Saturday, December 28, 2013


The newspapers during the last few days have contained many reviews of 2013. Many of them are gloomy.  The U.S. Congress remained gridlocked during the year, stumbling from one crisis to another. The government was forced to shut down for several days. Fights over the implementation of the “Affordable” Health Care Act dominated politics and the news. Nelson Mandela passed away. The giants appear all gone, and mere humans are left to grapple with the problems of our times.

2013 was far kinder to me. When the year began, I was struggling to market my little-known novel, FALL EAGLE ONE, about a Nazi attempt to kill FDR. Sales were very modest, and I had few ideas about how to spread the word about my book. But I had asked my daughter, Karen Williams, to help me mount an Internet marketing campaign as my Christmas present. In late winter, we began the effort.

I already had a Facebook page, but it needed a lot of updating. Then Karen introduced me to Twitter. As soon as I grasped the “expanding ripples” effect of Twitter, I took to it readily.  Carefully studying how successful authors were using the media, I realized that one had to widely publicize the works of other authors to get them to publicize mine. I began devoting over an hour per day to Internet marketing. Meanwhile, Karen was building an author’s website for me.

By April 2013, FALL EAGLE ONE had climbed into the upper one percent of Kindle sales and has hovered in that range for the remainder of the year. It has 43 reviews with a 4.5-star out of 5 average rating. I spend about an hour and a half a day on marketing, but it has paid off handsomely.

I completed my second novel, HOLD BACK THE SUN, in the summer of 2013. Another World War II yarn, my new work follows the adventures of two U.S. Asiatic Fleet lieutenants during the opening months of the Pacific War. Karen built a YouTube trailer, which appears on my website. We launched the Kindle version of the new book in early August, and it quickly began to sell. When subdivided its bestseller lists in autumn, HOLD BACK THE SUN appeared as #8 in the historical fiction/Asian category. It soon climbed to #3 and has been in the upper 10 all year. It has 28 Reviews with a 4.3-star out of 5 average rating.

My third book, ASPHALT AND BLOOD, is already in the works. It will tell the story of how the U.S. Navy Seabees aided the Marines during the Battle for Hue City during the Vietnam War. My target launch is for Labor Day 2014.

I shall always remember 2013 as the year I could truthfully add the title, “author,” after my name.

Note: Warren Bell is a historical fiction author with two novels released and for sale either for Kindle or in paperback from  Both are set during WWII, with Fall Eagle One taking place in Europe, and Hold Back the Sun is set in the war in the Pacific. Karen Williams, Marketing for Authors specializes in Marketing and PR for Independent Authors.  She can be reached through her website or at

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Disruption of Identity Theft

Last weekend, my wife, Annette, and I were the victims of identity theft. The incident is still under investigation, so I’ll not reveal all the details. Our incident was not as serious as some, but it completely disrupted our lives for several days.

On Saturday, we held a book sale and signing in Norfolk, Virginia. We had the best sales of any similar event to date, so left for Williamsburg feeling very satisfied. After fighting through a driving rainstorm, we arrived safely at home. Annette tallied up the finances of the event and them did some work on line. On a whim, she checked our bank accounts. Red flags began slapping her in the face.

Someone had gotten into one of our credit card accounts and advanced a large sum of money to our checking account. They were in the process of transferring smaller sums from that account into other bogus accounts at the bank, then withdrawing it at once. We were fortunate that Annette discovered the scam so soon. A frantic call to the bank’s 24-hour number got all the accounts frozen and stopped the hemorrhage. After we filed a fraud report, the bank made us whole. The bank, however, is currently out several thousand dollars.

Then the cleanup began.  Since this was a sophisticated hacking, we had to close all our accounts with the bank and open new ones. Consequently, we had to contact all the sources of our revenue and change the account to which our direct deposits are made. Even more complicated, we had to contact every establishment to whom we had agreed to automatic drafts from our accounts and change them also.  This has taken the better part of a week to accomplish. The big bugaboo was avoiding additional charges for returned and late billings. We’re not sure that we’ve plugged all the holes yet. We still have to contact all the charities that take monthly amounts from our credit cards. One of our remaining headaches is that we have to physically go to our bank branch to conduct business until the changes are all in place. Another requirement of the bank was that our computers be completely scanned for viruses.  We use have an Imac computer, but the scan did find some weaknesses, which have been repaired.

