Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday Wonders: ENEMIES

Today's Wednesday Wonders features Richard Whitten Barnes and his novel, Enemies.

About the Book:

It is November 11, 1968, fifty years to the day since the armistice of the Great War. The seventy year old German diplomat Jurgen Stern is in Ottawa, Canada on a special assignment. He rescues a portfolio mistakenly left behind in his hotel lobby by a man near his own age. Inside are drawings that are obviously from a soldier’s perspective of WW1. One of the sketches is so intriguing he is compelled to find this man and learn the truth about it.

The story reverts back to 1916 when Brian MacLennan, a farm boy from northern Ontario joins the Canadian Expeditionary Force. At the same time, young Jurgen Stern has been conscripted by the Imperial German Army. Their experiences in that brutal war are followed until they become entangled in a way that will take fifty years to unravel. The two men face the consequences of those events a half century in the past and must put them right.
British Remembrance Poppy - WWI

Book Trailer
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Once in town, they both knew there was one more good-bye. Owen stopped the sleigh a few doors down from John Richards’ store and post office. When Brian hesitated, Owen practically shoved his older brother off onto a snowbank. Brian trudged to the door of the neat frame house which was opened before he could knock.
     “Get in here, Brian MacLennan, before I catch a death of cold!” a cheery middle-aged woman admonished. She shut the door behind him as he stamped the snow from his boots. “Sarah’s just…well, fixing her hair. She saw your sleigh from the window.”
     “Thank you, Mrs. White,” he mumbled, embarrassed but pleased at her suggesting his visit might be special to Sarah.
     She retreated into the house. It was a few minutes before he heard “Hello, Brian,” in a soft but confident voice.
     Brian had only recently built enough nerve to approach Sarah White. To him, she was the essence of elegance. Every boy in the township vied for her attention. She was younger than he by two years, and at nineteen, it was a miracle she was still unattached.
     He had displayed some of his drawings at a crafts fair at the town hall last autumn, and she had been there. She’d admired his ability, and they talked about his wanting to go to school somewhere instead of farming. It soon became clear this girl was not only beautiful, she was knowledgeable in literature and art. He was smitten. He sketched her from memory and presented it to her one afternoon, fearing she’d be offended, but she wasn’t.
     “I heard at the post office about your signing up,” she said.
     “Yeah. I…can’t stay. I’m meeting the train.” He couldn’t think. He wanted to hold her.
     “I’ll miss our talks,” she said.
     “Oh! I mean, yes?”
     She smiled, and pulled something from the folds of her frock, handing it to him.
     Brian stared, unbelieving, at the photograph mounted on stiff pasteboard. It was professionally taken, capturing the every detail of what made her so special. He stood there, speechless.
    “Perhaps you’ll think of me from time to time,” she said.
    “Sarah!” he stared at the picture, then at her.  “I will,” he croaked, and carefully slipped the photo into his breast pocket. "Well, then…” He motioned to the door and the waiting sleigh.
     She reached to place a palm on his cheek. 
     “Be safe, Brian,” were her last words.

Interview with Richard Whitten Barnes:

1.      Robyn Echols:  What prompted you to write ENEMIES?

Richard W. Barnes:  I was looking for something topical. It occurred to me that the 100th anniversary of the WW1 armistice is upon us. My wife and I both have fathers who served in that conflict (yes, we’re that old!). Her father fought for the Germans, and after emigrating to the USA met a Canadian who it turns out fought against him in some of the same battles.

If that isn’t fodder for a story, I don’t know what is.

2.   Robyn Echols:  Do you usually write historical war novels? If not, what other genres of books have you written?

Richard W. Barnes:  ENEMIES is my fourth historical novel. I also have written four mystery novels. Two of the historical novels deal with events in WW2, while the third has the war of 1812 as a background.

Honestly, I don’t have a preference for either genre. For me, there isn’t much difference in the two. Both require a lot of research to make them credible, and both require an intriguing plot to make them readable.

3.   Robyn Echols:  Are there any human stories that either prompted you to write this novel, or that impressed you in the process of your research?

Richard W. Barnes:  My wife’s story of her father was a big influence in choosing the plot for ENEMIES. As to stories from my research, there were several. Two which come to mind are:

Ernst J√ľnger’s book, STORM OF STEEL an autobiographical account of his time as a German officer. His incredible survival in spite of often bad leadership of the German high command is inspiring.

On the other side, the story of Canada’s commander, Arthur Currie is really interesting. This flawed, complex man was instrumental, to a large extent, in turning around the war in the Allies favor.

Anyone interested in WW1 should acquaint themselves with these two stories.

4.    Robyn Echols:  How did writing or researching for this novel touch you or change or perceptions of this war?

Richard W. Barnes:  I always knew the casualties were horrific over the four years of WW1, but my delving into the details of individual battles (thousands killed on both sides in a single engagement, ill-conceived assaults resulting in needless casualties, etc.) my eyes were opened.

5.    Robyn Echols:  Tell us about the cover.

Poppies Field in Flanders - WWI battleground
Richard W. Barnes:  The Canadian man on the cover of ENEMIES is the uncle of a lady I know in Ontario who was in the CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Forces). The young German boy is my wife’s father. We were both the youngest children of parents who had us at a relatively advanced age, thus our first-generation connection with WW1. My dad was in the Rainbow Division of the American Expeditionary Forces.

6.   What are your future writing goals?

Richard W. Barnes: Oh dear! You had to ask.

I guess I’m leaning toward another mystery involving my character Andy Blake, a female cop who resides in the Northern Ontario Island of St. Joseph. I have, like Phillip Craig and Cynthia Riggs, who wrote mysteries set in the island of Martha’s Vineyard, become attached to this person as if she were real. 

The more important question is: what nasty predicament can I get her into now?

About the Author:

Richard Whitten Barnes is a native Chicagoan, graduating as a chemist from Michigan State University. He is now retired from a career in international chemical sales and marketing, which has taken him all over the world. Barnes is a veteran of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division and an avid sailor. He lives in Lake Wylie, S.C., but spends summers with his wife Marg and dog Sparty at their cottage on St. Joseph Island, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron.

Author Links:

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The Great War ends & 50 years later former ENEMIES meet #WedWonders #RobynEcholsBooks #Enemies

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