Friday, April 25, 2014

Everything Has A Story

Below is part of a presentation prepared that never saw an audience last Saturday.  Timing is everything when it comes to a signing event, and holiday weekends usually don't work out for the author.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy a little talk about They All Fall Down.


Everything Has A Story

Several times over the past few years I have been asked where an idea comes from to create a story.  I think the best answer I can give is: it comes from experiences in life and the things in history that are fascinating to discover.  My generation grew up in a time of turmoil that has led to our present day way of life.  We had the Equal Rights bill signed by President Johnson in 1964, the Vietnam War and the Beatles invaded, changing our concept of rock-n-roll.  
Everything has a story waiting to be told.  What if this happened and my characters were there, how would they react?  How would the story unfold as history progressed?
Throughout history natural disaster and war have affected the lives of mankind.  In ancient time Mount Thera caused a catastrophic natural disaster of such proportions that the world has not experienced since.  Even Mount St. Helen’s or the volcanoes in Hawaii are not on a scale with the ancient eruption that rocked civilizations across what is now southern Europe and caused killer tsunamis to wash away cultures in the Mediterranean.   The Minoan civilization on the Island of Crete is one example of a culture destroyed when disaster strikes and Brimstone and Water combine to cause a catastrophic outcome.

War on the other hand is the outcome of diplomacy gone wrong, aggression to expand territory, to right what is believed to be an injustice, the belief borders need to be secured, a dispute about religion or a combination of these reasons.  Ever since man inhabited the earth feuds were fought over hunting rights, beliefs and territorial boundaries. Even the animal kingdom marks their territory and will fight to defend it; or battle to obtain it. 
 They All Fall Down is a story that evolved from another time of turmoil that also left its impact on our lives.  The story moves between history and fiction, mingling romance and suspense, as it tells a tale about a band of friends residing at Helen’s Landing, Malaya and the destroyer Mariah when World War II explodes in Europe and Japan joins the Axis Alliance.
Unlike a natural disaster, war is a man-made historical event that can—and will—change lives.  It brings devastation to civilization as we know it, sees new and improved weapons of destruction, and usually sees a country’s boundaries either changed or absorbed into another country.  (The Berlin Wall and the division of Germany—east and west, the occupation of Slavic nations, as well as what became known as the Cold War, are examples of the changes war can bring.)   Sometimes a country is left with a treaty that is distasteful to its citizenry, causing discord that festers until it erupts into a new conflict.  The world saw this at the end of The Great War (we know it as WWI) when the Treaty of Versailles was thrust upon Germany in June 1919, seven months after the official end of the war. 
Another, less known treaty was signed with our ally from The Great War, Japan.  It was believed that since Japan was a smaller nation with few holdings in the East, it was not necessary to have a large military presence.  The agreement also called for Japan to have a Most Favored Nation status with the United States, allowing Japanese commercial trade to have an equal status with other countries.  By 1940 the United States refused to renew the Most Favored Nation agreement because of Japan’s aggression toward China, beginning with the occupation of Manchuria, rich in minerals, in 1931.  The situation did not bring military response from the United States, but only the refusal to recognize Japan’s control over Manchuria.  Looking at the Ukraine today, are we beginning another such situation with the Russian occupation of the Crimean Peninsula?  But that is another story to be told at another time.
As Japan expands its aggression in China, Germany is ignoring the Versailles treaty and begins to re-arm, as Hitler gains power and Italy invades Ethiopia in 1935, which again did not bring military response and is ignored by what will eventually become the core of the Allied nations (the United States, Britain and France).  Throughout the 1930’s, diplomacy is in a downward spiral and the United States Congress passes five different Neutrality Acts, forbidding America’s involvement in foreign conflicts.  Meanwhile, the lust for raw materials, minerals, and territory is pulsing on the other side of both our coasts until the inevitable happens.

They All Fall Down begins at this point in history in Helen’s Landing, a fictitious town on the Malayan Peninsula.   The story weaves its way through the diplomatic entreaties on both sides of the Pacific and Atlantic through radio broadcasts on the 9:00 o’clock nightly news. The idyllic simple life is blemished in 1940 and ‘41 with stories of war far away in Europe and battles at sea.  British citizens in Malaya voice concern about relatives in the line of fire, but everyday life fills the immediate future where the idea of disaster is unthinkable.  A few are concerned about the local risk, but British preparations in the East will surely make it impossible for Japan, the third member of the Axis alliance, to strike. 
No one knows what tomorrow will bring and life continues as normal in the small community, with its desirable deep water anchorage, a rare modern hospital, its ambiguous ties to the British Navy, and His Majesty’s Ship the destroyer Mariah.  As diplomacy between the Western Allies and Japan unravel, Mariah’s crew and the friends at Helen’s Landing pray that war will not come to this peaceful part of the world.  But this time the answer is no, and in December 1941 the evil spirit of war is unleashed.  All too soon Mariah’s crew prepares for battle, while the citizens at Helen’s Landing contemplate the Japanese Army coming toward them at an alarming pace.  The small band of friends wonder if this new war will lead to nations in the East watching in alarm, as They All Fall Down?
Everything has a story, it just needs to be told!