Ronovan Hester is an author/poet/blogger, with a debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.
"5.0 out of 5 stars: Now, I want to warn you… this is not your typical pirate tale! It’s BETTER!"
"5.0 out of 5 stars: Totally unpredictable and a real gem of a discovery - Highly Recommended"
"5.0 out of 5 stars: An action packed journey to piracy and revenge – all in the name of the crown, queen and county – set in 1705."
He shares his life of problems, triumphs, and writing through his blog RonovanWrites.com. His love of writing, authors and community through his online world has led to a growing Weekly Haiku Challenge and the creation of a site dedicated to book reviews and interviews known as LitWorldInterviews.com.
During the height of the Spanish Inquisition a ruthless inquisitor by the name of Bishop Roberto Promane tortures a fellow priest, Father Sanchez, for information about the whereabouts of a relic known as The Judas Robe. The robe is believed to be the single piece of physical proof of God on Earth. Promane succeeds in uncovering the robe only to lose it to Sanchez’s rescuers, the knights of The Order Of Christ.
Joel Gardiner, a pre-med student, is attacked one night by thugs after leaving a campus pub. A young woman named Sophia rescues him and reveals that Joel’s mother, Natalie, is descended from the Order Of Christ, the faction that has kept the robe hidden for centuries. These thugs are part of a conspiracy group led by a Bishop Newman who seek the robe in order to uncover a secret held for centuries.
A BIT ABOUT WHO IS IN THE STORY
JOEL is a by-the-book pre-med student who comes from a divorced family where his father and brothers leave him with his mother who they believe is crazy for believing in a myth of her heritage. Once he gets to college he meets LISA and they quickly begin a relationship. Joel gets an internship at BIOPHARM, a pharmaceutical company, due to a discovery he made that could change the health of the human race, under the condition he can conduct his own research into a cure a rare that affects only around 7000 people. (This is all already established and explained as the story flows.)
Joel’s discovery as well as the Robe of Judas, the myth Joel’s family doesn’t believe in, are the two targets of BISHOP NEWMAN and his conspiracy group.
Joel is aided by SOPHIA and FATHER SANCHEZ who are all too familiar with the bishop and the robe. The reveals at the end are shocking actors in this play, but a couple are hinted at during moments in the story. All are believable in the context of the story.
LARRY RODNESS creates a fun ride that is engrossing and will keep you turning the pages. As a writer my biggest compliment to give another author is I want these characters to appear in a series of books. It would be an easy thing to do. The characters are all well defined and have distinct voices.
I’ve seen some reference Dan Brown, because it has to do with the hunt for a Jesus associated item. I don’t get that vibe. The book is not that detailed or plodding as are Dan Brown’s famous books. The story has the details it needs as far as the Judas Robe. This keeps the book as a fast paced read. This book is its own story and not a pretender. The search for the robe is not a mystery of solving this puzzle or whatever. The real goal of Joel and Lisa is to survive. And if they can discover the Judas Robe is real and if so keep it out of the hands of the antagonist groups (yes I said groups), find a cure for the medical condition and make Joel’s discovery work for the human race along the way, then all the better.
As with any book I read I’m looking for the relationships and personalities. This one has reality relationships, meaning not perfect. There are strains on Joel and Lisa, Joel and his mother, Sophia and other characters and even some messy moments of bad choices made, or so the characters think. I personally don’t think so. But that’s the great thing about the book. You have villains you like and you want things to work out somehow and heroes you just can’t stand, or at least I can’t. And I think that’s the way it should be.
You come to understand choices made by both sides or all sides, there are multiple sides, but easy to follow.
As much as I like the story there are some plot holes that I think contribute to my attitude toward some characters as well as what I consider a confusing moment between Joel and his mother during a pivotal turn in Joel’s view points about so many things. Perhaps if there is another book it can be explained, but I suppose for now the reader has to come up with their own solutions. This moment doesn’t take away from the story or enjoyment, but the plot holes do pull you out of the world Rodness has created for a brief moment.
The pace of the story is excellent and I think that’s part of why any hiccups aren’t huge problems with enjoyment.
My favorite character is Sophia. A quiet character that seems to just be there and you’re not surprised by it but you should be. I got to the point I was expecting her to be just on the edge watching each scene play out.
I will say there are sexual scenes in the book as well as killing with a bit of gore. Really only the sexual scenes were a little surprise but I think in a way they explain a bit about why the people end up willing to do what they do later on. Just mentioning the scenes wouldn’t have worked.
Summing it up: Not much filler. But as with any book there is a lull between those big moments, but as I said, not much. Great characters. Surprises. Mystery. Some layers and subplots that could play out further in later books but didn’t need to here.
As I’ve said before… I’m not good at comparing authors work although that helps a reader get a feel for what they are getting into. Maybe you can think of a movie or book that is a mystery with a bit of action and rabid cult where you don’t have any fighting skills or clues and you’re told to find the treasure or your loved ones die.
A solid 3.6 out of 5 Stars. The only reason it is not a sold 4 is because of the plot holes.
A note on rating a book: People these days throw 5’s and 4’s around, when they really mean 3’s and 4’s. 3 means the book meets what you expect it to be. 4 is a really good book. A 5 rating should be a rare thing.
The above rating is just shy of a really good book rating because of just a few plot holes.
I rate using:
Realistic Characters/Character Development based on genre,
Believability based on genre
I would read other books by this author. I would say the book would be for maybe 18 and over due to the sexual moments. You may say 16 because of it being a book and not visual. And I get that. I am on the fence.
Click one of the logos below to visit the book site so you can purchase. You can also read the first 3 chapters on Amazon with the Kindle Lookinside feature.
Larry began his professional career as a singer at the age of 19 working with various bands around Toronto. After studying musical theatre Larry worked in summer stock where his love of writing began. From that point on he wrote for dinner theatre, trade shows, and even ice skating shows. To date he has written over 10 screenplays and has had 3 optioned.
DESCRIPTION OF AUNT IVY’S COTTAGE by Kristin Harper
Three generations of the Winslow family gather one Spring as they go through joys, sorrows, and many decisions to find healing in the home that’s been in their family for generations. Add mystery, romance, and a manipulative, self-centered cousin, and you have the makings of a promising series set in the fictional New England village of HOPE HAVEN on DUNE ISLAND. The picture painted by the author of the sunsets, ocean waves, the surf, the smells, and more make the fictional setting come to life.
ZOEY has been staying with her elderly AUNTIVY and Aunt Sylvia after Sylvia developed pneumonia. Out of a job and her savings all but depleted by an ex-boyfriend, Zoey dedicates herself first to nursing Sylvia, until her passing (in the prologue), then to Aunt Ivy while she copes with the loss of her sister-in-law, Sylvia.
Then another bombshell drops when Zoey’s asked to assume responsibility for her niece GABI, the daughter of her sister, JESSICA, who was lost to cancer several years earlier. The girl’s step-mother and father hope Zoey will let her finish the school year wherever Zoey ends up living. With Gabi’s mother gone and now her dad in a rehab program for alcoholics, Zoey says yes.
On top of that, Zoey’s cousin MARK, the next in line to inherit Aunt Ivy’s house, is doing his best to get her to move into a retirement facility so he can renovate the house and lease it out for an income. If this happens, what happens to Zoey?
But there is one light in it all, NICK, the local contractor. Or is his light too bright to be believed?
If you read the blurb/book description on Amazon, it isn’t accurate to the book’s story. I think if I read the book, after reading that description first, I would be disappointed because the suspense and anticipation it promises is not quite what’s delivered. Even some imagery given isn’t what you get in the book. But don’t let that stop you from reading AUNT IVY’S COTTAGE after reading this review. Because I’m just pointing that out in case you read this review and then the Amazon description and wonder what was this book blogger talking about.
If the blurb is not accurate, then what do you get?
A story with more substance, more emotion, and more heart than expected. And I enjoyed it better than I would have if it had been what the blurb described.
KRISTIN HARPER does a great job of painting a wonderful picture of what the Hope Haven area of Dune Island looks like. It’s a nice job of giving the imagery as part of the story and not just throwing it in to fill up the page. Harper really knows what she’s doing. It’s not over the top, just enough to give you what you need. I love it when that happens. And as a writer, I can tell you it’s a balance not easily accomplished.
Each character has their own unique personality and problems. This is something I enjoy in any book, but in this type of book in particular there is a tendency to have too many characters that serve the same purpose and clutter the story. When that happens, you end up wondering which character someone is talking about. Harper nails it with just the right number. One living great-aunt, one aunt in her thirties, and one teen niece. The niece, Gabi, has friends that are unique and fleshes out her character nicely, but they aren’t cluttering the reading. For instance, you read about one boy early on, and the next time you meet him, you have no problem visualizing him again walking with the girl down the hall her first day of school to give her a tour. Honestly, I could see the kid. It surprised me. (Maybe I knew a kid just like him.)
The emotions of the story are not overdone, and they aren’t always about the same things. Yes, the same emotions happen about the same things at times, but I expect that when a story involves grief. If the story didn’t include those moments, it would come across to me as unrealistic.
You have the tears, but they are usually warranted, not filler or lack of a talented writer’s ability to come up with something better to say. They are timed at the right moments in the story where they belong rather than pulling you out of your escape into the sounds of the surf on a New England island in spring. (Zoey’s moments on the beach and in the ocean had me wishing I were there.)
There are laughs as well, which include multi-generational moments that aren’t contrived. Some of those moments include characters that might surprise you but ultimately don’t.
Harper does great with not making any of the characters one-dimensional. I have to say that surprised me. A lot of times in books of this genre one person has a role to play and they stick to that stereotype/trope with no variation. Harper doesn’t do that here. Some of the roles do play to type where they need to but then there is much more to each person. Very nice.
There are only a couple of places in the book I thought could’ve been different, but in no way do they take away from the reading of the book or diminish the enjoyment I had. Nor would they change the story or outcome of the book.
