The images in the Sunday New York Times Rotogravure section were stunning; muddy trenches, soup-plate helmeted soldiers standing in ankle-deep water, devastated landscapes dotted with leafless tree trunks – the Western Front brought to the living rooms of peaceful citizens all over the boroughs; a ghastly air view of a poisonous gas cloud rolling toward a line of trenches. Images and articles about the Lafayette Escadrille.
The 16 year-old Frederick twins, especially Ted, wanted to fly with the Lafayette Escadrille – it would be a glorious escapade to join the knights of the sky jousting over the bloody battlefields. A group of college students had the idea first – when the European war erupted in 1914, long before the U.S. came in, these young adventurers found a way to get in the fight – they joined the fabled French Foreign Legion. French diplomats saw a way to inflame American public opinion to their cause – they organized a group of eight wide-eyed young Americans into what they called the American Flying Squadron – The Escadrille Americaine. Within a year there were 32 and they asked to be called The Lafayette Escadrille to honor the memory of the Marquis de Lafayette, the young French General who joined George Washington’s struggling revolutionaries in America’s war for independence.
Okay, Max, how are you going to get the twins into the air over France?
As a blogger looking for something to write it would be easy to continue summarizing THE WAR GUILT CLAUSE chapter by chapter, but what I really want to do is put the reader into the mind of the author – where did the ideas come from? When did the narrative begin to take shape? I may have mentioned this before, but Max Blue is of the novelist school that writes from stream of consciousness as opposed to working from a detailed outline. Max begins with a tightly wound ball of twine embedded with an encyclopedia of life experiences that often show up on the page embellished with imaginative romps, and unwinds the story as he goes. A historical novel requires a library of references and THE WAR GUILT CLAUSE is no exception. The New York Times archives was the primary reference but it turned out that the Rowan University library also housed the microfilm archives of The Times of London which furnished material crucial to the story. And then there was Barbara Tuchman’s captivating account of THE ZIMMERMAN TELEGRAM; it was a goldmine for Max, introducing him to Colonel Edward House, President Wilson’s minister without portfolio who thought he knew German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman, but did not. Thank you also Mrs. Tuchman for the spectacular Bohemian spy, Voska, and for the less colorful but wonderfully named Wickham Steed. Mrs. Tuchman introduced Steed as the Times Foreign Editor but it seems somebody forgot to tell her he was Foreign Editor of the Times of London, not the New York Times. Max stumbled across this knowledge after the book was published, but only purists would object as Wickham Steed and his wide experience became a major factor in the novel.
So there was Max, looking for baseball news and assaulted by The New York Times reporting “All the news that’ s fit to print.” The headlines would have been screaming except that the Times does not scream – it reports. And the reports were alarming – a German submarine that days earlier was escorted to the U.S. Naval Station at Newport, Rhode Island, where the charming and articulate (he spoke perfect English) Captain Hans Rose delivered a letter for the German Ambassador in Washington. Two days later the Captain was sinking ships (five on Sunday, none American) in Nantucket Bay, and Max Blue was inventing characters to tell how these outrages were being received by the citizens and the victims. Mary Cady was born, a pretty thing she was, 16 years old at birth.
And here are the facts: Mary was on the British liner Stefano, traveling from England to America as a nanny for her Aunt Winnie’s four-month-old daughter. Nearing America, Mary had been handed a telegram with the news that her parents had died in a Zeppelin attack. Mary barely had time to file this shocking news when she escaped death by only inches as a shard from a German submarine artillery shell shattered her right arm above the elbow.
Ted and Ed, the Frederick twins, also 16-years-old, were employed by the New York Times and when they reported for work on that Sunday evening, they found the Times theatre critic standing on a table yelling for immediate action by President Wilson to save the honor of the country.
Max was making it up as he went along, wondering with the curiosity of a reader what was going to turn up on the next page, just as he is doing now with this post.
Max Blue’s 1916 war novel called Times, was published in 2004; The War Guilt Clause will be published by Tate Publishing in October 2013. The two novels are tightly connected; the first half of War Guilt is a severely revised version of Times, primarily due to elimination of almost all baseball references which were a significant part of the earlier work. The ventures and adventures of the Frederick twins, Ted and Ed, along with Mary Cady are reprised in the new novel. The second half of The War Guilt Clause focuses on Ed as a war correspondent along with his newly found colleague at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, Peggy Schooner.
It all began in the Rowan University library where Max went to mine the New York Times microfilm archives for information about the 1916 New York Giants 26-game winning streak, an achievement that remains a record for Major League baseball. The Streak was what Max called his account – it can be seen online at http://baseballguru.com.
When Max opened the Times 1916 archives he quickly learned that more than baseball was on the minds of the country and the world. Long and detailed accounts of President Woodrow Wilson’s campaign for a second term, as well as informative articles about the views of Republican challenger Charles Evans Hughes, appeared day after day as the winning of John McGraw’s Giants proceeded through September and in to October. Something began to stir in the sequestered non-baseball section of Blue’s brain