The Proteus Operation
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The story opens in the 1970's of a world in which England capitulated in 1940, Japan went the other way in 1941 and attacked the Soviet Union from the east, and the U.S. remained isolationist until it was too late. The result is a world dominated by totalitarian empires, in which the only vestiges left of the Western democracies are North America and Australia-New Zealand. JFK is President, the Japanese are initiating a move on the Hawaiian islands as a prelude to isolating the last two Western strongholds, and the brightest future that anyone on this side can expect to is to go down fighting. . . .

Until an unexpected development involving some astonishing technology offers the possibility of sending people back in a bid to change things. Because of limits with the capability, we can't send them back beyond January, 1939. So everything that happened before that--Hitler's coming to power; the reoccupation of the Rhineland; Czechoslovakia and Munich; the Austrian Anschluss--we're stuck with. Also, the number of people we can send is restricted to a dozen. So whom would you pick to make up such a mission, that would have the best chance of making a difference?

Well, the team that we put together ends up engineering Chamberlain's fall in order for Churchill to be made the British prime minister (an ineffective has-been politician in the original world, practically unheard of), and it was his performance that inspired Roosevelt to run for a third term, which in turn resulted in lend-lease, the avoiding of Britain's collapse, and the history that we've all read steadily emerging out of all of it. Naturally things go disastrously wrong before this outcome materializes, but the day is saved by our time travelers' getting involved with some of the names made famous by the Manhattan Project (which began as a cover program for what was really going on).

Churchill, Roosevelt, Lindemann, Einstein, Teller, Fermi, Szilard, Wigner, and other well known names from that era appear as themselves, which made the research for the book extremely interesting. Another demand that I hadn't anticipated fully enough was getting the background to the period right. Unlike writing about mythical cultures or invented planets, this was the first time I'd written about a world different from the one I've experienced, but real. It's not the major events and personalities that catch you out--they're all well documented--so much as the day-to-day details and trivia. I owed a lot to the staff of the public library of Sonora, California, where I was living at the time I wrote it, who produced piles of documents from that period which I'd never have come across otherwise. I also came out of the experience with a greatly increased respect for historical novelists--at least, the ones who make the effort to get their facts right.

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