5th Annual Spook Appreciation Day–The Untalented Bank Clerk

By Jay Holmes

Every year at Halloween, Bayard & Holmes honor one of the unsung heroes of the intelligence community with our Annual Spook Appreciation Day. This year, we recognize British spook Eric Arthur Roberts, an “untalented” bank clerk in the UK who conducted valuable work against Nazi Germany’s Gestapo during World War Two. His identity was one of MI-5’s tightly guarded secrets until only last week.


The Untalented Bank Clerk MI-5 Operative Eric Arthur Roberts Image from The National Archives.

The Untalented Bank Clerk
MI-5 Operative Eric Arthur Roberts
Image from The National Archives.


Before and during World War Two, Germany had a well-trained professional intelligence service, the Abwehr, which was operated by well-trained German military personnel. Nazi party membership was not required to work in the Abwehr. However, there was a predominance of well-educated personnel in the service, which likely contributed to the organization’s lack of enthusiasm for Hitler and the Nazi party.

The Nazi party was aware of the Abwehr’s lack of Nazi devotion, so Hitler relied heavily on his secret police organization known as the Gestapo, which was led by Heinrich Himmler. Hitler also counted on the SD, which was the intelligence branch of the Nazi Party’s Waffen-SS, a.k.a. the Storm Troopers. Eventually, Himmler took control of the entire German SS, along with the secret police.

Himmler used his secret police authority against his political opponents within the Nazi Party with great success, and he tried to convince Hitler to let him take command of all German intelligence resources. However, it seems that Hitler was well aware of his senior minions’ machinations against each other, and he skillfully encouraged it as a way to keep himself safe from any “second-in-command” that might become too powerful.



We now know that the Nazi’s distrust of the Abwehr was well founded. After the war ended, as more secret information was slowly released to the public, it became apparent to historians that Admiral Canaris and many of his top deputies in the Abwehr not only lacked enthusiasm for the Nazi party, but they actually actively plotted against it, including involvement in multiple assassination attempts against Hitler.

Based on their lack of trust in the Abwehr, the Gestapo and the SD branch of the SS invested heavily in intelligence operations against the UK and the allies.

While understanding the structure and organization of German intelligence operations must have been an ongoing nightmare for a well-established and tradition-bound organization like MI-5, MI-5 never allowed that to slow them down in their secret war against Axis intelligence operations.

Any study of MI-5’s wartime operations leads to various interpretations, depending on the student. One conclusion that would be difficult for any serious student of espionage to miss would be the fact that, while MI-5 was remarkably ineffective in combating Soviet espionage, they were remarkably efficient in dealing with the massive intelligence efforts conducted by the Nazis against Great Britain.

MI-5 could never be certain which German organization was running which intelligence operation against the UK, but they were certain that all German intelligence operations needed to be defeated. On Friday, October 24, 2014 we learned precisely how the Gestapo and SD espionage operations were so successfully defeated.

In large measure, it was due to a bank clerk, or at least he appeared to be a bank clerk.

This particular spook was so successful in maintaining his cover as a bank employee that when the British War Office requested that his bank employers release him from his work for war service, the bank management resisted. They claimed that their employee clearly lacked any special talent that would make him particularly useful for the war effort. They couldn’t have been more wrong. The bank’s seemingly untalented clerk, Eric Arthur Roberts, was in fact a master spy and had been since before World War Two even started.

Someone in MI-5 leadership understood that countering the German Abwehr would not be enough. They had the foresight to realize that not only would the Nazi SS SD conduct operations against Great Britain, but also that Himmler might use his Gestapo personnel to conduct his own operations against the allies. In an example of excellent judgment, MI-5 selected Eric Roberts to run an operation against the Nazi’s.

So how does one bank clerk with nothing more than a suspicion that Germany would recruit more spies in the UK manage to foil the Gestapo? It occurred to our seemingly dull bank clerk that the best way to locate any disloyal, Gestapo-inclined British citizens was to recruit them first.

Roberts set up a system that any pyramid scheme con man would envy.

He posed as an undercover Gestapo agent and recruited the would-be traitors. They thought they were working for the Gestapo. Rather than arrest them, MI-5 trained them and used them to recruit their own networks of “Nazi” spies.

Roberts’s operation dried up the pools of Nazi sympathizers and kept them occupied, hindering the Nazi efforts to find real British traitors to work for them. Meanwhile, MI-5 and MI-6 both fed a healthy diet of double agents to the Abwehr, the SS SD, and the Gestapo. These double agents presented the Germans with various case files of imaginary agents, producing tons of delightful and delicious, but usually fake, information. They fed the Germans enough real information to keep them happy, but that real information was just late enough for it to not quite be useful.

