What She Did First
-- synopsis &
What She Did Next:
September 28, 1938, drizzle, sun pushing through, a London bus
stop, a man drably dressed raincoat gets off. He is one of the
richer men in the world, oil investor, Sacheverell Wessler. An
almost country road, above London, Highgate. He waits for
another man, also comes by bus, anonymous, tall, hawk-like, the
Clayton Rutland, American columnist and writer on science and
its dark side in the strikes and depths of depression years.
'Posh' cars come by. The road leads to the country house in
London of the banker Bernard Bernstein. Bernstein and his
are hosting a recital and fund raising event for Jewish
scientists still stuck in Nazi Germany and surrounding Europe.
Others are here and in the USA, possibly crucial to allied war
effort, via new discoveries, radar, uranium fission, the one
that is to prove the odd man out, penicillin.
Bernstein says he has someone for the two men They want to
improve the coordination of British war science. To put in front
Science is a subject the British establishment is bland about.
Wessler and Rutland think that a 'private spy' could help bring
information that is dispersed around the British scientific
establishment to Churchill who is already interested.
pray Churchill will get power. Who knows? The British prime
minister thinks he can trust Herr Hitler, is bland about the
need for American help, and not interested in the new science of
Churchill, already with a group of scientists around him, even
better briefed? The right private spy to penetrate secret
establishments. German refugee scientists already give the west
an edge over Germany. Wessler and Rutland want to make sure the
British are aware of what they have. Bernard Bernstein the host
thinks he has someone for them.
someone is, to their surprise, a female, the recently married
and recently graduated in biochemistry Mrs. Nathalie Armstrong
--Dr were awards actually given to women.
She startles them by her sartorial self confidence.
When other women at the do are dressed in organza and pink, she
wears a simple red dress, has a frown and an intensity of
listening, is with a newly wed husband, twice her age, Oxford
historian and travel writer, man of urbane good looks. The
Seven autumns later, Stockholm, dark October 1945. One Nobel
prize has been given for one strain of science important in the
war. Now there are others, the prize for medicine.
you know,' the reporter Rutland asks, 'that after the work on
the A bombs, the biggest science grant for the war period was
for penicillin and that it came from impossible to make to
possible and the US army got a grant for $30 million dollars? Do
you know that the woman who was the catalyst for this -- yes, a
woman -- I first met at a reception in Highgate, London in
'That she has had to change her identity and nationality? That
she is being hunted by the British secret service? That they
think the Americans getting patent rights to penicillin worth
billions while the British win the Nobel Prize is thanks to her
disloyalty? That I, Clay Rutland, am part of a plot to use her
as a decoy to lure her detractor, British secret service agent,
Felix Hampson to Stockholm? So as to kill him -- the man who may
have raped her and forced her change of identity?'
name? Good question. Nathalie Armstrong, Swiss & English, or
Sonia Smithson, junior officer US medical corps, American.
very real understanding of the biochemistry and the politics and
the commercial frauds concerning penicillin? Considerable.
foot tall, frowning, red dress, blind ambition, trouble. Yet an
exceptionally nice person. Yes? A victim or a fool? Still on FBI
books as missing and wanted in 2014 when she would have been a
2016: 71 years after the Nobel Prize ceremony and the
disappearance of the body of the British 'diplomat', Felix
Hampson from the Stockholm police morgue…..
north of San
Francisco, a young widow, Francine Smithson, is told by phone by
her upset mother, Juliette Smithson, that Francine's grandmother
is 'not who she says she is'. Francine, mother of two young
teenagers, guilty about the circumstances of her husband's
death, is fascinated.
Juliette, the mother, never liked Sonia the grandmother.
Francine adored her grandmother who brought her up to the age of
ten when she died. What is this 'is not who she says she is'?
purveyor of the news is a war reporter, Spy Nielsen. And who is
he? And why does he have a picture of Francine's grandmother
when younger captioned as 'Nathalie Armstrong'? Shown with two
of the three British scientists who were in Stockholm for the
Nobel Prize in 1945.
does Spy want of this? And what does Francine the widow with two
stories of Nathalie, the private spy of science, evolved though
the eyes of her granddaughter, Francine. A serious woman of the
1930s and 1940s evolved through the eyes of another serious
woman, of the 2016-17 period.
Mainly the narratives are Nathalie's. And mainly Nathalie is
concerned with understanding how the US is sidestepping,
'duping' the UK, the journalist Rutland says -- 'duping' the
British in war science.
of the narrative is to do with the 'theft' by the USA of British
What She Did First
ends with Nathalie's abject failure to prevent the British
giving all their unpatented work to the USA who then patent it.
Caught in a scam and a trap she escapes rape and survives.
What She Did Next
sees her as the
underground messenger who understands the huge potential of the
still impossible to extract penicillin. She is once again caught
in a scam and jailed, escapes on bail and changes her identity.
on/off relationship between Francine and the war-stressed Spy
ends in a strange contention. Spy's father is Francine's grand
father. Spy's father is therefore Francine's grandfather? True
or not true?
these two, lonesome war reporter and widowed clothes designer,
are in love and out of love and in love.
novels as explained by Nathalie's hidden archive to Francine and
as explained to the 'author', JFGladstone, by Francine.
about 85,000 words, one ready for editing, one well along.
What She Did Third
will concern Nathalie, now Sonia in the cold war period. Again
it deals with the underbelly of science.
These are books with serious women at their heart -- Nathalie a
scientist at a time when there were almost no women in that
profession, Francine coping with a professional life, issues of
her identity and the teenage children she loves and who are left
without a father.
Technopolitana concept is concerned with the human drive
for progress (penicillin to save 10,000 lives of wounded allied
troops) versus the downside of such progress. Human population
has increased 2.5 times approx, 2.5 billion to 7.3 since the
Nobel prize for penicillin flagged the antibiotic era.
relationship between antibiotics and increase in numbers is, of
course, exact. Yet it's edgy and worrying and Francine is
worried and she wants to make sense of it, to love Spy and to
form a sound foundation for her children. Not easy. Serious,
approach: while science may seem an usual subject for fiction,
it is what drives this civilization -- progress -- and the
'underbelly' or dark side offers rich possibilities. Models I
envy in non-fiction, yet strongly told as stories, are Rachel
Carson's masterpiece on chemical pollution, full of anecdotes,
Silent Spring and James Watson's Double Helix, the
story of a major discovery told in an active, scurrilous and
highly readable way -- also more recent versions of the story of
the one woman in the 'double helix', the individual they duped,
There were not so
many women in early twentieth century science. Among those there
were, many were forgotten or had their reputations stolen. In
1945 a key Nobel prize was awarded to Otto Hahn for work on
uranium fission. His arguably more important colleague Lisa
Meitner was not considered.