Monday, November 25, 2019

Excerpt reveal: Maximilian’s Treasure, by James D. Bell


maxstreasure-forprint
Genre: Romance/Adventure 
Author: James D. Bell
Find out more on Amazon       
About the Book:
Rumors of a legendary treasure fuel a battle over possession of a Choctaw family farm.  Two young lawyers, John Brooks and Jackson Bradley, agree to help the family keep their farm.  Early legal success prompts the drive-by murder of the patriarch of the family.  The grandson chases the suspects whose bodies are found on the farm, scalped.  At the same time clues to a vast treasure are found on the farm.  Jackson, pursued by fortune seekers, adventurers, an exotic beauty and a homicidal maniac, follows the clues from a Caribbean reef to the Chiapas jungle.  John stays behind to defend the grandson and continue the fight for the farm.  His efforts are complicated by arson, murder, race riots, and the realization that he lost his one true love.  Though there is great distance between them, their adventures are intertwined as they rush toward a triple climax that could shake the world.  Join the adventure and discover your Maximilian’s Treasure.
JamesD.Bell-Photo
About the Author:
James D. Bell is an award-winning author and retired Judge who received the highest bar association approval ratings ever given to a Mississippi Circuit or County Judge. He is listed in Preeminent Lawyers, Outstanding Lawyers of America and Top 100 Attorneys of North America.  He is the author of two novels, Vampire Defense and Maximilian’s Treasure.  His short story, The Adventures of Sherlock Hound, was published in Mardi Allen’s collection, Dog Stories for the Soul, alongside stories from Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Willie Morris and others.  The son of a Choctaw mother and a Mississippi businessman, Judge Bell is devoted to his wife, Joanne.  They live near Jackson, Mississippi and have four children.  Judge Bell returned to law practice but is frequently called back to the bench by the Mississippi Supreme Court for short term assignments.
 
Find out more: 

EXCERPT
“Why did this have to happen?” cried Erma as she sat on the couch, her head in her hands.  Karen sat next to her with her hand on Erma’s shoulders, trying to comfort her.  The deputies were interviewing witnesses one at a time.  Most family members waited on the porch for their turn to be questioned.  Jackson, Peter and Karen sat with Frank and Erma in the den.
“It’s the treasure,” said Frank in disgust.
“How do you know it’s the treasure?” asked Jackson.
Peter sat on the edge of his chair and listened.
“He’s right.  It seems that everything bad that happens to this family has something to do with that old treasure.  I hate that treasure,” said Erma.  “It has brought nothing but sadness and tragedy to us.  It doesn’t even exist.  It never existed.”
“Yes, it does.  But I would give it up in a minute if I could undo all that’s happened,” said Frank.
“It doesn’t even have to exist to kill us.  People believe in it, and we get killed.  Nothing good has ever come from that old rumor.  I hate that treasure,” repeated Erma.
“I don’t blame you, after what I saw today,” said Karen.  “What else has happened?”
“The list is too long.  So many things have happened over the years.  There was the cave in at Hummingbird Well, where Frank found that coin.”  Tears filled Erma’s eyes. She excused herself and retreated to the bedroom.
Frank shook his head.
“I found the coin in Hummingbird Well, over near Pinishook Creek.  It was an old fashioned well.  We lowered a bucket on a rope.  One day, when I pulled the bucket up, I found the coin.  The one I showed Mr. Brooks.  I always believed the gold was in Hummingbird Well.  To me, it confirmed the rumors about the treasure.   We searched around the well and the creek, and then we started digging up the well.  The sides fell in.  Erma’s two boys were trapped.  We could hear them calling for us because the water was rising.  They drowned before we could get to them.”
“Oh, no!” said Karen as she rose and tapped on the bedroom door.  Karen cracked open the door, looked back at Jackson, Peter and Frank, and stepped into the bedroom, closing the door behind her.
Peter, Jackson and Frank sat in silence for a few minutes.
“Did you find any gold in the well?” asked Peter.
“No.  We never found the gold.  I believe it’s still there.”
As Frank said that, Erma returned to the room, wiping her eyes, followed by Karen.  “I’m sorry.  I’m alright.  I dealt with this a long time ago.  It’s just that the murder of Uncle German brought up old wounds.”  Karen put her arm around Erma, who gave Karen a hug and said, “Thank you.  Frank still believes that gold is in that old well.  He can have the gold, for what good it’ll do him.”
“Maybe Frank James lost one coin or dropped just one coin down the well,” guessed Jackson.
“No.  We were told that Sankky’s last words were something like, ‘You will draw the gold from the hummingbird.’ They say it was hard to understand her exact words when she died, but she said something like that.  We knew that she named the old well, Hummingbird Well, so I knew we would find the gold there,” said Frank.
“That’s why Frank was drawing water from the well,” said Erma.  “He always thought he would get lucky one day and draw gold up from the well.  One day he finally did.  We thought that was a great day.  But, then tragedy struck.  That gold is cursed,” said Erma, almost spitting out the word cursed.
A thought struck Karen, and she sucked in a little air. Her eyes darted around the room and came to rest on the hummingbird painting.  “She said ‘draw’ and ‘hummingbird.’  Erma, may I look behind Sankky’s painting?”
Erma starred at Karen for a moment, then she turned and looked at Frank, eyes wide open.
Frank said, “Well, I’ll be.”
“Yes, darlin’, you can look,” said Erma.
Everyone’s eyes were glued on Karen as she walked to the hummingbird painting.  She lifted the frame from the wall and laid it face down on the checker table.
“Can someone help me get the back off of this frame?”
Frank used a pocketknife to pry off the back of the picture.  Everyone leaned in to get a better look.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Chapter reveal: ‘Fortunate Son – The Story of Baby Boy Francis,’ by Brooks Eason


