The Paris Deception by David O. Stewart

As a lawyer, David O. Stewart argued before juries, judges, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  Now, he writes history and historical novels, looking for the people behind the stories, and for the stories that have been missed or misunderstood. In his novel The Paris Deception, he brings to light the aftermath of World War One, the people involved, the wheeling and dealing that set in motion circumstances that continue to affect us today.

History can help us formulate useful questions and prompt warnings about our own times. This is the case with The Paris Deception. Through the characters of President Woodrow Wilson, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George we gain insight on the conflicting values of countries, on the complexities of building peace, and on the weight of great responsibility. We see the United States in its ascendancy, Britain as its empire begins to fade, and the total collapse of Germany.

There have been many WWI novels: stories of families torn apart, the chaos and horror of war, the ineptitude of leaders, the longing for home; stories of intense camaraderie, unfaltering duty and heroism; stories of tragic loss and lives forever and devastatingly altered.

But what do we know about the peace process that followed WWI? Which leaders led the way or blocked the path to some sort of justice? Which borders changed and why? Which new countries were created? Which special interests were served? How did the conditions of peace sow the seeds for WWII and beyond? The Paris Deception is this novel.

I had the privilege of writing a foreword to The Paris Deception, which relaunched yesterday and asked David a few questions about the story.

What or who was the inspiration for your main characters James Fraser and Speed Cook?

Both characters were drawn from history, though they are only dimly recorded. The first book in this series – The Lincoln Deception – begins with a Delphic deathbed disclosure by former Congressman John Bingham of Cadiz, Ohio, to his doctor, concerning the John Wilkes Booth Conspiracy. So I decided that the small-town doctor, James Fraser, who heard that deathbed disclosure would become obsessed with it, and become one of my protagonists. I wanted him to have a co-investigator, which allows different personalities, and different talents, to be applied to the case. I discovered a fascinating contemporary figure, Moses Fleetwood Walker, who came from nearby Steubenville and was the last African-American to play in organized baseball between the 1880s and Jackie Robinson. Walker (the real person) was an aggressive “race man” who challenged the triumphant Jim Crow culture of the era. I thought he would make a fascinating foil and complement, rechristened Speed Cook, to my small-town doctor (James Fraser).

In light of today’s momentous support for Black Lives Matter, what aspects of the treatment of black Americans during World War One stand out for you?

I had a number of opportunities for the story to highlight the terrible wrongs inflicted on African-Americans then – and still today. Speed Cook’s son serves in an all-black unit known as the Harlem Hellfighters, but all the officers had to be white, and the American general staff didn’t want to use these soldiers at all. Consequently, that unit ended up fighting under French army command, and earning high distinction. Cook’s son, Joshua, also falls victim to a racist prosecution for desertion, while Cook himself is working with W.E.B. Du Bois, who came to Paris during the 1919 peace conference to be part of the Pan-African Congress. Finally, I was able to portray President Woodrow Wilson’s racism in private settings. Wilson grew up in Georgia after the Civil War and had the racist attitudes of that time and place, right down to the “darky” jokes he liked to tell.

Weaving real and fictional characters is a challenge for historical fiction authors. Why did you choose the real characters you did choose and how did you preserve authenticity?

The Paris Peace Conference offers a smorgasbord of fabulous historical characters. To give a grounding in the swirling negotiations of the peace conference, the story features cameo appearances by W.E.B. Du Bois, Winston Churchill, Chaim Weizmann, and Mark Sykes (of the hideous Sykes-Picot Treaty that whacked up the Middle East between France and Britain). More fully integrated into the story are marvelous characters like T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) and French Premier Georges Clemenceau (one of my favorites). Three central characters for the story are President Wilson and two of his aides, the brothers Allen Dulles (future head of the CIA and a spy during World War I) and John Foster Dulles (future Secretary of State and an important figure in the American delegation). In pursuit of authenticity, I studied contemporary photographs of each, listened to voice recordings if they were available, and read contemporary accounts of the impressions they made on people.

Through the fictional characters of The Paris Deception, we also experience the war in flashback, understand the devastation brought about by the Spanish Flu, and feel the agony of having a son go off to war. Beyond being a wonderful story, The Paris Deception is history that is highly relevant for today.

The Paris Deception by David O. Stewart ~~ In the wake of The Great War, the city of Paris unites in jubilant celebration at the arrival of United States President, Woodrow Wilson. But amidst the prospect of peace, Parisians are dying as the Spanish influenza reaches epidemic proportions.

An expert on the deadly illnesses, Dr. Major Jamie Fraser, is called in to advise the president’s own doctor on how best to avoid the deadly disease and discovers, despite Wilson’s robust appearance, the man is frailer than most realize.

While trying to determine the source of Wilson’s maladies, Fraser encounters a man he has not seen for nearly twenty years: Speed Cook–ex-professional ball player and now advocate for Negro rights. Cook is also desperate to save his son Joshua, an army sergeant wrongly accused of desertion.

Pledging to help Cook, Fraser approaches Allen Dulles, an American spy, who is also Wilson’s close aide.