Internet banking can be a wonderful convenience. Vulnerabilities to hacking can turn it into a nightmare. As violated as Annette and I feel, our experience must pale before the realities of people who have had new credit cards and accounts opened in their names by identity thieves. Many have had their credit completely wrecked by these heartless criminals. We have credit monitoring in place to spot such activity early. Everyone who uses the Internet for financial transitions should do likewise. I leave you with one further piece of advice: NEVER write a check and use a credit card issued by the same bank at a single establishment on the same day!

Note: Warren Bell is a historical fiction author with two novels released and for sale either for Kindle or in paperback from  Both are set during WWII, with Fall Eagle One taking place in Europe, and Hold Back the Sun is set in the war in the Pacific.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Babyboomers and Technology

Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri ignited a flurry of rebuttal letters with her recent editorial suggesting that Babyboomers are far behind Millennials in their grasp and use of today’s technology. I have to agree with her critics. My children and their spouses are all Babyboomers.  All of them are very adept with the world of electronic gadgetry. They are my technical support. Without their help, I would never have mastered the intricacies of Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, webpages, and all the other technology I use daily in writing and promoting my books. 

Unless I can’t count, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both Babyboomers. So are Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas. The Internet was largely a Babyboomer invention, as were cell phones and videogames. Facebook and Twitter may be credited to the next generation, but I don’t know many Babyboomers who don’t employ them.  It seems to me that the difference between Babyboomers and Millennials is that Babyboomers use technology to accomplish their ends while many Millennials appear obsessed by it. Computer screens of one size or another consume a very large percentage of their attention.

Many Millennials appear both rude and impatient: rude because they ignore other humans around them in favor of an electronics device; impatient because they expect their every want to be satisfied with Internet speed.  Most Babyboomers are more adept at human interactions. My sister-in-law observed such behavior when she taught briefly at the university we attended earlier. In our day, students clustered in groups and enjoyed each other’s company. During her tenure as a professor, she observed most students crossing the campus independently, their faced buried in their cell phones.

You may notice that I use the words, “many” and “most,” in my discussion.  I’m trying not to overgeneralize. I would not say “all” to characterize any large group, for there are always exceptions to group patterns of behavior.

My generation learned patience as a virtue. One of my maternal grandmother’s favorite sayings was, “With patience possess ye your soul.” I’ll admit that I wasn’t a patient man for many years. Changing Navy duty stations every two or three years for decades, I learned what I termed, “calculated impatience.” When one is presented with a limited time to make an impact on one’s environment, too much patience can result in a lack of performance. Only with age did I finally conclude that my course was negatively affecting my relationships with others.  I learned patience to preserve those relationships. For in the final analysis, relationships are what count most in life.


Friday, December 6, 2013

The Passing of a Giant

Yesterday, the world lost a great peacemaker. Nelson Mandela was one of history’s indispensible men, as important to South Africa as George Washington was to the United States. Emerging from a long political prison sentence, he guided his country through a period of forgiveness and reconciliation that ensured the creation of a stable democracy. In South Africa, the pattern of “one man-one vote-one time” that plagued the continent’s post-colonial history was not repeated. Like Washington, after a time as President, Mandela foreswore a ”presidency for life,” stepping down after one term.

South Africa could have turned out quite differently. After reading The Covenant, James Michener’s long novel on the country, I was convinced that apartheid could only end in an inter-racial bloodbath. Then I discovered the writings of Wilbur Smith. A native of the state of Natal, Smith writes of Africa with the clear-eyed realism of a man who loves his homeland. His works address the history of Africa from the viewpoints of both black Africans and white colonialists. His stories of friendships developing between the races gave me hope for a peaceful resolution of a seemingly hopeless situation. Mandela brought those hopes to reality.

Wilbur Smith was not widely recognized in the United Stated before the end of apartheid, perhaps because of his origins. Since the emergence of Mandela’s “Rainbow Democracy,” Smith’s epic novels, River God and Triumph of the Sun have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller lists. I recommend his prolific writings to all readers who would understand the history of Africa, especially South Africa and Zimbabwe. His last few books deal with Egypt, the Sudan, Somalia, and Kenya.

Nelson Mandela will be long remembered and revered. His life stands as a challenge to those of us who remain to match his capacity for forgiveness and peaceful change. The cycles of revenge so prevalent in today’s world must somehow be broken if peace is ever to prevail. Perhaps Mandela gave us a roadmap.