Fortunate Son front cover (3)Genre
Memoir 
AuthorBrooks Eason
Websitewww.brookseason.com             
Publisher: WordCrafts Press, Nashville, TN
ABOUT THE BOOK 
On the eve of the birth of his first grandchild, Mississippi lawyer Brooks Eason learned the truth about a mystery he’d lived with for nearly fifty years: the story of his birth and his birth mother’s identity.  Perhaps even more surprising was how the story was finally revealed:  It turned out that Eason was a potential heir to an enormous fortune from his birth mother’s family.  His original identity finally saw the light of day only as result of litigation in four courts in two states, initiated in an effort to identify and find the heir.  Eason, who was raised in Tupelo by loving parents, found out on the day his granddaughter was born that he began his life as Scott Francis, which remained his legal name for the first year of his life.  Fortunate Son – The Story of Baby Boy Francis is the story of how he learned the story. 
And what a story it is.
A truth-is-stranger-than-fiction memoir that unfolds in the Deep South, Fortunate Son is a deeply personal and deeply moving story about families, secrets, and choices.  Resplendent with intrigue, drama, and mystery—all the hallmarks of a blockbuster novel—Fortunate Son is a true story, unembellished, unpretentious, and at times almost unbelievable.  Eason, a gifted storyteller with an incredible story to tell, delivers a gripping, satisfying, meaningful memoir.  Told with candor, wit, and honesty, Fortunate Son is a thoughtful and thought-provoking first person narrative that will have readers turning pages. 
Though Eason was ultimately not the beneficiary of the fortune, he is quick to point out that he received a different kind of wealth:  knowing the truth and finally being able to dive headfirst into the story of his origin, uncovering fascinating blood relatives and stories along the way. 
Much more than a memoir about birth and adoption, Fortunate Son is a long love letter from the author to the parents who raised him, a heartfelt thank you to the birth mother who gave him the whole world when she gave him away, and a moving tribute to his beloved daughter who faced circumstances similar to those his birth mother faced and bravely chose to keep her baby.  A tale of two stories that unfolded in different times, Fortunate Son is an extraordinary story extraordinarily well-told. 
Brooks Eason - photo
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brooks Eason loves stories, reading and writing them, hearing and telling them. He also loves music, dogs, and campfires as well as his family and friends. His latest book is Fortunate Son – the Story of Baby Boy Francis, an amazing memoir about his adoption, discovery of the identity of his birth mother, and much more.

