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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.

The Light from Darkness

The Light from Darkness: A Story of the Civil War (The Life and Redemption of Teddy Miller) by [John Bebout]

The Light From Darkness follows Teddy Miller who, after years of sending unanswered letters to his father, decides to break his father out of Fort Jefferson, a behemoth of a prison. Author John W. Bebout has written a fast-paced action-adventure novel with lots of sharp twists as Teddy gets himself into more trouble than he anticipated.

The Light From Darkness is a short novel but suspenseful historical adventure novel that captures the heart of the reader and guides them Teddy’s emotional turmoil. Readers are provided with a quick section at the beginning of the story to know what Teddy sets out to do and from there the adventure begins, many things open up to Teddy and challenge him which makes him feel guilty, unsure, and lost. Most of these moments will pull at readers heart, if not fully allowing them to empathize with the character.

This is a fast paced story of the Civil War that sets a quick pace early on that rarely stops for details. The charm and humor embedded within the story provides a nice contrast to the emotionally-charged adventure that Teddy sets out on. Numerous times I found myself chuckling or grinning. This made the atmosphere a bit more light-hearted and fun in contrast to some heavy moments. This all paired well with the prose which was simple and easy-to-read, which works especially well with short novels.

The author effectively made the setting both grounded and vibrant even with the tense undertones of opposing cultures and peoples existing. This was achieved through the side characters being fun and lively while also making clear how uncaring and, at times, destructive nature can be, especially when at sea for long periods of time. Even when Teddy was not at sea, he seemed to stay close enough which allowed for new characters to be introduced while still holding love for the ocean.

The Light From Darkness is a riveting historical fiction novel that follows an intriguing character on an unforgettable journey that readers will certainly enjoy.

Pages: 193 | ASIN:  B08SHTPCSP

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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.

EO-N

EO-N by [Dave Mason]

Having just lost her mother, Alison realizes just how lonely she is in the world. Her frustrations are compounded by the pressures at work as she struggles to keep her investors happy. While she tries to navigate these turbulent waters of grief and anxiety, another deeply unsettling situation crops up. Fragments of the last known aircraft flown by her grandfather before he went missing more than 70 years ago turn up in Norway. As the last known relative of the ex-Royal Air Force pilot, she chooses to link up with the investigative team trying to find out what had happened to her grandfather. For Alison, this soon becomes more than just a chance to find closure. The mystery surrounding the case brings back the familiar feeling of having nagging questions but finding their answers painfully elusive. This case must be solved because Alison wants some answers for a change.

Dave Mason’s EO-N is a thriller in every sense of the word. The Canadian author serves up a delightful cocktail of mystery, suspense, and excitement in his debut novel. To tell his story, Mason simultaneously narrates the events of the past and present. The switch between the different but connected periods adds extra intrigue as you anticipate their point of convergence. The structure is great, and the language is so apt that it helps you really experience the story.

EO-N is an engaging story where Mason relies on familiarity and resonance to keep his readers engaged. I found myself nodding in agreement as certain characters reflected and talked on several occasions. In case you’re wondering what familiar and thought-provoking ideas the book holds, I’ll share a bit. It reminds us that despite our attempts to make sense of the world, we never seem to settle the questions that really matter. I’m referring to those pesky queries that gnaw away at our minds in the dead of night, like “why are we here”, “why do we have 7 billion intelligent beings roaming a planet”, “why’s life so darn hard”, and “why do we have to lose the ones we love?” The book also alludes to finding purpose and how even the littlest sighting of something worth living for can pull us out of a rut, energize us, and set us on a new path.

EO-N is a thought-provoking, emotionally resonant, historical fiction novel that is consistently entertaining and has a depth to the story that will appeal to anyone looking for a meaningful story.

Pages: 298 | ASIN: B08LBRVL7B

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The Korean POW Experience

John N Powers
John N Powers Author Interview

Finnegan Found is a fictional account of the true horrors of Chinese POW camps from the Korean War. Why was this an important book for you to write?