Eric Roberts’s operations against the Gestapo, along with similar operations by MI-5 and MI-6 against the Abwehr and SS SD, explain why Hitler was so certain that the allied D-Day invasion would land at Calais rather than at Normandy. Hitler held stubbornly to that conviction against the advice of his General Staff and the advice of his Army Headquarters Staff.

After World War Two, Eric Roberts and his family moved to Salt Spring Island in Canada.


Salt Spring Island, Canada Image by Paperandglue, public domain.

Salt Spring Island, Canada
Image by Paperandglue, public domain.


There, he pursued a quiet rural life on the Canadian Pacific. Roberts took up writing and, not surprisingly, he was popular with the local inhabitants. Clearly, the man had a great talent for establishing friendships.

Eric Arthur Roberts passed away in 1972 with no recognition for his fantastic work against the Nazis. Like so many intelligence service personnel, he took his secrets to the grave with him. We now know that this seemingly insignificant bank clerk played an important role in defeating the Nazi plague.

Piper and I offer our humble but sincere salute to Eric Arthur Roberts and his cohorts, both known and unknown, on this 5th Annual Spook Appreciation Day.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Don’t miss The Spy Bride Blogger Challenge!

Click HERE for details.

Or The Spy Bride Giveaway!

We have some wonderful prizes for readers to celebrate the release of our debut novella, THE SPY BRIDE, in the RISKY BRIDES Bestsellers’ Collection. Sign up for the Bayard & Holmes Newsletter and be automatically entered to win a Secret Decoder Ring, a stash of Ghirardelli chocolate, or a bottle of sparkling wine from Mumm Napa vineyard.

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The Spy Bride Risky Brides Boxed Set final Cover


RISKY BRIDES . . . 8 genres. 8 novels and novellas. 8 takes on what makes a RISKY BRIDE. Now on sale for a limited time at only $.99 and available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and Kobo.


Muslim Radicals Attack Vienna (Again)

By Jay Holmes

In 1682, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I was facing the nightmare that had haunted Austro-German leaders for centuries—the Hapsburg Empire was threatened by simultaneous wars on two fronts. On the Rhine to the west, his German states were under threat from a broad coalition of protestant nations such as England, Sweden, the protestant German principalities, and Catholic France. To the east, his Hungarian kingdom was in rebellion. Leopold chose to pay minimal attention to the rebellion in Hungary and stationed the majority of his troops and artillery along the Rhine.


Battle of Vienna, 1683 Painting by Juliusz Kossak, public domain

Battle of Vienna, 1683
Painting by Juliusz Kossak, public domain


Eighteen years earlier, a twenty-year peace treaty had been agreed to by the Ottoman Empire and Leopold’s Holy Roman Empire. Facing simultaneous threats on two fronts, Leopold was anxious to conclude an extension of that peace treaty. From his Ottoman neighbors’ point of view, the time was ripe for an invasion of Europe. Ottoman Emperor Mehmed IV declined to extend the peace treaty and authorized Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa to prepare for an invasion of Leopold’s Holy Roman Empire.

Vienna had been a tempting prize for the Ottomans since they came to power in 1299. Located on a navigable portion of the upper Danube River at the eastern end of the Alps, the city had been a strategic trading hub since around 500 B.C. The Ottomans viewed Vienna as a potential base for the eventual conquest of all of Europe.

In 1529, Suleiman the Magnificent had led an Ottoman army to an expensive defeat at the gates of Vienna. (See Muslim Radicals Attack Vienna.) Kara Mustafa was determined to avoid Suleiman’s mistakes. The idea of succeeding where the great Suleiman had failed became an overriding force in all of Mustafa’s military thinking.


Portrait of Kara Mustafa Artist unknown, public domain

Portrait of Kara Mustafa
Artist unknown, public domain


A more patient military leader might have advanced toward Vienna by successively conquering less heavily defended territories and eventually massing large forces closer to Vienna to attack that city without moving a large army over long distances. Such a strategy would have left the eventual conquest of Vienna to a future generation of Ottoman leaders. For Kara Mustafa, such a plan held no appeal. For him, the most important thing about capturing Vienna was that he be at the head of the Ottoman army that achieved that victory.

Instead of launching an Army westward as Suleiman had done in 1529, Mustafa invested heavily in improving roads and bridges leading into Europe while he amassed weapons, ammunition, and supplies at advanced bases. Mustafa wanted his Army to arrive well rested at the gates of Vienna in the summer of 1683. The plan made sense, but it had one drawback. The Ottoman preparations for a campaign to the west, along with their refusal to extend the peace treaty, did not go unnoticed by the Emperor Leopold.


