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Australian War Fiction

Matt Strempel
Matt Strempel Author Interview

War of the Sparrows follows a WWII veteran struggling with PTSD as he sets out on a mission of redemption to stop a killer. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The story came from an idea I had about a girl who lives in a loveless home and discovers an attic full of her parent’s things from when they were young and happy. I asked myself, why are the parents miserable? My great grandfather was a Rat of Tobruk, a veteran from World War 2, so that seemed a logical place to start. I wanted there to be an additional layer to the story of a war-veteran father struggling with civilian life, and thought his desire and actions to redeem himself could provide that. Hence, the story begins with the historical abduction of a little boy; a crime that haunts the town and provides Frank the opportunity to earn his salvation. If he can find the man responsible, of course.

Frank is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Frank is a fixer who likes things to be orderly and well-maintained. He is meticulous in everything he does, from his house, to his job as a builder, to the injured birds he cares for in his aviary. But his psychological trauma prevents him from mending the relationship with his daughter. We know Frank is an inherently good man who wants to do the right thing but, after his experiences in the war, he believes he has a terrible price to pay to balance his moral ledger. He’s also in a unique position in terms of his military experience to be able to bring that about.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

1930s-1950s Australia is the setting for this book, a period of time that was in a coming-of-age for the nation. We lost our innocence in a way. People didn’t lock their doors, they were bouyant after the end of WW2, there was a sense of relief, and of pride in our valiant contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany. But I also thought it unrealistic that many of the returned men and women would just be happy to be home and get on with their lives unaffected. There’s plenty of recent work that explores PTSD in more modern conflicts, especially out of the US, but I haven’t come across much in the way of Australian fiction. The other thing I have often felt was that our Australian troops have always been lauded as soldiers beyond reproach but I thought it naive to think that our boys would have all served honourably at all times. While I was typesetting the book, it was announced there was to be an investigation into Australian soldiers and potential war crimes committed against civilias in Afghanistan. That really resonated with me and confirmed what I felt was a story that hadn’t really been explored, as I said, in Australian war fiction. Ultimately, in WOTS, we witness the loss of innocence of our protagonists and how each approaches the aftermath.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My next novel is another Australian story called Things are Always Blowing Up in Bangle. It’s a lighter-themed novel that I hope could be available in 2021, but with work and family, that will be a miracle. The hero of the tale is Douglas Jones, the town’s station master. A mild-mannered gentleman who loves his trains and his detective novels, Douglas becomes entangled in Australia’s most famous art heist when the getaway driver is revealed to be living nearby. Bangle is a (fictional) remote mining town in country New South Wales that is famous for two things: the red dust that coats everything, and the abandoned artilery range just out of town. Every night at dusk, kangaroos migrate across the range and detonate unexploded ordinace. So, as the old boys at the pub love to tell the visitors, ‘Between the mine and the exploding kangaroos, things are always blowing up in Bangle.’

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The guns of World War II have been silent for years, but for veteran Frank Miller, there is no peace.

It’s been almost a decade since Frank returned from the horrors of Tobruk a celebrated war hero. But, like so many veterans, he is a broken man. Witness to unspeakable atrocities, he is emotionally paralysed, tortured by guilt, and preparing a final mission to earn his salvation: bringing justice to a killer lurking in the neighbourhood.

Now, on the night of the Rats of Tobruk ten-year reunion, his darkest secrets are going to be uncovered. With a daughter as curious as Francesca, he was never going to keep them concealed forever; it was only a matter of time before she found the key to his hidden attic.

I Began to Wonder

Dave Mason
Dave Mason Author Interview

EO-N follows five lives on a gripping journey through the cruelties of war to the relentless pressures of corporate greed. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I’ve had a long fascination with archaeology and ‘things being found,’ and have always felt an odd connection to the events of the Second World War – maybe as a result of being the child of parents whose cities were bombed when they were kids. At some point I’d read a news article about a boy who’d discovered an aircraft, complete with pilot, buried in the mud of his father’s farm, and aside from the awe of that revelation, I began to wonder “what if?” What if that buried aircraft had contained things that had no business being there?

Your characters were intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I simply wanted them to be ‘real.’ The central characters are all just doing the best they can, with whatever they have, in difficult circumstances.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Some of the characters parallel each other, although they may be living in different decades or wearing different uniforms. Love and loss, courage and fear, guilt and redemption, and cruelty and kindness are universal to human experience, and luck (or lack of it) and the personal choices people make both weigh heavily in life. Sometimes it’s difficult to know which of those things is most responsible for an eventuality, or for a path taken or not taken. And finally, I wanted to explore the idea that human history may be painted with a broad brush (and usually on a massive scale), but most of it is actually made up of billions of actions taken by individual people. We may never know the massive consequences of our own tiny acts of courage or cruelty or kindness. But they matter.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m in the middle stages of a second historical fiction novel centered around the concept of freedom vs citizenship. When will it be available? Great question! Keep you posted.