When I met and became friends with the men called the North China Marines, men who were captured in China on 7 Dec 1941, I found something very unsettling to me. Their wives and children knew very little about their time as POWs. I came along at a time when they were finally willing to talk to someone willing to listen. My background as a Vietnam veteran and a history teacher, with at least a beginner’s knowledge of the POW experience, meant those men were willing to give me the details. I found it unacceptable so little was known to the public about their experiences. As a result, I created northchinamarines.com for family members to discover details they had missed. I then did some writing for the American EX-POW organization and found the same set of circumstances existed for families of our POWs from Korea and Vietnam. Those details went into the creation of the book, more a document than book, Bean Camp to Briar Patch-Life in the POW Camps of Korea and Vietnam. It is the only single source of information on all the major camps in both of those wars. The Korean POW experience especially bothered me. They came home to find themselves blamed for their own captivity. The media made them out to be weak, not the caliber of our veterans from other wars. When Bean Camp to Briar Patch was ignored, I decided to turn to fiction as a means of getting the Korean War POW story in front of the public. I believe the novel accurately presents the story. Now my job is to get that story recognized. Those men have gone long enough without the recognition they deserve.

I appreciated the candid and accurate nature with which you relayed POW experiences. What were some aspects you felt needed to be accurate and what did you take liberties with?

It was important to me to be highly accurate throughout the story. As a history teacher, the historical part of the novel is the story. The only liberties I took were in some of the actions of Swede. The sinking of the B-29, the burning of the records, the taking of the photographs of radar equipment, and his rescue of Mike Randall were completely fictional. As I explain in an addendum, details throughout the story are based on facts. Some characters in the story were real people, utilized to tell the facts of their story. To be honest, I glossed over some aspects of the treatment the men received. I have found some people will not believe what is sometimes required to survive horrific circumstances. Or they will be so upset by the facts they will put the book down and never pick it up again. So at times I just hinted at what took place.

What were some themes you wanted to focus on in this book?

Most important to me was historical truth, even if that meant portraying an individual or group in a negative light. I have never written a novel before. I really did not sit down and decide on specific themes I thought might give the story more appeal. I simply wanted to tell what I feel is an important story. I also wanted to correct a wrong inflicted on those men by a military and government that did not want to face their own shortcomings.

Paul Larson is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided his character development?

I needed a character I could like to help tell this story, a character with a built in strength to carry him through. A character who had been raised by strong characters. “They” say you should write what you know. I know mid-West farm culture. I knew the details of the story from my research on my first book. I needed characters that I “knew” to help in telling the story. Many of the main characters have a combination of traits of people I served with during my time in the military, again both the good and the bad.

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A story untold. Left in the dark. For seventy years. This novel tells that story, shines a light on that darkness.
They were beaten, starved, and kept in cages with little medical care. The Chinese POW camps of the Korean War brought out the best, and the worst, in men. Young Swede fights for himself and his fellow captives, determined to survive with his pride and honor intact.
First, he has to survive the deathly cold of the first winter, when half the prisoners die. Once he is allowed to join the other prisoners, he teaches them to resist, becoming one of the worst of the men the Chinese fear – the Reactionaries.
Described by readers as “hard to put down,” and “riveting.” “I thought Finnegan Found was a towering novel” that “takes its place alongside the great war novels such as All Quiet on the Western Front.”
Forgotten for seventy years. Now is their time to be remembered.

Universal Human Elements

Miles Watson Author Interview

Miles Watson Author Interview

Sinner’s Cross is a gritty look at WWII and the toll it took on a group of soldiers. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

When I was much younger, I read a book by Charles Whiting called The Battle of the Huertgen Forest. It read just like a novel, and provided a horrifying, unrelenting look at this massive battle which killed 26,000 men, which somehow I had never heard of. I gradually began to understand that the reason the Huertgen Forest Campaign was unknown to the American public was because it neither began nor ended well, and saw many lives lost for very little return. It seemed tragic to me that only men who died in “glorious” battles are remembered or honored the way they ought to be. I wanted to tell their story, but in a way that concentrated on the universal human elements.

