Tuesday, August 26, 2008

War Hero Grandfather Inspires Novel

In my World War II supernatural thriller Shadows in the Mist," I follow  Lt. Jack Chambers' platoon through the famous Battle of the Hurtgen Forest. During that time I was reading Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. From reading that book I learned the thick bond that developed between soldiers who had to rely on one another for survival.

I was determined to create a platoon of misfits that people cared about. And for that to happen, Lieutenant Jack Chambers had to care about his men. So I made it his mission to do whatever it takes to get his men out of the Hurtgen Forest alive. They call themselves "The Lucky Seven" because as a unit they have survived so many combats together, going all the way back to before D-Day, when they fought in Sicily together. These guys are as close-knit as they get. Because they've outlived so many men, they believe that they are charmed with some kind of strange luck. Two of them, Private Hoffer and Private Finch, are comic book writers. They believe that the Lucky Seven are invincible soldiers destined to be super heroes. They've all become superstitious. Each man of The Lucky Seven carries a good-luck charm and they do a ritual before every battle. Lieutenant Chambers believes his good luck comes from the silver watch his father gave him before he died.

In one of the early chapters, during the present-day portion of the book, Jack Chambers's grandson, Sean, flies to Germany. While riding in an airplane, Sean examines the mysterious war diary his grandfather gave him. A photo of a platoon slides out. On the back is written "The Lucky Seven" and the names of each.

Lieutenant Jack Chambers
Master Sergeant John Mahoney
Sergeant Buck Parker
Corporal Duece Wilson
Pfc. Gabe Finch
Pfc. Rafe Hoffer
Pfc. Miguel Garcia

While writing and researching this novel, I spent four and a half years with these characters. For each I wrote in-depth histories and had them write letters home to loved ones. None of that made it into the book, but it did help me get to know each soldier deeply. The platoon became like a "band of brothers" to me. The above photo is of my grandfather, Captain Dawson "Hank" Moreland (standing in center). He was a pilot, but he also did routine field training. I came across this photo two months ago, long after I wrote the book. I never knew it existed. When I counted seven soldiers in the photo, I got goosebumps.

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