Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime

Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime

by John Dunning


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Widely acclaimed for his groundbreaking crime novels Booked to Die and The Bookman's Wake, award-winning author John Dunning triumphantly returns with a riveting new thriller that takes us back to the summer of 1942, when radio was in its prime, when daylight saving time gave way to "wartime," when stations like WHAR on the New Jersey coast struggled to create programming that entertained and inspired a nation in its dark hour.

Into this intense community of radio artists and technicians in Regina Beach, New Jersey, come Jack Dulaney and Holly Carnahan. They are determined to find Holly's missing father, whose last desperate word came from this noisy seaside town. Holly sings like an angel and has what it takes to become a star. Jack — a racetrack hot-walker and novelist who's hit every kind of trouble in his travels from sea to sea — tries out as a writer at WHAR and soon discovers a passion for radio and a natural talent for script writing.

While absorbing the ways of radio, from writing to directing, he meets some extraordinarily brave and gifted people who touch his life in ways he could not have imagined — actresses Rue, Pauline, and Hazel; actor-director Waldo, creator of the magnificent black show Freedom Road; and enigmatic station owner Loren Harford, among others.

Jack's zeal for radio is exceeded only by his devotion to Holly, who needs his help but who is terrified for his safety. Strange things are happening in Regina Beach, starting with an English actor who walked out of the station six years ago and was never seen again. And Holly's father is gone too, in equally puzzling circumstances. As Jack and Holly penetrate deeper into the shadows of the past, they learn that someone will do anything, including murder, to hide some devastating truths.

In a stunning novel that transcends genre, John Dunning calls upon his vast knowledge of radio and his incisive reading of history to create a poignant, page-turning work of fiction that sheds new insights on some of the most harrowing events of the twentieth century. Like E. L. Doctorow's Billy Bathgate or Caleb Carr's The Alienist, Dunning's brilliant tale of mystery, murder, and revenge brings to life another time, another place, another world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439171530
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 05/04/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

John Dunning has revealed some of book collecting’s most shocking secrets in his bestselling series of crime novels featuring Cliff Janeway: Booked to Die, which won the prestigious Nero Wolfe award; The Bookman’s Wake, a New York Times Notable Book; and the New York Times bestsellers The Bookman’s Promise, The Sign of the Book, and The Bookwoman’s Last Fling. He is also the author of the Edgar Award-nominated Deadline, The Holland Suggestions, and Two O’Clock, Eastern Wartime. An expert on rare and collectible books, he owned the Old Algonquin Bookstore in Denver for many years. He lives in Denver, Colorado. Visit

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Dulaney dreamed there was no war. A thousand years had passed and he had come to the end of an endless journey, closing an infinite circle in time and space. But when he opened his eyes it was still Sunday, May 3, 1942.

He had slept less than two hours. The sky outside his window had just gone dark but the moon was up, shrinking his world to a small silver square on the floor, this eight-by-ten room with bars. His eyes probed the shadows beyond his cell — the dark hallway, the line of light on the far side of the bullpen where the office was. He had come awake thinking of Holly.

His peace had been shaken. The steadiness born in his soul now drained away, leaving a growing sense of unease. He heard the radio droning in the outer office. Charlie McCarthy had given way to Walter Winchell with no loss of comedy, but even when the jailer laughed at something Winchell had said, even with the sound of another human voice in close proximity, Dulaney felt isolated, alone on an alien planet in a time he barely knew.

Winchell had a name for Hitler's gang. The Ratzis had struck again. Exeter had been bombed in retaliation for RAF raids on Lübeck and Rostock. There was an almost imperceptible lull as Winchell hit a word beyond his grade-school vocabulary. Baedeker raids, Dulaney thought as if coaching. They were called Baedeker raids because they were aimed at the guidebook towns that symbolized British antiquity.

