Bernard Newman (author)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Bernard Charles Newman
Bernard Newman.JPG
BornBernard Charles Newman
(1897-05-08)8 May 1897
Ibstock, Leicestershire, England, United Kingdom
Died19 February 1968(1968-02-19) (aged 70)
Pen nameBernard Newman,
Don Betteridge
Genremystery, children's
SpouseMarjorie Edith Donald (1912–1993);
Helen Johnston (1966–1968)
RelativesGeorge Eliot (great aunt)

Bernard Charles Newman (8 May 1897 – 19 February 1968) was a British author of more than 100 books, both fiction and non-fiction. An historian, he was considered an authority on spies, but also wrote books concerning travel and politics. His fiction included mystery novels, science fiction and children's books.

He was a great-nephew of the 19th-century author George Eliot, and the father of the romance writer Margaret Potter, who was married to writer Jeremy Potter.

Personal life[edit]

Newman was born on 5 May 1897 in Ibstock, Leicestershire, England, one of six children of Annie (Garner) and William Betteridge Newman, a cattle dealer and farmer. He was a great-nephew of the 19th century author George Eliot.[1]

On 23 August 1923 he married Marjorie Edith Donald, a former teacher. They had three daughters Margaret Edith, Hilary, and Lauriston. On 20 July 1966, he married second with Helen Johnston.[2]

He died in Harrow, London, on 19 February 1968.

Career and works[edit]

Serving in combat during World War I, with reasonable fluency in French, his regiment's French liaison officer occasionally used him to go undercover in Paris. Accompanied by a female French agent, they investigated casual talk by Allied soldiers about troop movements. It was here that his interest in espionage began, and his character 'Papa Pontivy' was based on the French liaison officer.

He ended the war as a staff sergeant, although in a lecture during 1942, he was introduced as a captain.[3] Afterwards, having lost his desire for further education, he obtained a modest job as a civil servant with the Ministry of Works. He began writing and became a lecturer and passionate traveller, visiting more than 60 countries during the interbellum, many of those on bike. He gave some 2,000 lectures between 1928 and 1940 throughout Europe, even meeting Adolf Hitler.[3] He started writing novels, gaining some recognition with his 1930 novel The Cavalry Went Through.

From 1936 to 1938, he was the first chairman of the Society of Civil & Public Service Writers.[4]

During the early part of World War II, Newman was in France, witnessing some of the invasion by the Germans. For the next five years, he became a staff lecturer at the Ministry of Information and wrote patriotic British novels like Siegfried Spy and Death to the Fifth Column. The novel Secret Weapon featured Winston Churchill.[5] During 1942, he was sent to Canada and the United States to lecture there on the British and the war. In Washington, he encountered President Franklin Roosevelt and lectured for senators and other major officials. He also was a guest in national and local radio broadcasts throughout the country. Returning to the United Kingdom during late 1942, he reversed his role and lectured throughout the country about America.[5]

Newman was also considered an authority on spies[6] and wrote Epics of Espionage and the novel Spy.[7] His 1945 novel Spy Catchers was praised as one of the best books ever concerning counterespionage.[8]

His science fiction novel The Blue Ants has been described by professor Paul Brian in his study Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction as an "absurd classic of Sinophobia"[9] and "perhaps the earliest example of a fictional Russo-Chinese nuclear war"[10] Boucher and McComas praised the novel Flying Saucer as "good fun" but dismissed its politics as "hardly realistic".[11]

Newman was a chevalier in the Légion d'honneur.

Allegations of espionage[edit]

World War I[edit]

Some of his early fiction novels, particularly Spy, were written in the first personwith himself as the main character. That has led to allegations that he was a spy. Newman lied about his age to enlist at 17 and clarified in his 1960 autobiography, Speaking From Memory, that his war service was routine and unremarkable and that his novels were publicised in that way to achieve sales at the suggestion of his publisher, Gollancz. Correspondence between Newman and the military historian B. H. Liddell Hart held in the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King's College London, confirm Gollancz's marketing tactics by asking Newman to 'disappear' for two weeks during the book's initial presentation to the public.

On its publication, Spy attracted considerable attention in the press. Newman had written the novel in such a way that it appeared to be autobiographical although there were several 'facts' that could easily be checked. Relishing the free publicity, (Spy ran to 12 editions) Newman eventually said in an interview:

I am not a spy, I have never been a spy and I don't suppose I shall ever become one. I have never met the King, the Kaiser, Ludendorff, Hindenberg or Lloyd George. I did not win the DSO nor was I as much as half an inch behind the German lines during the war. I am trying to devise a new kind of thriller. I believe I have succeeded. I quite agree that there are plenty of people who might believe it, but I believe the intelligent reader will treat t book exactly as he would a good detective story.

That statement was widely reported in the press worldwide, but even his 1968 New York Times obituary repeated the fiction. Inernet articles can still be found stating his 'espionage activities' as fact.

