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February - March, 1999


I HAVE a huge backlog of paperwork to deal with before I can leave London, in a few hours' time.

I work all night. Jessica shows up sleepily around 7:15 a.m., expressing bafflement that I have got up so early. Her Mama explains that I am leaving for America in a few minutes' time. "Is it Thursday, then?" asks Jessica. It is, and already she is spelling out her list of desiderata, most of which involve Barbies. Benté asks my phone number in Key West; I say don't know it yet, and I'll let her have the number as soon as I get in; but she is to give it to nobody else -- security, I add, at which paranoia she scoffs out loud. I explain that I want to be unrecognised, and write in peace.

I stay awake until the Virgin-Atlantic 747 is aloft, then drop off into several long and unsatisfying sleeps; my head snaps forward, I slump into the seat, I miss the meals, I wake, I read a book -- I have started Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem -- then fall asleep again. I work for three hours on the Website until the computer's battery gives out. Once or twice I go to the rear and look down through almost solid banks of white snow clouds onto the southern tip of Greenland, then Gander as we fly high overhead.

Land at Miami at 3:15 p.m. How gorgeous the hot-wet-flannel that hits you in the face as you step out of the plane. Hertz refuses to rent a car to me, so in the sweltering heat I walk round to the Avis lot and rent a car there, five dollars cheaper in fact. A car which in England would be nearly luxury in size, rents here for $26 a day. I finally set out down the turnpike at 5:30 p.m.; I call at Office Max to stock up with paper and envelopes: a packet of 500 regular white envelopes costs $3.39. A loss-leader? The stationery equivalent of the girl in fishnet stockings at the door of the near-beer joint? How cheaply the Americans live. They surely don't realise how fortunate they are. I head off southward down US.1 to a month of total anonymity.

IT IS still light at seven p.m.; in England it is dark at four. I arrive at the Rusty Anchor at 9:10 p.m., and have a quick bite of fish and chips. Smiles all round. Here everybody knows me, but nobody knows my name. Then on to Old Town Key West; from a lock-box outside the long-closed estate agent, I pick up the keys of the tiny cottage I have rented for the month -- it is smaller than the brick slave-quarters I saw years ago at the plantation outside Charleston, South Carolina, where they filmed Gone with the Wind (Goebbels' favourite Hollywood movie).

Aaargh: none of the keys fits the door.

Thwarted, and numbed by exhaustion, I settle down in the car's front seat instead, and fall fast asleep.

FRIDAY: Awake at 7 a.m. The car's interior windows are steamed up. I drive to the Croissant Shop for a snack. How nice to be just one of the town's thousands of nameless visitors. A comforting, velvety famelessness. At eight a.m., Roger at the estate agency sheepishly admits that he mixed up the keys. I carry the heavy trunks of equipment into the cottage, and start setting up my office to write. I phone Benté; she says that the bank reports no money has yet arrived from the investors, and Cattlin is going off at midday today and at midday on Monday. He will cover the gap up to 2 or 3,000 he says. This could get very awkward indeed.

I RESCUE my bicycle from under the tree where I chained it in August; it is beginning to rust, and I take it to a bike shop for minor repairs. At the printers' shop I arrange to print the next Focal Point publications. Several times I stop at the barbers', anxious to get my regular $8 haircut. Each time the sign on his locked door has advanced an hour: back at 2:30 becomes back at 3:30 and so on. At five p.m. he is at last in. "How much?" he asks, and I say, "All of it, right down to the bone. I don't want anybody recognising me down here."

I go on-line. There are 42 e-mails to deal with. At 8 pm. at last I cycle over to El Siboney Cuban Restaurant for a snack. I have never been to this one before.

As I pay my bill, the middle-aged waitress, with whom I have chatted in flawless accent-free Spanish all evening, or so I thought, sidles up to me: "Excuse me señor, but aren't you an English writer? Is your name Irving?" I assume that somebody is putting me on, but no. She continues, "I was in Spain some years ago, and I read a book with your picture in the cover. La Guerra de Hitler," she confirms. I escape as fast as I decently can. Later, I return -- I have left my gafas on the table -- and slip a two-dollar propina into her hand. The game is up: she knows my name, and I can't have people putting it around that David Irving, this gringo with the crew-cut, doesn't know how to tip handsomely.