Note: Warren Bell is a historical fiction author with two novels released and for sale either for Kindle or in paperback from  Both are set during WWII, with Fall Eagle One taking place in Europe, and Hold Back the Sun is set in the war in the Pacific.

Friday, November 29, 2013

On Thankfulness

This is the time of year when Americans reflect on what we are thankful for. Those in committed relationships should be thankful that they were able to find someone to share a lifetime of romance. My wife Annette, my partner for over 55 years, is the greatest blessing of my life. Close behind must come the blessings of family. Humankind has organized itself in nuclear families since, as the Greeks used to say, “time out of mind.” My children, their spouses, and my grandchildren have enriched my life beyond measure.

Those of us who live in free and open societies should be especially thankful. Too many of us take the blessings of liberty for granted. Far too few of the world’s citizens live in open societies. Billions of others live in states ruled by despots for whom the welfare of their citizens is not a consideration at all. Winston Churchill once said that, in a free society, if one receives a knock on the door in the dark hours of early morning, it is probably the milkman (as opposed to a squad of secret police coming to arrest you).  Freedom of speech and religion exists only in free societies. In most of the world, the press reports only what the government approves.

Anyone who has access to modern medicine should be thankful for it. When I was a young man, life expectancy for an American man was about sixty-nine. Now it is approaching eighty. And the additional years often provide a much higher quality of life. If you do not indulge in self-destructive behavior (drug use, smoking, overeating to the point of obesity), your chances of having a long life are quite good. How to make the same level of care available to all is one of the world’s biggest challenges.

I’m thankful to have lived in the time and place that providence allotted me. My parents and their ancestors lived much harder lives than did my generation. I lived in an age of opportunity in which it was possible to quite literally live the American dream. Coming from relatively humble circumstances, education opened for me the door to upward mobility my grandchildren may never enjoy. My “golden years” are presently very comfortable. The innovations introduced during my life are mind-boggling. So far, I’ve been able to sort of keep up, but the adeptness of my grandchildren with electronic devices is astonishing.

I am also thankful for a relatively long life. In Greek mythology, Achilles was given the choice of a short life of fame or a long but common life. He chose fame, and died young outside Troy with a poison arrow in his heel. Odysseus, on the other hand, lived a long life and visited much of the known world. Alfred Lord Tennyson described the wisdom of Odysseus gained in his poem, Ulysses (the hero’s Roman name).

I am a part of all that I have met.
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough gleams
That untraveled world whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
As though to breathe were life!
Life piled upon life were all too little
And to me little remains.

And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

I have experienced a wide swath of history, some of it good, some of it discouraging. I continue to be an optimist. Somehow, we humans always seem to muddle through to an acceptable solution to most problems. Given the choice of Achilles, I would choose to live long.  
Note: Warren Bell is a historical fiction author with two novels released and for sale either for Kindle or in paperback from  Both are set during WWII, with Fall Eagle One taking place in Europe, and Hold Back the Sun is set in the war in the Pacific.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What Did You Do in the War, Mommy?

World War II was the last war in which whole populations were engaged in the struggle. Because the military required a large part of the male population to fill the combat ranks, women were called on in large numbers to fill support positions and keep industry functioning. Most Americans are familiar with “Rosie the Riveter” and film clips of hundreds of women working in factories. But many do not realize the vital contributions made by women who worked primarily with their intellect.

I was reminded of the critical role of women in WWII while reading last Sunday’s Washington Post.  The paper prominently featured the obituary of 92-year-old Mavis Batey nee Lever, one of the many women who worked at the “Government Code and Cipher School,” at Bletchley Park. Perhaps the best-kept secret of WWII, Bletchley Park was where Allied codebreakers deciphered and read the most secret radio signals of the German High Command.  For most of the war, Allied leaders knew exactly what the Germans planned to do ahead of time. Some historians believe that victory in the Battle of Britain hinged on the fact that RAF commanders knew
Luftwaffe bombing targets and schedules the night before.

Mavis Lever was recruited directly out of university for this top-secret work. Her fluency with the nuisances of the German language proved a priceless asset not only in translation but also in the codebreaking itself.  She is credited with predicting Italian naval movements in the Battle of Matapan, allowing Britain’s Mediterranean Fleet to savage Mussolini’s battle fleet. She also was instrumental in convincing Hitler that the Normandy Invasion was a feint.

