The Silver Screen Part Two

Dear Readers,

I apologize for the somewhat lengthy delay between posts. My summer classes started a couple of weeks ago, and so I’m spending a couple of hours in the car plus four hours in a classroom during the week. It’s been tough to find time for much of anything. But enough of the excuses. Shortly after the release of my novel, I wrote a piece about the actors/actresses I’d most like to see play the four main roles. If you’ve forgotten it, check it out here. Now, I shall turn my attention to the minor roles. I’ll do this in two parts though. Today’s post will cover the Berlin story line and I’ll write another piece next week which will cover the story line in England. So let us sally forth and select a cast of characters! As before, it is imperative that the person must be relatively close in age to the character.

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I’ll start with Schneider. She’s one of the four young women assigned to Karl’s station as auxiliary firefighters. In a way, her character is the most important of the four as she had more of a rapport with Karl and thus had more dialogue and a, I guess you could say, memorable role at the end of the book. I think I like Dakota Fanning for the role. She did an excellent job in Brimstone and is close enough (five years) to Schneider’s age. I’m certain she could do justice to the character.

The other three auxiliary firefighters do not have major roles, and so who plays them isn’t quite as important as perhaps the others. That said, I think I’d like to see Sierra McCormick, Bailee Madison, and Veronika Bonell in the roles. I’m basing this primarily off the fact that they are the right age and would, in my opinion, look right in the role.

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The most important of the four Hitler Youth boys, whose name we never learn, happens to be the perfect role for a 14 year old indie actor who is from the large city nearest me. His name is Josh Wiggins. I do think he’d be spot on for it. Though a minor character in my book, the youth undergoes a bit of a dramatic change and so the chosen actor has to be able to convey that with few words. I think young Josh would be up to the challenge.

Ursula’s roommates, Monika and Gisela float in and out of the story. We catch glimpses of them at work and in the basement waiting out an air raid. They view the war as almost a source of amusement. Though minor characters, they are important because through conversations with them, we get an insight into Ursula’s views on the world. I think I would like Taissa Farmiga (L) as Monika and Hannah Kasulka (R) as Gisela.

Now let us turn our attention to the three firefighters who work alongside Karl. They have major roles to fill. As you’ll recall from when I wrote about the main characters, I’d like to see Volker Bruch as Karl Weber, station commander. It is important to note that the three other men, Baumann, Frei, and Fischer, are around a decade or so older than Karl’s character. My picks would be Matthias Brandt as Baumann, Til Schweiger for Frei, and Axel Prahl as Fischer.

There are, of course, some other characters (such as the Gestapo agent, Major Bandelin, etc), but this covers the major minor roles. Let me know what you think. And stay tuned for a future update about the the audiobook!

L.H.

 

 

 

Firefighting in a Doomed City

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Dear Readers,

This week I had the opportunity to binge watch a six episode series on Netflix called Charité at War which focuses on the lives of the staff at the famed Berlin hospital during the Second World War. The final episode stood out to me the most, as it dealt with how the hospital coped, and indeed continued to operate, despite the Battle of Berlin raging around them.

As my novel So Others May Live touches on the fire brigade in the city during the months in which the areal Battle of Berlin brought a nightly rain of fire to the city, seeing how a civilian hospital functioned despite shortages of almost everything was interesting to say the least. During the research for my own novel, I learned that the fire protection police in Berlin continued to operate up until the absolute end. Even while Soviet troops battered their way into the city, firefighters still answered calls.

On April 22, General Goldbach, the commander of the fire protection units in the city, ordered their evacuation. For this, he would be executed just a few days before the war ended. Over 100 firefighting vehicles and their crews made it out before the Russians cut the last road out of the city. However, some companies remained behind and continued to work in an increasingly deadly environment, as evidenced by their casualty lists. Others turned into soldiers, and defended their stations from the Soviet forces until they were overrun.

What follows are the Berlin firefighters killed in action during the last month of the war, though the list is not complete as record keeping was difficult to say the least, given the circumstances.

