I stumbled into the world of novelists quite by accident and thanks to a small town in the southern Sahara, Tamanrasset (see an account of this on the Nigel Alefounder/Desmond Bagley website); when I met up with best-selling author Desmond (Simon) Bagley. It was a chance meeting with this brilliant man that started me along the writing road. Until this time I was a professional pilot who had spent many years covering the globe - the travels and memories of those far-off exotic places thus became settings for my novels; from 'Skytrap' which had its genesis in a military ferry flight I carried out from S.Africa to Tel Aviv; to 'Patterson's Volunteers' and its Greenland settings (familiar to me as to legions of ferry pilots who transit the northern route); and through to 'White Lie' and the many months I spent in South America carrying out research for this the first book in the John Winter trilogy.
Simon too had his lucky break sometime after the war when he met up with old soldier Jack Walker in a bar in Jo'burg, South Africa. Walker, a US Army major, had fought his war up through Italy and along the way heard an amazing story (from an Italian army officer) of how Mussolini had hidden the entire Italian gold reserve in a certain lake in northern Italy. Walker and Bagley discussed the story at length - as one does over beers on long, warm evenings. Walker even suggested taking a yacht to Italy to find it. The story interested Bagley, not enough to go on some expensive fool's errand to search for the missing millions, but rather to fashion a story from the facts assembled before him, right down to melting the gold once found and remodeling it as a keel for the yacht. That thriller 'The Golden Keel', his first, became an instant best seller.
Simon never looked back, although years later sitting in his upstairs study at his charming house in Guernsey (shooting the breeze over a bottle of single malt) he told me he always had an uneasy feeling when he heard someone knocking on the front door below his study window - he always thought (right to the end) that it was Walker who had come for his share of the royalties! He never did of course, and tragically Simon died from a stroke at the too-young age of 59, taking the real tale of Walker (and the Italian soldier, Giovanni de Lorenzo) and gold bullion and an unknown mist-shrouded lake to the grave.
Mussolini's gold is, as of February 23, 2017, still missing, although you may find that the Fourth Estate & the politicians will tell you differently. N.B.: From Wikipedia - "By the end of the war [WWII] they [the Italian gold reserves] were seriously depleted, partly because some[?] of its gold reserves had been removed by the occupying forces [?]."
Makes me think there was an even better story to be told ...
John Templeton Smith