Beneath Gray Skies (6

Beneath Gray Skies (6" X 9")

by Hugh Ashton


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(US trade-size edition) Beneath Gray Skies tells the story of David Slater, a young conscript in the Army of the Confederacy in the 1920s, as he learns power politics from the inside in the West's last slave-owning nation. He makes friends with a British agent, and strikes up an unlikely acquaintance with Hermann Goering, eventually finding himself rubbing shoulders with President Jefferson Davis III and Adolf Hitler on the first (and last) flight of the doomed Zeppelin airship Bismarck, carrying a mysterious cargo from Nazi Germany to the Confederate States of America. The action moves between the Confederacy and Washington DC as well as London and Berlin, examining the world of "might have been" had the American Civil War never been fought, and the Confederacy survived into the 20th century. Hugh Ashton lives in Kamakura, Japan, where he works as a writer and journalist. Beneath Gray Skies is his first published novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780557060535
Publication date: 05/19/2009
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.72(d)

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Beneath Gray Skies 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Readerwoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A remarkable alternate history novel, my husband and I both enjoyed the way the storyline unfolded, and some clever twists in the plot. Most of the post Civil War novels in this genre operate on the premise that the South won the war. In this, Lincoln is too ill to be interested in fighting, so he just basically shoos the South away to mind their own business.There is some good dialog and interesting tweaks in the historical timelines. I really liked Hugh's section, for instance, about the Wright Brothers, who never worked in North Carolina, but instead took their business and their experiments to Ireland!The inter-connectivity between the Nazis and the South is somewhat alarming and was quite realistic to me. The battle to keep these two world powers separate and disconnected is the crux of the story. Liked the details about the blimps (zeppelins)and what I perceived to be an undercurrent to modern times - - - "unholy alliances" between evil powers based purely on the availability of resources, whether they be money or helium!The writing could have been a little tighter, and the characters perhaps could have been more finely tuned, but it was an enjoyable read that promoted some good conversation!NOTE: I received a copy of this book from Member Giveaways on LibraryThing, and this review is posted both on LibraryThing and Amazon.
eheinlen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love alternate history books and this one was no exception. Well-written with a brilliant story, Ashton weaves real historical characters with a past that never happened, making a brilliant and captivating story that is hard to put down. A great read!
sjolly75 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beneath Gray Skies is an enjoyable trip to an alternate past. Starting off slow with somewhat disjointed and unnecessary flashbacks in history, it unfolds to become a good read! Overall, a decent read ¿ I recommend it for alternate history fans.Positives: Quick pace; fun action sequences and twists; nice layout of the zeppelin BismarckNegatives: I¿m a map lover, so a map of North America would have been a nice addition; slow start with unnecessary flashbacksDisclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Member Giveaways.
shearon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Imagine that the Civil War never occurred and that there exist both the United States of America and the Confederate States of America. Prejudice and segregation still exist in the North, but the South is stuck in the mid-19th century, economically and culturally backward, still run by a direct descendant of Jefferson Davis, and his lackeys, and still practicing slavery. It is about 1930, Hitler is preaching anti-Semitism in Germany and looking for a partner to expand his dominion and access necessary raw materials. The Confederacy, which has no legitimacy, no diplomatic relationship with any respectable nation, sees an opportunity for an alliance. Hugh Ashton creates an interesting ensemble cast of Confederates, Americans, Brits and Germans. The story is pretty predictable with espionage, an inter-racial love story, some violence, a little soul searching and a lot of Confederates and Germans willing to commit treason (and murder), in pursuit of the greater good. It is interesting to imagine something like this: to think of the US as a fraction of its size and influence, instead of a world super-power. The author introduces and builds up a number of characters, such as the lovers, Christopher and Virginia, and Miss Justin and then just drops them. I kept wishing they would reappear and their stories developed. At times the dialogue is inconsistent: in one sentence a Southerner¿s words reflect ignorance and a lack of education; in the next, he is quite eloquent. But all in all, a very pleasant distraction.
DomingoSantos on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story's ¿what-if¿ premise of the the Southern States peacefully seceding from the Union in the 1860s and forming a separate nation called the Confederate States of America (CSA) and then some decades later forming an alliance with Nazi Germany is an interesting twist on history. However, the reader will have to take a leap from ¿what-if¿ to a suspension of disbelief if you are to enjoy ¿Beneath Gray Skies¿ by author Hugh Ashton. For example, you will have to believe that a nominally-educated male CSA ¿Negro¿ slave is freed as a result of a stereotypical racist incident and then ¿ with no vetting or prior intelligence experience ¿ is embraced by the British intelligence service as an instant colleague. In addition, you will have to believe that this former slave and a beautiful, white, Jewish female, a member of the American intelligence community, have an instant chemistry on first-sight and fall in love, resulting in the former slave