Eason has practiced law in Jackson for more than 35 years but has resolved to trade in writing briefs for writing books.  He lives with his wife Carrie and their two elderly rescue dogs, Buster and Maddie, and an adopted stray cat named Count Rostov for the central character in A Gentleman in Moscow, the novel by Amor Towles.  In their spare time, the Easons host house concerts, grow tomatoes, and dance in the kitchen.  Eason, who has three children and four grandchildren, is also the author of Travels with Bobby – Hiking in the Mountains of the American West about hiking trips with his best friendVisit Brooks online at www.brookseason.com.  WordCrafts Press is an independent publishing company headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit WordCrafts online at www.wordcrafts.net.

EXCERPT

CHAPTER 1

It was a Tuesday morning in June 2004. The day had started like any other. I walked the dogs, ate breakfast while reading the paper, then drove downtown to work. I was in my office on the 14th floor of the Trustmark Bank Building when my phone rang. It was my father, Paul Eason. He rarely called me at work but had just listened to an intriguing voicemail. He was calling to tell me about it.
Daddy was 82 and lived by himself in Tupelo, Mississippi, in the home where I grew up. It was the only home he and my mother Margaret ever owned. She had died five years earlier in the bedroom they shared for more than forty years. I lived three hours south of Tupelo in Jackson, where I had practiced law for two decades. 
The message was from a woman in New Orleans, also a lawyer. She said her firm was conducting a nationwide, court-ordered search for Paul Eason, age 46. I go by my middle name, but my first name is Paul and I was about to turn 47. I told Daddy I would return the call. 
Why a court in New Orleans would order someone to search the entire country for me was a mystery. A theory occurred to me, but after all these years it didn’t seem possible. Because I didn’t know the reason for the call, I decided not to identify myself as the Paul Eason the lawyer was trying to find. I would just say I was Brooks Eason and was returning the call she had placed to my father. But when she came to the phone, she already knew who I was.
“I can’t believe we found you.” 
“What is this about?”
“An inheritance.”
“Tell me more.”
*        *        *
That was the day I began to learn the story that had been a mystery to me all my life, the story of my birth and second family. In the days that followed, I found out that my name was Scott Francis – or rather that it had been – for the first year of my life. I was nearly fifty years old, but until then I didn’t know I had started life with a different name, much less what it was. My name, as well as the rest of the story, had been a secret. This is the story of how I learned the secret. But this story is about more than that. It is also about the wonderful life my parents gave me, about my exceptional daughter and granddaughter, who was born just days after Daddy received the voicemail. and about how times and attitudes changed from when I was born until she was born.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Excerpt reveal: 'The Fog Ladies,' by Susan McCormick




The Fog Ladies is a cozy murder mystery set in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco where old ladies start to die. Mrs. Bridge falls off a stool cleaning bugs out of her kitchen light. Mrs. Talwin slips on bubbles in the bath and drowns. The Pacific Heights building is turning over tenants faster than the fog rolls in a cool San Francisco evening.

Young, overworked, overtired, overstressed medical intern Sarah James has no time for sleuthing. Her elderly neighbors, the Fog Ladies, have nothing but time. Sarah assumes the deaths are the natural consequence of growing old. The Fog Ladies assume murder.

Sarah resists the Fog Ladies’ perseverations. But when one of them falls down the stairs and tells Sarah she was pushed, even Sarah believes evil lurks in their building. Can they find the killer before they fall victim themselves?




About the Author


Susan McCormick writes cozy murder mysteries. She is also the author of Granny Can’t Remember Me, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease. She is a doctor who lives in Seattle. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University School of Medicine, with additional medical training in Washington, DC and San Francisco, where she lived in an elegant apartment building much like the one in the book. She served nine years in the military before settling in the Pacific Northwest. She is married and has two boys, plus a giant Newfoundland dog.


Website:





Find out more about THE FOG LADIES:


Amazon / B&N

Social media:




The Fog Ladies

Prologue

Mrs. Bridge did not like bugs. Perched high up on the stool, she peered distastefully into the kitchen light. Living in an apartment building in San Francisco, she usually had no problem with bugs. But the light collected the creatures, motionless black blobs above her head.

If Tommy were anything like old Mr. Lemon, the handyman he replaced, there would be no bugs. Mr. Lemon had come by every few weeks to see if she needed something fixed. He did it with all the tenants, right from the time she moved in forty years ago when she was twenty-five. Old Mr. Lemon wasn’t above cleaning out bugs. Old Mr. Lemon wasn’t above anything. Not like Tommy.

