The Story Behind the Story

Donald Caskie

Donald Caskie

A Little-Known Hero Learning how to write historical fiction about the early months of the war in France meant doing tons of research—and loving it, of course! And my learning curve went sky high! I discovered dozens of events in history I knew little or nothing about...

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The Path From Memoir to Fiction–My Journey

The Path From Memoir to Fiction–My Journey

I’ve always been a memoirist, and of course read and enjoy—and teach memoir writing, but all my life I’ve devoured fiction. Though I imagined one day I’d write a novel, I had no idea about how that might happen==until a topic grabbed me and wouldn’t let go! I began with what “really” happened, and read all I could, not thinking seriously of writing yet.

I came upon a book about Varian Fry, an American who saved refugees from Austria and Germany who were trapped in France when it lost the war in six weeks in June, 1940. Germany occupied half of France while the other half was controlled by a collaborationist government in Vichy under Philippe Petain. Now Hitler was coming after them again. I worried about what was happening to people in Vichy France and immersed myself in research, piling hundreds of books in my living room!

A group called the Emergency Rescue Committee in New York sent Fry to Marseille, with a list in his pocket of intellectuals, artists, and politicians in danger of arrest. Fry was to help them get the proper papers and escape France. When he arrived, he discovered that many thousands of refugees were in danger of arrest, especially Jews, and he was unable to turn his back on them. But the Americans were not helpful.

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Inspiration and Research—Why I Wrote The Forger of Marseille

Inspiration and Research—Why I Wrote The Forger of Marseille

The spark to write this book began when I was introduced to Varian Fry in the book Villa Air-Bel: World War II, Escape, and a House in Marseille by Rosemary Sullivan, but it was Fry’s memoir Surrender on Demand that grabbed my heart and never let go.Fry was a journalist in New York who represented the Emergency Rescue Committee that wanted to help writers, Jews, artists, and anti-Nazis whose lives were in danger when France fell. Fry arrived in Marseille with a list and three thousand dollars taped to his leg. The story of camps, thousands of people lost and desperate in Marseille, and the brutality of the collaborationist regime gripped me from the beginning, but it took several years to find my way to The Forger of Marseille.

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