On Characters

Six years ago I invented a character, Harry Braham. Or more precisely, he came out of a day dream that I had while working as a consultant to financial advisors, a job that I found stultifyingly boring. In the cell-like office they kept us in while we made calls trying to induce struggling financial advisors to buy our program, I had one respite. It was a narrow window from which I could see the parking lot and beyond a fringe of eucalyptus trees, the brown hills of northern San Diego County. It was the sight of those hills that invoked my day dream.

As I looked out at them I began to think of flying. Flying up and over rolling hills as I had done since I was sixteen. I remembered the sweet smell of summer grass and the redolent aroma of oil on hot engine manifolds. I remembered how that before and after flying, I would sit and watch planes take off and land and always wanting to be back in the air. In my daydream I was transported to France–the western front and some shabby airfield where, in my mind’s eye I was readying myself for a flight over no man’s land.

I can’t say how many times that I thought of this scene before I wrote of it. It was only after my first novel; Shadow Soldiers began to sell that I thought of writing another. The second one needed a new protagonist, someone who would have been the right age to fly in the First World War. I took Harry Braham from family names and used an old photo of my father in his helmet and goggles of the Second World War as an image. So, Harry was born and I wrote of his beginnings. There is a lot of myself in Harry. Unlike my first character, Rick Kasten, Harry has more of my own story wrapped into his. At times I am not sure where I end and he begins.

But that was then. He was a young man in 1919, when I introduced him in The Warszaw Express. Since that time, the world changed and so did Harry. Like any of us, he aged and found himself fighting again and again against Nazis and Bolsheviks in an endless struggle. Harry has his scars, as we all do if we survive this life. His love, Agata, was lost in the first book and yet her memory is never far from him. He has had his share of lovers and betrayals and tried, for a time to live a fairly peaceful life, but the world was against him.

Now, I am in the throes of writing another Harry Braham. Why him again? Perhaps it is because like any character that a novelist creates, he has his own way of asserting himself. Harry has become world-wise and world-weary. He has been on the firing line too long and with the end of the Second World War, much of the Europe that he knew and many of the people that he dealt with, good or bad, have vanished in a sweep of fire and death.

In all of the books up to now, Harry did what he did because he saw the struggle between good and evil as a black and white thing. Now, in The Last Klimt he is caught in the half-light of the cold war, where yesterday’s foes have become allies in a new struggle. Compromise and expediency have replaced justice and honor. Harry has to struggle with this on his own.

Harry Braham was never cast in the role of a super-spy. He does not rely on gadgets or very often a gun. He manages to try to stay a step ahead of his opposition and tends to trust in people a little too much. He is also finding that the wear and tear on his own body is something with which he must contend. The old fighter-pilot instincts are still there, but the reactions have slowed a bit. Recognizing friend and foe have become more difficult.

When does a man like Harry ease up? When does he find the right woman to be with, to sit at breakfast over coffee and the paper rather than track some enemy through the mists? He is a forty-something man playing in a younger man’s world. How long can he last? When do the laws of averages begin to tilt away from him? By the time that I finish The Last Klimt I hope I will know.



 

Vietnam – Déjà vu

Several years ago I wrote Prowler Ball – A Yankee Station Sea Story about my combat experience flying over North Vietnam at the end of the war in 1972-73. With the coming of the Ken Burns film we have been given a chance to revisit and remember those years. For those who served there certain segments are more poignant than others. But for me, remembering is not enough. Somehow, I would like to understand what happened and moreover, why?

Recently, three books have stood out for me in this process. The fact that none of them are new publications only deepens my resolve to get to a point of clarity. The first two, written after the war deal with the combat experience and the process of how a returning veteran can reintegrate his life into a civilian world. These are Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America by Jonathan Shay. In both of these books he works the western world’s two most long-lived stories of war and warriors into the American struggle in Vietnam. The parallels are both shocking and revealing and are a must for any Vietnam vet and his family.

The third book, The Quiet American by Graham Greene is a different kind of book. That it has twice been made into a film says something about its message. On the one hand, it is a story of a love triangle set against the background of Saigon during the period following the French debacle at Dien Ben Phu. But if you had watched the first segment of the Burns film during which politicians, notably John Kennedy urge America to stay out of Vietnam, then the subtler message of this book resonates. Much like the other book of its time The Ugly American, the failure of American policy against a background of anti-colonial resentment is played out.