I really like books that have a sweet, emotional family story, be they mysteries, romances, suspense, or whatever. There is no profanity at all in the book. Also, there are no intimate/sexual situations that would keep a teen from reading this book.
Summing it up: It’s a tight story with no fillers and some little learning moments about life, love, and family. You’ll enjoy it, as I did.
I’m horrible at comparing one author to others in this genre. Why, because I pick up a book to read based on the title, cover, description, and reviews. I do like reading the same authors but if the reviews are bad, I’ll skip the book. Plus, when you read over a hundred books a year, you get kind of get lost in your own little world of words.
All I can say is this was a well-plotted and well thought out story. The world-building Harper has done makes for a four-dimensional feel (fourth being the senses included) reading experience.
When you have a book that is put forward as a Clean & Wholesome Romance, you often think of those painfully awkward almost-moments of intimacy the two leads go through until the ‘finally’ moment happens. I am so pleased to say this book does not put you through that. Of course, you have moments, but reasonable and nothing like what I’ve read so many times before. There are very few cliché moments in Aunt Ivy’s Cottage. Nicely done.
I said all of that to tell you how Kristin Harper’s efforts stand out from others.
A solid 4 out of 5 Stars. I would read more in this series. (One other title currently available, Summer at Hope Haven.)
Click one of the logos below to visit the book site so you can purchase.
$.99 for ebook.
About the author
Ever since she was a young girl, there were few things Kristin Harper liked more than creative writing and spending time on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with her family. Eventually (after a succession of jobs that bored her to tears), she found a way to combine those two passions by becoming a women’s fiction author whose stories occur in oceanside settings. While Kristin doesn’t live on the Cape year-round, she escapes to the beach whenever she can.
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I first discovered my grandfather’s diaries after my mother’s death, hidden behind books. Although it was already late at night, I started to read immediately. My grandfather, Api as I called him, had given me my first stable home after the war, and I had spent the happiest days of my childhood with him. Since my father had been killed in the war, he was both father and grandfather to me. As I opened the first of the two little green notebooks, I noticed that each entry was in the form of a letter to my grandmother, mother, and even me, a baby. We had fled the city in February 1945 while Api had stayed behind to serve as doctor during the final period of round the clock bombing before the fall of Berlin. Starting in April 1945, he recorded his experiences every day:
“Towards evening, the sky to the east is a ghastly sea of smoke. I creep out at ten o’clock at night to the clinic under whistling grenades and bombs, a wilderness of fire and dust, behind it, although already high in sky, the blood-red moon.”
Still reading while the first light broke in the sky, I came upon something that hit me like a punch to the gut: my beloved Api had been a member of the Nazi Party. For a while I sat there with a pounding heart, unable to move, and then I hid the diaries again, just as my mother had done, not even telling my husband Mike.
Two years later, Mike and I were relaxing in a coffee house when suddenly I started to cry, and my secret burst out. To my surprise Mike said that I needed to write about the diaries and show how ordinary people get caught in a totalitarian regime. That thought kept me awake at night, and yet I couldn’t get started. It felt like a betrayal. However, for the first time in my life I began to seek out books about the Nazi period. I was surprised how historians stressed the importance of personal experiences, like the diaries, for our understanding of history. So gradually I got up the courage to write Api’s Berlin Diaries. My Quest to Understand my Grandfather’s NaziPast.
I set out with two goals in mind. I wanted to give the reader a powerful personal perspective of what it was like in Berlin as Hitler’s Reich collapsed. Working to exhaustion in medical cellars, Api could do little for the wounded and dying. Doctors were left with few medications and without even water after the last drops had been drained from the heaters. He records in graphic detail how streets had become unrecognizable beneath the ruins so that he had to find his way over rubble and through cellars of destroyed buildings. The entire city seemed in flames, the smoke making it hard to breathe. He saw starving people cut up a dead horse in the midst of bombardment.
My second goal was to find out why Api had joined the Party in 1933. In Berlin archives, I found out more about his life. Raised in a Prussian town, he obtained a scholarship to a prestigious Berlin academy to become an ophthalmologist. The only stipulation was that for every semester he took, he had to serve a year as military doctor. The moment he graduated in 1914, he was sent to the Eastern front where he suffered a nervous breakdown and for a while was a patient at the Charite Hospital where just before he had been a student. Within a few months, he was back at the front.
After the war Api set up his own practice in Berlin. The city was torn by violence, strikes, even assassinations. Gangs of young Communists fought gangs of young Nazis; shootings were common. The Weimar Republic, Germany’s first democratic government, was unable to prevail. At the same time, the gay twenties turned Berlin into “the Babylon of the new world,” as so many tried to forget the war, the gargantuan inflation immediately after, and abandon themselves to a life of orgies and wildness. Into this world stepped Hitler. He promised to restore law and order; he promised peace and stability, and a return to Christian values. Api, I learned, fit the profile of people who joined in 1933: educated, conservative, veterans of World War I.
In the process of writing, two other themes forced themselves into the book. Finding out more about Api’s life brought up a flood of memories of living with him after the war which I hadn’t thought about for half a century. The other subject that kept pushing itself into my mind was reflections on German guilt, and Api’s in particular. His de-Nazification document categorized him as Exonerated. This was a relief to me, but at the same time I knew that it was too easy and incomplete an answer. Although I do not believe in collective guilt, I do believe that we are accountable for what happens in our countries. The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. who condemned not only the actions of the bad people but the silence of the good kept ringing in my ears.
Api’s Berlin Diaries made me confront a past I had evaded all my life. As I grew up in post-war Germany there was complete silence about the recent past. Our history classes stopped with the end of World War I. Neither I, nor as I remember any of my friends, ever questioned this silence. So now, late in life, I needed to come to terms with my German past. I had always been ashamed of being German for the country’s horrendous history of genocide and war, but I had never dealt with the guilt.
It was hard to face German guilt on such a personal level. I kept asking myself “what would I have done if I had lived in the Third Reich?” What small acts of courage or cowardice would I have committed? Would I have given the Hitler salute or dared to refuse? How far would I have been willing to go to help Jewish neighbors? I doubt that I would have had the courage to risk my life and stand up against the Nazis.
I hope that readers of today will come away with two main feelings. First, an emotional understanding of how the “volcanic eruptions” of history impacted my grandfather’s life who had to serve in two world wars and lost his only son, and how these tremors still reverberate with me in the third generation. Juxtaposed with these are my happy memories of Api who loved me and played with me, who taught me Latin and showed me how to build a kite. These passages I hope may trigger readers’ childhood memories of their own that will continue long after they have finished the book. Above all, I hope readers will feel more strongly how all our lives intersect with history. We all have a past and that past is still with us.
I hope that the ultimate take-away that sticks with my readers is one of empathy, of understanding other people’s behavior and mindset, that we may need now more than ever. This will strengthen our faith in our common humanity, in our capacity for compassion and tolerance. Although much of the diary focuses on the horrors of torture and persecution perpetrated by human beings upon one another, it also shows instances of kindness and love that testify to the power of the human spirit to breach the gulf of hate. As Api wrote even in the depth of his despair: “If love once again dwells in all human hearts then also will the life on God’s wonderful earth again become not only bearable but beautiful.”
Gabrielle tells stories about people that reveal their personal situation within its historical context.
One reason for her fascination with the intersection of the personal and historical stems from her own experience. Born in Berlin in 1942, her father’s fighter plane was shot down in 1943. After her family was bombed out twice, they fled Berlin in 1945.
Luckily, it’s not as tough as it may sound! This article will reveal four evergreen tips and tricks for publishing a book on Amazon. If you want your book to succeed on Amazon, read on.
1. Nail the content (and the cover) of your book
First things first: your book needs to be great in order to sell.
All the Amazon hacks in the world won’t do you any good if the quality of your book isn’t professional. Sure, you might convince an unsuspecting first-time reader to pick up and purchase it. But do you think they would become a repeat customer if they encountered pages upon pages of typos, bad character development, and unsatisfying plot? Chances are, probably not.
So double back and reread your manuscript to get rid of any such mistakes before you publish it. That doesn’t just mean typos; it also means that your characters, theme, and plot should be airtight. Work with a beta reader, or even a professional editor, to make sure that your book is the best possible version of itself and that it’s fit to be read by the wider public.
Perhaps most importantly of all: invest in a standout book cover design! Your cover design is your #1 marketing tool, creating the very first impression that a potential reader will get of your book. Indeed, if you’re spending your money on one thing in the entire publishing process, it should probably be a book cover.
2. Optimize your book description
After your book cover, your book description is going to be the most important factor for converting browsers into buyers. Think about it: once your cover’s gotten the attention of a reader, what are they going to do next? Nine times out of ten, they’ll flip to the back cover (or open the inside flap, or consult the Amazon blurb) to find out the premise of your book.
That means that you’ll need to make your premise as enticing, snappy, and irresistible as possible. Amazon gives you a limited amount of space to write a book blurb, so make sure you do the most with what you get. Take some time to figure out the most intriguing angle of your plot, what makes your characters truly special, and the investment-worthy stakes of your protagonist’s predicament.
And don’t forget to optimize your book description for Amazon specifically! That all starts with your keywords, which Amazon uses to index your book for searches. Don’t keyword-stuff your blurb so that every other word is “thriller,” if, say, your book is a thriller. (Amazon will penalize keyword stuffing.) But do make sure that you repeat your most important keywords in your title and description a few times to make your book more discoverable in the eyes of the Amazon search engine. (If in doubt about which keywords to choose, check out books similar to yours!)
3. Understand Amazon categories
During the process of publishing an eBook on Amazon, you’ll be asked to pick categories for your book as well. Now, there are quite a few Amazon categories — more than 10,000! So you’ll want to make absolutely sure that you select the right ones.
What makes for a perfect category on Amazon? Well, you want a category that isn’t too competitive (then your book would be crowded out), but neither should it be too obscure (then that would mean fewer buyers). The sweet spot in between is what you want to aim for, so be sure to do your research before you pick. If a category is already flooded with bestsellers, it’s probably too competitive; on the other hand, if the pickings are extremely slim, it means there’s no market for that category.