World War II[edit]

Other allegations of espionage activity relate to his extensive travels in Europe between the wars, including reports that he was the agent who first reported Hitler's V-1 rockets. It is probable that Newman reported back to the British government after his travels. But again, the allegations may derive from the fictional novels written by Newman at the same time.


  • Round About Andorra (1928)
  • The Cavalry Went Through (1930, Victor Gollancz)
  • Armoured Doves (1931, Jarrold)
  • In the Trail of the Three Musketeers (1934, Herbert Jenkins)
  • Hosanna! (1935, Denis Archer)
  • Spy (1935, 12 editions by 1938: banned in Germany, used as a textbook in Russia)[3]
  • Pedalling Poland (1935, Herbert Jenkins)
  • The Blue Danube: Black Forest to Black Sea (1935)
  • Albanian Back-door (1936, Herbert Jenkins)
  • I Saw Spain (1937)
  • Secret Servant (1937)
  • Woman Spy (1937)
  • Albanian Journey (1938)
  • Danger Spots of Europe (1938)
  • Ride to Russia (1938)
  • Baltic Roundabout (1939)
  • Secrets of German Espionage (1940)
  • The Story of Poland (1940, Hutchinson)
  • Siegfried Spy (1940)
  • Savoy! Corsica! Tunis! (1940)
  • The Secrets of German Espionage (1940, The Right Book Club)
  • Death to the Fifth Column (1941)
  • One Man's View (1941)
  • One Man's Year (1941)
  • Black Market (1942 (actually appeared January 1943), Gollancz)
  • Secret Weapon (1942)
  • The New Europe (1942, MacMillan: translated in Spanish in 1944)
  • American Journey (1943)
  • The People of Poland (1944)
  • British Journey (1945, Robert Hale)
  • Balkan Background (1945)
  • Spy Catchers (1945, collection of short stories)
  • The Face of Poland (1945)
  • British Journey (1945)
  • The Spy in the Brown Derby (1945–1946)
  • Russia's Neighbour, the New Poland (1946, Victor Gollancz)
  • Middle Eastern Journey (1947)
  • The Red Spider Web: The Story of Russian Spying in Canada (1947, Lattimer)
  • Baltic Background (1948)
  • The Captured Archives: The Story of the Nazi-Soviet Documents (1948)
  • The Flying Saucer (1948, Victor Gollancz: also translated in German)
  • News from the East (1948)
  • Mediterranean Background (1949)
  • Turkish Crossroads (1951)
  • Both sides of the Pyrenees (1952)
  • Soviet Atomic Spies (1952)
  • Tito's Yugoslavia (1952)
  • Morocco Today (1953)
  • Report on Indochina (1953, Robert Hale)
  • Ride to Rome (1953)
  • Berlin and Back (1954)
  • The Sosnowski Affair: Inquest On a Spy (1954)
  • Still Flows the Danube (1955, Herbert Jenkins)
  • North African Journey (1955)
  • They Saved London (1955, this was adapted into the 1958 film Battle of the V-1)
  • Inquest on Mata Hari (1956)
  • Real Life Spies (1956)
  • One Hundred Years of Good Company: Published On the Occasion of the Ruston Centenary 1857– 1957 (1957)
  • Speaking from Memory (1960, Herbert Jenkins: memoirs)
  • Bulgarian Background (1961)
  • The World of Espionage (1962, Souvenir Press: translated the same year in German as Spionage: Mythos und Wirklichkeit (Bechtle))
  • The Blue Ants: The First Authentic Account of the Russian-Chinese War of 1970 (1962, translated in Dutch in 1970)
  • Behind the Berlin Wall (1964, Robert Hale)
  • Background to Vietnam (1965, Roy Publishers)
  • Turkey and the Turks (1968, Herbert Jenkins)
  • Spy and counter spy: Bernard Newman's story of the British Secret Service (1970, Hall)
  • Death at the Wicket: story, included in The Rupa Book of Great Crime Stories by Ruskin Bond[12]
  • As Don Betteridge, he wrote 14 mystery novels in the series Tiger Lester, some of them translated in Dutch, French, German and Spanish.

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ Current Biography Year Book: 1959, H W Wilson, 1960
  2. ^ Who was who in American history, arts and letters, Volumen 3, Marquis Who's Who, 1975, p. 604
  3. ^ a b c Introduction to a 1942 Lecture
  4. ^ History of the Society of Civil & Public Service Writers
  5. ^ a b Robert Alder, in Beware the British: The Role of Writers in British Propaganda, page 85 (2004)
  6. ^ Russell Lewis in Margaret Thatcher: A Personal and Political Biography, page 12 (1975)
  7. ^ Edward John Russell in Science and Modern Life page 86 (1971)
  8. ^ Wesley Britton in Beyond Bond: Spies in Fiction and Film page 35 (2005)
  9. ^ Nuclear Holocausts Archived 11 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine chapter 1
  10. ^ Nuclear Holocausts Archived 12 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine chapter 2
  11. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, Summer 1950, p.106
  12. ^ The Hindu on The Rupa Book of Great Crime Stories (14 February 2004)

External links[edit]