Portrait of Leopold I of Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperor Artist unknown, public domain

Portrait of Leopold I of Hapsburg
Holy Roman Emperor
Artist unknown, public domain


Leopold and his military leaders used the time wisely. They did two important things. They reinforced the walls of Vienna and lay in supplies and ammunition for their cannons, and they concluded a treaty for mutual defense with Polish King Jan III Sobieski.

On April 1, 1683, the Ottoman Army began its march toward Vienna. Unlike his predecessor in 1529, Kara Mustafa did not have to fight a significant series of battles to arrive at Vienna. But similarly to Suleiman, Mustafa had used the standard jihadi holy war spiel to whip up support for his campaign.

For Mustafa, his ambition to take Vienna was likely more personal than religious, but convincing thousands of troops to leave their families behind and risk their lives for the sake of their general’s vanity is never a good recruiting plan. On the other hand, the jihadi holy war marketing plan worked like a charm, but it came at a cost that Mustafa did not anticipate.

On the way to Vienna, the jihadi-inspired army raped and pillaged, as did many armies of the day. When they reached Perchtoldsdorf, Austria, on the way to Vienna, Mustafa offered the city the chance to surrender in exchange for the safety of the city’s inhabitants. The city surrendered, and Mustafa’s jihadis immediately sacked it.

Mustafa’s army arrived at the gates of Vienna on July 14, 1683, and demanded immediate surrender in exchange for safe passage for all the soldiers and citizens. However, the Viennese had heard about the slaughter at Perchtoldsdorf, and they had no intentions of surrendering.


Map of Vienna, 1683 By Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi, public domain

Map of Vienna, 1683
By Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi, public domain


Estimates of the size of Mustafa’s forces vary widely depending on the sources. If we count the Tartar cavalry that joined Mustafa en-route to Vienna, it’s likely that he had approximately 190,000 troops at his disposal. Vienna had a garrison of 15,000 professional soldiers and 8,500 volunteers to defend the city. Also, further west, the Duke of Lorraine’s supporting force of 20,000 troops awaited reinforcements from Germany and Poland.

Based on the numbers of troops each side had on July 14, it seems that the Ottomans should have had an easy victory at hand, but when we consider the artillery that each side had, we discover why the Ottomans didn’t snatch a quick victory as soon as they arrived at Vienna. The Ottomans had 149 cannons ranging from light to medium size. The Viennese garrison had 370 cannons of medium to large size. The Viennese advantage in artillery was multiplied by the fact that they were in well-constructed battlements, whereas the Ottomans had no real defensive cover from which to conduct an artillery duel.

Mustafa was unaware that Poland and Germany were already sending a relief force to Vienna. Supremely confident in his position, he avoided an outright artillery duel and began mining operations to tunnel under the city walls. Mustafa hoped that after undermining and blowing up a significant segment of Vienna’s defensive walls, a portion of his vastly superior forces could rush the city. It was a reasonable plan, but it required time.


King Jan III Sobieski Blessing Polish Attack Painting by Juliusz Kossak, public domain

King Jan III Sobieski Blessing Polish Attack
Painting by Juliusz Kossak, public domain


Unfortunately for Mustafa, Poland’s King Jan III Sobieski was not altogether reasonable. On September 6, 1683, a force of 37,000 Polish troops crossed the Danube River twenty miles NW of Vienna and joined with a relief force of 47,000 troops of the Holy Roman Empire. After some initial squabbling over who would take overall command of the army, Sobieski was given the job.

On the night of September 11, the combined Holy Roman and Polish army got its artillery up steep terrain to a commanding position on the right flank of Mustafa’s army. On the morning of September 12, as Mustafa was launching a final assault on Vienna, the relief force struck with artillery and infantry assaults against Mustafa’s right flank.

Kara Mustafa calculated that he still vastly outnumbered the combined forces of the Vienna garrison and Sobieski’s army. He continued the final assault on Vienna while ordering a portion of his army to defend against Sobieski’s attack. He also ordered that the thirty thousand Christian prisoners he collected en-route to Vienna be executed.


Siege of Vienna, 1683 Painting by Frans Geffels, public domain

Siege of Vienna, 1683
Painting by Frans Geffels, public domain


By the late afternoon, Mustafa realized that his assault on Vienna was failing and that Sobieski’s army was not defeated. He tried to realign his forces to deal a heavy blow against Sobieski’s relief force, but before he could get his army into a better disposition for attacking, an 18,000-strong fresh cavalry force swept down the slope against the Ottoman lines. Mustafa’s army broke. When the sun set on the battlefield that day, it was effectively setting on the Ottoman’s ambitions to conquer Europe.

Mustafa’s army lost around 20,000 men in the siege of Vienna. In their battle with the relief force, they lost an additional 40,000 troops. Mustafa retreated with the remains of his army to Belgrade.