When she’d first suggested to Tommy that he should clean out the bugs, he actually laughed. What impudence! The few times he had come, he’d shown up a week later, long after she’d done the task herself. What did she pay her rent for?

The whole building had gone downhill since Mr. Lemon died. It was a beautiful building in Pacific Heights, built in 1925, elegant and solid, with a slate floor in the lobby and etched glass windows. Mr. Lemon had washed those windows every week, just like he polished the brass and oiled the mahogany hall table. Tommy thought his job entailed keeping the elevator running and changing the light bulbs in the back staircase. He didn’t understand about a fine building. And he certainly showed no interest in helping with her bugs.

So Mrs. Bridge climbed up there herself. It wasn’t easy. The ceilings were high. She used a stool she found in the garage by the dumpster. It was meant to be a barstool, but its height was perfect for reaching the light fixture. She wore yellow rubber gloves and used wads of paper towels. Even though they were expensive. The whole process left her winded and she only did it every few months.

Stepping from her kitchen chair onto the barstool was the trickiest part. She had done it many times before and could balance pretty well once she touched the ceiling.
She always felt nervous at this point, hand over head, feet tight together on the small stool. Today, though, she felt an inexplicable dread.

If anything happened, she would blame Tommy. She found it ridiculous and humiliating that a sixty-five-year-old woman should have to clean bugs out of a light. 

She had seen Tommy that very day up on a sturdy new ladder probably purchased with her rent proceeds. Why couldn’t he do this for her? Or at least offer her the ladder. No respect for his elders, that’s why.

“Insolent youth.” Mrs. Bridge said. “Damn that Tommy.”

The stool jerked from under her. Mrs. Bridge felt herself fall. It seemed like slow motion, like she was falling from the roof deck and not from a stool in the kitchen. Falling, falling, long enough for her to see the figure standing nearby. Long enough for her to see his detached expression.

She landed hard. She heard the crack. She knew she was going to die. She studied the bugs in the light far over her head. The figure started to turn away.

She managed to speak and was surprised at how strong her voice sounded. “Sarah,” she blurted. He whirled around.

Mrs. Bridge was satisfied to see the shock on his face as she stared up and said, “Sarah saw you.”

Friday, September 27, 2019

Quest to the Unknown and Darkness and Light by Annelies George





Title: Darkness and Light
Author: Annelies George
Publisher: BI Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Format: Paperback/Ebook
On Tour: September 9-November 29

DARKNESS AND LIGHT is set five years after the brutal attack in Jessie’s apartment. From Miami to the Seychelles, the now married journalist continues her life journey. The metaphorical meaning of darkness and light are central themes throughout the story. Hatred, greed, betrayal, lies, the desire for power, far reaching jealousy, unconditional love, forgiveness and the noticeable changes in today’s climate are some of the spellbinding features of this plot.In the second part of the Jessie Golden Earth series once more today’s business jungle is intertwined with the intangible world of the other side. This results in an easily readable exciting story set in various countries around the globe, leading to a surprising unexpected end to this part in the series.

PURCHASE HERE





Title: Quest to the Unknown
Author: Annelies George
Publisher: Hybrid Global Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Format: Paperback/Ebook
On Tour: September 9-November 29


Quest to the Unknown revolves around up-and-coming Dutch reporter Jessie Golden, ready for her first holiday with business mogul and playboy Carlos Gomez, with whom she is engaged in a budding romance. Her journey begins when she finds a folder full of information on a mysterious woman named Nancy and her son Paul, leading her to an unexpected quest. Soon thereafter Jessie is confronted with a series of unexplainable supernatural occurrences. She realizes there is no such thing as coincidence, although she can’t unravel the true meaning of her quest nor her link to Nancy and her son. At the same time Jessie believes Carlos’ father has ties with some questionable characters. Startled by a series of unexpected events she reaches out to Ed Turner, Carlos’ right-hand man. In order to protect the one she truly loves, Jessie starts an investigation that points to the murky world of the mob. When a stranger is constantly following her, Jessie’s life is in serious danger. Can the ones she implicitly confides in, still be trusted? The first part of the Jessie Golden 21st Century Earth Series, introduces the main characters of the saga in an intriguing story of exceptional mother love, the far reaching consequences of choices in life, genuine feelings, blind faith and brutal deception, set in a multitude of countries in today’s fast moving business world.

