So posits the Telegraph in the wake of a new glut of fiction and non-fiction books who use World War Two as its backdrop, setting or purpose. “We’ve done incredibly well out of it,” says Jonathan Goodman of Carlton Books, whose bumper repackaged editions of classic Commando stories were one of the biggest hits in bookshops last Christmas, selling well into six figures, with two new volumes scheduled for imminent publication. Meanwhile Headline is republishing vintage true-life Second World War adventures including ODETTE, BOLDNESS BE MY FRIEND, and John Kenneally VC‘s THE HONOUR AND THE SHAME; Bantam Press has paid a six-figure sum for a series of Sharpe-style adventures about a Second World War infantryman by James Holland; and Bloomsbury will shortly launch my fictional series in a similar vein about a Flashmanesque hero named Dick Coward.
Period specialist and novelist Guy Walters has an easy explanation: “The Second World War is the greatest story ever,” he says. “It’s about the triumph of good over evil. It takes place all over the world. It has the ultimate baddy, who dies at the end in a squalid bunker. What’s more, we won and it’s always nice to read about a war we won.” The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are, publishers and authors argue, the second big reason for the Second World War revival. “At a time when we’re committed to wars where we’re not quite sure who the enemy is and whether or not we’re a peacekeeping force and whether it was right to go in there in the first place, there’s tremendous yearning and nostalgia for the decency and simplicity of the last Good War,” says Bloomsbury’s Mike Jones.