Winchell blew the word, but by then Dulaney was only half listening. He was thinking about Holly and the last time he had seen her, almost two years ago in New York. He had collected his pay and gone back to his apartment to clear out his stuff, and there she was waiting for him. She had been sitting on the floor all night, in the hallway outside his door. They walked through Central Park and the air was clear and cold, the trees stripped bare in the third week of autumn and the leaves rustling under their feet. The skyline loomed over the trees and at last she made the effort to say her piece. She looped her arm in his and drew him close. "These things happen, Jack. It's nobody's fault, least of all yours." But he wouldn't let her get into it any deeper than that, and it was the only time they had touched even the edges of what they both knew had always been between them.

She understood then the hopelessness of it. They walked out of the park and stood self-consciously outside the apartment house that in another hour would be his former address. Dulaney offered coffee but she said no, she'd rather just say good-bye here on the street. She took his hand. "It's all right, Jack. Everything's fine."

Just before she walked away she said one last thing to him. "You told me something once and I can't get it out of my mind. A man needs something that's bigger than life, something he'd die for. I've been thinking about that all night."

"That sounds like me. Sounds a little silly now, doesn't it?"

She shook her head, impatient at his attempt to belittle it. "Good-bye, Jack. I wish only good things for you. I hope you find whatever life holds that makes you feel that way."

But he had already found it. He knew it then, in New York; knew it now, sitting alone in a California jail cell. This thought sank into silence. Then, from the darkness beyond the bullpen, he heard Winchell's announcer, recapturing the moment for the makers of Jergens lotion.