On Christmas day in 1683, the Janissaries—Mustafa’s elite troops—received a message from the Ottoman ruler Mehmed IV instructing that Kara Mustafa be executed. The Janissaries used a silk cord to strangle Kara Mustafa. His head was delivered to Mehmed IV in a velvet sack.


Return from Vienna Polish-Lithuanians leaving Vienna with their loot after defeating the Ottomans Painting by Jozef Brandt, public domain

Return from Vienna
Polish-Lithuanians leaving Vienna with their loot after defeating the Ottomans
Painting by Jozef Brandt, public domain


The Ottoman Empire endured for over two more centuries after their failed attack on Vienna, but it remained in a defensive mode for the rest of its history. In their final great foreign policy miscalculation, the Ottomans sided with the Austro-Hungarian-German powers against the European allies in World War One. In 1923, the Empire was dissolved and the modern state of Turkey came into being.

The Spy Bride Challenge and a New Release!

It’s a big week here at Bayard & Holmes!

We are proud to announce the release of our first novella, THE SPY BRIDE, in the Bestsellers’ Collection RISKY BRIDES. Bayard & Holmes are honored to join USA Today Bestsellers Vicki Hinze, Rita Herron, Donna Fletcher, Peggy Webb, and Kathy Carmichael, and veteran authors Kimberly Llewellyn and Tara Randel as we each share our unique take on what it means to be a risky bride.

8 novels and novellas. 8 genres. 8 risky brides.

The Spy Bride Risky Brides Boxed Set final Cover

To celebrate, we’re having two contests!

The Spy Bride Blogger Challenge

We are inviting all bloggers to write a post about absolutely anything espionage or wedding related. Link back to this post to be entered in a contest for a $25 Amazon card and a copy of RISKY BRIDES.

Write about your favorite Bond movie, your favorite historical spook, or how you used to spy on your siblings. Tell us about your wildest bachelor party, you favorite wedding, or your worst bridesmaid’s dress. If you manage to write about both spooks and weddings in the same post, you’ll have your name entered twice.

Be sure to link back to the post at our web site so we see your entry!

The winner will be chosen on Thanksgiving Day. I will attach the names of all entries to a shooting target. Then I will blindfold my lovely daughter, DD, and she will shoot the target. The name that is shot will be the winner of the coveted Amazon gift card.

DD ready to determine the winner.

DD ready to determine the winner.

And for our awesome readers . . .

We have some wonderful prizes for you, as well. Sign up for the Bayard & Holmes Newsletter and be automatically entered to win a Secret Decoder Ring, a stash of Ghirardelli chocolate, or a bottle of sparkling wine from Mumm Napa vineyard.

Bayard & Holmes Newsletter Link–Click Here to Enter

Feel free to enter both contests!

Best of luck to all of you. Can’t wait to see your entries!





RISKY BRIDES is on sale for a limited time at only $.99 and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and Kobo.


THE SPY BRIDE by Bayard & Holmes — Spy Thriller Quick Read

With her wedding only days away, a CIA operative and her mother must thwart a top-level traitor before he delivers computer technology to international crime cartels, allowing them to hack US security systems and target thousands of innocents for slaughter.

THE MARKED BRIDE by Vicki Hinze — Romantic Thriller Novel

Nine months after breaking their engagement, Mandy sends Tim, a private security consultant and former Shadow Watcher (spies who spy on spies), an SOS. She’s in trouble. NINA caused the breakup and, though Mandy and Tim have been apart, NINA has struck—targeting Mandy.

THERE GOES THE GROOM by Rita Herron — Romantic Suspense Novel

A jilted bride is arrested for her fiancé’s crimes when he goes on the lam!

THE IRISH DEVIL by Donna Fletcher — Historical Romance Novel

The infamous warrior the Irish Devil was promised a bride by the King of Ireland for services rendered. Faith is as kind as she is beautiful and wants no part of marrying the fierce warrior, but has no choice, and once wed she discovers just how sinful the devil is.

ELVIS AND THE BURIED BRIDES by Peggy Webb — Cozy Mystery Quick Read

Bad boy Jack Jones is finally retying the marital knot! But where is the bride? When Callie and cousin Lovie both go missing, everybody is crying in the chapel. Can canine sleuth Elvis and the Valentine gang find them in time to croon “Love Me Tender” at the wedding?

SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING DEADLY by Kathy Carmichael — Mystery Quick Read

When the groom is found murdered hours before the wedding, can bridesmaid and owner of the Skullduggery Inn, Ashley Sands, clear the bride from imminent arrest? With numerous suspects, all with strong motives, Ash must figure out who-dun-it before the murderer strikes again.

