Writing is by its nature a solitary pursuit so it should be no surprise that even with seven novels under my belt I continue to write and publish in obscurity. Unlike other artistic pursuits that require the observance of an audience, writing remains but a fleeting activity and once words are on paper they can remain hidden from view, unread until someone stumbles upon them. Locked in this vacuum I sometimes wonder why I go through the trouble. It certainly is not for the money.
I often compare my work to that of E. Howard Hunt, the one-time CIA agent and bumbling Watergate felon who bolstered his pension and pay from the Nixon administration by writing spy novels. The sale of his books only took off after he was apprehended by the FBI. Not that I have any nefarious operations on hand. My most active project is learning how to stand farther away from the golf ball after I hit it. Still, one wonders if the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity might apply to the sale of my books.
I fear, though at this stage of life anything I might contrive to do would simply engender a sad shaking of the head by most people. Perhaps photos of me staging a coup d’état at the weekly Rotary club meeting or donating my collection of hand-tied Colorado trout flies to the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame would gain a line or two. I might take just five of my fifteen minutes of fame. Ah, but alas the most I can do is keep on scribbling.
Having pushed out Revenge of the Dragon Lady last month and gaining a few favorable reviews I dragged myself back to the Mac to put together another tale. Maybe it was that August was perilously hot and humid, but I found myself writing a lot of words, but getting nowhere. My regular protagonist was last seen in Zurich having been discovered there by the mysterious Valentina Koniev on the evening of 7 December 1941. Ah, but where to go from there? That is the question.
Research, bloody research–that is where. I have been up to my neck with old maps, grainy photos and charts. Historical time lines have to be checked and then just when I think I have it right, I realize that I wrote the chapter to be set in January when I need it to be in July of the previous year. I have turned to clues that have been provided by friends and more have been uncovered as I have delved into related subjects. Peenemünde and its rockets, stolen art, nefarious Swiss bankers, double agents, false flag operations and the inevitable lure of the honey trap all spring to mind. Then there are all the characters that I have created, The Friends of Harry Braham I call them and think this may be a good title. After all, he has been in the field for over twenty years by the time America enters the Second World War. A tale of intertwining plots? Too much of a task for a hack writer like me, you say? Pshaw! Nothing to it! Except so far I have written and thrown away over 40,000 words–half a book.
The repository of random facts that is my brain is simmering and one hopes not curdling with ideas. Having finished in quick succession three books on the period in the last three weeks I am convinced that the topic of the war is one that will continue to provide grist for my word processing mill. After all, I don’t employ supermen, or zombies or bionic robots. I try to burden my characters with the foibles of ordinary humans. Fallible and sometimes foolish, they have to get up each morning and go about their jobs. Information has to be extracted, there is no instantaneous access for data. Planes fly at 250 mph and trains at sixty. Telegrams and telephones have lines that can be cut. Radio transmissions must be coded and rely on not being intercepted or discovered to be effective.
So, here I am sitting alone and imagining that I am hiding in the brush on the wrong side of a hostile border with a suitcase containing an illicit transmitter and a pistol. Beyond the fringe of shrubs, I can see my goal. Just a few meters of open ground and then safety. But wait, I hear the tread of footsteps coming toward me. I hunker down and through the branches see the legs of a man, a border guard in field gray. He stops and looks around. Then pulls a cigarette from a pack inside his jacket. Slinging his rifle, he screws the cigarette into his lips as he fumbles for a lighter. He stands there drinking in the scenery and puffing on his smoke. I remain frozen. I feel a sneeze coming on but I pinch my nose with my fingers and blow noiselessly against the inside of my mouth. The feeling passes, but the fear does not. Now the guard is moving again, off to the west and down the slope of the hill toward his guard shack. I pull myself up. It is now or never…
All of my novels are available at Amazon.com in soft cover or for Kindle.