The counterplot in my novel, Fall Eagle One, is set at Bletchley Park. The American protagonist is a German-speaking lawyer who performs essentially the same work as Ms. Lever. He works directly for an Englishwoman, an officer in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). Somewhat like a police procedure novel, I explain how Bletchley Park functioned. The plans and orders of my German protagonist’s secret unit are laid bare to allied commanders, but they do not discern that the German mission is to kill FDR.  

Intelligence was not the only field in which women worked with their brains. Both the RAF and Luftwaffe filled their air defense control centers with women. Those who have seen the movie, The Battle of Britain, will recall that WAAF personnel almost exclusively staffed the sector stations shown in the film.  Nurses saved the lives of countless military combatants of all countries. Women also contributed in many logistics positions.

When we remember the “greatest Generation” and its achievements, we must always remember that not only the men beat the Axis. Countless women contributed their brains and their brawn to final victory. 

Note: Warren Bell is a historical fiction author with two novels released and for sale either for Kindle or in paperback from  Both are set during WWII, with Fall Eagle One takes place in Europe, and Hold Back the Sun is set in the war in the Pacific.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Retrospective on Half a Century

This week has been one of mixed emotions for me. Monday, of course, was Veterans Day. My heart warmed to see the many expressions of gratitude being poured out to today’s veterans. The “thank you for your services” filled the television and computer screens. This is as it should be. The young men and women who fight our country’s wars today do so by choice. They risk their lives daily for our protection, and the whole country should be grateful.

But Veteran’s Day also brought reminders of the war in which I participated—the one in Vietnam. An article in the Washington Post eloquently related the long struggle of the women who nurtured our wounded soldiers in that conflict to obtain recognition at the Vietnam Memorial. A quote from one of the women released memories I had tried to suppress, “We were bitter and angry about how the country treated the Vietnam generation.” It was bad enough that the young men, mostly conscripted against their will, who fought in Southeast Asia were branded “war criminals” and “baby killers” by the antiwar movement. How could they have been so petty and small-minded as to throw the same epithets at women who devoted exhaustive hours to saving the lives of our wounded soldiers?

Many of us who served in Vietnam considered ourselves the “Tommy Atkins” generation. For those of you who have not read Rudyard Kipling’s classic lament of Victorian soldiers, here’s a little background. Tommy Atkins was the phrase Brits use in place of our “G I Joe.”  Here’s a sample:

         I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,

The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here.
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,

I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:

O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";

But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,

The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,

O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.”

The poem goes on through several verses describing the indignities thrown at Victorian soldiers by an unappreciative public and concludes:

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;

An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;

An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

In his speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president, John Kerry opined that many “blamed the warrior rather than the war” for Vietnam. He got that right.

The other factor that made this past week melancholy for me was the 50-year retrospective programs on the assassination of President John Kennedy. Anyone alive and adult at that time can tell you exactly where he or she was when they heard the shattering news. The very idea that such a thing could happen in modern day America was unthinkable. The entire country was plunged into grief. Kennedy had just led us through perhaps the most perilous time in our history—the Cuban Missile Crisis. Few people realized at the time how very close to nuclear Armageddon the world came in those few weeks. For people my age, the killing of the President began a long series of events that harmed our country: The assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy; the Watergate scandal; push-pull inflation that ravaged the economy; the national disunity over the Vietnam War; the double-digit inflation and interest rates of the Carter Administration.

Winning the Cold War under President Reagan removed the threat of nuclear annihilation but seems to have made the world safe for smaller conflicts. No one is afraid of sucking in the Great Powers and causing a world war anymore. I have a liberal friend who has told me, “Sometimes I miss the Cold War.”

One thing about having lived many years is that today’s challenges don’t seem so overpowering anymore. There’s not much my generation hasn’t faced before and somehow overcome. Humankind continues to adapt and survive. All may not be right with the world, but God’s still in His heaven.
Note: Warren Bell is a historical fiction author with two novels released and for sale either for Kindle or in paperback from  Both are set during WWII, with Fall Eagle One takes place in Europe, and Hold Back the Sun is set in the war in the Pacific.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Blessings and Disappointments of a Long Life

By Florida Memory, via Wikimedia Commons

This week I read a novel by one of my favorite mystery writers, Faye Kellerman. In it, she was describing the parents of her protagonist. The father was 77, the wife, 75. Both were described in ways that made clear that they were elderly. These characters were the same ages as my wife, Annette, and me, but we don’t look on ourselves as elderly.