One more thing: Amazon will prompt you to pick two categories when you publish through the KDP dashboard, but you can get up to eight additional categories if you contact Amazon after your book’s been published! Don’t forget to take this step, as it’s definitely worth it. The more discoverable your book is, the more eyeballs — and therefore more sales — you’ll get on it.
4. Decide whether KDP Select is right for you
All authors face a crucial choice when they publish on Amazon: whether or not to enroll in KDP Select, Amazon’s exclusive program for self-publishing authors. Entering the KDP Select program will give you a number of promotional perks for 90 days, including access to:
Kindle Countdown Deals
Kindle Free Promotions
And increased royalties for sales in select countries
The catch? You’ll need to agree to remain exclusive to Amazon — meaning that you can’t “go wide” and sell your book through other retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, or Google Play.
Whether you decide to bite the bullet and go for KDP Select depends on individual factors, especially your book’s genre and your preferred marketing strategy. If, for instance, you notice that there are only a few KU titles in the Bestsellers List for your particular genre, it might not be worth it to join KDP Select and gain exclusive access to KU.
Luckily, KDP Select is only a 90-day program, so it’s not as though you’ll be committing for the rest of your days! Nevertheless, you should definitely be informed before you sign up for it. You can read more about the pros and the cons in this post by David Gaughran Best of luck!
Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She tries her best to be funny in writing and very occasionally succeeds.
Lieutenant Cameron Joiner is faced with trying to get home from a mission to a satellite orbiting Mars when disaster strikes and leaves him alone in a crippled ship in…who knows where.
An emotional, psychological story that has a touch of mystery as you go along. Of course, he does want to know what happened, right? The more story you read the more you sense how imperative it is he fix the ship and get home before he’s the next victim of whatever murdered his crewmates.
The descriptive writing pulls you into the scenes and you feel what Joiner feels. You end up caring what happens to him and root for him to win.
Joiner goes through emotional highs to center of the her lows. Your heart gets ripped out one minute and the next you have hope.
The tension starts from the very first page and doesn’t stop until the end.
The story is about 10,000 words and is 43 pages with an 8-page preview of another story at the back. It’s a One Hour read that can be read in way less time, depending on your preference.
This is a standalone short and it could have a sequel if the author wants to do one, but doesn’t need one.
I recommend it to fans of science fiction, psychological horror, horror, Star Trek, and (James Cameron’s ‘Alien’ to Some Extent) and as the author mentions The Twilight Zone.
If you can’t write a review on Amazon make sure to do so on GoodReads or somewhere. Authors have a better chance of survival with reviews. They also use them to know what they got right or what they got wrong, which of course never happens.
TALKS ABOUT HER FIRST NOVEL: BETRAYAL ON THE BAYOU
I want to welcome author Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte who has graciously agreed to a FOUR question interview. And I have to say this is one of the best and most timely answers to questions I’ve experienced.
Sheryl is a Pushcart Prize nominee and an Oakland, California-based multidisciplinary writer. Her autobiographical and fictional short story collections, along with her lyrical and stunning poetry have been described as “rich in vivid imagery,” “incredible,” and “great contributions to literature.” She is also a popular literary reader, presenter, storyteller, curator, and emcee for local events. Her first novel, “Betrayal on the Bayou,” was published in June 2020.
As a Southern white man, born in Florida, but raised in Mississippi, then living my entire adult life in Georgia, I am looking forward to reading Shery’s book Betrayal on the Bayou. Her descriptions in the following give one a different way of looking at the issue of “…the killing abuses of power, racism, incest, sexism, classism…”
R: Thank you for this interview, Sheryl.
S: Thank you, Ronovan, for inviting me.
R: Let’s get right into it. What was your research/inspiration for the Betrayal on the Bayou?
S: Well, Betrayal on the Bayou is a work of historical fiction, so my research was a combination of known family history heavily sprinkled with factual events from the time period I chose, along with more than a bit of my ever-active imagination. My inspiration came from my desire to tell pieces of my family history while trying to capture, even if infinitesimally, the relentlessness of racism and colorism and how it affected the everyday lives of people depicted in the book and how that is still the case today. After a recent coffee meeting with a White female writing club president, and her fervent use of the false equivalency of her blonde hair to indicate her deep understanding of segregation and bias, writing Betrayal on the Bayou, became even more urgent for me. In the book, I use strong, graphically described examples to depict the scourge and impacts of separation, colorism and racism.
R: How can today’s readers take lessons from the book and use them for today?
S: First of all, I do believe that reading promotes empathy and understanding and that those two things can lead to the promotion and hopefully implementation of change and correction of ill treatment and marginalization of Black people and people of color. It is important that people of today realize this is not a new phenomenon. That it did not just crop up when George Floyd was murdered, and more White people decided to pay some attention to it. People need to know how baked-in these beliefs are; how much work was put into separation in every facet of life; and, how there have always been Black people who lived in very different ways. We are not a monolithic people, and we all suffer some deep form of discrimination on a daily basis even to this day. I also tackle the impacts and outcomes of gender bias, economics, and other areas of everyday living in the early 1850’ s ripe for betrayal in a closed society where almost anything can happen, and let readers know that many things they may think are new, are not.
R: What else would you like readers to know about Betrayal on the Bayou?
S: That it is not the usual historical fiction fare with the characters one may look for from the 1800’s Southern U.S. Oh, they are there of course, because they are fundamental to the place and time, but they are not the center of the story. Readers will be intrigued while trying to determine what is fact and what is fiction within a dystopian yet very possibly real, isolated town. I want readers to know that the setting and the people are unusual, that the things that happen are stark and substantive, and that betrayals as well as the inhumanity and humanity will stay on your mind long after you have read the epilogue.
R: I encourage everyone to read Betrayal on the Bayou. I found it to be… It is available at Amazon, and other vendors. For a full list of the booksellers and their links for Betrayal on the Bayou, visit Goodreads. For more information on Sheryl and her writing, please go to www.sheryljbize-boutte.com. Thank you so much, Sheryl.
“Kristina Pérez is a halfArgentine/half-Norwegian native New Yorker who has spent the past two decades living in Europe and Asia. Before joining the Zeno Literary Agencyin London at the end of 2019, she worked as a journalist, academic, and author. This breadth of experience enables her to serve her clients in a variety of fields and she is a very editorial agent.” WritersDigest.com Click HERE. for the full length and informative post.
How Blood and Silver Came to Be
Guest Post by Author
My name is Vali Benson and I am a published author. That still feels funny to say. Sometimes I still don’t believe it, but I just published my first novel. It has been a work in progress for over fifty years. Ever since I can remember, I have had a book in my hand. As a lifelong reader, I often thought, “I could do better than that”. So I decided to do something about it. People have asked me to explain the writing process but I can’t. I don’t think there is a right way or wrong way to write a book. As Doris Lessing once stated that “There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be”. But I do know what works for me.
The first step is to come up with an idea. It must be something that interests you, or that you feel strongly about. No point in picking a subject that you know nothing about. You would have to do far too much research and it still would not sound like you know your subject.
Once when I had severe writer’s block, a great teacher told me, “Write about what’s in your own backyard.” Before I forget, my advice regarding writer’s block is: don’t take it personally. Anyway, I took my teacher’s advice and turned in an award-winning essay. That was the inspiration in writing my book; a young adult historical fiction novel called Blood and Silver. The story takes place in Tombstone, Arizona. For thirty years, I have lived in Tucson, Arizona. Tombstone is only forty-five minutes down the road, practically in my backyard.
I have been to Tombstone countless times. People are fascinated with Tombstone (not so much after they visit!). Tombstone is not like other “Wild West” tourist towns, like Deadwood or Dodge City. Tombstone has only two blocks of “downtown”. People walk on the original boardwalk (with some repairs) along the main thoroughfare, Allen Street, which was, until recently, a dirt road.
The population of Tombstone today sits at about thirteen hundred. On the weekends, many of the residents dress up in western garb – as cowboys, sheriffs, frontier gamblers, proper matrons and saloon girls. At first glance, it seems as though this may be a retirement community designated for extras of John Ford films.
However, Tombstone does have one enduring claim to fame – the shoot out at the O.K. Corral. It is called “the most famous thirty seconds in the history of the American west”. The legendary incident is a gunfight that occurred in 1881. The shoot out involved Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp and two Earp brothers against a gang of outlaws called the Cowboys. Three men were killed, all of them Cowboys. The Earps and Doc Holiday were already famous in the old west. The gunfight made them infamous.
The real reason people remember Tombstone is because of its enduring place in pop culture due to the twenty or so movies made about the fight. People show up from far and wide and pay a $10 admission fee to look at a dusty, dirty lot behind a run-down barn. At the actual site, people look at mannequins standing where their real-life versions stood during that fateful afternoon 139 years ago.
Once I knew the reality of Tombstone today, I wondered how it could have become so famous. I knew about the silver mines, of course, but I had no idea how massive the output was. The profits were mind-boggling. Millionaires were made overnight. The silver created civilization where there was none. At the end of 1877, one hundred inhabitants had found their way to the mines of Tombstone. In 1884, it was a bustling city of fourteen thousand residents. The term “boomtown” was never so appropriate.
Tombstone was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco in 1884, with over 150 businesses, including 100 saloons, and a thriving red-light district. Apparently this arid little tourist trap, only forty-five miles from my hometown, was more important than I thought! This information began to spin my inquisitive wheels. I began to wonder what it would have been like to live in this obscure place in 1880. The first step was complete; I had a premise that sparked my interest. Now, it was time for the part of the writing process that gives life to the story, research.
