Front Porches to Front Lines uses the story of your great grandparents to tell a larger story about a small town affected by WWI. What was the inspiration that made you want to put this story into a book?
There were actually several inspirations which motivated me to turn my great-grandparents’ story into a book. Perhaps the most basic of these is simply the fact that I love history and thoroughly enjoy doing the research and writing about it. With that being said, the best way to cover all of the inspirations behind this book can probably best be told by talking about how the book began in the first place.
Front Porches to Front Lines is actually the expansion of a college essay with a similar title. I had always heard from my mother that there was letter somewhere in a box which talked about what took place on Armistice Day in 1918 in the small town of Springfield, Vermont where my great-grandparents were living at the time and I’d always hoped that I would find it someday. When I re-enrolled at the University of Connecticut in 2014 to finish my B.A. in American Studies I made up my mind that I wanted the remainder of my coursework to include an independent study project which would be completed under the guidance of a faculty advisor. Fortunately I found this letter and soon after found an advisor in Dr. Walter Woodward, a professor at UConn and the State Historian of Connecticut.
During the Fall 2014 semester, I researched World War One and the subsequent Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and in turned used the letter about Armistice Day and about 300 more family letters to tell the story of my great-grandparents’ experiences at this time as a microcosm of how the war and epidemic impacted people on the local, regional, national and international levels.
While, one of my biggest inspirations to write this book was to record my family’s story, I chose to tell this story in particular because of the wealth of primary resource material available to me and also to help expand the knowledge and scholarship of a chapter in the history of the United States which in some ways has gone largely overlooked until recently.
Lastly, I chose to turn this story into a book because it simply kept me busy with something I enjoyed doing. Since finishing my degree in the spring of 2016, my job hunt has been largely unsuccessful and expanding the essay which was my “senior thesis” of sorts into a book had given me a project to focus on amidst my bad job prospects. Plus, I was also of the belief that it would make my resume stand out in the future in a way that not many recent undergraduates’ resumes do. However, these last reasons are all somewhat secondary to those mentioned above.
I enjoyed the historical information provided in the book. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?
The scope of my research for this book was very broad and in fact I learned a lot of doing research and research methods on the fly while compiling the materials for Front Porches to Front Lines. The bulk of my research, about 60% of it, involved the careful analysis of the letters between my great-grandparents as well as those written between other family members and a few of their friends as well. I feel very fortunate to have had such an archive at my disposal while writing my book because it’s those letters which make up the majority of the family story which is at the center of the book.
Aside from the analysis of the letters, I conducted a handful of interviews, one with my great aunt, who is my only living relative at this time who knew all of the family members referenced in the book; I also interviewed the couple who run the historical society in Springfield, Vermont on two occasions to get a sense of what materials the town had left from the World War One era; and lastly, I interviewed a number people who had lived in Springfield during the first half of the 20th century and had some recollections of stories their parents and relatives had told them about Springfield during the 1910s.
I spent many hours in the public library in Springfield going through the microfilm they had copies of their local newspaper going back to World War One and was an excellent source of soldier letters as well as advertisements relating to both the war effort as well as the many remedies people were trying to cure themselves of the Spanish Flu. I spent time combing the objects and other materials at the Springfield Art and Historical Society and lastly, I used any primary source material related to war that I could get hands on along with a handful of pictures and other items from my family’s records.
What were some things that you found surprising about your grandparents lives?
To be honest, the majority of the information about my great-grandparents’ lives which I included in the book was all new to me. Since the location of their letters had been somewhat unknown for such a long period of time and since my family didn’t talk about many of the aspects of their lives that were detailed in these letters, much of what I learned from them was both new and surprising. For instance many of the down to earth details about daily living during this tough chapter in our nation’s history left me both surprised and amazed, especially given the circumstances of the world in which I grew up in the 1990s and 2000s. I was repeatedly left in awe of my great-grandparents’ ability to press on from one day to the next, when under the constant threat of a potential German invasion, the rapid spread of an infectious disease or both.