Long life can be both a blessing and a curse. Watching your children and grandchildren grow from infants to young adults can be a blessing. We are proud of all our children and grandchildren, although they are each a singular person with individual personalities. My wife and I are blessed with devoted partners who treat life as a great adventure to pursue together. We were blessed with successful careers that provided a secure retirement. We’re blessed with a shared love of vocal music and many years of singing together in church choirs. Retirement can yield the time to pursue old dreams, as I am now with my writing and Annette does with her Master Gardening.

Living many years also gives one a long view of history. In a meeting with a group of young adults a few years ago, I was asked what I thought was the most significant thing I had witnessed in my life. My answer came instantly, “The civil rights revolution.” This surprised my young listeners. Having been born after the 1960s, they had no conception of how bad circumstances were for African Americans in the south during the last years of “Jim Crow.” When the market crashed in 2008, many of us older investors didn’t panic. We’d been through downturns before and knew to ride it out. I doubt that anyone under thirty really understands living under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation, as we did during the Cold War. Yet we didn’t buckle under the pressure.

Time does not always result in progress. People my age remember when Congress used to actually function. Leaders of both parties conferred with the President and worked out compromises all could live with. Politics was not nearly as nasty as it has become in recent years. Compromise was recognized as essential to the democratic process, not viewed as caving in on one’s principles. The country moved forward. Watching the dysfunction of Washington today is heartbreaking to one who loves this country.

I remain thankful for a long life and good health, but most of all for my good luck in choosing a life partner. I suppose one day we really will get old, but we’re doing everything we can to stall that inevitability.

Note: Warren Bell is a historical fiction author with two novels released and for sale either for Kindle or in paperback from  Both are set during WWII, with Fall Eagle One takes place in Europe, and Hold Back the Sun is set in the war in the Pacific.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Getting Technical Facts Right in Fiction Writing

While enjoying a fairly new mystery thriller set more or less in the present, I read about military guards being armed with M1 carbines. This was something of a jolt for me, because I know that the early Vietnam years were the latest that U.S. armed forces regularly used this weapon. In many other novels, some by highly popular authors, I often discover similar anachronisms, such as placing in WW2 fiction weapons not then developed. I’ve seen some authors use the words revolver to describe all pistols. I have found many other questionable technical details in popular fiction. For some reason, this really bothers me, especially because the right information is so readily available today on the Internet.

I believe an author has a responsibility to make his fiction as plausible as possible. Getting the details right is essential to complete plausibility. For knowledgeable readers, and there are hoards of them out there, hitting an obviously wrong detail interrupts the flow of the prose and may cause irritation. This isn’t a good reaction for the author.

Before penning both of my novels, a spent many hours in exhaustive research. When I first began writing, this required lots of time in libraries. I treat research as a puzzle, digging for the answer I want until I discover it. Only when I’m convinced that I’m on firm ground do I plunge ahead with the writing.

The dogfights in my new novel, Hold Back the Sun provide an example. My Dutch protagonist, Captain Garret Laterveer, is flying an obsolescent Brewster Buffalo against modern Japanese Army (IJA) and Navy (IJN) fighters. I read everything I could find both in print and on the Internet about the actual experience of Dutch pilots early in the Pacific War. Surprisingly, some of them had success, especially against the Army Nakajima fighters in Malaya. The IJN Zeros were another matter. At the time, this aircraft was probably the best fighter in the world. Yet some Dutch pilots did shoot them down. In my research, I found that the Brewster aircraft had a number of the same strengths and weaknesses of the P-40 fighters used successfully against Zeros by the Flying Tigers. Applying artistic license, I allowed the Dutch to use Flying Tiger tactics.

I know the old saw, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story,” and I have used it myself to alter history to make the plot go the way I want it. However, I do not believe this justifies incomplete research. Our readers deserve our best efforts.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Birth of a Novel

Yesterday, we successfully launched the paperback version of my new novel, Hold Back the Sun. This was my first experience of a formal launch event, but I really enjoyed it. After reading several passages that introduced the main characters and set the tone for the story, I invited the guests to ask questions. Several people asked, “How long does it take to write a novel?”