Ironically, the reception of both of these books at the time of their release was met by the raging of anti-communist hotheads of the McCarthy ilk. Of course, the Soviet Union was doing its best to destabilize the west, much as Putin and his ally Trump are doing today. But, like everything in the world, nothing is starkly black or white. No, what becomes troubling as one reads pronouncements laid down a dozen or more years before the Tet offensive, or the siege o Hue, or even the Christmas bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong in which I took part, is that the end was clearly spelled out. Nearly fifty-nine thousand Americans had to die to bolster up a strategy that was known to be flawed. The politicians who should have put a stop to this did not have the courage or political integrity to say “enough”.

Would Vietnam have fallen to Ho Chi Minh and Le Duan if we had never been there? Perhaps. What we should have brought to Vietnam was not weapons, but our checkbooks and our training. We are doing that now. Have you looked at where your clothing is being manufactured these days? If you buy at Kohl’s you will see ‘Made in Vietnam’ on the label. I had one of these “aha” moments the other day when I read the label on my new Ping golf clubs–Made in Vietnam.

A long time ago I made it my business to know and understand the foreign markets into which my clients were investing. I did this by walking around and seeing what was really happening. I would tell clients the reality of markets in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and even the then nascent Saigon stock market. Graham Alison wrote a book called Essence of Decision about the mistakes that were made in Cuban Missile Crisis based upon the bias of the decision makers. He pointed out that too often because the observer wanted to see a particular problem in a particular light, his or her judgement made it so, when too often quite the opposite was true. If you shoot at a peasant in a field from a helicopter and he runs, is he an enemy, or just scared? After he is shot dead, who will answer?

If only our leaders had done that with a view to understanding the reality of what the struggle of the Vietnamese was all about, a more peaceful and perhaps more useful period would have ensued and still our clothing and sporting equipment could have been outsourced there. I recommend all of these books to those who like me, would like to understand.



Whispers of Peenemünde

The Berlin – New Jersey Connection

When I set out to write Whispers of Peenemünde I wanted to highlight how far the German scientists working for Hitler had gone in developing rocket weapons long before the first Wehrmacht solider crossed the Polish frontier. My research into the work of Von Braun, Dornberger and the others intent on building a new class of weapons also led to a trove of information on just how much had been done in several countries during the interwar period to develop these weapons.

In the USA, Robert Goddard, often called the father of modern rocketry never had the official backing that many in Europe and the Soviet Union enjoyed. The American press often mocked the work of Goddard, comparing his quest for a successful rocket to Buck Rogers and other comic book characters. While we like to think that the Germans, finely tuned engineers and scientists were in the lead in this effort, others were making important contributions to the science.

As I point out in my novel, one of the critical developments in addition to just getting the rockets to fly, was the development of internal guidance systems. After all, rockets and rocketry had been used in warfare as far back as the Mongol Empire. The trick for the modern rocketeers was how to successfully launch a missile and get it to its target–hence the name guided missile.

Somewhat coincidentally, I was working on a way to bring Harry Braham back into the picture. Readers may remember that Harry had to leave Europe somewhat abruptly after he had wrecked the Luftwaffe’s attempt to launch a wire-guided rocket from a plane. Even his old friend Reinhard Stiffler suggested that it was time for Harry to give up his sybarite Parisian lifestyle and return to the States.

So, there I was, thinking about how to get Harry, the rocket men of Peenemünde and a bunch of Nazi spies together in New York just as the balloon went up in Poland. I also needed to fill in the time gap between when Harry left Europe and then reappeared in Zurich in 1941 as he did in the end of The Last Voyage of the Paramaribo Queen. Then I remembered something that my father had told me about watching his neighbors on Central Avenue in Westfield having a grand party when they heard that Hitler was on his way to Warsaw. Yes, Virginia, there were Nazis in colonial Westfield. In fact, between the large German community in Yorkville on Manhattan’s east side, a large contingent out in Yaphank on Long Island and the goose-stepper’s favorite resort, Camp Norland in Andover, New Jersey, the metro New York area was awash with Brownshirts and their fellow travelers in 1940. In fact, there was a scheduled train going out to Yaphank known as the Camp Siegfried Express. (The appearance of Nazi flags at Trump-inspired events should be of no surprise, Fascism has always been just under the veneer of politics.)