One particular episode during the 1910s which I found particularly curious actually was referenced in a letter between my great-grandmother and her sister. In this letter, my great-grandmother’s sister talks about hearing former president Theodore Roosevelt speak at a rally to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide. Given, my family’s rather apolitical stances on things, it was surprising to find out that any of them participated in any event that was about an issue which didn’t directly threaten their lives or the nation’s security.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have just begun the research for my next book, which at the moment is going to be a more comprehensive look at Armistice Day and how that day was celebrated around the world. However, since I am also in the process of getting ready to go back to graduate school, I do not have a good idea as of yet as to when that book will be completed and made available. I know that some of it will depend on my graduate school commitments as well as my ability to amass the resources I need to complete this project and do the topic justice.
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World War One and the 1918 Influenza Epidemic. Two events which will alwaysdefine the 1910s, a decade which saw great political and social change; a long list ofdisasters and a realignment of the global stage, something which would help define manyof the subsequent events of the twentieth century. When the United States declared war onGermany on April 2, 1917, it was just the first of two major calamities which would in someway impact just about every American man, woman and child during the latter half of the1910s.The second of these wars, the Spanish Influenza of 1918, came right on the heels of theGreat War’s conclusion on November 11, 1918 as many of the returning soldiers camehome with the influenza virus, having caught it either in Europe or sometime during thejourney home from France. Front Porches to Front Lines tells the story of how the citizensof one small New England town, came together to confront these two wars and in doing sobecame one of the most generous towns when it came to contributing to the war effort inthe form of Liberty Loans, war gardens and war supplies as well as dozens of soldiers, RedCross nurses and civilian workers, such as machinists.
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David Crane’s Boomerang Will Not Return is a time-travel book set in both the 21st century and 1942-era Germany. It involves three central characters named Stugel, Hartmann, and Crown. One day, Hartmann and Crown fly a secret military plane to deliver cargo to the United States. They were chosen to test it and successfully take off into the skies of Germany. However, soon after flight the bomber gets warped into 1942 Germany due to the influence of a time bending comet. There, they’re intercepted and need to find a way to escape. Hartmann must use his wits and work together with Crown to successfully escape the clutches of their enemies.
You can tell that David Crane has down his research by how in-depth he goes with the weapons and environment of the past. I loved how suspense was kept throughout the book with Hartmann and Deana Crown’s efforts to get through wartime Germany. I personally think the subplot with busting the Russian spies was highly entertaining. However, even with the suspenseful action I didn’t feel it warranted as much attention. It distracted from the main plot line. I would have wanted to see more of the main plot line with our two heroes, as it was much more engaging. There were times in the book where I was left unsure of whether the heroes would actually come out unscathed or not. There was a bit of foreshadowing that let me down, but otherwise the suspense palpable throughout. The interactions that Stugel had with our central characters were interesting, even in the past. Their relationship actually seemed realistic and not forced. Deana and Hartmann were also well-structured, having skills which made them seem balanced and not overpowered. They were also human, having actual worries and even moments of doubt. Emotion like that isn’t seen a lot in spy or government involved movies. Another thing I really found interesting was how the book didn’t represent all of the enemy soldiers as bad, which was a nice contrast from other books which involve the prewar environment.
Crane managed to write a book that captured both sides of the fight. The way he represented the secret government services were all pretty well done. I found this book to be both entertaining and interesting.
Pages: 209 | ASIN: B00LAD30EE
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Simon I. Perlsweig’s historical account of the lives of the author’s great grandparents and the communication between them shows a great deal of what life in Springfield, VT was like in the 1910’s. It is very possible that without this work, much of what Perlsweig writes about in Front Porches to Front Lines: One Small Town’s Mobilization of Men, Women, Manufacturing, and Money During World War One, would never have been pieced together. It is a real pleasure to be able to experience this slice of history. Simon Perlsweig does this astoundingly and it is clearly evident that he put his heart and soul into his work.
Perlsweig’s book takes readers to Springfield, and more importantly, into the lives of a couple whose lives were greatly affected by WWI. There was, of course, the impact on the couple in question, Lawrence and Gladys, but readers are shown how everything else in the small Vermont town was changed forever, as well, and to make matters worse, war wouldn’t be the only problem faced by this couple.
Historically speaking, this work is a gem. There is a wealth of information on virtually every aspect of life in the United States in the early 20th Century, and even when the familial part of the work is not considered, Front Porches to Front Lines holds its own as a historical text due to the attention given to the social, economic, and political issues, among many more.
The research is thorough, and the writing style employed by the author is academic, while at the same time being accessible to a diverse audience. With such a breadth of information contained within the pages of this book, it’s definitely a plus using language that is not too complicated.
Another aspect of the book that many readers should enjoy is the fact that there is a large amount of authentic memorabilia from the period, including recruiting posters, family photos, government documents, and much more.
Simon I. Perlsweig’s Front Porches to Front Lines, published by Husky Trail Press LLC, is certainly a work that should not be ignored. It is not everyday that we are invited into the human experience of those who lived through one of America’s most trying times, and it’s even rarer that we get such a personal touch as the one here.
Pages: 221 | ASIN: B07MY6GLD5
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The Endowment of Isaac Frey by Val Wilson is a historical fiction story about a haunted old house in Coventry, England, and the family who occupies the house. The book starts in 1920 with John Weir and his friend, Albert Parry hunting for a legendary priest hole tunnel exit on the grounds of John’s family home, The Old House, a residence filled with tragedy and ghosts. The story spans several decades as the friends grow older and World War II separates them for a time, then brings them back together. Before going off to war to join Albert, John marries Annie Goodwin, a local girl who has returned to Coventry after escaping from an abusive man in London. The first part of the story follows John Weir as a boy and then a man (and later on, his wife, Annie), the current occupants of The Old House. Isaac Frey is introduced into the story after the halfway point. An American G.I. stationed at the base nearby, Captain Isaac Frey begins a relationship with Annie while John is away fighting in the war. But The Old House brings madness to the Weir family… and murder when John learns that he didn’t father Annie’s twins. After the murder of his wife, her children, and her lover, John Weir assumes Isaac Frey’s identity.
I enjoyed the author’s writing style. The vivid descriptions of supernatural events pulled me into the story. The house isn’t just the setting–it’s like another character, albeit creepy and suspenseful. The element of mystery surrounding the house kept me interested in the story all the way through till the end.
I didn’t like the character of Annie Goodwin. She suffered a lot of adversity, but her reaction to it was anger and taking her feelings out on others. I didn’t find her to be a likable character. She seemed to wallow in her misfortune, instead of finding a way to raise above it. Her affair with Isaac leads to her tragic end.
There were some minor issues with typos. And the point of view shifts between characters from one paragraph to the next were a bit distracting. Sometimes the shifts happened in the middle of a paragraph, which made it difficult to keep track of whose head I was supposed to be in. Some of the time jumps were a bit jarring, when something unexpected happened, but then suddenly it was years later without the author showing the previous moment in time playing out. Otherwise, a very entertaining novel.
The Endowment of Isaac Frey by Val Wilson
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Beloved Mother by Laura Hunter is a saga that follows the lives of several members of the Parsons, a poor coal-mining family. The story begins in Covington, Virginia in 1923 when thirteen-year-old Mona Parsons is taken away to Carolina by Jackson Slocomb. He abuses her, and she’s rescued by a Native American man named Walks in Tall Corn. He takes her in and raises her son, Briar, as his own. Ten years later, Tall Corn is injured in a farming accident and his wound becomes infected. He dies and Mona (River of Two Tears) returns to Covington, but her father doesn’t welcome her. She and her son end up in a coal mining town, Breakline Mining Camp. Mona’s younger sister, Anna, runs away with Clint, and they end up in in the coal mining town, too. But although Two Tears and Anna interact and live in close proximity to each other for many years, they never realized that the other is their sister. Told from a number of different points of view, this book spans generations and decades, even going back in time to earlier generations.
I enjoyed the author’s writing style, and her vivid descriptions drew me into the story. I liked the bits of history that the author added throughout the book. The story touched on a number of different time periods, from the great depression and World War II to the mid 1800’s.
I enjoyed the Native American aspect of the book–the Great Spirit, Sister Sun and Brother Moon, and the Cherokee medicine woman (called a Beloved Mother). It added an interesting element to the story that I would have loved to read more of. The characters lives were hard, as they struggled to scrape by, but I felt that most were selfish, thinking of their own wants and needs, in desires to get ahead. There is a lot of colorful, and questionable relationships, from adulterous affairs to a twenty-six-year-old man married to a thirteen-year-old girl, and an older man with romantic feelings for his young half-sister–though he was unaware of their connection. This made it hard for me to relate to, although I certainly appreciated, the characters.
Overall, this is an emotional story that pulls at your heart. I would have enjoyed a more uplifting theme, if not a few moments. There were a number of deaths, and very few characters were still alive by the end of the story, but I suppose… such is life.
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The Rigel Affair is a thrilling love story following two young people caught up in World War II. Why was this an important book for you to write?
My mother took her box of Charlie’s letters down from a bedroom cupboard, and talked about them constantly… telling me all the stories of her love affair with Charlie and the mysteries behind it. Many years later, after her death, I finally had the courage to read them for the first time. She made me promise that these letters must always be kept special. They were so compelling… it was like Charlie was in the room with me.
This is a story based on the letters and stories your mother passed down to you. How has your perception of the stories changed from childhood to adulthood?
My perception has not changed. Even today, it is like my mother is with me when I view these letters.
What were some things in the story that you felt had to be 100% accurate and what were some things you took some liberties with?
The pathway of the USS Rigel had to be 100% historically accurate. When we approached the US Navy and they realized the scope of our project, they assigned me an Officer who supplied us with many of Charlie’s Orders, and also the position of the Rigel for every day of the war. Then we could research events that were happening around the Rigel from time to time, and knowing that Charlie was leader of the Navy Divers on board, we could pick out actions and events that were typical of his duties.
Took Liberties – Roxy, Mrs Frisken, Mattie, – while Charlie’s locations were actual, we did not know exactly what he was doing. But we interview some of his shipmates who filled us in on day-to-day activities. But many of Charlie’s missions were secret.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
We are working on the Sequel – mainly set in the early 1950’s, but this is a WIP. Hopefully, to be published circa late 2019.
Abandoned by his part-Cherokee Ma, Charlie Kincaid escapes servitude with his uncle. He jumps a boxcar, accompanied by his schoolmate Roxy, who is escaping troubles of her own. Charlie becomes a US Navy Diver.Mattie Blanc is from a genteel New Zealand family. But when her brother’s friend persuades her to take a ride, it all goes horribly wrong. Desperate, she flees her family’s stifling expectations for a new life in Auckland.After the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, Charlie sets sail for Auckland aboard the USS Rigel. And there she is, the girl of his dreams. Mattie is everything that Roxy isn’t— sophisticated, tender, and patient. But the war intervenes… Rigel embarks for the Pacific war zones.Charlie’s letters are sporadic. Mattie is tormented by doubts; did he truly love her, or was it only a dream?The Rigel Affair produces a rip-roaring wartime romance and chilling danger unknown to most.
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Mattie Blanc believes from an early age that her past will forever haunt her and will be the ultimate cause for her life alone leaving her starved for true love. Charlie Kincaid, on the other hand, has true love chasing him across the world, but his is a one-way relationship in which he is not a willing participant. Both Mattie and Charlie have pasts that haunt them and have overcome almost insurmountable odds to become successful and proud in their fields; Mattie has received an education and is employed by a hair salon, and Charlie is a diver in the United States Navy. The one thing missing from their lives is each other.
Inspired by events in the life of the author’s own family, The Rigel Affair by L.M. Hedrick, traces the lives of Mattie and Charlie as they grow up in very different corners of the Earth to their eventual chance meeting as adults in Auckland, New Zealand. Once the two meet, their lives are never the same, and Hedrick makes clear from their first outing together that the two are destined to be together. This primarily historical fiction book is laced with romance and a bit of intrigue–just enough to appeal to multiple groups of readers.
Not knowing how much the character of Roxy is based on real events, I can only say that if her portion of the story is true, it is indeed fantastic. To believe that Charlie and Roxy, a childhood friend who practically mourns for Charlie’s love, could so easily run across him in the 1940’s without the convenience of modern day technology is little far-fetched. Happening across Roxy in two very different parts of the world years apart is a bit of a stretch. If it is indeed part of the truth of Hedrick’s story, it’s fascinating and makes the tale that much more rich.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect, and one of the most well-integrated in the story, is the portion about Mrs. Frisken. Though her truth is never fully revealed, Hedrick successfully gives readers cause for pause and inspires some rereading of text. (I love when an author makes me second guess my own opinions of a character and his/her intentions.) I have to say that I didn’t foresee the ending regarding Mrs. Frisken happening in quite the way it did. Though sad, it was a wonderful addition to Mattie’s story-line.
Hedrick has written a book that requires patience on the part of the reader. I desperately wanted Mattie to get the gumption to go against her overbearing father. Her inability to make a decision without her parents’ input frustrated me. In addition, readers may find it difficult to watch as Mattie and Charlie’s letters pass each other in delivery without making it to one another causing much heartache for the two as they are pulled further and further apart.
Hedrick is handing readers a perfect blend of historical fiction and romance. The text itself is heavily laden with historical truths and gives fans of both genres something to appreciate and remember.
Pages: 355 | ASIN: B07K8WGTWV
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Beguiled follows young Miriam as she struggles to follow her dreams through a turbulent time in history. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
Initially, I had the idea to write a story of the kind of life my mother, born in 1910, might have had, if she’d had the gumption. Which she did not, so the story of Miriam Levine, 1st generation Russian-Jewish girl, is entirely fictional. There are a few biographical markers, e.g., Miriam’s Pop was active in the leftist-unionist organization called the Workmen’s Circle. My maternal grandfather was as well. Similarly, he was a cultured fellow, albeit not formally educated, and introduced my mother to cultural events from a young age. The character Miriam developed her aspirations to go on stage from the experiences her Pop exposed her to from a young age.
The story transformed itself immediately from anything biographical to an exciting adventure of Miriam and her girlfriends as they make their way through a difficult time in history punctuated by WWI, the “Spanish” flu, women’s getting the vote, the Roaring 20s, the relationship between young people and their immigrant parents, and the status of women.
Miriam is a well developed character that I grew attached to. How did you capture the thoughts and emotions of a young woman in the 1900’s?
Research, research, and more research helped me to describe a girl of the early 1900s. I read many books about the times, including novels of women of that period.
Perhaps more importantly, I’ve been a psychotherapist and life coach all my adult life, so am accustomed to hearing people’s stories and helping them to make sense of their lives. So, the emotions of a woman of this period seemed little different to me from my clients’ stories. Yes, women have approached the glass ceiling and many are in marriages that are fundamentally equal or mutually enhancing, but with the outing of many in the MeToo movement, it’s clear that women’s place has not appreciably changed vis a vis powerful men.
I liked how the politics and drama of the time was not front and center, but served as a backdrop to Miriam’s story. Did you do any research for this story to keep things accurate?
As stated above, I pored over many historical books of this period, as well as historical novels about the early 1900s. Having been in graduate school for a PhD back in the 1980s, I learned how to do research and to enjoy it. I was not, however, a big history buff, so my becoming absorbed in this research was a surprise to me. One funny thing: in one of my last drafts, I realized that NO character ever was described as smoking. So, I had to go back and add smoking Lucky Strikes, Camels, pipes, and cigars to many scenes.
WWI was certainly in the background only in Beguiled. Miriam and her friends barely seemed to register that there was a world war going on in Europe, until Miriam arrives home and discovers that her father’s Workmen’s Circle is having an important emergency meeting to discuss US entry into the War. Then a young German boy barges in to say that his family was beaten bloody right in their neighborhood, an unthinkable thing in their multi-ethnic close community.
Many people have suggested I write a sequel to Beguiled, but that would take me into the Depression of the 1930s and I don’t know if I want to go there, particularly since our country seems liable to get there itself.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Beguiled was just released on May 1st 2018, so I’m devoting some time to publicizing it before embarking on my next story. But, I’ve had the idea of locating an appealing news story of a woman who lived in another era. I enjoy researching historical fiction and being an archaeologist in searching out details of a bygone period. In order to find this appealing person, I’ll need to immerse myself in the Boston Public Library’s newspapers from the last century or even before. There are also archives of women’s letters housed at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, where I’ve done research before. I look forward to being able to do this, once my initial marketing campaign is over.
Beguiled is about every person who ever had dreams that were interrupted by cultural mores, by discrimination, or by their own shortcomings. Miriam Levine, born in 1900, dreamed of going on stage, until an almost fatal mis-step forced her to postpone her “real life.” A serendipitous offer compelled her to confront her inner demons and society’s expectations. As Glinda, the Good Witch of the South in the Wizard of Oz, she recites at age 16: “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
The story is inspirational for young people and their parents who dearly wish to access the American dream. The historical context of the decades before the Great Depression, the role of immigrants and women’s suffrage parallels tough political dilemmas that the US faces today.
Will Miriam have the gumption to follow her dreams? Will those dreams yield her the happiness she seeks? Or will she find that her childhood fantasies “beguile” her to seek ‘fool’s gold?’
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