the German military plans he has obtained, and the two form a friendship during their efforts to warn still others of the impending calamity. Wally is returning to his family in Luxembourg from a trip to England when the Germans attack Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, and Britain in the spring of 1934. Halstead observes Luxembourg’s neutrality as a sop to international opinion while he overruns the Danes in a matter of hours, the Dutch and Belgians in a matter of days, and the French in a matter of weeks. Wally and the former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, Jefferson Smith, are trapped in the little Grand Duchy with their families as France capitulates before Britain is even able to land an expeditionary force. Instead of trying to force a British surrender through terror bombing, Halstead instructs Hermann Goering's Luftwaffe to attack the Royal Air Force, armament plants, and Royal Navy, in that order. The way is cleared for the German amphibious force that lands on the southern coast of England in September 1934. Churchill, now Prime Minister, had been led to believe by Wally’s letter that the Germans would land on England’s eastern shores, and the invaders encounter relatively little resistance as they form beachheads and capture the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth. Lieutenant Colonel Brauhauser and his men drop in southern England in advance of the amphibious landings, and engage in fierce combat that nearly wipes out Georg’s battalion before it is rescued by Major General Erwin Rommel's tank division in the course of its northward advance from the coast. The two officers, finding their bond as men who have been singled out by Halstead for special favor within the Third Reich, advance into the British Midland on a campaign of industrial sabotage. London falls to German troops, and Edward, the Prince of Wales, “negotiates” a British surrender to Halstead. England, Wales, Gibraltar, and Iraq are made German provinces, Egypt an Italian province (Mussolini entered the war as part of the Axis once France’s capitulation looked certain) and Northern Ireland is ceded to the Irish Free State (which, along with Scotland, becomes independent). The Germans occupied Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia in the spring, invaded Spain and Poland in the summer and fall, respectively, and, as 1934 draws to a close, Halstead finds himself the master of Europe. With the arrival of spring 1935, Halstead turns his attention eastward. With his encouragement, a pro-Axis coup occurs in Persia, which is promptly renamed Iran by its new rulers. German and Italian armies advance into the country’s northeastern corner from Vichy Syria and German Iraq, and the stage is set for a massive invasion of the Soviet Union. The Germans and Italians have also massed forces along the western Soviet frontier and around Romania with their Hungarian and Bulgarian allies (the Soviets invaded Romania in the fall of 1934, while the Axis armies were committed in other theaters). While the two officers are in Poland, a member of a conspiracy plotting to overthrow Halstead asks Georg to join them, but Georg declines to participate. When Smith tells Wally of large numbers of German troops massing in the vicinity of Luxembourg, Wally gets the idea that Halstead is after him and his haven is about to be invaded. He charters a plane to fly the two ambassadors and their families to Scotland (which is now neutral and ruled by King Edward), and all nine Americans depart Luxembourg city the same night that Georg and his fellow German warriors are making final preparations for the next morning’s invasion. When the plane is preparing to take off, however, German troops suddenly emerge out of the darkness to arrest Wally. Smith hurriedly explains that he had been accosted by German agents on his way to Luxembourg, and had been threatened with death if he ever left Luxembourg without Wally. The Smith and Bayer families (minus Wally) are allowed to depart, and they begin their journey northward. Georg is flying that night as well, as part of an air drop, and both his plane and the plane carrying Wally’s family are in the air when a bomb planted by Halstead’s agents detonates on board one of them. Alternity ends with Halstead being told by an adjutant in the Reich Chancellery that the bombing has been successful. Halstead bids goodnight to the adjutant and to Alabaster’s sleeping daughter, addressing her as “Aunt Anastasia,” and retires for the night, into the darkness.
Bill Hammons was born in Germany during the early Seventies to a career Army officer during his father's tour of duty there. He was raised in Odessa, Texas from the age of five, and graduated from Permian High School in 1993 (yes, that Permian High School). He then moved to Manhattan to attend college, and graduated from New York University in 1997 with a degree in English and American Literature (not to mention a heck of a lot of student loans). After a career in traditional book and magazine publishing (including seven years and seven days at Newsweek Magazine), Bill decided to ditch the skyscrapers of Manhattan for Colorado's Front Range, and turned his personal writing and running website (wrhammons.com) into a commercial venture (help wanted!). After surveying the not-entirely-helpful lists of agents and editors elsewhere on the Web, he decided he could do better, and started Bill's List of Literary Agents and Their Authors’ Books as a service to help make sense of the hundreds of literary agents and dozens of publishers who represent novels and publish short stories. Bill loves running in addition to writing: he also created Bill's Boston Marathon Qualifiers Guide for his website after seeing a need for a guide to marathons which serious runners could run to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon (yes, he has run Boston himself). In addition to running, he loves hiking in and around the world's greatest city of Boulder, Colorado with his white Boxer named Jack when he's not sitting in front of the computer and/or nursing his running injuries.