AM PERPLEXED by the latest news stories concerning my friend Christopher Hitchens, and even more so by the inexorable way that they have dragged my name in, just as in the bombing of the Alfred P Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. Hitchens has made himself unpopular with, ahem, certain circles in New York City and Washington, by revealing that his erstwhile friend Sydney Blumenthal perjured himself in testimony to the Kenneth Starr investigation. That is a serious charge, and the only thing which will save B.'s butt is if Hitchens can first be smeared into oblivion.

No easy task, because he is a highly capable writer, with a record of writing fine columns for Vanity Fair and other newspapers including the Evening Standard in London. He is also a brave and independent minded man: like myself, Hitchens cannot be bought and cannot be bought off.

When I met him in Washington DC -- he attended a little dinner at the Cosmos Club two years ago, at which I spoke on Real History -- he struck me as having a sharp brain, in danger of becoming befuddled by alcohol, tho' not for many years to come. I learned that he and Steve Wasserman (now literary editor of the Los Angeles Times) had between them persuaded The Random House to display an immediate interest in taking over my biography Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich, after it was stabbed in the back by the craven directors of St Martin's Press at the orders of the Anti-Defamation League (who had never even seen the book).

Hitchens published an angry piece about the scandal in Vanity Fair in June 1996. (He also lauded my book Nuremberg, the Last Battle for The Literary Review). For a month, Wasserman pushed the Goebbels book at The Random House, overcoming obstacle after obstacle, until he was "outed" by the New York Post and had to abandon the task. Over lunch in New York, he spoke to me in glowing terms of the fight that had also been put up by Edward Jay Epstein -- who now turns out to be Christopher Hitchens' nemesis. Epstein had kept a diary about a dinner party in 1995 at which Hitchens expressed well-informed scepticism about aspects of the Holocaust.

It just goes to show, you can't be too careful about what friends you pick, and what you say in their presence. As for Hitchens's views on the Holocaust: he struck me as being level headed, sceptical, curious to learn more, and open minded. In short, just what a journalist in the free world should be. I have put this on my Website this morning, I thought you would be amused...


HAVE JUST received an e-mail from a Mr Harry Abrams, somewhere on the Pacific coast to judge by his address.

I should be quite proud, because it is the first piece of offensive mail I have received in the fourteen months that I have been on-line: I have received ten or twenty thousand messages since I set up, and this is the first piece of hate-mail. He writes:

"You are a jerk, a conniver, a blackguard and an evil fool. You will lose all in court."

Out of the blue -- and possibly quite true. Those are the words that this total stranger, Mr Abrams, commends to me. I confess that I am at a loss. I reply courteously, "I am afraid you have the advantage of me, as I don't think I know you? Perhaps you have mixed up your addresses?"

I use simple words, because Mr Abrams appears to have little command of the English language: jerk, conniver, blackguard, evil fool? What would have been wrong with: poltroon, snake-tongue of a thousand forks, heap of mummified horse manure?

Never mind: By his choice of language he has greatly hurt my feelings, and as the day wears on I wonder if there is some way that I can turn these hurt feelings into money.

Around two thousand Canadian dollars should suffice to soothe me and restore my soiled reputation in the eyes of my community. After all, we now know that Britain's M.I.5 and Scotland Yard, not to mention the Community Security Trust of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, are all monitoring the e-mails of violent and extreme right-wingers like myself, and Mr Abrams has clearly defamed me in the eyes of these monitors at least.

Is there some kind of Commission I can turn to for relief? The problem is that here in England, all of these commissions have their hands full investigating wrongs done to people of a different skin colour than mine, a factor which appears far more important to them than it is to me.

So the mystery persists. Who is my Pacific Coast well-wisher? He clearly has tenderer feelings toward the defamatory Professor Deborah Lipstadt than toward me.

Perhaps she should contact him, and I offer her, through this diary, his Internet address (I am afraid he did not vouchsafe to me his postal address). It is: j3765@pacificcoast.net  

Harry Abrams of Victoria, BC, runs an advertising agency in elevators (telephone 604 386-6246) and has a webpage at http://www.pacificcoast.net/~j3765/Article by Abrams defending his viewpoint.




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© Focal Point 1999   write to David Irving