So, in the spring of 1940, while Hitler and Stalin gobble up Poland and the world waits for the next blitz to come, German agents slip into New York bent on stealing American secrets using blackmail, coercion and threats of reprisals against relatives of Americans who are caught in the occupied territories of Europe. Harry Braham and his cadre of friends and fellow anti-fascists go about trying to upend the Nazi plot.

Murder and mayhem break out on the streets of Manhattan and in the wilds of New Jersey as Hitler’s henchmen try to carry out their plot. The characters may be fictional, but the places and events are real in Whispers of Peenemünde. This and all of my other titles are available at Amazon.com in soft cover or for Kindle.

Coming next September – another Harry Braham adventure – The Last Klimt



Setbacks and Steps Forward

All of us face setbacks in life. The loss of a job, a friend betrays you, illness and a deal that falls through–all of these hit us hard. But the sudden and unexpected loss of a spouse is in an entirely different universe. I last posted to this blog a week before my wife was rushed to the hospital with what we thought was a severe case of flu. Ovarian cancer was the diagnosis and twenty-one days later she died. Who would have thought? We had been together for six years, married only four months. We were building our forever home, then she was gone.

That was over four months ago and I have been working on putting one foot in front of another and trying to breathe ever since. Clichés and mindless advice surround the survivor during the weeks that follow. They come in along with the remorseless demands of creditors and service-providers anxious not to miss a payment. People tell you that there are stages of grief, and perhaps there are, but what they don’t tell you is that they all arrive at once, like one of those packaged meals. You have to cook it all up at once and consume it before it turns into something worse.

At the depths of this process you learn, with a lot of pain, that you are all alone in your loss. People, people that you know and acted like friends begin to avoid you. No one calls, no one checks in. You are alone. The rooms of the house seem that much larger, emptier and silent. Grief becomes a silent process, that for me was shared only with the dog, her dog. Your birthday is forgotten, travel plans are cancelled and the hours hang, day after day.

Then, slowly you begin to understand, not about the death, but about your life. You have to begin to step forward. I write novels. Espionage and adventure novels. There are eight of them so far. Number eight is to be released in the fall. In order to channel my feelings of loss and abandonment I turned to the words I had begun to put on paper when Barbara died. It began as an excruciatingly slow process. I had to throw a lot out, rework some of the characters, revise time lines, all the stuff you do when you invent a story in your head.

As you begin to doubt everything, wondering if you can ever make a change, fate again intervenes. Someone says your name out loud. A stranger smiles at you and suddenly you aren’t so alone. Cautiously you begin to reach out. There is a certain tension, anticipation that forms a seal over the wound you carry.

Start writing, the voice tells you. And so you do. The memory of what you had and lost will never go away, but it will become a part of your story going forward. And maybe, just maybe you will find that one thing we all seek, love and the happiness it brings.

 

NEXT WEEK:

Next week I promise to post a chapter from the book I am now working on. It’s working title is The Lost Klimt. Meanwhile, all of my titles are available on Amazon.com

 



How Can a Historical Novelist Keep Up?

I must ask the question: how can a historical novelist keep up? With the barrage of fantastic inventions purported to be alternative facts clogging the sphere of information around us, what chance does a novelist have in creating believable plots set against historical facts? I mean, really, I work hard at making up plotlines and then I turn on the news and find that the talking heads across the political spectrum blabber along making up their own facts. At least I try to make my stuff believable. Not so with the axe-grinders and data fakers on TV and in the press.

Really, it is an insult to the genre! Here I sit, my IMAC glowing before me as I weave a story of intrigue involving real events and people only to see that all my work is eclipsed by a talking head in DC who looks eerily like Josef Goebbels. Did they send out to central casting for him? All this “might makes right” stuff was supposed to be trounced after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Now that the contents of the Pandora’s Box of extremism have been released and given oxygen, it will be hard for anyone with a reasonable plotline to succeed. After all, it will take a plot with a superhero who has the power to kill off the alt-right zombies to seem believable in the future. If this sound like whining, well, I guess I just must step up my game.

––

Up until today, February has been a gloomy, albeit warm month. Outside of a brief spate of snow which kept the talking heads at the TV weather centers on edge, here in the Garden State we have been lucky. No snow to shovel, no ice for me to fall on. Nice. Still, the absence of really bad weather has a negative effect. I am working on the dénouement of my next book and since the action takes place during a snowstorm, the absence of such furious weather makes my job all the more difficult. I guess it is an alternative winter to go with the alternative facts.

