Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives -- A true WW II Story

I have been working on a true WW II story for the past several years. When it was nearly finished, I sent it to Solstice Publishing, the same company that published my Miss Havana paranormal comedy series. I did not know if Solstice would consider a real story about real people, although I hoped they would. Solstice has always treated me fairly–more so than any other publisher I have used. To my pleasant surprise, Solstice responded to my e-mail almost immediately. The publisher had read the first few pages, found them interesting, and sent the book on to her Editor-in-Chief. That was the fastest response I have ever experienced from a publisher. The next day the Editor-in-Chief e-mailed a contract to me and assigned one of her subordinate editors to work with me to bring the book to Solstice publishing standards. I am now in the first round of edits with a very good editor. The book is titled Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives.

As I did with The Trophy Wife, I have developed a draft of what I’d like the cover to look like. Your comments are welcome (jhatch6@hot.rr.com). I have also included an excerpt from the book below.

The next day, they marched us by a native shack where some girls brought out some food wrapped up in banana leaves—kind of like a soft rice cake or poi with sugar mixed in. The guys grabbed the food because they were all starving, but the Japanese took it away. Then the guards ran into the shack, dragged out two young Philippine girls and an elderly woman…and bayonetted them.
We marched through the day and into the night. I managed to pick a few blades of grass to eat along the road, but most of the vegetation had been beaten down by war and traffic. There wasn’t much. We marched all the next day until we got into Balanga, the capital of Bataan.  A little later, Balanga became a hell hole, a staging area where prisoners from all over Bataan were brought in. Many of them were sick with dysentery and the place became unbearable with stench and filth. We were lucky. As the vanguard of the death march, we had arrived before the big bunch came in.
The next day, many of the guys were falling out. We didn’t think we were going to make it. I was in bad shape because I had been on the front lines longer than most. We ate grass and tree leaves, snakes, monkeys, and such. The third day, they brought in some trucks and loaded us up. We rolled into a small area where a little Philippine boy ran up with a canteen. The guards saw that the men were getting water, and hit the boy with a rifle butt, knocking him to the ground.
The Japanese were severe, probably a result of fear. They seemed to fear everything—their officers and even the American soldiers held in captivity. To prove their manhood, they were especially brutal to those who could not fight back. Another soldier came up and began beating the boy and eventually crushed his skull with the butt of his rifle. The boy died in agony; fear will make anybody brutal.
As we rolled out, the people along the way opened their grass shutters in the shacks and began throwing rice cakes and bananas into the trucks. The guards were furious, and began firing into the shacks. We don’t know how many of those people died inside.
           We continued on into Camp O'Donnell in Capas, the terminus of the Bataan Death March, without further incident. The camp was a former Philippine Army facility designed to accommodate about 10,000 men, but the Japanese crammed about 60,000 survivors into it. There was little running water, sparse food, no medical care, and only slit trenches along the sides of the camp for sanitation. The heat was intolerable. Flies rose out of the latrines and covered what little food the prisoners got. Malaria, dysentery, beriberi, and other diseases swept through the crowds of men. The camp was the hell hole of creation.

Thanks for reading! I’ll let you all know when the book is available for purchase.

James L. Hatch


Tina Donahue said...

Congrats on your latest contract, James! How exciting for that to have happened so quickly. This sounds like a wonderful book. I like your cover mock-up. :)

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Tina:

Thanks for the input on the cover and for the good wishes. I have never tried writing a true story before, so this is all new for me. I know from earlier reviewers that the book is riveting ... and cannot be read without shedding a few tears. I hope it does well in sales (that would be a welcome switch).