It is all about the research. One needs to look in unusual places, not just the top three Google hits. I love sourcing museums, libraries, newspaper archives, and even historical homes. Don’t rely on your computer only. Everyone can get that information. Not only is it not original, it is not interesting. One tip that I would like to emphasize to a burgeoning writer of historical fiction is to seek out the primary sources whenever possible. If you can work from the original source, it falls on you to interpret the story. This allows you to not have to depend on someone else’s version of the truth.
As I began to delve deeper into the true story of Tombstone, I also uncovered unexpected angles. The most prominent of which was the effect of the Chinese population. The result of this research led me to a real person whom I could never had made up, a woman named “China Mary”. This woman lived in Tombstone from 1879 – 1906 and essentially ran the town. In addition to operating a gambling hall behind her general store, she was also the preeminent broker for opium, laudanum and Chinese prostitutes. After I discovered the real-life splendor of China Mary, I made her one of my central characters and twisted my fictional story around her actual exploits. None of that could have been possible without an extensive research period.
As a writer of historical fiction, historical accuracy is the most important component of the piece to me. It is even more pivotal than the narrative. I cannot tell you how many times I have quit reading a book that claims to be factual because the information and events are incorrect. It really annoys me! It is also important to realize that research is never-ending because you can’t ever learn everything there is to know. At some point, you just have to make up your mind that you have enough to craft the story you want to write. Then start writing! I begin writing using my research as a reference and don’t worry if I have a fully formed concept. I believe in the Jodi Picoult approach, “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page”.
Many writers believe in outlines as a method of organizing and categorizing their research. Outlines don’t work for me. I tend to be too specific. I end up writing the whole story in my outline. What works best for me is to simply write. Just start, and see where it takes you. I flesh out the characters first and I let them take me where they want to go. I often go back and change them, but that’s the beauty of writing. You can do whatever you want with your people, just be sure you wind it up so that it makes sense.
This is why research is so important, because if I can understand the times in which my characters live, I will shape their circumstances and attitudes into the narrative.
As far as my writing habits are concerned, I don’t have many. I just do it. I know that many professional writers say the best method is to treat writing like a regular job with set start and stop times. I’ve tried this and it never feels right. For one thing, when I get on a creative roll, it is nearly impossible for me to stop. Conversely, I cannot force an idea. When I don’t feel like it’s happening, I walk away. I commit a lot of time thinking about my characters. When inspiration strikes, I will sit down with my glass of sweet iced tea and see how my characters handle the new twist. I know that strong coffee is the traditional nectar of the working writer, but I need my sweet tea. The sweeter the better I say!
When your story is finished, it is time for my least favorite part of the writing process, editing. Editing is obviously extremely important but I find it terribly frustrating. Aside from the occasional grammatical error, most of my editing is about subtracting rather than addition. I choose to refer to my editing time as a tightening up period. This is when I can really focus on making my narrative flow the way that I want and make sure the story is always kept in perspective; the story that I want to tell. When is your story finished? It is finished when you think it is. Before you begin, you will know where you will end up. If you don’t, don’t start. You need to have an idea where you are going. Trust your characters to get you there.
WithBlood and Silver, I put my characters through a lot and felt I told the story that I wanted to tell. After all, I need them to rest up for the sequel. valibenson.com
The Joy of Botanical Gardening
A Step-by-Step Guide to
Drawing and Painting Flowers,
Leaves, Fruit, and More
The reviewer received this book for an honest review.
I’ve taken art classes and have books on how to draw various subject matter. Some of those books are good, and others…not so much. Amazingly, I’ve found one may use this book, it’s techniques, tools, instructions and examples across the drawing genre spectrum. Although, that’s not it’s specific intent.
I love art, I love drawing, but the years have not been kind to my hands. So, when given the opportunity to review and share this book, I gladly and hopefully accepted, with the hope of enjoying a moment to immerse back into the world of art. I have not been disappointed.
Wendy Hollender gives a brief story of what draws her to her craft and subjects, giving us permission to enjoy and delve into the same world she loves so much. I learned how to combine different tools to create these beautiful works. Hers have appeared in The New York Times, Real Simple, O, The Oprah Magazine, and others. The way Hollender approaches the drawing of flowers is excellent and something I hadn’t thought of but applies to any subject.
With each section, each flora, you learn how to take what’s learned through each section so far and add it to the next section for greater results, not only from the perspective of the details of the object but also with the use of the various kinds of pencils to use.
Even after you learn how to draw in this style you will be using this as a reference guide and refresher course, over the years.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes the art of drawing, wants to learn, or refine your craft in the botanical art world. Also, if you like botanicals in general, I think you would enjoy this book for a further appreciation of the world of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and all that go along with them.
As for a rating, I believe the book achieves what the reader expects. There is an added layer of a bit more detail than I expected, a surprise if you will in the design of flora.
With the above in mind I will give this a 4 out of 5. 4 being better than what I would expect from a book with this heading and even
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wendy Hollender is a botanical artist, author, and instructor. Hollender’s illustrations have been published in The New York Times, “O,” The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple and The Observer (UK). Her work has been exhibited in natural history museums and botanical institutes, including a solo exhibit at the US Botanic Garden. She is the author of three books on Botanical Drawing and co-published and illustrated Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi.
She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1976 and began a career in botanical illustration after completing a certificate at the New York Botanical Garden in 1998.
Wendy is an instructor of Botanical Art and Illustration at the New York Botanical Garden and leads workshops in exotic locations such as Hawaii, many nature preserves, botanical gardens, arts centers and colleges around the country.
Visit the authors Amazon Author Page for this book and more by clicking HERE.
I recently read and reviewed Samuel Marquis’ most recent book in his WWII Historical Fiction series. I’ve read them all, and this one has more battle details than I’ve seen in any of the others. Which I think is warranted and deserving of the titular subjects of the book. You can check out the book review by clicking HERE. – Ronovan
Soldiers of Freedom: Why Patton’s 761st “Black Panther” Tank Battalion and Other African-American Units Fought Despite Racism in WWII
By Samuel Marquis
In Soldiers of Freedom: The WWII Story of Patton’s Panthers and the Edelweiss Pirates, Book 5 of his WWII Series, historical fiction author Samuel Marquis tells the story of Sergeant William McBurney and the 761st Tank Battalion, the first African-American armored unit in U.S. history.Fighting under legendary General George S Patton, Jr. in the grueling Lorraine campaign in France, the Battle of the Bulge, the Rhineland, and in the final conquest of Nazi Germany, Sherman tank gunner McBurney and his fellow Black Panthers had to fight two wars at once: one against the German Army, the other against the racism of their fellow white soldiers. In their fight on behalf of freedom, they changed the makeup of the modern U.S. Army and paved the way for the civil rights movement.
After the battle for Tillet—one of the many small Belgian towns U.S. forces had to liberate to eventually win the legendary Battle of the Bulge—a German prisoner took one look at the troopers from the all-black 761st Tank Battalion that had just vanquished him and was stunned to see colored men in uniform. “What are you doing here?” he asked one of the tankers in English. “This is a white man’s war.”
Grinning and offering the German soldier a cigarette, the Negro tanker replied, “You ain’t got no black or white when you’re over here and the nation is in trouble. You only got Americans.”
In a nutshell, the exchange explains why African-American soldiers were willing to risk their lives to fight in WWII, despite suffering from pervasive discrimination from their own white troops and American civilians during their training. They simply wanted to do the right thing in the name of freedom and democracy and make a difference in the world—the same as their white counterparts. But in the process, they also hoped to advance their own freedom. They longed to move themselves forward onto an equal footing, or at least a more equal footing, with whites they would soon learn from the hard experience of war were certainly no better than them.
In late 1945 and early 1946, the 761st Tank Battalion—the first African-American armored unit in U.S. history to see combat—returned home from WWII along with 1.2 million other black veterans. They had been handpicked by General George S. Patton, Jr. himself, fought in his vaunted U.S. Third Army until the German capitulation, and were damn proud of that fact. Patton’s veteran Black Panthers, whose motto was “Come Out Fighting” in tribute to boxing legend Joe Louis, should have returned as conquering heroes. Instead, while their white brethren in the armed forces enjoyed great fanfare, ticker-tape parades, and a plethora of newspaper ink, the Black Panthers, Tuskegee Airmen, and other black outfits that had put Nazism down like a rabid dog were largely ignored. They had no choice but to quietly resume their daily lives in a country that cared little about their contributions and sacrifices overseas.
They had gone to Europe and the Pacific to perform their duty on behalf of their country, hoping that by fighting on behalf of freedom they would become free themselves. But upon their return, the painful truth was they had not changed a nation. In fact, they found themselves in many ways more at the beginning of a civil-rights struggle than at the end as returning African-American soldiers. Having served their country with distinction during the largest and most violent conflagration in human history, they returned to second-class status and with expectations that were deemed unacceptable to those of many of their white compatriots. Most of them still could not vote, use public facilities, sit beside whites in buses or at lunch counters, or find work at anything but the most menial of jobs.
For the returning members of the 761st and other black units in the U.S. Army and Air Corps, it was apparent that America had never really cared for them and now had mostly forgotten them. Most people did not even know of African-American service on the battlefields of Europe. In the roar of postwar America, the battalion’s service might as well not have happened, so few people knew or even cared. What the 1.2 million black servicemen had done on behalf of their country was not acknowledged or even believed. But even more upsetting to the returning colored soldiers was that white America expected life in the U.S.—with its racial castes and customs—to go on as if the war had never happened. The majority of whites were still unwilling to look at them in the new light that black leaders had originally sought by insisting that colored men receive the right to fight. They experienced lynchings, beatings, and employment discrimination despite their veteran status, and they couldn’t help but feel excluded from the postwar economic prosperity they could see all around them.