This lack of the Siberian effect is felt all the more today as the thermometer soared to seventy and I spent my post-prandial siesta on the deck hoping that the sun’s piercing rays might turn my winter-pasty skin a more healthful color.

I’ve reached that point of keeping track of the ages listed in the obituary headlines and noting how many younger people have been checking out lately. As a result, not looking like a corpse has been on my mind of late. When they convene the death panels I want to look like I am worth keeping–at least for a while.

––

Lastly, I suppose I must confess that popular culture is of little interest to me. By that I mean, the barrage of TV reportage that follows the nightly news and covers the peccadillos of the almost famous. The reason I mention this is that I have been criticized about setting my novels in an era over seventy years ago. This seems odd to me because two of the most popular TV shows involve the Dark Ages and Edwardian Britain. At the same time, a look at the Netflix listings show a plethora of WWII movies and TV dramas, often made in Europe with slow-paced subtitles crawling across the bottom of the screen. I suppose, it is easy to imagine characters and plots set against periods in which the facts are well-established rather than try to navigate through a sea of people exercising their fifteen minutes of fame.

Nonetheless, I may skip ahead a few decades in the next book. I just have to think my way back into a snowstorm to finish this one.

All of my titles are available at Amazon.com in softcover and for Kindle readers.



 

Evolving and Adapting

As I approach the downhill side of my eighth novel, The Friends of Harry Braham, I think it is time for me to move on, to evolve and adapt my stories along more current themes. Although there truly is nothing new under the sun, I live in the first quarter of the 21st century and though the nostalgia for the noir-like days of the 1930s and ‘40s has its appeal, it also has its limits for a writer.

For example, one must be ever so careful about dialog. Word usage and meanings change almost overnight and what seems perfectly acceptable in conversation today would seem odd coming from the mouth of a person in the pre-war years. Even that phrase, “pre-war” is limiting. Most of us know it means pre-WWII, but since we have had Korea, Vietnam, the Balkans, and nearly two decades of conflict in the middle east, what does “pre-war” mean, really?

What got me started on this tack was that I was writing dialog for the new book. For me, in order to write dialog, I must visualize everyone in the scene and what they are doing, their facial expressions and the like. Only then do the words flow, and even then I have to nudge and tweak the phrases.

So, I have come to the conclusion, that like my novel, Prowler Ball – A Yankee Station Sea Story, which I based on my own experiences flying in Vietnam, my next books should be based upon the real people and events that I lived through while traveling the world as an international banker.

I have mentioned some of these experiences in past posts and have even tried to incorporate some of the characters, albeit transported in time to suit my plots into my previous books. But given the recent furor over the Russian influence in American politics, the territory grabbing of the Chinese, the perfidy of the President of the Philippines, major scandals involving off-shore tax havens, major artworks unearthed from the hands of Nazi collaborators and the general mistrust of most of us with the pillars of our political-economic establishment, I have a whole palette of colors to blend onto my literary canvas.

The other inexorable driver of my evolution is TIME. It is simple, before my name appears in the papers not as a byline, but as a headline in the OBITs column, I have more tales to tell. I need to get busy even while I work on my backswing, I need to put the stories on paper with which I am most familiar, because I was there. Hidden Nazi loot, double dealing tax evaders, salesmen offering big ticket bribes to influence big ticket purchases, quiet conferences in sedate men’s clubs, irascible first-class passengers soliciting special favors from female aircrew, the entire lot is available for me to weave into stories. Irony, betrayal, anguish, despair, love, loss, hated and avarice are all on the table.

But, I should not get ahead of myself. I must finish The Friends of Harry Braham and get it to Judith, my editor. Still, peeking over the corner of my desk are the notes for The Lost Klimts. Art, the saga of lost and stolen art will fill these pages. I put that out there for anyone interested in keeping track of my work.

Check out my latest, Revenge of the Dragon Lady. You can find all of my novels at Amazon.com in softcover or for Kindle readers.



Memory

Memory. I have been giving a lot of thought of late to memory. No, not the issue of whether I am beginning to experience senility. No, I am dealing with the odd bits of memory that become silted over with the events of each passing day until we forget about the people we knew, the things that were said, the aroma of past meals, and even the way we felt. As with, I assume most people some incident or discovery in the back of a drawer or closet will cut through the clutter until we are again in that moment from so many years ago.

