The Assassins, Guest Post by Alan Bardos


Tensions are reaching boiling point in Europe and the threat of war is imminent.

Johnny Swift, a young and brash diplomatic clerk employed by the British embassy is sent to infiltrate the ‘Young Bosnians’, a group of idealistic conspirators planning to murder Franz Ferdinand. The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in a bid to liberate their country from the monarchy’s grip.

Swift has been having an affair with his employer’s wife, Lady Elizabeth Smyth. Sir George Smyth dispatches the agent on the dangerous mission, believing that it will be the last he will see of his young rival.

The agent manages to infiltrate the Young Bosnian conspirators’ cell, helped by Lazlo Breitner, a Hungarian Civil Servant.

However, Swift soon realises that he may be in over his head. His gambling debts and taste for beautiful women prove the least of his problems as he struggles to survive on his wits in the increasingly complex – and perilous – world of politics and espionage.

Desperate to advance himself and with the lives of a royal couple unexpectedly in his hands, Swift tries to avert catastrophe.

Praise for Assassins

‘A cracking read, highly recommended’ – Roger A Price 

‘Written with polished panache, it kept me gripped from the first to last. Five stars from me!’ – A.A. Chaudhuri

‘Part historical fiction, part thriller and part love story, this is a compelling and entertaining read’ – Gary Haynes

Historical Background

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Gavrilo Princip are two of the most famous names in the Twentieth Century, but little is generally known about them other than Princip assassinated the Archduke and his wife in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914 sparking the First World War. However they both went through an extraordinary chain of events to arrive at Sarajevo, which I wanted to explore in my novel The Assassins.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Wikipedia

Being heir to the Habsburg throne was something of a poisoned chalice by the time Franz Ferdinand inherited the title in 1896; following the death of his cousin Crown Prince Rudolf in a suicide pact with his mistress; and his father Karl Ludwig, died of typhoid after drinking water from the River Jordan.

For a time it was thought Franz Ferdinand would also die when he contracted tuberculosis and his uncle Emperor Franz Joseph exiled him to die. He eventually recovered and Franz Ferdinand’s doctor gave him a letter to certify him fit, which Franz Ferdinand always carried.

One of the reasons for his recovery was an attachment he’d formed with Sophie Chotek. Who despite being a Czech noble was not considered to be of equal birth to Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Habsburg throne. Nonetheless Franz Ferdinand fought to marry the woman he loved, overcoming the opposition of the Emperor and the backbiting of his court. He forced a compromise morganatic marriage, renouncing his wife’s and descendants’ claim to the throne, on the 28th June 1900.

Despite this they were very happy together and had three children, but Sophie was subjected to all manner of petty humiliations because of strict court protocols. To the extent that they could not travel together in the same carriage on official state occasions.

Attending army manoeuvres in Bosnia gave Franz Ferdinand the opportunity to reverse this humiliation and he won a concession from the Emperor to allow Sophie to accompany him and they were able to ride together through the streets of Sarajevo. On the anniversary of Franz Ferdinand’s morganatic oath which had made their marriage possible..

Gavrillo Princip – Wikipedia

Gavrilo Princip came from a remote village in western Bosnia, which at the time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. He was one of nine children, six of whom died as a result of the poverty he blamed on his imperial masters.

When Princip was thirteen his elder brother paid for him to go to a military academy and become a soldier in the Emperor’s army; but on the way they stopped to buy Gavrilo new underwear and the shopkeeper persuaded his brother to put him in the Merchants’ School in Sarajevo instead. He was placed in a boarding house and shared a room with Danilo Ilic an older boy who became the main fixer for the assassins and was eventually hanged for the role he played in the assassination.

Ilic introduced Gavrilo to the nationalist ideas taking route in a Young Bosnia movement that was determined to liberate their people from Austro-Hungarian rule and would drive Princip. He was eventually expelled because of his subversive activities and went to Belgrade to continue his studies. When the Second Balkan’s War broke out Princip tried to join the partisans, but like the Archduke suffered from tuberculosis. He was unable to keep up with the physical demands of the training and was thrown out.

The bitter sting of that humiliation drove him to act and to prove himself. Princip moved to Belgrade which was full of Bosnian dissidents desperate to ignite a revolution against the Austrian occupiers of their homeland.

Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic, head of Serbian Intelligence, and his deputy Major Vojislav Tankosić were recruiting many of these dissidents to send into Austro-Hungarian territory as part of a covert war they were waging against Austro-Hungary.

Gavrilo Princip captured in Sarajevo 1914

Princip and his fellow conspirators were one such group, whether or not they were acting under their own initiative or from Dimitrijevic and Tankosić’s direct instruction is still debated. However Dimitrijevic and Tankosić did provide the technical support that made it possible for Gavrilo Princip to carry out the assassination.

Dimitrijevic and Tankosić did not think that anything would come of Princip’s mission and he was very nearly right. Only one of the conspirators acted as the Archduke’s motorcade drove to an official reception, missing the Archduke’s car with a bomb.

In response Franz Ferdinand’s route back from the reception was changed, causing confusion amongst his entourage which led to Franz Ferdinand and Sophie’s car stopping in front of Gavrilo Princip, the only one of the remaining dissidents with the desire and motivation to act.

This book is available to read for free with Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Amazon UK:
Amazon US:


Audiobook narrated by Jack Bennett

Meet Alan Bardos

Alan Bardos is a graduate of the MA in TV Script Writing at De Montfort University, he also has a degree in Politics and History from Brunel University. Writing historical fiction combines the first great love of his life, making up stories, with the second, researching historical events and characters. Alan currently live in Oxfordshire with his wife… the other great love of his life. Despite the amount of material that has been written about the twentieth century there is still a great deal of mystery and debate surrounding many of its events, which Alan explores in his historical fiction series using a certain amount of artistic license to fill in the gaps, while remaining historically accurate. The series will chronicle the first half of the twentieth century from the perspective of Johnny Swift, a disgraced and degenerate diplomat and soldier; starting with the pivotal event of the twentieth century, the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in ‘The Assassins’.

Connect with Alan

Amazon Author Page:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *