Q. What's the genesis of your book, The Fortunate Orphans?
A. I've always been fascinated by history, particularly military history. My dad, a WWII veteran and career military officer, had a collection of picture books on the war. As a child, I used to spend hours leafing through those books. There were so many powerful images of the war. The photos of GIs murdered at Malmédy during the Battle of the Bulge was one of those iconic scenes not easily forgotten. For some reason, that episode during that horrific battle stayed with me. When I began writing fiction the massacre of those men just came back to me. I fantasized about a "what if" scenario for imagined survivors. Once my imagination kicked in, the story line seemed to unfold naturally.
Q. Is your story based on fact?
A. The part about GIs murdered by Waffen SS troops is a proven fact. But as far as survivors returning to Europe to hunt down the man responsible, that is strictly fiction. I'm not saying there were not instances of battlefield retribution meted out by American soldiers, but I have no actual knowledge of such things. I'm just assuming that the brutality and reputation of the Waffen SS would probably motivate that kind of instant justice if those German troops were captured. I don't think it's a stretch to imagine such things happening.
Q. Are your major characters based on real persons?
A. The German captain is a composite of SS officers. The most infamous among them-a man who was actually tried for war crimes committed during the Bulge-was Lieutenant Colonel Joachim Peiper. He was originally sentenced to death but had his prison time commuted to life. He served about a dozen years and got out. He's mentioned in the book to underscore the reality of the story's history.
Q. You have quotes on the book's cover from two retired generals. How did you get them to endorse your book?
A. I was thrilled to get both of these gentlemen to read The Fortunate Orphans and write short notes of endorsement. One of them was General Jack Vessey, a decorated WWII veteran who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A career officer can't rise any higher in the American military than that position. My son Ethan was a producer for a KSTP radio talk show and had Gen. Vessey as a guest on the show. I wanted a high profile military person to give me a quote I could use on the book's cover. Gen. Vessey is a Minnesotan and widely respected in military circles. I got his number from my son and finally had the courage to call Gen. Vessey and ask him if he would read my book. He agreed to do that during recuperation from surgery. I sent it to him and then didn't hear for months. I had sent it to him with a letter agreeing that he didn't have to answer if he found the story not to his liking. As time went by, I thought he had opted out of sending me a quote. In the meantime, I asked a neighbor, also a retired army general, if he would read the book and pen a quote I might use. On the day I got my neighor's written endorsement, I also received a wonderful letter from General Vessey with his quote. I added these two endorsements to one from a retired Chyrsler executive I had met. I was also blessed to have yet another neighbor, broadcaster Ray Christensen, both read the book and furnish me with another endorsement. I was really proud to have four quotes from these distinguished veterans.
Q. You had a journalism career as a political cartoonist and now work as a syndicated comic strip artist. How do you switch roles and take on another career as a fiction writer?
A. I've always enjoyed good writing. During my years with newspapers, I wrote occasional feature articles. I liked the creativity of writing. And I've love to read well-written fiction. I started picking up stories by authors John Camp and Vince Flynn. I liked the way both men had a way with words. I've read Tami Hoag and other popular fiction writers. A neighbor and I trade books on a regular basis. Camp and Flynn inspired me to try my hand. I had several stories cooking in my thoughts, The Fortunate Orphans being one of them.
Q. Is there to be a sequel to The Fortunate Orphans?
A. No. This story stands on its own. I do have four other books in the works. Two of them are part of a quartet of stories about a Bahamian policeman. Another is a Civil War novel and the fourth is a story about a mysterious urban sniper whose crimes are exposed by a newspaper police reporter. I hope to have them completed in the next two years. Right now, I'm focused on launching The Fortunate Orphans.