What I have been thinking of is whether it is worth rekindling those memories to share with others, or whether they would better remain tucked away and forgotten. Yet, the nagging feeling for me, someone who writes, is that the memories have some relevance to the current time, no matter how insignificant they might be to others.

My life has been lived in compartments. Four marriages, five children, twenty-five residences spread over nine states, jobs in thirty countries and nearly a year at sea–a gypsy’s life perhaps. Hard to explain to many, why that happened, but it did. One of the benefits of all that variation is that the subtle nuances of place and time have not been lost to me. They exist in memory.

As a writer of espionage fiction, much of what I have observed and learned can be worked into the plot lines of each story. Names, places, the kind of food I enjoyed, the weather, the smells on the streets–they all find a place somewhere, somehow.

When I come up with plot ideas, I take them from historical fact and then weave my fictional characters into the factual framework. Some fans know that I am writing a new novel based on the German rocket program Aggregat and the work being done at Peenemünde in the 1940s. Facts are facts and so I must keep to them. Interestingly, this book is not set in Europe or the Far East, but right here in the New York Metropolitan area, where I live. Hence, it is the memory I have of this place and the knowledge that I gleaned from living here for so long that provides the fabric of the story.

My characters’ life experiences are history with a small “h”. My history began after the war ended, so perhaps it is a stretch to understand the world of 1940. But, nothing overshadowed my childhood more than the shared experiences of the Great Depression and the War. Change did come after the war, it came rapidly, but in many cases the change was like a coat of paint applied over an old billboard. The original letters still could be seen through the whitewash. As the post-war boom took old I listened to the tales of places that existed and the people who inhabited them before the bull-dozers and graders eliminated old haunts.

In and around Westfield, you can still see vestiges of the old, despite the gaudy facades that now insult the eye. The old Glenview Tavern on North Avenue is now a family-friendly restaurant, in the old days it was a gin-mill where disreputable people met and rooms renting for the hour were available upstairs. My great aunt sang at the piano bar there, high as a kite, her soprano voice, kept from the stage by an iron-fisted father, entertaining the sots. Along the Jersey Central tracks, anthracite cinders spewed from the fire boxes of the last steam locomotives littered the roadbed. The upstairs bowling alley on North Avenue half a block from Louis’ Excellent diner still had pin-boys to set the pins after each frame. Cops stood in the middle of Broad Street at each intersection to direct traffic. We had a Carnegie library, now a dress shop and bookstore, lovers drove up to Watchung park to neck and look out over the lights. Guys who wanted to put their arm around their girls when they drove installed a “necker’s knob” on their steering wheel so they could drive one-handed.

Stores weren’t open on Sundays and things moved more slowly on weekends. But that is not to say things were idyllic. Far from it. It was only that without the 24/7 news cycle what was happening half a world away was not in your face. Some of it should have been though.

Up in Andover, a sleepy burg set along highway 206 the long reach of Nazi Germany was in full bloom. It was called Camp Norland and it was festooned with swastikas and Teutonic imagery of the master race and the new world order. Just at the end of Lake Aeroflex were camping areas, rifle ranges and a large building dedicated to the German American Bund. The same organization that was doing its best to subvert US-British relations had also created a place where youngsters of German parents could participate in an American version of the Hitler-Jügend and Bund Deutscher Mädel organizations that were turning the youth of Germany into fascist storm-troopers. Out on Long Island, in a place called German Gardens the streets were named after Adolf Hitler and Herman Göring.

Seventy-seven years may seem like a long time ago, but even as memories fade, the facts remain. In this next novel, The Friends of Harry Braham, the action takes place within fifty-miles of Times Square. Places that appear on today’s real estate maps as desirable places to live were once remote forests and idyllic farm fields. Out on the approaches to New York harbor U-Boats and armed merchant raiders prowled. When war did finally come, flames from burning tankers lit up the skies along New Jersey’s beaches.

In Friends, Harry’s comrades from previous adventures arrive in New York to help him foil plans set in motion by Reinhard Heydrich’s RHSD to steal secrets from America’s research labs to make the Reich’s new wonder weapons operational. Braham is up against seasoned German agents and a gang of thugs from the Bund in his attempt to thwart them.

Look for The Friends of Harry Braham next September.

All my other titles are available at Amazon.com in soft cover and for Kindle.