The answer to this question varies with individual books. Like mammals, different novels have different gestation periods, varying by size. Gerbils take about 25 days from conception to birth; cats require about 64; Horses, 340; African elephants, 645. In similar fashion, the bigger the book, the longer it takes to complete it.

My first published novel, Fall Eagle One required about three years from conception to final draft. The nature of my writing requires somewhat exhaustive historical research. Having the Internet available was a Godsend to my research. Actual writing took a little over a year, while editing and rewriting under the guidance of a skilled editor required several more months before we were ready to shop the manuscript. 

Hold Back the Sun took a little longer. My interest in the exploits of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet early in WWII was sparked in the mid 1960s by reading John Toland’s popular history, But Not in Shame. In the late 1970s, I read The Lonely Ships, Edwin P. Hoyt’s history of the Asiatic Fleet. The germ of an idea for a novel started tickling my mind. I was on active duty in the Navy, so my time for exploring the subject was limited. Nevertheless, I began doing literary research and taking notes on the places I visited in Hawaii and Asia. I began serious writing about 1980 during off duty hours while serving a tour without my family. The result of this effort was a manuscript that was far too long to expect to be published as a debut novel. New writing ideas drew my attention, so Hold Back the Sun languished in my computer for several years. However, I was very attached to the story and always meant to publish it when the opportunity arose.

Once Fall Eagle One achieved some success, I decided to buckle down and rewrite Hold Back the Sun. Using skills learned from my editor, I pared the manuscript and completely rewrote the last third of the story. It took me about seven months of hard work to get to the point of publication. The success of the Kindle e-book (currently #6 in historical fiction-Asian) suggests that it was worth the effort.

Being in my late seventies, I no longer have the luxury of a taking a lot of time for my future works. Fortunately, I can now do most of my research by computer without leaving my desk. I plan to publish one new book every year for as long as I’m physically able.  I hope that my readers will continue to enjoy them.

Note: Both of Warren’s novels are Amazon Kindle Bestsellers Hold Back the Sun is #6 on historical fiction: Asian and #56 in action-adventure: war and military. Fall Eagle One is #56 on action-adventure/war and military.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Shameful Secret of World War II: Sexual Slavery in the Axis Armies

Korean Comfort Women held by the Japanese Imperial Army

The first scene of my new novel, Hold Back the Sun, takes place in Madam Kitty’s, a posh Gestapo brothel in Berlin. Nazi friends are giving a going-away party for the book’s chief villain, a Japanese Military Attaché.  Madam Kitty’s was an actual establishment located at the address I give it in the novel. Its purpose was to ply foreign diplomats with liquor and sex, and then extract secret information from them during “pillow talk.” All the rooms were bugged to capture the conversations on recordings.

I did not mention it in my novel because it did not fit into the story, but almost all the prostitutes in Madam Kitty’s were in fact sex slaves, the wives and daughters of political prisoners. The Gestapo gave these women a stark choice: become espionage prostitutes or have their loved ones executed.

All three of the Axis armies of World War II were supported by systems of military brothels. Compelling evidence exists that at least the Germans and Japanese employed conscripted sex slaves. What little has been written about the Italian Army suggests that they primarily utilized professional Italian prostitutes.

During the peak years of the war, the German Army and the Gestapo operated some 500 military brothels. Researchers have reported that some 34,000 women conscripted from the conquered races or from concentration camps worked in these entertainment houses. Ironically, when they became, ”worn out,” many were placed in concentration camps for the crime of prostitution. Perhaps because of the utter devastation of Nazi Germany and the fact that Stalin’s Army committed what has been called, ”the greatest mass rape of women in history,” during the conquest of East Germany, the suffering of Germany’s sex slaves has gone largely unmentioned in history.

By far the largest employment of military sex slaves was by the Japanese Army. After discipline broke down during the “Rape of Nanking,” the Army staff decided that providing the soldiers with their own prostitutes was necessary for “good order and discipline.” Detailed planning for the conquest of Southeast Asia included provision of Ianfu (Comfort Women) units down to at least the battalion level. Hard pressed to fill these units with volunteers, the Army resorted to deception and mass kidnappings. During the course of the war, over 200,000 Asian women from territories under Japanese control were conscripted, the vast majority from Korea. But thousands of women from China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaya, and other subject nations shared their fate. In Java, some 300 Dutchwomen were also enslaved. At least sixty were kidnapped from internment camps and placed in “comfort stations.” What they endured can only be described as a months long gang rape. Unbelievably, the suffering of “front line” Ianfu was even worse. Many were forced to entertain up to 40 “clients” per day while living in primitive conditions and being fed barely enough food to keep them functioning.   