PURCHASE HERE






Annelies George was born on 4 August, 1964 in Bussum, After the gymnasium, she followed a one-year course as an international secretary in Amsterdam. Immediately afterward she started to work for a law firm, studying finance, management and law during the evening hours with the goal of becoming a lawyer herself. A move to a different town brought her into the fast IT world, where she was employed by GE Capital, marking the start of a successful career in the international IT Finance world. Due to the intensity of the job and long working hours, she abandoned her plans for a law degree. At the age of 30, she was appointed to Benelux managing director of a US based lease company, a rare phenomenon at the time, since few women were holding similar positions in the specific branch in the Netherlands. Thereafter she accepted a variety of EMEA and regional management and sales roles with Cisco, Microsoft, and Hewlett Packard. Annelies still lives in Bussum and is taking care of her 83-year-old mother. She loves, among other activities, to paint and design necklaces when she is not writing. On occasion she likes to travel to discover new places and understand the different ways of living around the globe.

You can visit her at: https://www.anneliesgeorge.com 






Thursday, September 12, 2019

----------WOLVES AT OUR DOOR by Soren Paul Petrek----------


Title: WOLVES AT OUR DOOR
Author: Soren Paul Petrek
Publisher: Editions Encre Rouge/Hachette Livre
Pages: 319
Genre: Historical/Action/Adventure


The Allies and the Nazis are in a deadly race to develop the ultimate weapon while supersonic V-2 rockets rain down on London. Madeleine Toche and Berthold Hartmann, the German super assassin who taught her to kill, search for the secret factory where Werner von Braun and his Gestapos masters use slave labor to build the weapons as the bodies of the innocent pile up. The Allied ground forces push towards Berlin while the German SS fight savagely for each inch of ground.

Finding the factory hidden beneath Mount Kohnstein, Hartmann contacts his old enemy, Winston Churchill and summons Madeleine to his side. While she moves to bring the mountain down on her enemies, Hartmann leads a daring escape from the dreaded Dora concentration camp to continue his revenge against the monsters who ruined his beloved Germany.

Together with the Russian Nachtlexen, the Night Witches, fearsome female pilots the race tightens as the United States and the Germans successfully carry out an atomic bomb test.

Germany installs an atom bomb in a V-2 pointed towards London, while the US delivers one to a forward base in the Pacific. The fate of the Second World War and the future of mankind hangs in the balance.
Read the first chapter at Booksie and don’t forget to give it a like!

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon



CHAPTER ONE

Mid-August 1943
Peenemunde Research Facility
Northern Germany


In Northern Germany on a remote peninsula, jutting into the Baltic Sea, the Nazi government maintained a covert research station. Hoping to turn the tide of a stalemate war back in Germany’s favor, Adolf Hitler had become fascinated with the development of superweapons. The larger the weapons, the greater his interest and the Peenemunde facility was producing the biggest and most lethal ones ever conceived.
It had required ten thousand workers to build the twenty-five-square-kilometer compound. Schools and living quarters were erected for the families of the two thousand research scientists who had worked to produce weapons to satisfy Adolf Hitler’s desire to crush the enemies of the Third Reich. Liquid oxygen production plants sucked 70 percent of the electricity the on-site power station produced. Peenemunde was the largest military facility in the world. The work being done there had nothing to do with the development of atomic weapons; rockets were built and tested. Missiles that could reach cities and battlefields far away from where they were launched. Once perfected, their range could be increased to reach, potentially, anywhere on earth.