LOVE AT THE SWEETHEART INN by Tara Randel — Sweet Romance Novel

Wedding planner Kara Delaney has had her heart broken too many times to expect a wedding of her own. Lucas Winfield can’t promise forever to any woman. As they work together on a wedding, the attraction is undeniable, but can they overcome their pasts to have a future together?

ALMOST A BRIDE by Kimberly Llewellyn — Sexy Romance Novel

After getting dumped at the altar, Ivy Hammond enters a sexy research study with one rule: don’t fall in love. But with each sizzling assignment, her hot research partner, Kip Lockehart, convinces her some rules were made to be broken.

Muslim Radicals Attack Vienna

By Jay Holmes

If you responded to the above title with thoughts of Al Qaeda or ISIS, it’s understandable. The most noticeable current events tend to occupy our day-to-day consciousness, but the attack that we refer to in this article occurred in 1529. This October marks the four hundred, eighty-fifth anniversary of the first attack by Islamic radicals against Vienna.


Suleiman the Magnificent Painting by Titian, public domain wikimedia commons

Suleiman the Magnificent
Painting by Titian, public domain
wikimedia commons


In the spring of 1529, the emperor of the Ottoman Empire looked to the west and saw what appeared to be a golden opportunity.

After the death of Hungarian King Vladisalus II, Hungary was left in upheaval due to a crisis of succession. The competing interests of the Hapsburg Empire and a coalition of Hungarian nobility divided the country. Suleiman “the Magnificent” saw an opportunity to achieve his dream of expanding the Ottoman Empire to include all of Europe.

Suleiman’s diplomats obtained an alliance with the Hungarian nobility in exchange for their vassalage if he would drive the Hapsburgs from Hungary and Austria. By May of 1529, Suleiman had assembled a large army in Bulgaria for a campaign against Europe.

Estimates of the size of that army vary wildly depending on which accounts we accept.

Ottoman chroniclers number it at approximately 130,000 troops. Since these troops were paid professionals, the Ottomans would have had a good idea of how many they were paying and supplying.

The Ottoman estimates include personnel that would maintain secure transportation of supplies for the army as it moved toward Europe. We can reasonably presume that, in addition to transportation forces, Suleiman’s army included 10,000 Janissaries. The Janissaries were an elite force. They were not only well-trained in infantry weapons and tactics, but were also highly skilled combat engineers. They used their road building skills to help move Suleiman’s army beyond Ottoman held territory into contested areas of Hungary and into Austria.


16th Century Jannisary public domain, wikimedia commons

16th Century Jannisary
public domain, wikimedia commons


Even if we accept the Ottoman chroniclers’ estimate of 130,000 troops, imagine what a challenge the Ottomans faced in simply moving their army along a 2,000 kilometer path to the distant scene of the battle.

That army, its mounts, and its draft animals had to eat every day. In 1529, the state of roads and bridges in Eastern Europe was deplorable. The only available “fast food” on their journey would come in the form of fresh grass for the animals, if God provided the necessary rain. Undoubtedly, mass prayers for victory and for rain were a daily occurrence amongst the assembled Ottoman troops. To their delight, God answered their prayers and provided adequate spring rains to Eastern Europe and, hence, fresh grass.

On May 10, Suleiman’s army set forth toward Croatia.

After a few days, their enthusiasm for an adventure-filled jihadi road trip began to dampen. As the rain continued and the route became muddier, they perhaps wondered about the wisdom of having prayed so hard for rain.

Many of the Janissaries fell ill due to their exhausting efforts at road repair and bridge building. On August 18, 1529, after three months of slogging through mud, the Ottoman army reached the Mohacs Plain in Hungary, where they were joined by approximately 10,000 cavalry led by Jan Zápolya, the “anti-Hapsburg” claimant to the Hungarian throne.

We can guess that Suleiman greeted Zápolya with something like: “Glad you could make it. You said it would rain here in the spring, but I didn’t think it would rain this much.”

Zápolya perhaps responded with something like: “It never rains this much. I thought you said you were bringing heavy cannons.”

In turn, Suleiman would have answered: “They’re stuck in the mud. We will have to go on without them. With this many troops we can rely on shock and awe and won’t need the big cannons.”

In the ensuing weeks, although the heavier-than-normal rains continued, Suleiman’s huge army was perhaps encouraged by their rapid victories against lightly garrisoned Hapsburg strongholds. The mud continued to exact a heavy toll on the men and animals alike, but all in all, the shock and awe plan was going swell.


Circular Map of Vienna, 1529 public domain, wikimedia commons

Circular Map of Vienna, 1529
public domain, wikimedia commons


All that shock and awe did not go unnoticed by the folks in Vienna.

