It is my privilege and pleasure to help shine the spotlight on an incredibly supportive RRBC and RWISA author, Mary Adler. Today, she shares her thoughts on telling stories about real characters who lived and died. I’ll let her explain.
TELLING THEIR STORIES
When I am bogged down writing, when I can’t think of any words, let alone the right words—whatever they may be—I persist no matter how much I would like to quit. The driving force that propels me to sit in the chair day after day, to hit the keys even when I know I will scrap the hard-won scenes, is my need to bring to life the reality of forgotten people.
Don’t get me wrong. My first purpose when writing a mystery is to entertain, to surprise, to take the reader on a trip to another time and place and community. But the reason I write the Oliver Wright series is because I want my readers to know what it was really like to live in America during World War II, to hear the stories of the people who lived then.
When I was full of doubt while writing my first Oliver Wright and Harley mystery, my friend Steve, who is psychic, encouraged me. For more than one good and sufficient reason I believe he truly does communicate with the other side. (But that is a story for another time.) He told me that they wanted me to tell their story.
I assumed my relatives, Italians who had been discriminated during World War II, were clamoring to have their story told, but I was wrong.
Steve told me he saw a group of soldiers holding rifles, some standing, some kneeling. It was the soldiers who wanted me to tell their story, to try to make people understand what it was like to surrounded by death, to watch their friends die day after day after day, and not have time to mourn.
Steve’s vision prompted me to write this passage in In the Shadow of Lies.
Oliver, a homicide detective on medical leave from the Marines, is back home and remembering what happened on Guam.
I was back in Pt. Richmond, but Guam was only as far away as the next night’s sleep. It wasn’t the memory of fighting, of being wounded, that tortured me. It was the memory of walking away from the endless graves, from the rifles stuck bayonet-down in freshly turned dirt. My men had buried too many friends, friends who had died beside them, sometimes quickly, sometimes so slowly they had begged their buddies to finish them off.
Then the living had moved on—on to more killing. The war allowed no time to mourn, to grieve, to honor the death of a man they might have loved as deeply as they would ever love anyone. They moved on, they fought, they buried more men, they moved on — and no one could see they were drowning in unshed tears.
I had hidden my face when the hospital plane taxied down the runway on Guam. The medics expected me to be grateful that I was leaving the fighting, but grief filled my heart. I was leaving behind friends willing to sacrifice their own lives for each other and for their dogs. It was why they fought. Forget the pretty speeches about preserving democracy and freedom—they died for each other, killing and being killed to end the endless killing.
I can’t know if I have honored the soldiers in my friend’s vision in the way they wanted, but I believe they sent Oliver’s thoughts to me to share with my readers. I did my best.
Follow Mary online:
Twitter – @MAAdlerwrites
Facebook – https://maryadlerwrites.com/
Mary Adler was an attorney and dean at CWRU School of Medicine. She escaped the ivory tower for the much gentler world of World War II and the adventures of homicide detective Oliver Wright and his German shepherd, Harley. She lives with her family in Sebastopol, California, where she creates garden habitats for birds and bees and butterflies. She is active in dog rescue and does canine scent work with her brilliant dogs — the brains of the team — and loves all things Italian.