***

Late evening August 17, 1943
Peenemunde

The car that pulled up to the front gate was met by a security detail. As he stepped out of the passenger side, German rocket scientist Werner von Braun flicked his cigarette butt onto the gravel drive; he then reached into his pockets for his identification papers. He had been put in charge of the entire complex, and he was only thirty—an enormous achievement for someone who had been fascinated with rocketry since childhood. His area was liquid-fueled rockets, which he hoped would one day take men to the moon. For now, the research was used to develop a weapon that would flatten London. And he had produced one. A forty-six-foot monster: the V-2 Rocket. Most of the prototypes detonated on the launch pad or quickly skirted into the sea, but some of the missiles achieved altitude before crashing farther out. It was enough to keep his funding and the research moving forward.
Von Braun walked up to the main gate, where he was welcomed by a guard who took his papers. According to his orders, all visitors to Peenemunde were required to produce the necessary documentation. The facility was top secret, and, at least so far, the Allies hadn’t determined its purpose. Von Braun hoped that would continue until he had a reliable working model. With a flick of his flashlight and a smile, the guard checked von Braun’s face against his identification. It was hardly necessary. Tall and fit with a thick head of black hair, von Braun came across as a man of both position, thanks to his bearing, and wealth, thanks to his suits. It would have been difficult to impersonate a man the guards saw every day.
The main gate was one of the few access points to the sprawling compound. It was surrounded by two layers of fence with barbed wire and overlooked by several high guard towers. One hundred kilometers from the nearest town, there was no one around. Vast stretches of beaches along the Baltic Sea were deserted. There were no fishing boats or industry of any kind there except for Peenemunde. 
Von Braun walked along one of the paved roads that crisscrossed the south end of the research and manufacturing campus. Reaching into his pocket for a cigarette, he glanced up at the sky. Even though the night was clear, motion stirred the sky. But what was it? He heard the whine of a large falling object.
He barely had time to react when the first bomb hit. He stood dumbstruck as masses of clustered bombs followed the first. Buildings around him popped open, spilling people from their dormitories and offices. Groups of men and women ran for the nearest fallout shelter. Detonations tossed torn-apart vehicles and bodies into the air. Against the backdrop of crumbling buildings, incendiary bombs set off raging fires that sucked in oxygen from everywhere. A firestorm raged through the compound, torching everything in its path. My research, von Braun thought as he ran toward his own office. Nearby coworkers raced after him to save the documents. The fire had not yet reached the second floor as he and his coworkers sprinted up the stairs to salvage what they could.
They were headed toward the records room when a flash of fire burst through the doorway. Von Braun dashed through the flames, shouting, “Throw it all out the window!” He picked up a file box and tossed it out an open window. Two men shoved an entire file cabinet out another window, and others followed suit, collectively rescuing months of work. Somewhere in the paperwork lay a clue of why the tests weren’t yet successful.
Waves of heat intensified as the men’s clothing started to scorch.
“Get out!” von Braun screamed, pushing his men ahead of him and out of the room. Had he missed anything? Only the fire drove him from the room.
He charged down the stairs and through the blaze on the first floor. Outside, he watched a guard, who’d had the presence of mind to shelter the research, loading the boxes into a truck.
The people who weren’t already dead crawled, bloodied, through fire and burning rubble. Screams of pain and yells for help compounded the chaos, coupling with the smell of burning flesh. The acrid stench of cordite hung in the air, left after the concussive blasts. What little oxygen there was fed the fires.
Von Braun watched silently as his dreams burned.