The returning black troopers found all this perplexing, especially considering how well they had been treated by not only the French, Belgians, and Dutch they liberated, but by the German civilians who only days and weeks before had been their enemies. Sergeant William McBurney, Sherman tank main gunner and the protagonist of my book Soldiers of Freedom, had fond memories of Holland from his stay there in February 1945, recuperating and refitting after the brutal Battle of the Bulge. So did the other members of the 761st Tank Battalion. To them, the best thing about Holland was the people. The Dutch citizens spoke English fluently and treated them with genuine respect and warmth. They welcomed them not as black men but as Americans, honoring them as liberators from the German occupation forces. McBurney found the simple and sincere kindness of the Dutch people a welcome and pleasant surprise after the treatment he had experienced at the hands of many of the American soldiers, particularly those from the 87th Infantry, a Southern unit the 761st had fought alongside.
The French, Belgian, and Dutch people were right to treat the members of the 761st as heroes and liberators: Patton’s Panthers had truly earned their reputation as a crack fighting unit. From the time that the battalion was committed to combat on November 7, 1944 through May 6, 1945, it had spent 183 days in action, its only pauses accounted for by the time needed to move from one mission to another. During its combat actions, the battalion destroyed or captured 331 enemy machine-gun nests, 58 pillboxes, and 461 wheeled vehicles; killed 6,246 enemy combatants; and captured more than 15,818 enemy soldiers. Not bad for an outfit that rarely numbered over a thousand men, including maintenance and supply. McBurney and his buddies also liberated the Gunskirchen concentration camp in Austria in the final days of the war. Since the war, battalion members have visited Jewish organizations and school groups throughout the country to share these memories and to testify to the horrors they witnessed during the camp’s liberation.
The Black Panthers paid a heavy price in the name of freedom. The unit suffered thirty-six men killed in action, including three officers. Thirty-nine officers and 221 enlisted men fell wounded in action. Nonbattle casualties stood at nine officers and 192 men, mostly trench foot cases. Total casualties pressed towards 50 percent, a disproportionately high number for a comparatively small outfit that fought alongside manpower and equipment behemoths like the 26th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division. The battalion lost a whopping 71 tanks in battle, more than one and a half times its original allotment.
The men themselves never thought of themselves as particularly heroic. All the members of the 761st had ever wanted was simple human dignity, to be recognized for their abilities as soldiers without being judged by the color of their skin. By taking up arms in the struggle against Tojo and Hitler, they had hoped to heal the old wounds of racial prejudice inflicted upon them by their white counterparts in the U.S. armed forces and by the bigoted white civilians at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, and Camp Hood, Texas, where they had undergone their training. But as fate would have it, the men of the 761st and other segregated African-American combat units like the 92nd Infantry Division and the famous Tuskegee Airmen received a less than warm welcome upon their return home. The continued discrimination towards the black soldiers after willingly giving their lives on the killing grounds of Europe and the Pacific was a source of significant disappointment and discouragement for the returning men, as well as their embittered families.
As Platoon Sergeant Johnnie Stevens of the 761st said: “We were treated better by the civilian German population than we were treated in America. See, in our own country, we could not buy a hot dog when we were in uniform, had to ride in the back of the bus when we were in uniform…. But over there, you were treated like a king. We ate together, slept together. After the war was over and the Germans had dances again, we were invited. That’s why a lot of black GIs took their discharges in Europe. They said, ‘Look, ain’t nothing in America for me. I can’t get a decent job when I go back, I know that. I’m not gonna have any privileges. I can’t even vote. So what the hell do I want to go back there for?”
Though the 761st’s vets were disappointed to return home to the same old prejudices, they soon began to put their lives together, start careers, marry, raise children, and lead in countless quiet but nonetheless significant ways. Though some struggled, the bloody battlefields of Europe had trained them to be disciplined, responsible American citizens who understood the true cost of freedom. But they would have an even greater impact in the future.
The brave actions of the 761st on the battlefields of Europe would eventually garner the men the recognition they deserved, pave the way for an integrated U.S. Army, and lay the foundation for the post-war civil rights movement. At the end of WWII, the distinguished service of the 761st Tank Battalion, Tuskegee Airmen, and other African-American combat units helped convince President Harry S. Truman and other high-ranking government officials to desegregate the U.S. Armed Forces in 1948. And then, after thirty-three years of intense lobbying by the unit’s veterans, the battalion was belatedly awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for “Extraordinary Heroism” by President Jimmy Carter on January 24, 1978. The award became official on April 10, 1978 by the Department of the Army under General Orders Number 5. The final award stood as a single citation for all the 761st’s actions from October 31, 1944, to May 6, 1945. Most importantly, the government finally acknowledged that “racial discrimination and inadvertent neglect on the part of those in authority” had played a role in the previous disapprovals and that “the climate created by the Army commanders could only have made it difficult to provide proper recognition for a ‘Negro’ unit during the period 1944-1947.”
Though the citation should have come thirty-three years earlier, it was ultimately the struggles of Patton’s Black Panthers—at home and abroad, within the armed forces and outside it—that led to the construction of a stronger U.S. Army and a greater nation. Since the new millennium, African-Americans make up around 20% of the U.S. armed forces (and no longer are they merely cooks, stevedores, and drivers), and black officers in the services stand at 5%-7% in the Navy, Air Force and Marines and 10%-15% in the Army.
That is the ultimate legacy of Patton’s Panthers.
The ninth great-grandson of legendary privateer Captain William Kidd, Samuel Marquis is the bestselling, award-winning author of a World War Two Series, the Nick Lassiter-Skyler International Espionage Series, and American historical fiction. His novels have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, received multiple national book awards (Kirkus Reviews and Foreword Reviews Book of the Year, American Book Fest and USA Best Book, IPPY, Readers’ Favorite, Beverly Hills, Next Generation Indie, and Colorado Book Awards), and garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews (5 Stars). Book reviewers have compared Marquis’s WWII thrillers to the epic historical novels of Tom Clancy, John le Carré, Ken Follett, Herman Wouk, Daniel Silva, and Alan Furst. His website is samuelmarquisbooks.com and for publicity inquiries, please contact Books Forward at email@example.com.
The author provided a copy of the book for an honest opinion.
When you read the book, you realize a great deal of research and analysis went into its making. There are a few good stories about players, as the title indicates, but there is an overwhelming amount of stats packed into the few chapters. I think that’s an overwhelming amount for me. For a baseball fanatic, and I use that word in a positive manner, this would be right up their alley.
The stories and stats included are from the early 1900s, until the new millennium. There are names I’ve never heard of and I’m surprised, considering names and situations they’re attached to.
I’m not going to give away the stories and the statistics, unlike some other reviews. There are comparisons between players as well as times. And even I could understand the significance. I’m not a baseball novice by any means, I’m just not an avid fan these days. That’s why I say this is more for someone looking to get the details they might not find elsewhere. Because the more you read, the more you know.
A great thing to know. This leads to a great source for all who want to get into the Kindle Universe. KU. See what I did there. KU, Kindle Unlimited. I turned it into Kindle Universe. I am so funny I died three times last week.
A question many authors have is how many words are on the average page when it comes to books and ebooks on Amazon.
This information helps you calculate how long your novel or nonfiction work has to be to hit a certain page count on Amazon, which is important if you’re applying for promotions that require you to be above a certain number of pages to qualify.
The info also helps you figure out how many total words you need to write to create a book that meets reader expectations in your genre. Since you can view the Amazon page counts of the books that are currently ranking well, you simply multiply by the average number of words per page, and presto.
So, what’s the right answer? What is the average number of words per page on Amazon?
I’ll tell you upfront, this question is more complicated than…
Fiction: WWII Historical Fiction/German Historical Fiction/Military Historical Fiction/Biographies of World War II. 646 Pages Print. Mount Sopris Publishing (March 31, 2020)
The ninth great-grandson of legendary privateer Captain William Kidd, Samuel Marquis is the bestselling, award-winning author of a WWII Series, the Nick Lassiter-Skyler International Espionage Series, The Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series, and a historical fiction novel centered on the infamous pirate, Blackbeard. His novels have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, received multiple national book awards (Foreword INDIES, American Book Fest’s Best Book Awards, Beverly Hills Book Awards, IPPY, Next Generation Indie Awards, Colorado Book Awards), and garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews. Book reviewers have compared Marquis’s WWII thrillers “Bodyguard of Deception,” “Altar of Resistance,” and “Spies of the Midnight Sun” to the epic historical novels of Tom Clancy, John le Carré, Ken Follett, Herman Wouk, Daniel Silva, Len Deighton, and Alan Furst. (Emphasis by Ronovan.)
In addition Sam has been the Kirkus Reviews Book of the Year Winner. Kirkus Reviews, founded in 1933 it has been considered one of the big two along with Publishers Weekly. To be selected for review is a sense of worth for an author. To be selected as a book of the year? I can’t imagine but can dream. (Kirkus Reviews is owned by Nielsen Holdings, 2010.)
In Soldiers of Freedom: The true story WWII Story of Patton’s Panthers and the Edelweiss Pirates, Samuel Marquis mixes his ability to capture authentic dialogue with his massive amounts of research to give societal issues and the human condition during the time not only by the obvious racial aspect but by nation and society ruled by a dictator and his self-important official and citizen followers. Marquis gives the experiences of the soldier as a person with thoughts and feelings beyond being in a war simply to be following orders and killing the enemy, but the rest of his life the experiences of war touches. This carries over to the military command level as well as citizens in the home nation of the Nazi regime.
With a book set in WWII Europe and involving the 761st Tank Battalion, there must be sensory loaded descriptions of battles; the roar of guns, the smoke, the smells, the confinement, but more than that, I am given the emotional mindset of a tank gunner, and his comrades-in-arms as they fight against the Nazi regime. Marquis does not stop there, he gives a taste of what it’s like to be a Black man in the 1940s and how that translates to being a soldier at war, while at the same time often outranking white soldiers who show disrespect, disregard, and disdain for them.
Getting flipped on its head, I then read about the physical and emotional state of a teenage German girl, who is resistance fighter with the Gestapo dogging her every step, a situation more treacherous than any man would face. She shows me not every German in WWII is either a Nazi, a Nazi supporter, or innocent of having blood on their hands.
