Visit to Dachau prompted idea for Time Reich novel

It’s hard to say where stories come from. But I do know how Time Reich got its start. The first catalyst was a trip I took to Germany back in 1991. I was there to visit friends, but they worked, so during the weekdays I saw the sights courtesy of a Eurail pass and Youth Hostels. My favorite city turned out to be Munich—beautiful and friendly, there was a party every night at the beer halls. One day I decided to take the S-bahn out to Dachau to visit the infamous concentration camp. There was no particular reason other than that I’ve always been a history buff, and that was one of the few World War II-related sites I had come across. For the most part, though the memory of the war was still fresh, there was little in Germany to acknowledge the war had even taken place.

It was a cold, raw day. The camp was basically being allowed to fall into ruin, but there was a good museum and interpretive center to tell the sad story of what took place there. The weedy grounds and crumbling brick buildings made quite an impression and, needless to say, my writer’s imagination went right to work.

The second impetus for Time Reich came years before that trip, when the wonderful author William Styron visited our college campus. His book “Sophie’s Choice” had come out not long before. He told us how he had become obsessed with the idea of writing a holocaust book and flew to Poland to visit Auschwitz. The idea for his iconic character grew out of that trip.

Yes later, visiting Dachau, I understood what Styron meant about the power of place. But there would be a final catalyst for Time Reich in the form of news articles about some of the last Nazi war criminals being brought to trial. Working as a news editor at a newspaper, these stories would come across the Associated Press wire (in those days there was still a wire, rather than the Internet). There was a flood of arrests in the 90s brought on by the fall of the Iron Curtain because old war records were suddenly made available from many of the Slavic countries that had fallen under Communist rule. It was captivating that more than one former camp guard who had been living in obscurity, maybe working a factory job in one of the Rust Belt cities in America, had finally been found out when this windfall of wartime records revealed his true identity.

Some additional research into the Office of Special Investigations and the help of an agent I interviewed helped me understand OSI’s role in bringing war criminals to justice. Thus, OSI agent Kate Crockett was born.

All these pieces of a story had been floating around, and now page by page, scene by scene, Time Reich came together. Ultimately, there would be a lot of changes, a lot of revision, a lot of putting this story down and coming back to it later. In some ways it’s a story that has been twenty years in the making, but it’s been worth the wait.

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