In 1939, British writer Geoffrey Household imagined how a lone sniper might attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler at his Bavarian vacation home near Berchtesgaden. Two years later, anti-Nazi German director Fritz Lang — now exiled to Hollywood — filmed the story as ‘Man Hunt’. And three years after that, officers in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) drafted a plan to kill Hitler, seemingly based on this story. Life does indeed imitate art.
Household’s book is a great story, far superior to John Buchan’s thrillers like The 39 Steps. It follows what happens to the assassin, who is a big game hunter, after he is captured by the dictator’s guards, tortured and then escapes back to England. One is reminded of Frederick Forsyth’s ‘Day of the Jackal’ as this book too goes into minute detail about how one might kill a world leader and get away with it. Unlike the later films (and Operation Foxley, the secret SOE plan) in the book the assassin is not named, nor is his target. Household later confirmed in an interview that he intended it to be Hitler all along, but left open the possibility that it could have been Stalin too.
A great read.