21 April 1945

Erich Malodystach and Werner Böhm drove into a Soviet ambush while returning to quarters after a responding to an emergency and were mortally wounded by machinegun fire.

24 April 1945

Herbert Wiesenthall was in a tow truck attempting to recover a stalled fire engine when he was caught in an artillery barrage and killed.

25 April 1945

Wilhelm Brand was in a column of fire protection police vehicles which came under areal attack and was mortally wounded.

Karl Pohlmann was killed while attempting to remove traffic obstructions near the Brandenburg Gate in either an artillery or an air strike.

General Walter Goldbach, the commander of the firefighter forces in Berlin, was executed by the government for previously ordering all fire protection units to evacuate the city on 22 April. Some did, but others remained behind and continued to work.

26 April 1945

Arthur Nieber was killed while attempting to re-locate some vehicles from Spandau.

27 April 1945

Gustav Merta was struck and mortally wounded by shrapnel from an artillery shell. He died later that day in the hospital.

28 April 1945

Herbert Zimmermann was killed by enemy fire while fighting a building fire.

30 April 1945

Otto Doerks was struck in the back by grenade fragments while fighting a fire in the city.

Richard Hackbarth and Otto Hall were killed by an artillery shell while returning from a call, along with a third, unknown firefighter.

The following are members of the Berlin Feuerschutzpolizei who were killed in action in April 1945, though the circumstances are unknown.

4 April 1945

Hermann Schinkinger

10 April 1945

Max-Joachim Baumgarten

23 April 1945

Kazimir Nawrotski

26 April 1945

Heinz Hamann

30 April 1945

Richard Raufeisen

Otto Streich

When you add the two lists, including the unknown firefighter on 30 April, then we can see that at least 17 firefighters were killed in action during the final few weeks of the war in Berlin. Technically you could say 16 since General Goldbach was the commander but not actually a firefighter. It is quite likely that the true number is higher, since many of the firefighter deaths in Berlin during the height of the war due to air raids or later street fighting went unrecorded.

One of these days, I’ll revisit the fire station I wrote about in So Others May Live and we will see what happened to the crews during the final two weeks of the war.

Lancaster Skies: A Review

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Dear Readers,

It’s a statistic that bears repeating. Nearly half of all Bomber Command aircrew died during World War Two. Most were in their late teens or early 20s. Their’s was a war fought in darkness over occupied Europe, with the night sky occasionally illuminated by searchlights, flak, or tracer rounds. Men from all over the Commonwealth, and indeed, the world, took to the night skies to deal death each night, while other young men, in different uniforms, did their best to kill them in return. The indie film Lancaster Skies manages to capture a slice of their world, and it is a film you should add to your watch list.

I will preface this by saying that I was able to watch in courtesy of my all region DVD player. It will be out in the United States later this year, but if you have a DVD player like mine, you can get it and enjoy it now. Follow the official website here for updates as to the specific US release date, though I’ll be sure to announce it here as well. Now on to the review…

I will not detail the plot, as that information is available on the film website other than to say it concerns a pilot who transfers from Fighter Command to Bomber Command and takes over a crew whose pilot was killed on their last operation. He has to win their respect, but doesn’t have much time to do it, as they are due for another mission soon.

The first thing to really strike me about this film was the cinematography. The lighting and camera angles are incredible. It gives the film an intimate feel, as though you are taking part in the events rather than merely watching them on screen. This helps you build a connection with the characters. It had an almost claustrophobic quality to it (similar to Das Boot), which is a good thing in a film like this as it recreates the tight quarters of a Lancaster, but also the lives of the men in Bomber Command as they were eternally squeezed between life and death.

The dialogue is lean and sparse, which suits the subject. Most American and British aircrew I’ve met in my life tended to be men of few words. There is an appropriate amount of banter as well, but not so much as to be over the top. (Think the novel and TV series Piece of Cake). Right away I appreciated the fact that the cast, at least visually, looked the right age. Wars are fought by young men, but the actors that play them usually aren’t. In this movie, the actors and actresses look the part. It was great to see the inclusion of some WAAF characters.

The aerial combat scenes both at the beginning and the ending of the film were both well filmed and well acted. It’s difficult to show nocturnal activities in a film sometimes because if it is too dark, the audience can’t see what they need to see, but if it is too light, then you lose the night setting. Thankfully, Lancaster Skies was able to find a happy medium. As a boxing fan, I appreciated the inclusion of a crewman who boxed and the scene of him engaging in the puglistic arts.

The remarkable thing about this film is that it was filmed on a shoestring budget. The fact that the filmmakers were able to produce such a quality movie is really a testament to their skills, as well as those of the actors. It just goes to show you that a small budget doesn’t always mean a small film. So my final verdict is to give Lancaster Skies two thumbs up. Stay tuned to the film website and to my blog for announcements about the upcoming US release, or spend $40 like I did and get an all region DVD player and get the movie now.

If read my novel So Others May Live and enjoyed the scenes which take place in a Lancaster over Berlin, then you will absolutely love this film. So get you hands on a copy as soon as you can. Though it would be staggeringly expensive, I think a film focusing on the Berlin firefighters in my novel would be pretty cool. Then again, movies about firefighters can either be good (Ladder 49) or absolute garbage (Backdraft, Backdraft 2). And, as a reminder, there is a great sale on World War 2 fiction taking place from June 5 through June 9 to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings. Numerous books listed for a mere 99 cents. You can see that list here.

Until next time, Dear Readers, here’s to hoping you don’t prang your kite and catch a rocket from your CO. He’s a right bastard.

L.H.

Lee Hutch is a retired firefighter/arson investigator. He is a history professor at a small college in Southeast Texas. His first novel, So Others May Live, was published in 2019 and tells the story of a Lancaster crew over Berlin and a group of firefighters on the ground. 

 

D-Day 75th Anniversary Sale

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Dear Readers,

In honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings, there is a special ebook sale! Several authors are offering their World War 2 novels at the low price of 99 cents! From action/adventure to romance, there is something for everyone in this sale. All of the books are set either during or just before the Second World War. The sale runs from June 5th through June 9th. Don’t miss out! Spend the summer with some great books.

You can see a list of the books with their purchase links here.

Happy Reading,

L.H.

Post Release Feeling

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Dear Readers,

It’s been one week since So Others May Live burst onto the stage. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an over dramatic way to phrase it. This past week has been hectic, to say the least. The book has been selling fairly well. I’m quite pleased with that, though to be honest, I wrote it because I had a story to tell, not because I expected to be jetting off to Tahiti with the money from a movie deal. As of this writing, Hollywood has not yet come calling. But if they do, I do have my actors picked out.

The amount of support I’ve gotten from the writing community, and my colleagues at the college, has been incredible. Not to mention from readers who are willing to fork over their money to buy something that I wrote. A think an author is eternally in debt to his or her readers. I know I will be. I am also in debt to all those who supported and encouraged me throughout this process. As this was my first foray into the publishing world, being able to ask for advice from authors who had been there allowed me to dodge many slings and arrows along the way.

Also this week, I secured a narrator for the audiobook. She is absolutely amazing. Seriously. I received several audition samples (the script was a few short scenes from the book), and when I listened to her my jaw dropped open. My initial reaction was “Holy [insert unprintable word]!” The characters sounded just like they sounded in my head when I wrote the book. My wife’s reaction was “Wow”. She’s German and that’s about as excited as she gets. It’ll be a while before the audiobook is ready, of course. But when it is, even those of you who have bought the book and read it will want to give it a listen.

The amazing thing to me about this whole process is, as I said above, people are willing to buy something I wrote. Imagine that, little old me from east Port Arthur, wrote a book. I’m an old firefighter. My joints hurt. My back injuries cause murderous pain. I don’t sleep much, partially due to pain and partially due to nightmares. I never thought I’d be able to actually write a book, though it has long been a dream of mine. I pushed through and got it done. So, Dear Readers, I implore you to never give up and keep chasing your dreams.

If you read or if you have read the book, drop me a line and let me know how you liked it. If you have a physical copy of the book, and you have a cat, I’d love to see a picture of the book with your cat!

Until next time, Happy Reading!

L.H.

So Others May Live: The Silver Screen

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Dear Readers,

I’m sure I’m not alone among novelists in pondering who we’d like to play our characters should our book be turned into a movie. Mine never will be, of course, but it is still a fun exercise. Sure, I’d love to see my characters brought to life, but then I’d complain about how the director/producer took my work of art and turned it into something else. I wrote my novel without considering this question, and so I’ve had to search for actors/actresses who fit what I envision when I think about my characters. Once you’ve read my book, please let me know if you concur with picks, or, if not, who you’d pick to play a character and why.

Of the utmost importance of selecting the following folks was age. Too many war films have actors too old to be believable in the role. Also, for Ursula, a redheaded actress was an absolute must as that is an essential part of her character. The only main character not in their early twenties is Karl Weber, who is in his mid thirties. But fortunately, there is a perfect actor for that role.

Rachel Hurd-Wood

Let’s start with Grace. Her character is in some ways the most important one in the novel, but I won’t spoil it for you by telling you why that is. It’ll be apparent when you finish reading the book. For her character, I’d select the English actress Rachel Hurd-Wood. She’s close to the right age, and she did an great job in the period drama Home Fires which ran for two seasons before it was abruptly canned. She has the right look, or at least I think she does. To me, having already acted in a WW2 series is a big plus. Though she wasn’t really a major character in the series, her character did experience highs and lows, from getting married to then losing her new husband in a tragic accident. As an actress, she handled that quite well and I am confident she could do justice to Grace’s character.

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From Grace, let’s move to her fiance Michael O’Hanlon. This would be a tricky one to cast. While Michael is from Belfast, whoever played him would have to be able to handle that accent, which is kind of specific. I don’t know if my selection, Liam Ainsworthy, can do that, but if so, I’d think him a good fit. He’s done some soap opera work in the UK and I know he isn’t Irish and it might be best to have an Irish actor in the role, but his name is Liam and that is Irish, so it’s close enough. The reason I think he’d do good in the role is that he has a brooding, almost haunted Irish look about him. That is an essential part of Mick’s character and so I think Liam would work in the role, provided he can do a Belfast accent. If not, it’s back to the drawing board. Note, he’s also young enough to be believable in the role.

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Confession time. I don’t watch Game of Thrones. (Go ahead and send me hate mail if you must, but it just isn’t my kind of show). That said, I think Sophie Turner would be perfect to play Ursula. She has red hair (a must for the role), and she’s young (another must). Acting in a series like GOT is no doubt quite a challenge, and is somewhat akin to a historical drama, so I’m certain she could handle portraying a young woman in 1943 Berlin.

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Volker Bruch is an absolutely perfect fit to play firefighter Karl Weber. He’s only a few years old than Karl’s character, and he has done an absolutely amazing job in two big period pieces, Generation War and Babylon Berlin (now on Netflix). In Babylon Berlin, he plays a police detective in the 1920s, so I’m sure he could handle playing a firefighter in the 1940s. He speaks English too, which is kind of important since the movie would need to be filmed in English. Though I had already finished writing the novel when Babylon Berlin debuted on Netflix here in the States, when I saw his character on screen, I thought to myself that he’d do a great job as Karl.

And as a bonus, this would be a great song to play over the closing credits.

I haven’t gone so far as to consider all the minor characters. That would be a bit too much for me, so I’ll just stop with the major ones. Feel free to let me know who your picks would be for characters major or minor. Maybe I’ll revisit this post in a few months with reader picks.

If you haven’t bought a copy yet, So Others May Live is available for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon and is available for hardcover pre-order on the Barnes and Noble website.

L.H.

 

Book Release!

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Dear Readers,

It is finished! So Others May Live is now out in ebook and paperback. Hardback and audio book to follow. It has been a long road (two years) and the book went through multiple drafts (8), but now it emerges onto the world stage. I have to admit I’m a bit nervous, as even the best books get nasty reviews from some people, but I’m also happy it is finally done. Exhausted, yes, but happy.

So happy reading! And thank you all for taking this journey with me.

L.H.