Very few of the Japanese responsible for these crimes against humanity ever had to pay for their actions. Only those officers and noncoms responsible for the kidnappings and rapes in Java were tried by the Allies after the war. The officer held primarily responsible was hanged. Perhaps because of the racial attitudes of the time, the plight of the Asian women was largely ignored.

During the 1980s and 1990s, many of the former Ianfu came forward to tell their stories and demand compensation. In 1994, one of the Dutchwoman, Jan Ruff-O’Herne, wrote of her ordeal in her book, Fifty Years of Silence. After a long period of outright denial, one Japanese president finally offered something of an apology. A fund was set up for the Comfort Women, but payouts are minimal considering what these war victims endured.

I have long been troubled by the plight of the Japanese Army’s sex slaves. When I began writing HoldBack the Sun, I decided to illuminate these war crimes in my novel. I hope that I have done an adequate job.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Recharging the Batteries

Warren Bell at the Matterhorn
To visit Switzerland is like visiting at least three different countries. The northern regions were affected by Germany, and Swiss-German is spoken in this area. The eastern part of the country borders France. French influence dominates the east, and French is the everyday language. The southern part of Switzerland abuts Italy, and many here speak Italian. The best features of neighboring cultures has been absorbed and morphed into a uniquely Swiss flavor.  

Switzerland has two official languages (Swiss-German and French) and a third semi-official one – Rumantsch, the aboriginal tongue. While not an “official” language, most Swiss people also speak Italian. And we Americans gripe about having to study a single additional tongue?

My wife, Annette, and I spent 10 days in this wonderful country in September and early October. Most of our time was spent absorbing the sights and local food and learning something of the culture. I stored all these details in my brain with relish. Visiting new places and learning about their culture is like recharging the batteries of the intellect. 

One fact I learned long ago is that while all humans may look alike, it can be dangerous to predict what others will do based only on your own culture. All humans come with the same “hardware” in their brains. The “software,” however, may be quite different and varies by culture. Years ago, I coined the phrase, “cultural programming,” to describe this phenomenon.

When writing about characters from cultures other than their own, writers can

easily fall into the mistake of having them react as, say, Americans would.  Even
more dangerous is for political leaders to fall into this trap (consider the Pacific War, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars). In my new novel, Hold Back the Sun, I write about how Americans miscalculating the Japanese mind made the Pacific War inevitable.   

Authors can avoid such mistakes by carefully studying the culture of the characters about whom they write. Actually visiting the countries involved is the most effective way to do this, but careful document and Internet research can also yield satisfactory results.  Due diligence is the key.

Surprisingly, I didn’t gain any weight during our Swiss tour.  I certainly ate enough food. The one that made the most impression on me was Rösti, hash brown potatoes cooked in butter. The Swiss serve them with many meal, and they are delicious beyond description. Fortunately for my waistline, we also spent a lot of time climbing steps and mountain slopes to burn off all the calories.    

My batteries are fully recharged now. Book launch for the paperback version of Hold Back the Sun is coming up on October 25th, so I have work to do!  

Note:  Warren Bell's debut novel, Fall Eagle One, can be purchased at in either Kindle or Paperback form.  His newest novel, Hold Back the Sun, is available for Kindle, and the Paperback version will be available October 25th. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Tom Clancy: The Man Who Invented a Genre

 Tom Clancy signing books at the Burns Library, Boston College

I was planning to write this week’s blog post about my holiday here in Switzerland, but fate intervened. Just two days ago, those of us who write in the action/adventure genre lost a luminary who blazed the trail for those of us who are fascinated by military technology and love to share it with our readers. Tom Clancy was a pioneer who literally invented a new genre.

 In 1984, the venerable Naval Institute Press (NIP) published its first work of fiction, the product of a Maryland insurance salesman who liked to pal around with naval officers. Before being accepted by NIP, Tom Clancy had received rejections on The Hunt For Red October from a number of subsequently sorry publishing houses. Then something magic happened. Someone gave a copy of The Hunt For Red October to then-President Ronald Reagan. On his way to a helicopter to Camp David, the President was asked by a reporter what book he was carrying. The President told him the title and added, “It’s a really great thriller!” Sales of the book skyrocketed.