The locals were not looking forward to life under Ottoman rule, so they responded enthusiastically to Vienna’s new “if it walks on two feet, it’s a soldier” draft policy.

The Viennese were short on trained troops, but they had plenty of mud. They used it well. Since word of the Ottoman campaign had reached them in May, they had spent the spring and summer reinforcing both their outer town walls and the inner defenses of the cathedral area. By September, German heavy infantry and elite Spanish musketeers had arrived to reinforce the city. The experienced German general, Count Nicholas of Salm, was in overall command of Vienna’s 20,000+ strong defense forces.

On September 27, Suleiman’s army reached Vienna.

Many of his troops had died of sickness and exhaustion on the trip. We can take an educated guess that he had about 70,000 troops healthy enough for combat and siege operations, and he had no heavy cannon.

Suleiman sent emissaries with an ultimatum. Vienna could surrender and receive mercy, or he would take the city by force and kill every last inhabitant, including the children. Vienna refused to surrender. I’m guessing that about now, Suleiman’s Imams were leading daily prayers for an end to the rain.

Suleiman began bombarding Vienna, but his light artillery did almost no damage to the newly reinforced walls of the city. His troops began mining operations to go underneath the walls, but the rains continued in record fashion. The deluge slowed the mining attempts, and the defensive forces watched the Ottomans carefully from the relative comfort of the well-supplied city. Whenever the jihad mining gangs looked vulnerable, the Viennese conducted quick raids against them with their well-fed well-rested troops. Suleiman’s Jihad Spring Road Trip was turning into an Autumn Disaster.

By October 12, disease, exhaustion, desertion, and dwindling food supplies caused Suleiman to hold a war council.

They decided to make one last ditch attempt at storming the walls of Vienna. Suleiman’s Hail Mary charge against the walls of Vienna failed. The Ottomans began to retreat.


The Siege of Vienna, 1529 Painting by Pieter Snayers public domain, wikimedia commons

The Siege of Vienna, 1529
Painting by Pieter Snayers
public domain, wikimedia commons


Their prayers for an end to the rain were finally answered. The rain was replaced by unseasonably heavy snows. For the Viennese, the battle was over. The Ottomans now faced a new enemy. They had to conduct a long retreat with a sick army through heavy snows.

The net effect of Suleiman’s campaign of 1529 was similar to the ISIS campaign of 2014. In 1529, the Hapsburgs vowed to never again underestimate the reach of the Ottoman armies. Then, as now, there were long debates on how to fend off Islamic jihadists at the lowest cost. In 1529, the Catholic Church and various European kingdoms followed a strategy of “let’s all encourage the Hapsburgs to save us from the Ottomans.”

Suleiman’s defeat at the gates of Vienna in 1529 was not the last attempt by the Ottomans to take Vienna, but that’s a story for next week.

The Spy Bride Risky Brides FB Profile Photo

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Darth Vader Runs for Ukrainian Parliament

By Piper Bayard

Image from Ebay.

Image from Ebay.


Ukrainian “Darth Vader” Runs for Parliament



I don’t know about his stand on Putin’s invasion or light saber control, but he would definitely be responsive to terrorism.

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

Let’s kick off with a genuine potential apocalypse. Best article I’ve read so far on Ebola, via Tom Wyld. Six Reasons to Panic

The 12 Cognitive Biases that Prevent You from Being Rational, via Sonia Cywilko.

Celiac Disease Foundation’s 2014 Gluten-Free Halloween Treat Listvia Kristy K. James.


Malala Yousafzai at the Oval Office Image by US Govt, public domain

Malala Yousafzai at the Oval Office
Image by US Govt, public domain


Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai spoke out against the Islamic fundamentalists who would quash education. The Taliban came to her school and shot her in the head, but she survived and continued in her mission. Recently, she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in advancing education. Via neuroscientist Nsikan Akpan, What Will Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize Mean for Girls’ Education?

Lisa Hall-Wilson shares some important cautions for those of us professionals who prefer to use Profile pages rather than Fan pages. Facebook Shut Down My Profile!

USA Today Bestseller Vicki Hinze asks, Cyber Security Awareness:  Are You Protected?

The Issue Box is a new site where people discuss the issues on their minds without having to leave any personal information. Mark Kaplowitz tells us all about it in Big Announcement!


The Spy Bride Risky Brides Boxed Set final Cover


At  A Girl and Her Kindle, USA Today Bestseller Peggy Webb tells us about Good Books and Good Friends, the writers behind RISKY BRIDES Bestsellers’ Collection. These outstanding authors generously gave Holmes and I a hand up by inviting us to include our debut novella, THE SPY BRIDE, in this collection. RISKY BRIDES is now available for ebook pre-order and will release on October 21.