The dialogue and action of the military and resistance fighters draw you in and give you a sense of being a part of a war environment, not just the battlefield of soldiers, but the battlefield of citizens fighting their own government. Marquis uses his research materials of government documents, biographies, interviews, and personal letters to great dramatic effect.
Soldiers of Freedom is told through the voices of three people; SARGENT WILLIAM H. BURNEY, a Black man from Harlem on Manhattan Island, New York who is a part of the 761st, GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON Jr, commander of the US THIRD ARMY, and 16/17-year-old ANGELA LANGE, daughter of a German Colonel, and member of the EDELWEISS PIRATES, a real German resistance group in Cologne, Germany.
While reading I can’t help but feel the frustration of the young Black soldiers not just during the war, but from the moment of sitting down with a recruiter and being told that you aren’t allowed to so much as try for what you dreamed of doing in the military and for your country, that you would have to take another route. I am surprised by the honesty of the recruiter considering the times. Frustrations continue wherever McBurney goes, from one camp to another, all in the name of training. The use of the JACKIE ROBINSON’s court-martial hearing is perfect to put an exclamation point on the 761st time in the US.
Samuel Marquis gives facts of history not taught to me even in my higher-level History courses at university, and that was as a History Education major. For example, the existence of the 761st TANK BATTALION, the reason for their formation, how they end up in Europe, and the impact they make on the war, which is huge. They are a large part of important moments. There are times in McBurney’s journey I want to punch so many people, run over them with my tank, or shot them with my big 76mm gun, preferably with a round of HE. I get to see the reaction of the German soldiers, and German citizens as well, misrepresented in every level from middle school through university. I learned what a HE was, as well as what a 76mm was and what it could do.
“But it struck him as ironic that he and his fellow Negro tankers were about to cross the same ocean their African ancestors had crossed in chains; and that, in taking part in the struggle against Nazism, they were about to fight a war in the name of freedoms neither the men of the 761st nor their forbearers had ever enjoyed.”—Sergeant William H. McBurney, Tank Main Gunner, U.S 761st “Black Panthers”
What I enjoy a lot is the sharing of the experience the tankers both in battle and in the everyday life of a soldier. The difficulty the drivers and gunners have using these machines is incredible. How although the tanks can be lions, they can also quickly turn into lambs. I haven’t come across another book, of any kind, describing with such honesty what a soldier goes through in the confines of a war machine, regardless of the genre. I don’t know how they did it. I’d still be shaking, rattling, and my eyes would be bopping all around to this day. Then there is what McBurney reveals about German towns and the citizens they come upon. I have never given much thought to that part of the story, at least not down to that level. One reason for not knowing is, history books don’t teach about the Black soldiers of WWI and what they did in Germany. You must read to believe.
“Lord help us,” [Patton] said, pulling out a fresh cigar. “And Lord help me when this war is over.”
“Why’s that, sir? I would think you would celebrate.”
“No, Codman. With nothing to do, I’m going to be a [***]damn wreck and an absolute nuisance to my wife.” – Major Charles Codman and General George S. Patton Jr, Freedom Soldiers
That sampling of dialogue is just a little taste to help you get in the spirit of General George S. Patton Jr.
Patton is as flamboyant and audacious as I thought. Using diaries and letters, Marquis gives me the colorful language and stories Patton liked to tell, but more importantly, his feelings about soldiers under his command, as well as the Generals and commanders he must work with. Those feelings are quite surprising, not only for the tough-as-nails Patton but from a field general at all. I laughed, yes laughed, reading old Blood and Guts Patton’s
exchanges with GENERAL DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, as well as other generals, and his thoughts on the BRITISH FIELD MARSHAL BERNARD MONTGOMERY. And the honest opinions of Eisenhower, at least through research are eye-opening. What is revealed about the politics, perceptions, and egos of war and how they play out on the battlefield is not necessarily surprising, but are brutal when laid in front of you and you can’t help but see it and think about the outcomes.
The resulting command structure and atmosphere of the European Theater following Patton’s removal for slapping two shell-shocked soldiers in Sicily are painful to watch with Patton demoted then later given command of the US Third Army. How the war would have been different if not for his believing the soldiers were just trying to avoid fighting. No one had heard of PTSD in the 1940s. The press had a field day, but Patton had a powerful fan and ally waiting in the wings to help get him back in the war.
For the ugly truth was that every German was ultimately guilty for allowing Hitler and the Nazis to rise to power and hiding their head in the sand and turning their backs when the regime began singling out Communists, Jews, clergymen, and other racial, political, and social enemies of the Reich. – Angela Lange, Freedom Soldiers
Angela Lange is loosely based on real-life Edelweiss Pirate of Cologne, GERTRUD KOCH, but with elements drawn from events experienced by her comrades. I learn through Angela’s authentic filled voice and view, just how naïve and young these Edelweiss Pirates, who called themselves Navajos out of admiration for the Native American tribe, are in the beginning, but also how fast they grow up. Their main target is the Hitler Youth that patrols the town and enacts harsh punishment on those they deem conducting criminal or disloyal acts. The demented CRIMINAL COMMISSIONER FERDINAND KÜTTER of the Cologne Gestapo along with his interrogators are nothing but sadistic, rabid dogs who enjoy nothing more than torturing Germans and enemies alike until they get confessions, information, or death. Marquis settles into a groove with Angela’s story as the book continues. I witness the innocence, naivete, love, pain, tragedy, hope, despair, spirit, and determination throughout this young woman’s story and all while battling with the Gestapo. And not just any Gestapo, but some of the most factually brutal in the Nazi Regime, that were historical figures in Cologne.
As important as Patton’s story is, the 761st story is bigger and as big as their story is Angela’s story is the one that delivers a reality punch. We don’t think much about resistance within Germany unless we think of the Jews who hid from death and helped others escape it. Here we see German citizens fighting against the Nazis, not to help the Allies, but to take back the Germany they once knew.
WHAT I LIKED:
facts about unheard of people
a sensory experience from each view of the war
the action of the tank soldiers
how the 761st put aside bigotry for country
revealing details of the German citizens’ attitudes and the towns the 761st encounter
Patton’s loyalty and love for his men
the camaraderie among the US Generals in Europe
learning of and about the Edelweiss Pirates
continuing to learn about the types of Nazis through Marquis’ books (They aren’t cookie-cutter and all fall-in-line Nazis.)
the afterword information and further details of what happened next for these people
WHAT I LIKED LESS:
There are a few moments in Angela Lange’s story that don’t ring as emotionally engaging or authentic as they should be. I don’t mean the events don’t occur historically. What I mean is the telling of certain scenes are not as detailed or as emotional as they should be. Those parts that don’t capture the emotion of the scene do not take away from Angela’s experience, they lessen the impact in those specific scenes. It might be the nature of situations that gives hesitation to going deeper.
The book isn’t quite as smooth as I am accustomed to with Sam’s books, (I’ve read all the WWII series books, amazing series.) I put this down to the massive amount of action that takes place during this important period covered. Transitions within the three views sometimes take a moment to become clear as to who is speaking. I know the setting because that is clear at the beginning of each chapter. I just at times don’t know the individual speaking or spoken to. That could be me.
There are one or two, what I will rudely call minor, battles that I could do without the description of the battle, just given the information that the 761st wins and why it is important. This happens with several battles after the war turns heavily into the Allies’ favor. I always want the wins, losses, and strategic information. There are simply a few scenes where I feel like I’m reading the same scene from earlier, with minimal differences. Tanks do what tanks do, and similar battles occur, but at times there is a battle, though important, as every battle in WWII is, that can be told with just the telling of its victory and its strategic importance. Sam gives a few hugely important battles brief mentions, but we see their importance. In these cases, if Marquis went into detail, we would have more books to read.
Others have compared Samuel Marquis’ writing style to New York Times #1 Bestselling author, Ken Follett who has seen some of his books turned into movies and TV series. Also, another name mentioned is Adam Makos, another New York Times Best Sellers list author.
As for me, there is an author who wrote many historical fiction novels, the late British author John Gardner, an ex-Royal Marine commando, and Anglican Priest before losing his faith. I’ve read over 20 of his books, perhaps that is one reason I enjoy Sam’s books so much. Gardner’s historical fiction work includes the five-book Herbie Kruger Series of action encompassing WWII, the Cold War as well as subsequent events inspired by the two, and there is also the three-book Railton Family Series, which has ties to the Kruger books. If you are a James Bond fan, he wrote 15 novels, beginning in 1981 with License Renewed and ending in 1996 with Cold/Cold Fall. All of us know him for the 007 book GoldenEye, in who’s film adaptation Pierce Brosnan made his Bond debut. I’ve read most of them.
As one review states:
“Marquis is a student of history, always creative, [and] never boring…A good comparison might be Tom Clancy.”—Military.com
Obviously for fans of the authors mentioned above.
Those who enjoy digging into the personal details of historical figures.
Those who are interested in untold stories of African American History.
People who want to understand a little more about the imagery of war in ways not normally described in books or shown on film.
For those who like to understand the citizens of war, their struggles, fears, tragedies, and sometimes why they participate in a war.
Genre/s: Urban Superhero Fiction (With a lot of mystery.)
Price: Kindle ($5.99) Paperback ($12.99)
In Elle Boca’s latest stand-alone book An American Weeia in Paris , the fourth entry in her The Weeia Marshals series, I was treated to a tale of mystery, suspense, surprise, intrigue, friendship, science fiction and urban fantasy all rolled into one so smoothly that I didn’t realize all of that until I started writing this review. There are at least five subplots going and all are clear, and I still didn’t think about there being that many until now. An American Weeia in Paris is simply put, a great read I got caught up in and read in one day. I could not put it down.