Winter

Across the street the trees, blackened branches, cast stark shadows of themselves against the houses. Snow has come and gone and the cycle of freeze and thaw has set in. Only eighty-nine more days until Spring officially arrives. The instinct to burrow down and hibernate is strong. And yet, I found myself out walking through the pale afternoon sunlight in an attempt to shake off the dullness of the day.

The wind rises and falls as I walk. Turning east, then south and west, then north and finally east again until I am home. Two miles or so, and when the sun is on my face, warm enough. The wind drops the temperature a few degrees so that when I am walking into it I can feel the sting through my flannel shirt. Turning downwind, even the slight exertion of walking warms me up until I reach an equilibrium. Cars pass, dogs bark in distant yards, the withered leaves rustle in the brush. Winter is a time for truth. Nothing is hidden in this season.

I have been here for six years, returning to my origins after years on the road. I had thought that, especially in that first winter, with my single-season California wardrobe, digging out of snow drifts and skidding on icy roads in my two-wheel drive pick-up that I would never stay. Never say never. Two Subarus later, with heated seats, mirrors, all-wheel traction and an array of winter clothes courtesy of LL Bean and Duluth, I am ready for anything.

Still, there is a quiet beauty that settles over the landscape in early winter. The fields are mown, hay baled and stacked and as you cruise the country lanes your eye can wander to the horizon, something that the hedge and tree rows block in other seasons. The eye can penetrate the heart of the woods and you can look far up streams and rivers to see the quiet turnings that summer’s growth shields. Walking along streets on a weekday afternoon, I am privileged to see into the lives of other people. Yards, tidied for the season, the lawn furniture draped against the wind’s blast seem to reveal their owner’s secrets. No vine or bloom obscures the ornaments or sculptures that wait as silent sentinels in the beds of ivy. Bird feeders, topped up with seed lure the winter host of feathered creatures, while in the grass below them squirrels scavenge up the spillage.

Here in the northeast, the light seems different in winter. Perhaps it is only in this season that the winds blowing down out of Canada can push the Schmutz out to sea. The clear sky has a translucence that even the brightest summer day fails to create. Sunrise and sunset, for now so much closer together bring with them low clouds on the horizon. Mauve, gray, slate and pink, these skyward striations create a show for those who can look up from their dash boards and smart phones to enjoy them.

The season has just begun and we have yet to face the grim reality of blizzards and ice-storms. The need to don several layers of clothes just to go to the mailbox is still ahead of us. We will soon be treated to the panic-inducing tones of the TV weather-guessers as they ply us with warnings about the next polar vortex. Then, once the snows come the cameras will turn to the poor location reporters, measuring sticks in hand who will prognosticate on the dangers of walking, driving or simply existing in this part of the world.

As for me, I can look out past my IMAC and watch the shadows play, and if the weather is too terrible conjure up a story that smells of fresh limes and tropical breezes.

My latest novel: Revenge of the Dragon Lady and all my other titles are available at Amazon.com.



Change of Venue

I am adopting a change of venue for my next novel, The Friends of Harry Braham. Instead of picking a European capital in which to set the action, I am sticking close to home. New York City and rural New Jersey will be the setting. As for the timing of the story, it will run from the fall of 1939 through the summer of 1941.

It is not that the events in Europe in the two years leading up to the entry of the US into the Second World War will be ignored. No, indeed it is those events that propel the story from Berlin, Warsaw and Peenemünde across the Atlantic and into the Big Apple. For those who believed that the activities of the supporters of the Third Reich were restricted to places like Prague and Vienna, the settings in this new book may be startling.

For example, the Long Island town of German Gardens, in what is now Yaphank, New York once boasted Adolf Hitler Boulevard and Herman Göring Streets. Houses there had swastikas set into their masonry fronts and Nazi parades were normal events. Up in the Yorkville section of Manhattan’s east side, bierkellers and hofbraus served up a mix of beer, brats and bellicose anti-Semitic rhetoric. The lure of the “New World Order” was well-accepted among the German immigrants of the area.

One place that piqued my curiosity was a place called Camp Norland, in Andover, New Jersey. Once upon a time, on the grounds now occupied by the local government and police offices a camp dedicated to creating an army of hundreds of recruits to the twisted cross flourished. In typical Hitler-Youth style young people of both sexes were sent to spend part of their summer vacations learning to march, sing and shoot so they could be ready for the great awakening that the Reich had planned for America. At the same time, the organizers and instigators of the activities at Camp Norland had more in mind than just teaching Aryan supremacy to willing children.