Copyright © 2001 by John Dunning

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Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Stewartry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not what I was expecting. What I thought this would be, from the book description, and what I wanted was something along the lines of (though probably more serious than) ¿ oh dear, this will take a little searching. AMC series, radio station ¿ Ah: Remember WENN (1996 ¿ 1998). I did, in the end, remember. "¿ Set at the fictional Pittsburgh radio station WENN in the early 1940s, it depicted events (both dramatic and comic) in the personal and professional lives of the station's staff in the era before and during World War II." Yes. I'd like some of that, please. (Seriously, I'd love another book set in a 40's radio station. I'll have to do some hunting.) The book description talks about "an English actor who walked out of the radio station six years ago and was never seen again" ¿ I love those stories. There's something about a story about a man who enters a lane and never comes out the other end ¿ it's as good as a locked room murder. The story Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime begins to tell is more of a conspiracy tale, involving men in dark glasses and clandestine surveillance and secret identities, none of which seems to have anything to do with the war going on. About a third of the way in it ¿ and Jack Dulaney, the main character ¿ finally settled into WHAR radio in New Jersey, and it started being part of what I wanted, in spades: behind the scenes in 40's radio. It was wonderful, and made me very glad I stuck it out. Jack ¿ or Jordan Ten Eyck, as he calls himself in this new life ¿ is something of a wunderkind; he always wrote, and now adapts to radio drama like a pony to a field of clover, and he's amazing at it. A little too amazing, to tell the truth; the definitions of "Mary Sue" (in this case Gary Stu) kept going through my mind every time he knocked out another stunning script in an hour and a half, and every time he flouted the rules and was barely chastised when anyone else would have been fired and blackballed. He even marvels about how he's running the place in just a couple of months; it's a bit much. Particularly in conjunction with how his story ends ¿ For me it took a very long time to click into gear. There were a few storylines being juggled here, and I was somewhat disappointed that the one I was most interested in was given rather short shrift, and was, in fact, cut off. The ending wasn't what I would have wanted. I enjoyed the book ¿ but I would have had a lot more fun with it if the radio setting had been the star.
3.14 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Started great, but sort of went conventional by the end.
kellyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After reading about 200 pages I realized I had lost track of the characters, even though I cared about them and wanted to understand their story. I started over and wrote a few notes as I read the second time. I'm so glad I did. I was intrigued by Jack and Holly, Holly's father and grabbed by the frenetic activity of war time radio. Dunning's enthusiasm for and knowledge of radio shines through but does not detract from the characters. I know of no other book that captures the fear of the German attack along the eastern seaboard as well as this story does. Perhaps not Dunning's best but certainly worth reading.
golfjr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting but not as much fun as the book scout mysteries.
jtchun3 More than 1 year ago
John Dunnning never misses. This kept me turning the pages late into the night. I learned a ton about radio and radio history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PatrickZJD More than 1 year ago
I came across this novel as a remainder at a local dollar store, so I have no quibble at all about the value of this book! Dunning's style is quite refreshing in its clarity and simplicity, and the historical subtext of the Boer War in this book was a welcome surprise (even though I do not agree with Dunning's spin on the British Empire in South Africa here). Still, an earlier reviewer got it correct: the plethora of supporting characters was almost overwhelming at times, and indeed, the ending of the book, while thrilling, smacked a little too much of an author having written himself into a corner with no better means of extricating himself therefrom. Three other quibbles I have with this book are Jack Dulaney's come-from-nowhere talent at directing, much less writing, a radio script with no previous knowledge or experience of scriptwriting; the whole self-importance of the Negro radio show (which served only as a cipher -- honestly, given the times the novel was set in, wouldn't a more realistic portrayal of ANY ethnic group have been just as groundbreaking?), and, indeed, the entire backdrop of radio as a whole (I know it's the author's hobby, but honestly, as Dunning himself wrote, the good old days are not as good to one who has lived through them); and, most surprisingly and disappointingly, a subtle but pervasive sterility as to the environment of the novel. Truthfully, I was expecting South Jersey in the earliest days of America's involvement in WW2 to be more interesting or romantic than the flat way Dunning presents it to be here. Still and all, these negative aspects should not dissuade the discerning mystery-thriller reader from giving this book a try. There are far worse things one can read about than WHAR and the mysteries swirling around the radio station...especially for only a dollar.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What an unexpected pleasure. From the first words it held my attention. I'm a fan of well developed characters and this book has them. The protagonist, a man on the run from the law trying to find the woman he loves, is one of the most fascinating fictional characters I've run across. The plot is well crafted. The historicity of the story was excellent; first rate. When I finished this book at one in the morning I couldn't do anything but lay there and marvel at the quality of the work. I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dunning's book was a fast read. It had a very good plot that hooked me right away and held me to the very end. The only negative was that it had too many supporting characters. I began to lose track of them and had to go back several times to remember who was who. Also Dunning did not tie up the plot neatly at the end. It left me with several questions. Overall the book gets a B+.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am very fond of Dunning's 'rare book' mysteries, and I worked in radio around 1950, so I was looking forward to this book. But I put it down with 60 pages to go, since I did not care what happened to any of the characters. The plot is odd with no more rationality than a Robert Ludlum book. The tone is depressed and the characters all sound alike. I assume the plot has something to do with Nazi spies, but I don't really care.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was excellent, I chose it from the library because I have read his previous books. This one was completely different from the others, but what a find! Well researched, and well written. It actually made you feel as if you were there and knew the characters personally.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1942 Southern California, writer Jack Dulaney loves the untouchable Holly Carnahan. Jack struggles with producing a second novel, earning money by walking horses at the track. When Holly flees to Regina Beach, New Jersey in search of her missing dad, Jack follows out of concern for his beloved¿s safety.

In the Jersey south shore community, Jack lands a job as a writer at radio station WHAR. He soon realizes that he is quite good at cranking out well-written radio dramas. Perhaps it is because of his writing skills that allow Jack to notice the strange behavior on the part of WHAR employees. He finds sudden disappearances as mysterious as the disappearance of Holly¿s dad and certain links to the Nazis. Jack worries that Holly is in danger while she is concerned that her actions brought danger to him.

TWO O¿CLOCK, EASTERN WARTIME is a fabulous historical fiction novel that vividly brings to life a small East Coast community during World War II. The historical perspective, especially that of the powerful role of radio as a forerunner of television, is brilliantly depicted. The mystery stays subtlety in the shadows, truly enhancing John Dunning¿s homage to the communication role radio played during wartime. Fans of World War II dramas will find Mr. Dunning¿s novel endearing for its resplendent account of a bygone era.

Harriet Klausner