Tom Clancy’s debut novel was unique in that it included detailed descriptions of revolutionary Soviet submarine technology and the technical wonders employed by the U.S. Navy to locate the rogue Russian craft. It was the birth of a new genre, the “techno-thriller.” The book took the bestseller lists by storm. NIP continued the trend the following year with Stephen Coonts’s first novel, The Flight of the Intruder, a work crowded with cutting-edge aviation and weapons technology. Clancy soon returned with Red Storm Rising and Patriot Games. The Hunt For Red October and Patriot Games became blockbuster motion pictures. Tom Clancy was now a giant in the publishing industry.

Clancy was a pioneer who opened up many additional markets to the writing community. He branched out from his highly successful series of Jack Ryan thrillers to write non-fiction books on weapons systems and military units. Taking advantage of the technology explosion, he successfully entered the field of electronic war games. But the anchor of his empire remained the military-political-thriller arena. Jack Ryan rose through the CIA to eventually become Vice President and then President. Not happy with the policies of his successor, he returned to politics. Those of us who loved the series expected to be reading much more of Ryan’s story.

Tom Clancy was only sixty-six years old when he abruptly left us. This was much too young for the world to lose such an influential author. There had to be so many more adventure tales cooking in his fertile brain. But he leaves behind a whole school of adventure writers who employ the techniques he pioneered. He will be long remembered. Rest in peace, Father of Our Genre!

 Photo courtesy of: By Gary Wayne Gilbert (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Warren Bell becomes an Amazon Best Selling Author

My newest novel, "Hold Back the Sun," just became an Amazon Best Seller. It is currently #8 on the Historical Asian Fiction Best Seller List wherein only the top 100 are included.

The Kindle version of the book, "Hold Back the Sun," was released in advance of the paperback Book Launch, which is scheduled for October 25, 2013.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mixing Business with Pleasure

University of Zurich Library

When I was a young man just beginning my working life, my father warned me, “Never mix business with pleasure.” What he was talking about in the culture of 1950s South Arkansas was not to begin romantic entanglements with women at work. Although I think that Dad’s words are still good advice, I realize that the majority of romantic pairings in America today begin in the workplace. However, in the sense of having fun and moving forward one’s career simultaneously, it is possible to mix business with pleasure.

I am blogging today from beautiful Zurich, Switzerland, where my wife and I are on a tourist trip. Switzerland is a wonderful place to be. The scenic beauty is spectacular; the cities are clean and attractive; public transportation is efficient and plentiful. But most wonderful of all are the Swiss people. They are extremely courteous and friendly. Many go out of their way to help obviously puzzled tourists find their way around.  And very important for many of us, they all speak excellent English; they are also very tolerant of Americans who speak only English. The Swiss make visiting their country a great pleasure.

For a historical novelist who writes mostly about World War II, Switzerland is also a treasure trove of information and descriptive background. Zurich was the headquarters of Allen Dulles and a major office of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA. From here, spies were dispatched and ran all over Nazi-occupied Europe. It was at the University of Zurich’s technical university that an OSS agent sat in on a lecture by Werner Heisenberg, head of Germany’s nuclear program, in December of 1944. If the agent determined that production of a German atomic bomb was imminent, he had the authority to shoot Heisenberg on the spot. With all thier actions potentially useful in future novels, my tourist visit has also become a research expedition.

For years I have been cataloging details about countries and cities I visit for possible future use in my writing. Taking lots of photographs of sites I may later use in my writing allows first-hand knowledge of how to write descriptive prose about these places. My favorite saying from the WWII German Field Marshal Rommel is, “Nothing is as important as going and seeing for yourself.”

So it is possible and profitable to mix business and pleasure after all.

Note: Warren Bell's debut novel, Fall Eagle One, detailing a fictitious but plausible assassination attempt on FDR during World War II, (Semi-Finalist in the Kindle Indie Book Review Best Books of 2012) is available for Kindle or in paperback on His newest novel, Hold Back the Sun, has been released for Kindle in advance of the printed book launch on October 25, 2013. This new historical-fiction thriller, set in the Pacific, follows the US Asiatic Fleet in their battle with the Japanese in WWII.