***

Dawn came as the broken buildings smoked. Walls crumbled under their weight as workers tried to find bodies in the rubble.
Notified of the bombing, the first of the Nazi officials showed up on the scene to assess the damage. A motorcade came through what was left of the main gate. There were no guards posted. There was little left to protect.
Stepping out of his staff car, SS General Hans Klammer looked over the compound. He held a Ph.D. in civil engineering and could easily see beyond the surface damage. The overall structural impact on the buildings was significant. A few fire trucks continued to spray water in an attempt to keep other fires from spreading, but there were too many of them. Most of them were allowed to burn themselves out as long as they couldn’t spread to the nearby forests and grassy areas. Klammer thought the Allies must have used thousand-pound bombs. And they certainly weren’t concerned with accuracy. The goal was to decimate the facility, and it was easily achieved.
            Large bomb craters left the landscape pockmarked, as though an angry giant had pummeled it with a hammer. All of the buildings were damaged, some reduced nothing but piles of concrete and twisted metal. Even the ones still standing had scorch marks and shrapnel scars from bombs that had narrowly missed them. Crews of prisoners moved bricks and pieces of concrete manually, while bulldozers and tractors lifted the larger sections. It was beyond repair.
            As von Braun walked across the compound, Klammer thought he looked like a stricken man, and he vowed to help sooth his nerves. After all, von Braun was a civilian and a scientist to boot, someone they needed for the project—someone they needed calm, level-headed.
            “I’ve lost my main design engineer and several other key scientists,” von Braun said, lighting a cigarette with a shaky hand. His drawn face appeared to have aged years in a matter of hours. “One hundred and seventy key personnel killed and the extent of the damage hasn’t been calculated. We were able to save most of my most important documents. I almost died pushing files out windows with my staff,” he said, throwing his hands in the air. “This is a scientific facility. And then this.” He gestured. “Most of the men aren’t even in the military.”
            “Herr Doctor, I know you're upset and feel partially to blame.” Klammer placed a gloved hand on von Braun’s shoulder. “You’re not to blame. We are at war and would have done the same to the British if they had been building rockets. Your project is too important to let this dissuade you.” Klammer gesticulated passionately against the ash-colored sky. “Clearly the facility needs to be moved beyond the range of their bombers. We can’t rebuild this, and even if we did, they’d just bomb it again. No, clearing away all of this debris and tearing down the buildings will cause an unacceptable delay. We will find a more suitable location, somewhere in central Germany.”
            “We’ve also lost five hundred prisoners,” Von Braun added. “Some of them were highly skilled at assembly.”
            “The survivors will work when we locate an appropriate site. We’ll have work for many others as well,” Klammer said with a smile. “Don’t worry, Doctor; you’ll be back in business in no time. Just leave it to the SS. We’re very efficient at construction. Down to the last Mark and Pfennig.”
           “I worry about using new unskilled labor to build the rockets,” Von Braun confessed. “Each one is individual to itself. With three thousand independent parts, consistency is vital. Conditions have to be optimal for assembly and testing. Do you know what kind of location you are considering?”
            “Underground,” Klammer told him, “where bombers can’t do any more damage. We have already begun an exhaustive examination of potential sites within Germany, and we’ve narrowed it down to a few. The Fuhrer wants no more delays caused by destruction. He has great expectations for the use of rockets against England. He hopes to fire at least a dozen per day at London with no loss of German lives. When they land, only the British will die. We’ll test their resolve to keep on fighting with London in flames.”
            “But construction of another factory will take months,” von Braun argued.
            “Three or four, if everything goes according to plan.”
            “Three? Isn’t that a bit aggressive?”
            “The Jews will build it. They’ll work day and night. We will find a suitable location that won’t require an enormous construction budget.”
            “When can we relocate?”
            “We will move the equipment that can be salvaged to a temporary location. Your testing and experiments can continue there. Don’t worry,” Klammer assured the scientist, “I’ve built several work camps under budget and ahead of schedule. I know what I’m doing.”
            “We will determine what equipment is viable and catalog it immediately,” von Braun said, nodding his head. “Several rockets survived, and testing can continue as soon as we can relocate.”
            “Fine, the future of your project depends on continued progress. The Fuhrer often grows impatient and loses faith when things don’t go according to plan. As a fellow engineer, I have the utmost faith in you, Dr. von Braun. I’ve rarely seen a man so driven to succeed.”
            “Thank you,” von Braun said. “This research could win the war. My hope is that we can settle this nonsense on our terms. So that we can pursue the real goal, Germany’s conquest of space.”
            “We all want that. Everyone is tired of war, but we must win a decisive victory. Now I must get back to Berlin. Keep me abreast of your progress, Werner.”
            “I will, sir. Thank you for lifting my spirits.”
            “We’ll be up and move forward in no time. You do the science and leave the rocket building to me.” With that, Klammer climbed into the back seat of his car. He waved at von Braun and motioned for his driver to leave.
            Von Braun watched Klammer depart. He felt better, but the design problems with the rockets nagged him still. He walked back to his makeshift office to begin the cataloging project. No doubt with enough cruelty and loss of Jewish life, the SS would accomplish their task. A new factory was one thing, but he had to find out why the rockets weren’t achieving altitude. With the structural design team in tatters, what would von Braun have to do? Stand underneath one of the things as it crashed back down to earth?