Some great advice from Maureen Johnson for all of you writers out there, but it really applies to all endeavors of every flavor . . . Dare to Suck!



Question of the Week:



All the best to all of you for a week of making good choices.

Spy Truth & Fiction–Are Silencers Silent?

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Movies and books would convince us that any firearm can be silenced down to a tiny pfftzing sound when fired. Not so!


From top: IMI Uzi with Companion Shooting Supplies (Vector Arms) Model 2000, 9mm. RRA AR-15 with Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC) Omni, .223. HK USP Tactical with AAC Evolution-45. Beretta 92FS with AAC Evolution-9. SIG Mosquito with AAC Pilot, .22. image by Cortland, public domain, wikimedia commons

From top:
IMI Uzi with Companion Shooting Supplies (Vector Arms) Model 2000, 9mm.
RRA AR-15 with Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC) Omni, .223.
HK USP Tactical with AAC Evolution-45.
Beretta 92FS with AAC Evolution-9.
SIG Mosquito with AAC Pilot, .22.
image by Cortland, public domain, wikimedia commons


For simplicity’s sake, we will use the terms “suppressor” and “silencer” interchangeably.

The purpose of most silencers is not to achieve complete silence, but to reduce the noise of a shot enough to prevent potential witnesses from recognizing that they heard a gunshot. 

In most cases, the shooter doesn’t care if someone hears the shot as long as they don’t recognize it as a shot and then dial up 911, scream for help, or return fire. People will normally ignore noises that they hear but don’t associate with gunshots or other dangers. Because of this human tendency, the level of “silencing” needed depends on the situation. If the shooter intends to walk into a steel mill and shoot someone, he doesn’t need much. On the other hand, if the shooter wants to shoot someone in a library without being noticed, he had better have a high degree of silencing.

The .380 semi-automatic pistol is a very popular weapon to use with a suppressor. (See Spy Truth & Fiction—Automatics, Semi-Automatics, and Revolvers.) The cartridge provides enough energy for close up assassination, but it is relatively easy and inexpensive to effectively silence a weapon that uses the .380 ammunition. James Bond’s Walther PPK is the most famous example of one of these weapons.

Something fiction rarely addresses is the fact that, with each shot, an unlocked semi-automatic slide cycles and ejects a brass shell.

It is impossible to silence the noise of an unlocked semi-automatic slide. It is also impossible to silence the sound of falling brass unless the weapon is equipped with a brass catcher. However, in the movies, a shooter frequently fires two or three shots in close succession from a “silenced” weapon without any noise being made by the cycling slide or the falling brass. Such scenes are complete and utter fiction.

The .380 semi-automatic is available in “straight blowback” design weapons. (Larger auto-loading pistols use “delayed blowback” designs.) A straight blowback design pistol can be modified to manually lock the slide in a closed position so that the weapon can fire without causing the cartridges to jam. The locked slide prevents the noise of the slide operation along with the noise that escapes the ejection port when the pistol cycles. When a “locked” pistol is used with a suppressor attached to its mussel, the combination allows for the highest level of “suppression,” hence the least noise.

Unlike the movies, to fire successive shots in real life, a shooter must manually unlock the slide, cycle out the cartridge, and then relock the slide before taking a second shot. Locking and unlocking is accomplished with a small lever that would resemble the safety lever on a slide. With a bit of practice it can be operated quickly without much effort.

The Makarov .380 is the most powerful mass produced auto-loading pistol that can be effectively silenced with ease and at low cost.

It is basically a knockoff of James Bond’s Walther .380 on steroids. With a bullet slightly wider and heavier than that of the standard .380, the Makarov has the maximum energy of any sub-sonic cartridge that the Soviet firearms specialists could put into a straight blowback semi-automatic design. The term “sub sonic” is important when discussing silencers or suppressors because a bullet traveling faster than the speed of sound makes a loud noise. Sub-sonic cartridges are, therefore, more practical for silenced firearms.

While a pistol with a manual slide lock does not allow for the quickest successive shots, it can be very quiet and thus ideal for some situations. If, for example, the shooter intended to assassinate an individual who was walking home on his usual route after work, she could easily get a close up headshot on a side street. The noise would be low enough that someone walking twenty yards ahead of the victim would not notice it. Another example is if the shooter could gain access to the target when the target was alone in his hotel room, home, or office. In such circumstances, a trained shooter could easily take the time to deliver a second “insurance” shot on a high value target without a hotel maid in the hallway or people in the next room hearing anything.

.380s without manual slide locks installed are also popular to use with modern liquid filled suppressors.