Marshal Danielle ‘Danni’ Metreaux, now the acting Head of the Paris branch of the Weeia Marshals, is tasked with the job of watching over a Texas Weeia Elder and his family. The book starts at the Eiffel Tower where the group is having dinner in one of the famed Eiffel Tower restaurants when a terrorist attack occurs. That’s when the mysteries begin. While I watch some suspenseful and thrilling moments in the tower above, a Weeia takes action against the terrorist on the ground, with the scene captured on social media threatening to reveal the existence of Weeia to Humans, who are not aware they have a gifted race living among them. Who is this good Samaritan the media dubs MGV? But that’s not the only mystery. Stalkers? Mystery Weeia? And there is a life changing shock I never saw coming.
I am enjoying seeing the continued development of the main protagonist in the series, Marshal Danni Metreaux. She is no longer the unsure, self-conscious girl, who grew up on her aunt and uncles farm. Now she is comfortable enough in her position as acting head of the Paris branch of Marshals, to face off against elitist members of the Marshals. She traverses the streets of Paris, both the good and bad more and more like a native, which is a wonder considering the maze that is Paris. Her personal skills with others improves to a surprising degree, but she’s still the same plain speaking Danni.
There is more of Danni’s oldest friends from her Marshals Academy in Portland, Maine, with tech gifted Ernie Satuan and best friend Marla than in the recent books. Both have surprises in store for her. And then there is Danni’s friend Ceri…the Poodle, a match that could only be made in Paris.
I learn about Paris through Danni’s adventures as Elle Boca gives life to Paris by giving us Danni’s thoughts as she negotiates through the streets of Paris, following the street names and historic landmarks she sees. Bits of history only the Parisians know is shared. For this former History teacher and Historical Fiction author, through the words of Elle and the eyes of Danni, I can see vividly what it must have been like centuries ago and learn how the early intentional forward progress of Parisian society was formed. This is not done in a scholarly or boring fashion.
The supporting cast and fringe figures are well developed and as the series moves from one book to the next, I know the feelings each one brings to Danni. Plus, I remember the characters, as opposed to looking back to previous books to find out who they are. Great job!
Elle Boca has created a world where Weeia and Humans can co-exist, with the help of Marshal Danni Metreaux and her friends. Weeia, who Humans don’t know exist, are people gifted with abilities and can cloak or mask themselves to the eyes of others, make people ‘like’ you or seem charming, or even teleport across an entire continent and ocean with a friend in tow. Some might say Weeia have superpowers, but don’t think costumes, superhero names, or robot armor. Think more like Charles Xavier, who appears as normal as anyone else but just happens to have an incredible ability he uses when among Humans only when necessary.
What I liked about this book:
I enjoyed the overall easy flow of the book, making reading enjoyable.
There is a good balance of surprises with new characters and moments with recurring cast members that keep the protagonist grounded and happy.
I really liked the parts with the Poodle, Ceri, though simple for the most part, they showed some emotional development in Danni.
I think the handling of the supporting cast is well done, especially how they fit into the everyday life of Danni.
There are things/words used in the Weeia world that I had no problem with understanding. The author does well with her choices when it comes to language. Anyone can read this book and the previous three in the series with relative ease.
What I liked a little less bout this book:
There are a few scenes and a minor subplot that I stumbled over a bit and took me out of the story, but I can see how the author would have thought it helped show consistency in how a certain element in the Weeia world view her.
Staying with the scenes above, the editing during those particular areas broke up the flow.
What book/author would I compare this book to:
I liken this book to a less dark urban fantasy than say a Jim Butcher Dresden Files offering. I love Jim Butcher, but his books can be a tad intense at times. With Elle Boca’s The Weeia Marshals series does have the occasional dark moment, and twisted character, they are used in just the right amounts, so as not to desensitize the reader to dark themes, then you are truly disturbed by the rare moments and thus concerned for those involved.
You could also say with the secretive nature of the Weeia in the series, that J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter shares some similarities, but not in the YA manner or in that magic sort of way. This series can be read by most any age.
I recommend this book to those who love Urban Fantasy, Mystery, Adventure, and a bit of Travel. And of course those who love learning more about Paris than you might have known was out there. For those expecting a superhero book in the vein of the Avengers or Watchmen, that’s not happening.
This is a 4.25 Stars Review.
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Author ROYALTIES from book sales WILL BE DONATED to the nonprofit organization ANGELS ON THE BORDER.
His forthcoming novel, “Gary Gatlin: Reluctant Hero” (Dudley Court Press) is set in April of 1939. As 20-year-old Gary Gatlin travels from Los Angeles abroad, he cannot know that he will singularly influence the outcome of WWII. Gatlin, a friend of Japanese-immigrant farmers in California, finds himself in Formosa to learn about Japanese fruit cultivation. When he arrives on the lush island, war is in the air, and his presence begins to raise suspicion. Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Gatlin finds himself called upon by the U.S. Navy in an unpredictable battle of allegiances.
WWII veteran Carl Haupt is a first time author at 93 years old, who spends his days helping Central Americans displaced by famine and poverty at the U.S.-Mexico border, despite his advanced age and physical handicaps.
Carl F. Haupt
TUCSON, Arizona – Carl F. Haupt, a 93-year old retired military veteran on a government pension, has become a philanthropist who feeds the starving refugees at the U.S. border in Arizona. From a wheelchair, he works to make life tolerable for those in limbo. Just as he helped to liberate Europe during WWII and fought in the Asian Theater on the other side of the world, today, he and his wife continue, after more than 17 years, to personally help those fleeing poverty and internal strife within their home countries.
At age 15, along with a reported 1 million other boys across the country, Haupt left home during The Great Depression. He was homeless, hitching rides on freight trains, sleeping on the ground and going hungry for days at a time. Eventually, he landed in Los Angeles. In 1944, he joined the United States Navy and served his country for 22 years, including more than a decade in the United States Air Force. He retired in 1966 as a Master Sergeant.
In 1992, with his military life behind him, Carl began helping locals in Mexico with his wife, Sarah. They worked in Agua Prieta, a city across from Douglas, Arizona. Remembering his time as a homeless teen, Carl helped build over 100 homes and moved 25 donated mobile homes to families in Agua Prieta, delivering food and other necessities to struggling families.
Haupt is a first time author at 93 years old. His novel, “Gary Gatlin: Reluctant Hero” (Dudley Court Press, November 5, 2019), was inspired by a strange situation in 1987 when he woke up one morning compelled to write for 13 straight hours the story that had come to him through a dream. Now, decades later, Dudley Court Press has acquired his story for release in 2019. All author royalties from “Gary Gatlin” will be consigned to the non-profit organization Angels on the Border.
Today’s guest author is Ed Rucker, author of The Inevitable Witness. He’s a criminal defense lawyer in California who has tried over 200 jury trials, including 13 death penalty cases. His forthcoming legal thriller, Justice Makes A Killing, will be released in July 2019.
Who better than this guy to give write this post?
A Criminal Lawyer’s Tips for Writing Legal Thrillers
Plot Requires Tension
Trying a criminal case has much in common with the creation of a mystery plot; in a jury trial, both the prosecutor and the defense lawyer are storytellers – although their stories are radically different.
When the police investigate a crime, they uncover and assemble an array of “facts,” such as witnesses, documents or forensic evidence. The prosecutor then weaves these facts together into a story, one that shows that the defendant committed the crime. In the prosecutor’s story, the defendant is propelled by a strong emotion like greed, jealousy, or revenge.
The defense must tell an alternative story about these “facts,” one that accepts the hard facts (science based forensics), but demonstrates the unreliability or falseness of other facts, leading to a different conclusion. If new facts are uncovered and added to the story, perhaps now they point their finger at another suspect.
In a mystery novel, as these contrasting stories evolve and move toward a climax, they can make for a tension-filled plot and an exhilarating read.
Build Complex Characters
Readers enjoy when a book’s characters have some depth, some complexity. This certainly applies to the story’s protagonist, but equally to its other characters. For example, when the storyline includes an innocent person who is wrongfully accused, there is often a tendency to treat that character as a placeholder while the business of solving the mystery moves ahead. In reality, when a person is charged with a crime it shakes them to their very core. The prospect of spending a good portion of their life in a steel and cement box tends to peel away any layers of pretense. People are stripped raw and their true being emerges with all its contradictions, virtues, and base impulses.
This is also true of the villain of the piece. As a criminal defense lawyer, I learned that no matter how abhorrent the acts my clients committed, I was always able to find a vein of humanity in them with which I could identify. Like all of us, they were a bundle of complex and contradictory impulses, both good and bad. Most had personal histories that made their life choices – while not acceptable – at least understandable. As the old adage says, there but for the grace of God go I. Even a villain should not appear one-dimensional.
Reflect the Media’s Effect on Criminal Cases
We are saturated today with a barrage of news, not only from such traditional outlets as TV and the newspapers, but also from social media. A significant number of the public receive their information from podcasts on Facebook and YouTube. Therefore, to write with authenticity about a criminal investigation or a legal thriller that involves a sensational case, the author must address the impact that this media coverage has on those involved. In my experience, if a case attracts the media’s attention it changes how that case is handled by the participants. The police detectives and their superiors go to quickly solve the crime in order to enhance their public image. Such pressure carries with the real possibility of a rush to judgment. When the case reaches the courts, the media spotlight shifts onto the judge and the prosecutor. Both must stand for election and may fear a backlash at the ballot box if their decisions do not meet with the media’s approval. Consequently, the prosecutor feels he or she must win at all costs and seek the harshest punishment in order to appear “tough on crime.” A judge may tilt his or her rulings toward the prosecution on close legal questions to avoid appearing “soft on crime.” The author should recognize and seek to depict this reality.
Prosecutors are Not Always Ethical
It is realistic to write about prosecutors stepping over ethical lines. Prosecutors, no doubt, have a difficult job. Not because, as is portrayed on TV, they have the “deck stacked against them,” but rather because they must often act against their own competitive instincts by sharing their evidence with the defense. This Constitutional guarantee is needed to guard against the conviction of innocent people. However, the pressure on prosecutors to win in order to advance their own careers and reputations may sometimes cause them to ignore these “legal technicalities.” They may be tempted to hide exculpatory evidence, coach a witness, use discredited informants, or tolerate police fabrications, all in the name of “we know he’s guilty.” When such misdeeds are discovered, the courts are reluctant to actually punish an offending prosecutor, choosing instead to consider such violations as “harmless legal errors.” This lack of accountability creates a sense of immunity among prosecutors. So depicting such malfeasance or the temptation to indulge in it should be something the author considers.