***

            Half of the Jews forced to work at the Peenemunde installation were killed or wounded. Those with superficial wounds were herded among the other men. Those too far gone were shot where they lay.
            The survivors were crammed into cattle cars in which hay and dung littered the floorboards. They were pushed inside until it was standing room only. Many pairs of lungs competed for the thin and stifling oxygen.
As they left the Peenemunde facility, those men near the sides of the car tried to see through the tiny slits serving as windows. Other than briefly glimpsing civilization as the train passed a town, the men saw nothing but trees and open fields; they had no idea where they were going. Hungry and tired, they gratefully took turns sitting when they could no longer stand, though sitting room diminished as the train meandered down through the middle of Germany, picking up other prisoners as it headed south.
            In the late afternoon of the first day, the train stopped. The men were offloaded and given some weak soup and water. They were permitted to sit as the food was distributed. The guards had been given orders to deliver them alive; dead workers were useless. They were allowed to relieve themselves at the side of the tracks, long ago having lost the privilege of privacy. Few of them looked at one another, and none spoke.
            They were jammed back onto the train, and there were no more stops. On the second afternoon, the train reached its destination. With Mount Kohnstein looming above them, their rail cars were opened by SS guards. As they were herded toward the face of the mountain, they were handed pickaxes and shovels. They moved toward a small track railway that led into what looked like a mine entrance protruding back into the dark recesses of the mountain. A guard hit a switch, and a string of dim lights illuminated the tunnel farther than sight could follow. Men were already chipping away at the Gypsum rock that lined the walls. Metal clanging against rock echoed. It was a soft mineral and came out in large chunks that were immediately loaded into metal carts and pushed by hand out of the mine. No indication was given to the workers as to what they were supposed to do, other than keep digging.
            Inside the mine, there were no mechanized engines, only manpower. If a cart tipped over, the prisoners were beaten until the car was set upright and the rock reloaded. The dust choked the workers and made it hard to see. Fumes from blasting perpetually hung in the air.
They worked around the clock, and the shifts changed every twelve hours. Afterward, the prisoners were taken to an area where wooden bunks were stacked four high. The thin mattresses brought no comfort and allowed for little sleep. Stale bread and a thin foul tasting soup gave little nourishment. Over the weeks and months, as many men died from dysentery and Typhus as were executed or worked to death. The lack of proper nutrition gave the prisoners violent diarrhea; a bucket was their sanitary facility. Every straw filled mat they slept on was stained with excrement and vomit. Lice, scabies and other insects, tormented the men constantly.
            The passageways were widened, and the ceilings made higher. The main tunnels needed to accommodate fully assembled rockets as they were put together. Scaffolding was necessary to reach the roof. Men fell on every shift. Some died while others were injured. The men who could no longer work were shot. Their bodies tossed on rail cars laden with rock. Outside, they were transferred to piles of human corpses. Every day and night, the piles of dead grew.
The progress was rapid despite the inhuman conditions. The two main S-shaped tunnels ran parallel and snaked through the mountain. Forty-six connecting passageways had to be dug through rock walls. Storerooms and barracks for the prisoners and guards were hollowed out along one of the main tunnels. A small hospital was constructed and various workshops and laboratories. The pace was brutal. When a prisoner died, there were always replacements coming by train from concentration camps all over Germany, Poland and elsewhere.

About the Author

Soren Petrek is a practicing criminal trial attorney, admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 1991.  Married with two adult children, Soren continues to live and work in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Educated in the U.S., England and France Soren sat his O-level examinations at the Heathland School in Hounslow, London in 1981.  His undergraduate degree in Forestry is from the University of Minnesota, 1986.  His law degree is from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota 1991.

Soren’s novel, Cold Lonely Courage won Fade In Magazine’s 2009 Award for Fiction.  Fade In was voted the nation’s favorite movie magazine by the Washington Post and the L.A. Times in 2011 and 2012.

The French edition of Cold Lonely Courage, Courage was published January 2019, by Encre Rouge Editions, distributed by Hachette Livre in 60 countries.  Soren’s contemporary novel, Tim will be released along with the rest of the books in the Madeleine Toche series of historical thrillers.

His latest book is the historical action adventure novel, Wolves at Our Door.