Each of your characters were well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?

All of them had their pleasures and their pains. The emotional arcs of Breese and Zenger were rather tough for me to write because they were suffering so much — Breese from fear, Zenger from doubt. Halleck was fun because he is so tough, but also so taciturn that all of his emotions are beneath the surface. Sinner’s Cross is a WW2 story, but Halleck is a classic Old West cowboy at heart. Anyone who says writing cowboys ain’t fun is lying to you.

I enjoyed how historically accurate this book is. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure the books authenticity?

I’m a history buff, have a degree in history, and possess an immense library of books on WW2, including a collection of material printed during the war by both America and Germany. Whenever I needed information, that was where I started.

However, I am of the opinion that if you want to read a genuine account of a battle, that’s what history books are for. Novels are there to put you inside the experience, and the best way to make situations real is to nail the small details — what type of tobacco the Germans smoked, what type of music the Americans listened to, what happens when a hundred pounds of high explosives hits a tree at supersonic speed. I am very proud to say that I’ve had veterans of the Army and Marines both, guys who fought in wars from Vietnam to Iraq, congratulate me on getting the atmosphere right.

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

I like to write in every genre, and right now I’m trying to finish an epic horror novel I’ve been toiling on for 2 1/2 years. I have several months of work ahead of me just to finish the first draft, so it’s anyone’s guess when it will see the light of day. However, the sequel to Sinner’s Cross is in the final drafting process as I write this, and I intend to release it in October of this year.

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Sinner's Cross: A Novel of the Second World War by [Miles Watson]In 1944, Sinner’s Cross was just a point on a map: a muddy track through shell-torn German woods. Worthless…except to the brass on both sides of the war, who are willing to sacrifice their best men to have it. Men like Halleck, a tough-as-nails Texan who traded driving cattle for driving soldiers; Breese, a phenomenal actor who can play any part but hero; and Zenger, the Nazi paratrooper who discovers Hitler’s Germany is a lousy place to grow a conscience. Their lives and deaths will intersect at the place called Sinner’s Cross.

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Sinner’s Cross

Sinner's Cross: A Novel of the Second World War by [Miles Watson]

Sinners Cross, by Miles Watson, is a deeply captivating historical fiction novel of the Second World War. This is an action packed story detailing the horrors of war and the people that must endure them.

This is not a watered down version of war, the battles are chaotic and gritty. I appreciated Mile Watson’s ability to place me in the field with the soldiers. The story focuses on a collection of well developed characters, each with their own issues not completely unique but well drawn and expertly unraveled before the reader. Having such well defined characters made me appreciate the terrible way in which war changes people.

The book is set in Germany during the Second World War and told from the point of view of soldier on the ground. We get to know what they fear, their motivation, how it feels to take the impact of a sniper bullet to the head only for it to be stopped by a M1 Helmet. How one would survive the cold in a fox hole knowing the chance of living to see the following day comes down to an unhealthy probability. To how your ears ring when you are accidentally within the range of an explosion. Sinner’s Cross is full of these types of details only soldiers can tell you.

The book begins with two characters, Duffy and Halleck, who have been fighting Germans for a while now. Each lost in their own thoughts, they engage in a sporadic and thinly worded conversation. Whenever Halleck’s drifts back to his thoughts, they give the reader a glimpse into the hopelessness of their predicament when he refers to their reinforcement as mere replacements. As a veteran I can appreciate the clarity with which the author paints the picture of war and how a soldiers mind might race.

This book was exceptional in it’s ability to make me question, not necessarily the motives of war, but the motives of those in charge of the battles in war. How human ineptness is either waned or magnified under such monstrously strenuous conditions.

I’m surprised Sinner’s Cross is a historical fiction novel. It’s full of historical details and military jargon that, I felt, were spot on, if not believable. This is an exceptional novel that is consistently entertaining, although dark it fits with the tone of what is a dark time in history. Any armchair historian will love this book.

Pages: 284 | ASIN:  B07YS4T3TB

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