Back in the late 1930s Sussex county, New Jersey was about as remote as one could get. Located near Lake Iliff, off a back road and far from casual observers, the camp provided just the right atmosphere for stoking the fires of the German-American Bund. Like its brethren in the Ku Klux Klan, the Bund offered the extremists who applauded the global aims of National Socialism an open field upon which to display their twisted ideology.

That the place existed is well-documented and my first ex-father-in-law once told me about it when we were out and about on the county’s back roads in the 1960s. So, it came to me that there was no need to root around in European files for a likely setting, I had it right before me. In this book, Harry doesn’t have to go to Europe to find his villains, this time they come to him.

The period between the invasion of Poland in 1939 and the fall of France in the spring of 1940 was known as the “phony war” or “sitzkrieg” because until the Germans smashed through the Ardennes in May of ’40 inaction was the rule. Here in America, the public’s reaction to the war ran from indifference to boredom. The results of the World Series, and stories of the Hollywood elite captured more headline ink. Of course, those with relatives in the areas overrun by the Wehrmacht were quite worried, but the impact of another war for most Americans who had just come through the depression came in the form of jobs in the defense plants that were swinging into action.

So, keep your eyes on this website for updates. Harry is coming back!

You can find all of my titles on Amazon.com in soft cover and for Kindle readers.



The Friends of Harry Braham

Several books ago I left Harry Braham in a Zurich hotel room with his old nemesis/lover Valentina Koniev. It was the night of 7 December 1941, in Switzerland and not yet morning in Washington. For some time, I have been, like many novelists struggling with what to do with a situation that I created and published. There’s not much one can do to alter a passage that is already outiStock_000020894996XSmall there in print. So, I pondered about another idea. How about building a novel that incorporates that meeting? Good idea, but about what?

This is where fate steps in. An old friend from high school, now an esteemed professor at a prestigious university sent me an article that he had picked up on one of his annual trips to Krakow, Poland. It was an interesting piece about a ruined castle and the home of a Polish hero of the home army who had died at the hands of the Nazis. Well, though both parts of the narrative piqued my curiosity it was of course the part about the Nazis that got me thinking.

It turned out that this martyred hero, Anton Kocjan, had been an aircraft designer. He had built gliders before the Second World War and one of his designs was copied and adopted to become the infamous V-1 “buzz bomb” used by the Germans against England. Ok, interesting enough, but then I started digging and uncovered a treasure-trove of information on the German, Italian, Russian and American rocket development programs of the 1930s. Yes, the 1930s­–surprised? Well, I then asked myself the question: what would Harry Braham do?

Specifically, with his background in flying for the Pilsudski government in the 1920s that I wrote about in The Warsaw Express and his background in military aviation that I covered in The Rhinemaiden’s Song and The White Raven maybe Harry could come back once more.

I mulled about this for a couple of weeks and put some words on paper. They story was ok, but it did not have a theme, and anyway how was I going to work in Valentina? I wrote some more, trashed several thousand words and then it hit me. This was not going to be a story just about Harry Braham, because Harry never appears just solo in his stories. No, this time the book would incorporate as many of Harry’s friends and sidekicks as I could manage.

But then, where to begin? Do I start with the scene in his room at the Zum Storchen hotel, or do I start somewhere else? My brain went into overdrive until I hit on it. Since Harry had made it to Zurich at the end of The Last Voyage of the Paramaribo Queen, a book in which he was just a minor character, I would tell the story of how he came to be there and what happened after he arrived in Switzerland. Better still, here was a way to bring all the characters that I could into play. Not only Valentina and the lovely Arielle, but Harriet Kingman, her husband Tommy, Braham’s old mentor Raymond Kingman, the ever efficient Karl Lieberman, suave Jerzy Krol, but a cast of new people, spies, cabbies, scientists and several of the obligatory Nazi bad guys could be rolled into this one. Why not?

So, now that I had the who, I needed to weave in the where, why and what of the story. As for the where, think of Pomerania, New York, and Switzerland. As for the why, well let’s just say no one wants the Germans to build a strategic rocket. As for the what, there are stolen plans obtained through blackmail, the death of an innocent man and a world on fire from Pearl Harbor to Smolensk.

So, if you like the Harry Braham stories that I have written, I am hoping you will like this one as well. You can find all of my books at Amazon.com in soft cover or for Kindle.