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2019: Alison Wiley, a once-idealistic biotech CEO, is processing her new reality: she’s the last bud on the last branch of her family tree. On the heels of her mother’s illness and crushing death, a phone call from Scott Wilcox, a former combat medic turned government investigator, pulls her into a seventy-four year old mystery that begins beneath the surface of a Norwegian glacier.

1945: Squadron Leader Jack Barton, a cocky Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, flies combat missions over occupied Europe. Major Günther Graf, a war-weary and disillusioned Luftwaffe pilot, is trapped in the unspeakable horrors of Nazi Germany. Their paths, so different yet so similar, are connected by a young girl, a victim of appalling cruelty who may carry the promise of a better future.

As these five lives converge in a sweeping arc that takes readers on a tightly woven and gripping journey–from the destruction and cruelty of war to the relentless pressures of corporate greed–EO-N reminds us that individual actions matter, and that courage comes in many forms.

War of The Sparrows

After the gruesome events that took place in Tobruk, Libya; celebrated war veteran Frank Miller returns to his hometown to get on with his life. He gets a stable job and has a loving daughter. However, as happens with many war survivors, he suffers from PTSD. Frank is unable to emotionally connect with anyone and is haunted by the horrors he was forced to witness and commit. When the ten-year-reunion for Tobruk veterans takes place, Frank fears for his integrity as his darkest secrets resurface in the face of a curious daughter as she closes in on his attic and everything hidden within. So when a new mission in the deserts of northern Africa arises, Frank accepts in the name of redemption. Only this time rather than facing german troops he must find a feared child murderer.

War of The Sparrows is an emotionally-charged historical fiction novel. This stirring book by Matt Strempel narrates events of Tobruk during the second World War in an engaging and emotionally resonant manner. An event not as well known by many people but just as bloody and gruesome as famous dates such as D-Day. Frank Miller, our protagonist, is an emotionally detached Australian war veteran, and his character feels genuine throughout the novel and was someone I could really connect with. He is protective of his secrets and fears their exposure to his daughter. Francesca is Mr. Miller’s daughter, she is loving, curious, and intense at times but always with the intention of taking care of her father. What makes these characters feel real is that they are based off of the author´s actual family members, so he describes them in a way that is familiar and with a hint of his real emotions towards them.

The writing is beautiful, perfectly portraying PTSD and showing flashbacks of the events that caused it. Not only is the book quick-paced and entertaining to read but in a way it’s very educational on the events described. There are not many accounts of what happened during this time as opposed to the same old war stories we see in the media.

Reminiscent of Julia Navarro´s Tell Me Who I Am and perfect for fans of historical fiction and action/suspense. An amazing storyline, educational content, historically accurate events, and real and relatable characters all combine to make War of The Sparrows a story that is dramatic and engrossing.

Pages: 324 | ASIN: B08VKWCX3Y

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A More Satisfying and Enduring Read

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David Tunno Author Interview

Intrepid Spirit follows a disgraced Navy Lieutenant as he’s given command of an old warship and uses it and his intellect to stop a terrorist plot. What was the inspiration for the setup to your riveting story?

I combined my long-standing fondness for USS Constitution, US naval history and the age of sail with the events of 9/11. As Constitution was built to fight the Islamic terrorists of 200 years ago, it occurred to me to put her back in a fight that has apparently never really ended.

Moses Redding is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I wanted to distinguish the novel from the usual action/adventure military thrillers. I wanted it to be a more satisfying and enduring read. For that it had to have characters and human conditions the reader can relate to and become more emotionally involved with. I wanted to make the story as much character driven as plot driven. For that I needed a main character that needed a character arc to create conflict and resolution. He had to be a navy hero, suggesting an alpha male, but with a history and a complexity that creates both problems for himself as well as solutions for the broader conflict in the story. He was a lot of fun to write, especially the humorous parts. Making the ship herself a character that affects Redding’s transformation, and that he connects with, was key to completing that arc and setting Redding on a course to fulfill a destiny for the both he and the ship.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The most important one was the creation of a terrorist plot that was both global in scope and believable. I wanted the stakes to be as high as possible. A lot of research went into learning, for example, the number of terrorists organizations operating here in the US and around the world. That was eye opening, as was researching the relevant parts of the Qu’ran and the interpretations of them by Muslim scholars.

To carry out that plot, I wanted an antagonist who would be the equal of Redding. To lead a world-wide jihad, he would have to be brilliant and ruthless, but also charismatic and with a special quality that would destine him to that role. That need created Colonel Farzad, who prompted more research into mid-east politics and Islamic beliefs to build an authentic and very special character. Even that special quality he needed was the result of research into celestial events in that region in a year when Farzad could have been born, as well as Islamic culture with respect to such events.

Romance and magic were also important themes and, let’s face it, they go together. Sailing is a very romantic experience and I would ad a magical one at that. Constitution’s history includes recorded episodes of haunting. That played into my desire to make her a character in the story and one that affected not only the character arc of Redding, but the outcome of the epic battle itself. I wanted her to be like a giant sea creature with a cosmic connection who is seemingly aware of the humans riding on her decks and her place in history. Much to his surprise, Redding develops a kind of love affair with the ship that parallels his relationship with Dr. Miriam Hanna, another complex character with a history of her own that creates barriers between herself and Redding.

Finally, history itself was an important theme. The story ties the ship’s history, which is also the origins of the history of the US in the middle east, with the present day geopolitical landscape in that region, adding a hook and a twist to the story that I think only Constitution could provide.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m working full time to get this novel published. All my energy is going there, but I have another military story in mind to write next. It’s a WWII story that will also need a lot of research, but should be both challenging and fun to write.

Author Link: Website

Intrepid Spirit

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Intrepid Spirit is an intense read featuring all-too-real scenarios relating to current world affairs. Author David Tunno’s story is a gripping present-day naval fiction. The fierce, vibrant tale of the old Constitution and its fallen hero to fight a battle as their reputation is at stake and the lives of many people are in danger. The story is set in the modern world with historical elementals as an ornamental background. Lieutenant Moses Redding, a brave combat-loving officer, is given the command of the Constitution as a punishment for not following orders. Still, significant challenges and grand purpose lie ahead.

The story starts with a tense battle between the crew of the USS Constitution and a terrorist group that is determined to undermine peace and create unrest in the name of their religion. The preventive diplomacy and political leaders are trying to resolve tensions within the mid-east, this gives the story a some subtle undertones of political intrigue that adds to the overall thrill of the novel. The hero is a navy lieutenant, who tried helping stranded refugees, even after disapproval by his superiors, but fails and is punished  because his actions are believed to have jeopardize those talks. He’s banished to the command of the Constitution, an epic historical warship currently in Italy on a goodwill PR tour, used almost as a tourist attraction, which is practically derogatory for a brave and distinguished war hero. But as fate has it, certain circumstances lead to events where the ship and its crew are the only fighting forces in a position to rescue the US Vice President from a terrorist group bent on lighting the fuse on a world-wide jihad by assassinating her. This is a fantastic setup to a suspenseful novel because it seems so antithetical to what actually happens. This reminds of the setup to the TV series Battlestar Galactica, but a much more contemporary story line.

Author David Tunno has a charming and compelling writing style. His characters include both living people as well as nonliving objects. He gives life to objects, and they are as crucial as human characters. The book sometimes doesn’t strictly adhere to consistent timelines, and the buildup of the story is occasionally frantic, but as the story picks up, it engulfs you in its world. The only issue I had with this book was introducing too many characters together at places, probably because it was initially written as a screenplay, which was then turned into a novel. Besides this, the book is a genuinely entertaining read. The author creates a story with a high level of sensory details and actions rather, completely immersing you in the story and the action.

Intrepid Spirit is one of the most thrilling books I’ve read this year so far. The political tension and intrigue coupled with hair-raising action, geopolitical chess, and cutting-edge technology make it an enjoyable book for anyone looking for a suspenseful military action novel that never forgets to entertain the reader.

Pages: 343

 

The Intrepid Spirit manuscript is currently in search of a publisher or book agent. Contact the author at david@tunno.com.

 

Love and Sabotage

Love and Sabotage by [Martha Tolles]

Love and Sabotage follows Marty Gregg, a new graduate beginning her first job. She is a female journalist in what is still a man’s world. To further complicate Marty’s life, her fiancé is away at war, stationed in the pacific during WWII.

This is a story that is easy follow, which is certainly a benefit in a mystery novel as riveting as this one. The novel is narrated by our captivating young protagonist Marty, and we follow the trials and tribulations she faces working in a male dominated industry whilst constantly awaiting word from her fiancé. As she follows a breaking story readers are treated to glimpses of the quaint town she lives in, and the complex relationships she has. There are delightful descriptions of the town, including many descriptions of the houses and buildings, as well as the gardens and trees. Author Martha Tolles cleverly integrates several community features such as the library that makes the setting feel realistic and like a character on its own. Set during World War Two, most of the references to technology, clothing and speech are consistent with this time period, which allows the reader to be immersed in the story.

I enjoyed the main characters in this story and felt that they were well developed. Marty, the young female journalist pinning for her fiancé Eddy who is away at war, feels like a trope but its given much more dimension with Marty’s unique personality. She is clearly dedicated to her job, this is shown by her thoughts, her conversations with others, and actions. However, it is clear that being a young female journalist during the war can be difficult in what is still essentially a man’s industry. We see her hesitation in dealing with her employer’s sexual overtones, as well as other men who are not accustomed to working with women. Understandably, her fiancé Eddy is never far from her mind, however we never really learn much about him. Another complex relationship is the relationship between Marty and her friend Grace. Their relationship encompasses both a personal friendship and a working relationship. We see Grace authentically try to support her friend from her employer’s advances, whilst still maintaining her own professional relationship with him. It’s a relationship that I thought was intriguing and wanted to see more of.

Love and Sabotage is a mystery novel that is easy to read and, because of that, is easy to get wrapped up in. The setting descriptions allow the reader to immerse themselves both in the town of Rye and the circumstances for civilians living in WWII. Fans of historical fiction will find plenty to enjoy in this compelling novel?

Pages: 182 | ASIN: B07MHQXKJT

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Tempest of Bravoure: Kingdom Ascent

Tempest of Bravoure: Kingdom Ascent by [Valena D'Angelis]

The golden kingdom was a shining hope and a place for uniting races. Now it is under the oppression of dark and deadly forces. Prophecies couldn’t stop this dark prince from striving for power, and now he wants to rule all. Who can stop him? The runaway mage Ahna who is hiding something? The Resistance? Can the soldiers unite and take the kingdom back for good, or will secrets tear everything apart?

Tempest of Bravoure sets up a thrilling adventure novel that is brimming with imaginative characters. I love epic fantasy tales, and I love when people realize that they either need to fight the bad guy or the bad guy will oppress you until you’re all dead anyway. In these types of stories, you see human characters emerge and the power of the human spirit is tested. I thought I was going to like Ahna right away. Her character was written in such a way that even though you know she’s hiding things, in most cases, you would still want to root for her. I found her character slightly annoying sometimes and could understand why some of the other characters would fight with her (like Cedric). Other times I felt for her character and wanted to cry for her. With other characters and their sad fate, I did cry and felt that their ending was too painful, but it compelled me to keep going and finish the book to find out what happened to the rest of the characters. Cedric, in particular, was one character that made me cry because his character teaches you so much, and his story with Ahna was beautiful. This is definitely a story for readers who enjoy intriguing and well developed characters. There’s an interesting plot at the heart of this story, but I felt like the characters were the star of the show.

While I enjoyed the world building and intricate lore embedded in the world, I felt that the story got a bit confusing at times. In rare moments I wasn’t sure who was doing what and for which reasons. I bit more succinct exposition at the right moments would have provided some clarity. Otherwise, this is a fast paced novel that fits well within the epic fantasy genre. Author Valena D’Angelis has written a story that feels like there’s so much more to be explored. Highly recommended to fans of military fantasy novels.

Pages: 284 | ASIN: B08FXWDX3N

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Finnegan Found: Surviving the POW Camps on the Yalu

Finnegan Found: Surviving the POW Camps on the Yalu by [John N. Powers]

The Korean War was fought between communist North Korea supported by the Chinese and the soviets, and South Korea supported by the United States. Known as “the forgotten war” for its lack of media coverage, The Korean War was incredibly bloody; but the main thing the war is known for is its enormous amount of American prisoners of war and the brutal treatment they received while under communist captivity.

Finnegan Found by John N. Powers is a historical fiction novel that follows the story of Paul Larson, also known as “Swede”. A nineteen year-old boy born and raised on a farm in Minnesota, who joined the Army in order to broaden his limited opportunities and save for university. When he is captured as a POW and sent to the war camps along the Yalu River by the North Koreans, Swede must endure terrible death marches under dangerous weather conditions where many soldiers died, physical torture, and eventually go through forced “mental conditioning” which consisted of lessons where soldiers were taught to hate capitalism. His resolve is tested countless times and the reader really gets to feel the emotional stress that he is under. His perseverance is one of the things that was truly amazing and I appreciated how well his character portrays this trait while still feeling authentic even under some stressful situations. This is a character driven story, and one with impacts that we can see today. This novel does a fantastic job of relaying the harsh realities of a dangerous time in a exotic location.

It’s amazing how author John N. Powers managed to collect so many real testimonies from those who lived the war and morphed them to form a single experience that realistically portrays the brutal treatment of POWs in the Yalu prison camps. While the topic approached throughout the novel could make for a very heavy read, with all the context needed beforehand. The author managed to write beautiful descriptions that make the situation understandable for any reader no matter how limited their knowledge on the Korean War. He captures the essence of life as a prisoner of war as described by the survivors who have opened up about their past.

Finnegan Found has incredible descriptions and a thrilling plot. It is highly recommended for historical fiction fans or really anyone interested in learning more about the Korean War or the long battle between communism and capitalism.

Pages: 445 | ASIN: B08BC2F76C

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