marrying the woman and being warmly welcomed into the woman's socially- and politically-prominent and quite wealthy family and social circle.Next, you will have to believe that a character named ¿David¿ ¿ a private in what is described as the uneducated ¿white trash¿ Confederate Army ¿ is discovered to have extraordinary aptitude for the game of chess ¿ a game that he had never played before ¿ said skill causing him to gain the notice of his superiors who, in turn, determine David also has extraordinary skills in calligraphy, the ability to read well, and even do ¿some calculating with figures,¿ all of which lead David to an eventual rank of Sergeant and a key role with a group of Germans building a Zeppelin airdrome on Confederate Georgia soil.Next is the enigmatic English hero, Brian, who darts in and out of the narrative with exploits of daring, deception, and spying in an effort to disrupt the CSA-Nazi alliance. Toss in a bunch of nasty Nazis and an equally nasty CSA President, a ¿save-the-world¿ United Kingdom intelligence service and its operative named ¿Dowling¿ (the former slave's original mentor), a plot to kill the bad guys, and it turns out that all's well that ends well.The writing is adequate; however, with the exception of some British dialogue, the dialogue of most of the other characters too often lacked the ring of authenticity because what should have been dialects and idioms unique to those characters was lacking. Said another way, the drawl of the South and the unique syntax of German-to-English was missing.Finally, I felt that the author also had a subtle and personal political and social agenda woven into the story ¿ an agenda that can be explained best by reading both the author's preface to the first edition and his preface to the second edition.
fdholt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This review was written for LibraryThing Member GiveawayHugh Ashton¿s Beneath gray skies is a novel of an alternative history: the United States never fought the Civil War resulting in a Confederate States of America and a separate United States. The CSA is a state that in the 1920¿s still allowed slavery so the standard of living for its citizens lags behind the USA. Germany has lost the World War even without the participation of the US and the Nazis want to get control. Since the South has oil and other raw materials that the Germans need, they propose an alliance, promising technical support in return and so the CSA army is sent to Germany and the Nazi rise to power assured. Then the British get involved along with Washington and things get very interesting. Add a zeppelin and an archaeological treasure and the story gets even better. The premise of the story was so completely different from the typical ¿South wins the Civil War¿ and was so well written (including the absence of irritating dialects) that I couldn¿t put it down once started.We follow the story through the eyes of many characters, the most memorable being CSA army recruit David Slater, British spy Brian Finch-Malloy, former slave Christopher Pole, British diplomat (at times) Henry Dowling, and the mysterious British spymaster C. There are also historical characters such as Goering, Hess, Hitler and most especially Dr. Hugo Eckener, who worked with zeppelins and whose personal history is very interesting. The author has also added a timeline with his twists on history and a drawing of a zeppelin, explaining important points. His scientific explanations of the airship were accurate and fascinating. Each chapter is clearly identified with the locale and time along with an important quote from the text.However I was a bit taken aback by the author¿s preface to both the first and second editions. He opens with ¿As America suffered under the rule of an extremist government from 2000 onwards¿¿ and goes on to say that ¿the underlying attitudes expressed by Bush¿s America were those of the 19th century Confederacy, and indeed much of today¿s South¿¿ And he talks about the ¿civil strife¿ in the US today. I understand that Mr. Ashton is British living in Japan and getting his news through different sources but I don¿t see the modern South as evil; also the US has managed to balance political concerns with both Presidents Bush and Obama at the helm and the country is not tottering on the edge of violence. Things are settled at the ballot box every few years. Had I been in a bookstore looking over the book and seeing this, I would not have purchased the book. And I would have missed out on one of the best alternative history novels I have read in years.
surly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting variation in the 'what if' genre. Because of Lincoln's incapacity due to illness after his inauguration, it was decided to let the Confederacy go its own way due to the expectation that it would soon collapse of its own weight. However this did not occur and by the 1920s it was still a slave-holding international parish seeking recognition and money for which it would exchange its agricultural and undeveloped natural resources. To President Jefferson Davis III, a man named Hitler could provide this in exchange for Confederate assistance in his attempt to take over Germany. The resulting adventure is exciting and the ending satisfying albeit unforeseen by the Confederates or Germans. The only weak point was the occasional initial identification of the heroes by their 'slavery is evil and no one I know supports it' statements rather than just letting their actions speak for themselves.
paulmorriss on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With the "alternate history" setup - a world where the Southern states formed the Confederate States of America - this book has a good starting point. The story rattles along nicely - the CSAs new allies, the German Nazis, fly an airship to America and those who oppose this alliance try to make trouble. Without knowing much about the actual events involved this rewriting of history seems quite believable. There are a couple of rough edges that could have been smoothed, but it's a very engaging story. Disclosure: I got a free copy of this book through Member Giveaways.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago