One night, before I wrote Night and Fog, my wife asked why I was watching a You Tube video in French when I don’t speak French. It was Dédée de Jongh modestly relating how she and her comrades simply did what had to be done to save Allied airmen during World War Two.
Though much older in the video than the young girl whose daring had become legendary, Dédée’s body language and tone still bore the essence of the courageous young girl who organized the most resilient underground line of World War Two and told me more about her character than merely reading about her could.
Sometimes a story grabs you and just won’t let go. Whenever I’m asked why I wrote Night and Fog I think back to when I tried to explain why I was watching this video. I began to tell my wife about several members of the underground, but as I recounted specific incidents, I was reminded of the incredible risks they took and the sacrifices they made, especially the fears and tortures they endured at the hands of the Nazis, and I became too choked up to speak.
I knew their story had to be told so others like myself, whose early impressions of the ‘French’ underground came from American movies, would better understand what daring it took for these partisans to defy their German conquerors and save eight hundred airmen through the five years of war.
But who should write it?
Writing this book would be daunting. It would be nearly twice the size of my last book and it would have at least a dozen point-of-view characters. The most I had tackled before was three.
My first thought was to find a more experienced writer to take it on because it would be so difficult to write and publish. The problem was I cared too much about these courageous people and knew deep down that no one else would write the story the way I thought it should be told. So here I am, four years later with a novel that may be somewhat longer than average, but one that I’m proud to have been a part of.