Such arrangements make more noise than a locked Makarov or locked .380 but still far less noise than a .22 short cartridge fired from a .22 rifle. If the shooter were alone with the target inside a closed hotel room, office, home etc., the noise level would still be acceptable. A pedestrian twenty yards away on a quiet street might recognize the sound as a gunshot, but a pedestrian standing or walking around the corner of a city block would not notice the sound of this type of suppressed weapon.

With precision machining and greater expense, larger handguns can be suppressed, but not to the same degree as the .380 or the .380 Makarov.

During the 1970s, one of the most popular handguns in movies was the attractive Colt Python .357 magnum revolver. We often saw scenes with “silenced” Pythons being fired with more than a mild pfftz sound being generated. The revolver mechanics somehow made no noise at all. Magically, the gas that escaped from between the cylinder and the barrel made no noise, either. That only happens in movies. Suppressors can be used on revolvers, but with much less effect than can be achieved with an auto-loading pistol with a locked slide.

Currently the most popular suppressed handguns in the movies are the 9mm autoloader and the .45 ACP autoloader. With modern suppressors, they can be partially silenced. When a shooter doesn’t want to wake up people in a neighboring apartment or alert police on the next block, those weapons are effective, but unlike in the movies, a guard standing 10 yards away is definitely going to notice the sound of the pistol—not to mention the sound of the falling body. Nonetheless, if a shooter ever had to fire an unsuppressed 9mm or similar pistol from inside of a car, his first thought would be, “Ouch, my ears really hurt.” His second thought would be, “I wish I had a suppressor on this thing.”

Another popular “silenced” weapon is Hollywood is the high power sniper rifle.

We love seeing “silenced” 30-06 rifles in movies. We wish we had one that works like they do. In real life, a suppressor can partially reduce the noise made by a high-powered rifle, but as long as that rifle is firing a supersonic bullet, it’s not going to be anything like “quiet.” Less noisy? Yes. Unnoticed downrange? Not likely. The only advantage in suppressing a high power rifle that fires supersonic bullets is that the shots would alert people over a smaller radius than if a suppressor were not used.

But there’s good news for Hollywood and for snipers.

In recent years, high power cartridges have been developed to fire heavier bullets at subsonic velocities. One example would be the .300 Whisper. These cartridges lack the flatter trajectories of supersonic bullets, but they also lack the loud sonic “crack” generated by supersonic bullets.

So the next time you hear a massive Dirty Harry revolver or an auto-loading pistol silenced down to a pfftz on the screen? The next time you see a shooter take successive shots with a silenced weapon without manually cycling the slide? Label it fiction.

Thank you to Julie Glover for this week’s question about silencers. What are your Spy Truth & Fiction questions?

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Where in the World is Kim Jong Un? You Tell Us.

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Someone’s missing, and it isn’t Waldo. Kim Jong Un hasn’t been seen in North Korea since September 3. Some are speculating about illnesses, diseases, and political coups.

Kim Jong Un and wife Ri Sol-ju image by NK government

Kim Jong Un and wife Ri Sol-ju
image by NK government

With the regular measure of concern that we demonstrate for Little Un, we tasked our special Bayard & Holmes operatives (us) with uncovering news of the AWOL despot. We are sad to be the bearers of bad tidings, particularly to the already-beleaguered North Korean people, but it seems there have been numerous confirmed sightings of their Dear Leader around the globe.

A police report places Little Un in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after he was caught at a local Hobby Lobby muttering about delivery systems and sneaking Estes rockets into his black tunic pants.

Image from EstesRockets.com.

Image from EstesRockets.com.

Prostitutes in Amsterdam complained to local police that he had stolen their clothing to use for cross-dressing anime cosplay at the upcoming London Film and Comic Con.

Several resorts in Macao, China, reported evicting a Korean man with a toothbrush haircut after patrons complained that every time he lost at the craps tables, he threatened to feed them to a pack of dogs.

Numerous Scottish children and tourists at the Edinburgh Zoo told of a man fitting Little Un’s description who accosted them to ask about the unicorn exhibit. He became agitated at the absence of such exhibit and attempted to swipe a stuffed unicorn from a toddler in a stroller.

The Unicorn in Captivity Tapestry currently at The Cloisters Image public domain, wikimedia commons

The Unicorn in Captivity
Tapestry currently at The Cloisters
Image public domain, wikimedia commons

A street artist in Los Angeles spotted Little Un preening in the window of a hair salon, slathering his locks with Bacon Lube and asking passersby where to find Dennis Rodman’s house.

With all of these sightings, we’re guessing some of you readers have seen Little Un, too. Please notify us of your findings in the comments below. Let’s keep an eye on Little Un and prevent his return to North Korea for as long as possible, both for us and for the North Koreans.

Where have you seen Kim Jong Un, and what was he doing?