Ed Rucker is the author of The Inevitable Witness. He is a criminal defense lawyer in California who has tried over 200 jury trials, including 13 death penalty cases. He has received numerous awards, including the L.A. Criminal Bar Association’s “Trial Lawyer of the Year,” the L.A. County Bar Association’s “Distinguished Career Award,” and he is listed in “Best Lawyers in America.” Under the auspices of the Ukrainian government, he spent two years there establishing a legal assistance program for criminal cases. His forthcoming legal thriller, Justice Makes A Killing, will be released in July 2019.
DEFENSE LAWYER BOBBY EARL RETURNS TO FACE HIS TOUGHEST CASE YET
When Bobby Earl meets the beautiful but vulnerable Kate Carlson, a prominent LA lawyer who awaits trial in a small town jail for a murder during a prison break, he thinks he knows what’s at stake: negotiate a decent plea deal for a guilty client, pocket his fee and move on. But Kate insists she’s been set-up. To find the truth, Bobby must risk his own life, career and everything he loves by dredging up the secrets of the billion-dollar private prison industry and the powerful California prison guards union, in a desperate battle against a powerful and expanding conspiracy.
Pre-Order Justice Makes A Killing. Click the below to visit the site book pages to pre-order. (Will open in new window.)
Historical Accuracy Must Come First: The Real History of The English Patient and Operation Condor
By Samuel Marquis
In May 1942, just before German General Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, launched his offensive to drive the British Eighth Army out of Egypt and take the Suez, the German Intelligence Service (Abwehr) sent a two-man espionage team to Cairo. Operation Condor, as it became known, proved to be the most legendary and historically misrepresented intelligence operation in the WWII North African campaign.
In Lions of the Desert: A True Story of WWII Heroes in North Africa, I tell the tale of the famous Operation Condor and 1941-1942 Desert War between Rommel’s Afrika Korps and Eighth Army, based on recently declassified British and U.S. Military Intelligence records. The romantic Condor story has been told many times before—most famously in Michael Ondaatje’s 1992 Booker Prize winning novel The English Patient and the 1996 Oscar-winning film of the same name—but until recently virtually every fictional and factual account has been historically inaccurate. That is precisely why I had to write my book.
The reason that the Condor story has been shrouded in mischaracterization and embellishment is simple: prior to the 2006 public declassification of large numbers of WWII government documents, the only historical records on the subject available to the general public were those written by the main protagonists, who had access to only limited information and were not privy to the larger military-intelligence picture. In addition, records have conclusively shown that these participants, despite laying down a solid foundation of verifiable facts, have in a number of critical places distorted and embroidered the Condor narrative to enhance their own role in history or embroider the story, making it difficult for subsequent researchers to separate fact from fiction. I had no idea of these shortcomings when I set out to write my book—but once I discovered them, the opportunity to set the record straight and tell the true Condor story became my raison d’être for penning my work.
The narrators of these early first-hand accounts included: Anwar el Sadat, the Egyptian Army officer, nationalist, and later President of Egypt (Revolt on the Nile, 1957); Lieutenant Johannes Eppler, the German spy in the Operation Condor affair (Rommel Ruft Cairo, 1960, later translated as Operation Condor: Rommel’s Spy, 1977); Leonard Mosley, a British war correspondent in Cairo at the time of Operation Condor, who conducted extensive interviews of Eppler prior to the German spy penning his own version of events (The Cat and the Mice, 1958); and Major A.W. Sansom, the head of British Field Security in Cairo who played a prominent role in the capture of Eppler and his espionage cohort Heinrich Gerd Sandstette (I Spied Spies, 1965). While accurate in many respects and unquestionably entertaining, these subjective first-hand accounts have one fatal flaw in common: they exaggerate the espionage accomplishments of several of the key players in the Condor story and, consequently, draw conclusions that are not supported by reliable historical documents.
Without access to the declassified materials and thus the bigger picture, subsequent writers on the subject—Anthony Cave Brown, Bodyguard of Lies (1976); David Mure, Practice to Deceive (1977) and Master of Deception (1980); Nigel West, MI6 (1983); and Richard Deacon, ‘C’: A Biography of Sir Maurice Oldfield (1985)—could not help but fall into the trap of relying heavily on the embellished accounts of the main protagonists. Following in a similar vein, the bestselling historical fiction novels by Ken Follett (The Key to Rebecca, 1980, made into a 1989 TV movie) and Len Deighton (The City of Gold, 1992) used both the original sources and the subsequent embellished works as the basis of their books, making for great entertainment but questionable historical accuracy with regard to the significant details of the North African campaign and Operation Condor.
As it turns out, the Condor story needs no embellishment. The real-life protagonists, while admittedly more prosaic than their highly fictionalized doppelgängers, are still fascinating in their own right. That became my overarching goal in Lions of the Desert: to tell the real story—a story that has captivated the minds of authors, historians, and filmmakers for the past three-quarters of a century but that, until quite recently, virtually no one has been able to get right due to lack of access to the full truth.
With that in mind, I told the story through the eyes of six of the main historical figures who lived through the larger-than-life events in Egypt and Libya in 1941-1942: Scottish Lieutenant Colonel David Stirling, founder and leader of the Special Air Service (SAS), a brigade of eccentric desert commandos that raided Axis aerodromes and supply lines; Rommel, who as commander of the legendary Afrika Korps very nearly succeeded in driving the British out of Egypt; Egyptian Hekmat Fahmy, the renowned belly dancer, regarded as a Mata-Hari-like German agent in previous accounts but in fact a far more intriguing and ambiguous character in real life; Colonel Bonner Fellers, the U.S. military attaché in Cairo, who was privy to critical Allied secrets in the North African theater and inadvertently played an important role in intelligence-gathering activities for both sides in the campaign; and Sansom and Eppler, who played a game of cat-and-mouse and whose real-life stories are finally told.
Of the above historical figures, Eppler, Sansom, and the Egyptian belly dancer Hekmat Fahmy have been the most grossly distorted in previous accounts—primarily because of Eppler’s and Mosley’s embellished stories that set the tone but also due in part to the security chief Sansom’s self-serving recording of history in his own book. History has shown that Eppler was not quite the master spy portrayed in his own imagination or in books and movies; Hekmat was no Mata Hari at all but was a legendary entertainer and important member of Cairene high society; and Sansom was not the Sam-Spade-like sleuth who solved the case but one of several diligent British intelligence officers who helped catch the two German spies. In fact, Operation Condor ultimately proved to be more comical farce than an intelligence success story; in the end, the German operatives that have been portrayed as virtuoso master spies in books and the silver screen for several decades emerge with little credit from the affair. But it is precisely the sloppily real and deeply flawed human element that makes the Condor story so engaging.
From my standpoint, therefore, it was critical to present Eppler and Fahmy not as the ruthless master German operatives and Sansom as the master British sleuth of previous highly fictionalized accounts, but as the people they truly were with warts and all. To accurately portray the historical figures in the book, I placed the characters where they actually were during a given recorded historical event and use, to the extent possible, their actual words based on recently declassified British and American case files, contemporary transcripts, trial documents, memoirs, and other quoted materials. Like Michael Shaara in his excellent historical novel about the Battle of Gettysburg, The Killer Angels, I did not “consciously change any fact” or “knowingly violate the action.” The interpretations of character and motivation were still ultimately a part of my overall imaginative landscape, but the scenes themselves and the historical figures were deliberately rendered as historically accurately as a non-fiction history book.
Why? Because truth in historical fiction is paramount and not something to be compromised. Because all the other important things in a novel—sympathetic characters, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and unexpected twists and turns—spring from portraying ones beloved heroes and villains in all their glory and infamy just like the real-world, flawed historical figures they were in life. The bottom line is that history itself provides plenty of conflict, tension, and drama, and does not need to be consciously changed to generate more excitement. For Lions of the Desert, I felt it was up to me as the author to select those scenes of historical significance and bring them back to life in vivid color, while filling in between known historical events with scenes that shed light on the historical figures’ true motivation and character as revealed from the recently declassified documents and latest research.
While recently declassified government files form the backbone of Lions of the Desert, the original eyewitness accounts of Sansom, Eppler, Mosley, and Sadat have still proved useful—but only where supported by other eyewitness accounts, government records, or wireless decrypts. As David Mure, author of Master of Deception, states, “The Condor story has been told many times, always with new dimensions and variations; it is a tangled web indeed.” Not anymore. With the relevant declassified WWII records now available, the true Condor story can now be told—and that is precisely what I have done. Because telling the truth and getting the story right matters in historical fiction.
In fact, nothing matters more.
The ninth great-grandson of legendary privateer Captain William Kidd, Samuel Marquis is the bestselling, award-winning author of a World War Two Series, the Nick Lassiter-Skyler International Espionage Series, and historical pirate fiction. His novels have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, received multiple national book awards (Foreword Reviews Book of the Year, American Book Fest Best Book, USA Best Book, IPPY, Beverly Hills, Next Generation Indie, Colorado Book Awards), and garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews (5 Stars). Book reviewers have compared Marquis’s WWII thrillers Bodyguard of Deception, Altar of Resistance, and Spies of the Midnight Sun to the epic historical novels of Tom Clancy, John le Carré, Ken Follett, Herman Wouk, Daniel Silva, Len Deighton, and Alan Furst. Mr. Marquis’s newest historical novel, Lions of the Desert is the true story of the WWII 1941-1942 Desert War in North Africa and Operation Condor based on recently declassified British Secret MI6 files and U.S. Military Intelligence records. His website is samuelmarquisbooks.com and for publicity inquiries, please contact JKS Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.