Soon Cook and Fraser’s quest intersects with dramatic events when the French premier, Georges Clemenceau, narrowly survives an assassination attempt, and the Paris Peace Convergence begins to unravel.

When the precarious German government balks at the grim terms of the peace treaty, Cook and Fraser discover that to save Joshua, they must find a way to preserve the fragile treaty, which may be the only barrier standing between Europe and another brutal war.

You can also read about The Lincoln Deception

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION. FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Bringing Past and Present Together

What struck me most profoundly when I first began researching World War One was the incredible slaughter involved. Yes folks, slaughter – according to Collins English Dictionary, the “indiscriminate killing of large numbers of people”. Wave after wave of soldiers sent ‘over the top’ to certain death. And if that wasn’t sufficient to make me reel with horror, add in the hellish conditions under which men lived for weeks, months and years, every day expecting to die some horrible death.

My grandfather was there. He was tall, dark haired, rather angular in limb and face. And he was smart, dedicated to his family, a man who believed in God and went to church every Sunday. Occasionally he was funny, although I remember him as a generally quiet man. The war took one of his lungs – a gas attack – and he died at the age of seventy-five.

MKTod NovelsMy first novel, Unravelled, was based very loosely on his life and that of my grandmother. My second, Lies Told in Silence, told a parallel story of the fictional woman he met in France and is also rooted in World War One. In each novel I’ve attempted to help readers appreciate what that war was like for soldiers and civilians, men and women.

As children we find it hard to understand our parents, to empathize with their worries and cares. As grandchildren, it is even more difficult to understand the lives of someone fifty or sixty years older. But now, I feel a deep sense of connection to my grandfather and grandmother. Through research, travels, novels, conversations with my mother, and my grandfather’s and grandmother’s scrapbooks I now understand the circumstances of their upbringings, the strictures and taboos of the time, the aspirations they had, the way they lived, the clothes they wore, the role religion played in their lives. Through visits to memorials and museums, the diaries of men who fought in WWI, and the exploration of government and private websites dedicated to WWI, I understand the devastation my grandfather experienced on the battlefield and the lingering effects of the war on soul and psyche.

Time and Regret – my latest novel – is set partly in WWI and partly in the 1990s and I like to think of it as reflecting my own journey into the past.

While attempting to solve the mystery her grandfather has left for her, Grace Hansen, the heroine of Time and Regret, explores her grandfather’s past and the war he fought in. Through his diaries, conversations with her grandmother, and her journey to the battlefields and memorials in France, Grace comes to know a different man from the one she knew as a child.

I too know my grandfather as a different man than the Grandpa of my childhood, and I admire him more than ever.

PS – that’s him on the cover of Lies Told in Silence at the age of nineteen going off to war.

You can preorder Time and Regret from Amazon.comAmazon.caAmazon.co.uk and other Amazon sites.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET will be published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Finding inspiration for Time and Regret

HonfleurAs writers we bandy about the word ‘inspiration’ almost as if it were an everyday occurrence. And at times, it is. But at other times, inspiration is as difficult to grasp as a low-hanging cloud.

Time and Regret was inspired by an innocent comment made to my husband during dinner one night in France and it quickly blossomed with the aid of a lovely bottle of red wine and the view of the harbour at Honfleur. That night the broad story arc took shape – but what prompted all the other moments of inspiration that followed? The street corners and village squares, character names and physical attributes, flora and fauna, streets and cafes, bits of dialogue, excursions taken and all the small details that anchor a story in a reader’s mind.

Thomas Edison said: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” To be very clear, I’m not claiming even one iota of genius, but I do understand the notion of perspiration. And unless you do the hard slogging of researching your story, fleshing out your characters, and deconstructing the story arc into chapters and scenes – the perspiration stuff – inspiration may never occur.

Time and Regret is a dual timeline story that combines a female protagonist living in 1991, Grace Hansen, with a male protagonist, Martin Devlin, serving in World War I. Martin is Grace’s grandfather. Inspiration: have Grace brought up by her grandparents and she will be particularly close to her grandfather and constantly at odds with her grandmother. Both protagonists need to be conflicted. Inspiration: something has happened to Martin during the war that he has regretted his entire life while Grace has recently suffered a nasty divorce.

There’s a hotel in France where Grace meets the charming Pierre. Inspiration: a hotel we stayed at during our trip to France. There’s a scene in a bar when Pierre and Grace enjoy a local beer. Inspiration: my son is in the beer business and has a passion for craft beers. Grace drives around northern France in a small Renault. Inspiration: a trip to Europe after graduation where my husband and I drove a small Renault. Martin joins the 19th Battalion of the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Division of the Canadian army. Inspiration: a friend loaned me a WWI diary she had purchased off eBay and from there I researched the entire record of the 19th Battalion. At the end of the war, Martin visits the Daughters of the Empire hospital. Inspiration: an extensive search for Canadian hospitals located in England during WWI. And so it goes.

Yup, ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Preorder Time and Regret from Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk and other Amazon sites.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET will be published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.