Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn
by Linda Bennett Pennell
Historical fiction with romantic elements
Casablanca, 1943: a viper’s nest of double agents and spies where OSS Officer Kurt Heinz finds his skill in covert operations pushed to the limit. Allied success in North Africa and the fate of the First Allied Conference—perhaps the outcome of the war—hang on Kurt’s next mission. The nature of his work makes relationships impossible. Nonetheless, he is increasingly torn between duty and the beautiful girl who desperately needs his protection and help.
Sarah Barrett, U.S. Army R.N., is finished with wartime romance. Determined to protect her recently broken heart, she throws all of her time and energy into caring for her patients, but when she is given a coded message by a mysterious dying civilian, she is sucked into a vortex of danger and intrigue that threatens her very survival. The one person who can help Sarah is Kurt Heinz, a man with too many secrets to be trusted.
“I’m Heinz. What do you want?”
“Oh. It’s you.”
“From the restaurant on New Year’s Eve.”
Kurt was silent for a moment, then it came back to him. “I remember. Sarah, right? You’re the girl who refused to dance with me.”
A red flush crawled from her throat onto the apples of her cheeks. “Yes. I’m sorry if I was rude.”
“I’ve been cut dead before. I got over it.”
The girl’s eyes glittered. “I’m sure you did. Are you going to keep me standing here on the doorstep for everyone to see?”
“Why? I’m not expecting company. Would it be a problem?”
“It certainly might if the people who tore my apartment apart followed me here.”
Kurt looked into her eyes with complete attention for the first time since opening the door. Whatever had happened to this girl, she looked terrified and angry. Not a particularly good combination for the covert activities he and Phelps were up to.
Kurt made a quick decision. He stepped back and pulled the door wide while raising his voice.
“You better come inside and tell me why you think what happened to your apartment has anything to do with me.”
When they stepped into the living area, Phelps had disappeared. Kurt gestured toward the sofa and the girl sat down.
Propping himself on the sofa’s arm, he looked down into her frightened eyes.
“Now tell me how I can help you, Miss, uh…” “Barrett, Sarah. US Army. RN.”
“Well, Nurse Barrett, what can I do for you?”
The girl stuck her hand in her coat pocket and whipped out a scrap of paper that she waved in his face.
“By telling me what’s on this paper and why it’s so important that somebody took a knife to my furniture.”
Historical Fiction: Why We Love It!
From time to time, literary critics and other publishing industry wags have heralded the demise of historical fiction only to be proven very wrong by the people who really matter, the readers. Though it waxes and wanes like any genre, historical fiction endures, perhaps to the dismay of some academicians, but it gives no indication of leaving us anytime soon. Its popularity has been evident from the publication of Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly, considered the first work of modern historical fiction. The first run of Waverly sold out in two days, an achievement to be envied by any author. Scott followed that success with others, most notably Ivanhoe, The Lady of the Lake, Rob Roy, and The Bride of Lammermoor. His works have enjoyed long life across multiple media, including comic books, movies, TV, and Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor. Although Scott may have been the first, he was certainly not the last. Since the publication of Waverly in 1814, the list of successful works of historical fiction has grown long indeed. So why does historical fiction remain popular while there are so many persons who say they hated studying history in school?
In my opinion, it comes down to the difference between looking at history through the impersonal lens of academia verses having a personal experience through the close point of view writing found in most novels, especially historical romances. By its very definition and due to the rigors of academic investigation, the historian must remain objective and keep his/her subject at arm’s length. As Joe Friday on Dragnet would have said, “Just the facts, ma’am.” While historians do offer personal opinions by drawing conclusions, they do so only after a cold examination and evaluation of the evidence. The novelist, on the other hand, brings history to life by creating interesting characters living in richly described periods. In the hands of an adept novelist, we see what the characters see, we feel what they feel, we taste what they taste. Their experiences become our experiences, and in so doing, we are transported to another time and place. We, the readers, get to time travel without the mess and bother of leaving home.
That brings me to a question I am asked fairly frequently when the subject of studying history in the public schools comes up. In my other life, I am an educational administrator. People want to know if teaching novels in history classrooms is a good idea. My answer is a resounding yes, provided the selected books are well written, well researched, and teach the facts of the historical periods in which the books are set. It should be noted that to qualify as true historical fiction, works of any of the multiple subgenres must rest upon a foundation of exacting research. That said, I have seen good history teachers turn kids who “hate history and reading” into avid readers and lovers of the past simply by using great novels and short stories to illustrate the historical points and eras they are studying. Cases in point are Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt, The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor . . . the list is a long one.
So, tell us. Why do you enjoy reading historical fiction? Did you like studying history when you were in school? Would you have enjoyed being taught history through the use of novels in the classroom?
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother's porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.
As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, "Let's pretend."
I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.
"History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up." Voltaire
Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel from Soul Mate Publishing
Confederado do Norte from Soul Mate Publishing
When War Came Home from real Cypress Press
Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn available 8/28/15 from the Wild Rose Press
Buy link for Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel: http://amzn.to/16qq3k5
Buy link for Confederado do Norte: http://amzn.com/B00LMN5OMI
Buy ink for When War Came Home: http://amzn.com/B010RXNZRO
Buy link for Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn: http://amzn.to/1KDnyol