New York Station by Lawrence Dudley is the perfect example of a writer using current events for inspiration. Recently I have read several books involving fixed elections. New York Station is the best of those. Perhaps the fact the book uses an election prior to the United States’ entry into the Second World War plays a part in my enjoyment. I like historical fiction.
Roy Hawkins is the central character in New York Station. He is half American and half British. Hawkins is a spy for the Brits and the opening scene place him in Paris as the Germans roll in. The main purpose for this setting is to give the character a position in the war as a contrast to the many isolationists later introduced in the book.
The novel’s move to New York establishes Dudley’s point of view. The writing entertains, but I believe the author is also using New York Station as a vehicle to present a case against neutrality. The plot is well-developed and based on fact. A populist movement of non-intervention divided America in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. There are parallels to current events and the author shares those in a subtle way. This is one of the best attributes of the book. Lawrence Dudley definitely has his point of view. He makes his case, but in a way that does not ruin the story.
The action takes place in the summer of 1940. The Nazi’s are trying to rig the Presidential election. Furthermore, the German’s are actively engaging in espionage. Apparently, the United States did not have an organization to track spies at this point in time. Far right leaning activists are also featured. The picture painted has some similarities to the 2016 election. Outside forces want to influence the election process so integral to America’s core belief system. In New York Station much of the scheme is foiled.
Added to the intrigue is a bit of romance and gambling. Hawkins falls for a New York socialite Daisy Van Schenck. Daisy needs money to shore up family losses. The Van Schenck’s did not weather the Great Depression well. Daisy has rented her mansion to the Nazi Party for fundraising purposes. The event does not end well and triggers quite a bit of violence.
Much of the action takes place in and around Saratoga Springs, New York. The racetrack plays a part in the story. Part of the plot revolves around a sure bet. Sure because of cheating. Since New York Station is historical in nature, there is plausibility in the sure bet. Today a sure bet is far more difficult because of racetrack testing.. This is the first scene showing conflict within the lead character.
Hawkins struggles with the violence that occurs, justifying often that the end goal takes precedence. There is some conflict of loyalty, although he seems much more British than American. The author makes good use of secondary characters to shape the actions of his main character.
I found New York Station quite entertaining. The snapshot of Saratoga Springs was quite different from my small experiences with the area. Perhaps the historical angle is responsible or perhaps my point of view differs from the author. However, I believe Dudley has written a book that is thought provoking. When is it okay to stay on the sidelines? How does one know when to take a stance? Does the end justify the means? This is shown through the actions of the characters and is well done. I highly recommend you read New York Station.