Monday, December 9, 2013

The Berlin Airlift flies again into the Cold War--JITTERBUG LIFT-- Local Authors Event @Vromans Bookstore Sunday Dec. 15

On Dec. 15, 2013, "Oliver Flynn" (the pseudonym for Kae Oliver, Dominic Oliver, and Jay Flynn) spoke about their new book JITTERBUG LIFT at Vromans Bookstore. Since I helped launch this Start-of-the-Cold War novel a few months ago, I enjoyed the event with some reservations (Vromans was less than a helpful host which deserves a separate post).

(L) Kae Oliver, (M) Jay Flynn, (R) Dominic Oliver
Photo ©Glyn Davies

Oliver Flynn flies again into the Cold War
Jitterbug Lift Book Review 
Review & Interview by Marlan Warren
(originally published in "Dancing in the Experience Lane" Open Salon Blog

When a fire has blazed so hot, one can be
burned by even the ashes for a long time.

1948.   Berlin is starving.  As the victors of World War II vie for control over Germany, the Russians cut off Berliners’ supplies, and block the Allies’ access into Berlin.   The Allies counterstrike with the “Berlin Airlift.”  And the Cold War ignites.

Into this tortured world flies former bomber pilot, Chance Mitchell, bearing food, fuel, medicine…and scars too deep to be seen.   The American’s sole reason for joining the airlift is to find and rescue his buddy and former B-17 copilot, whose plane went down behind the newly forged Iron Curtain on a clandestine flight.
Intrigue and moral ambiguity play out against the lawless ruins as Chance follows a thin, tangled thread that takes him to a beautiful but damaged German Jewish Resistance fighter with an enigmatic mission and a fierce will that matches his own.  Attraction flares, but will she lead to his answer or his destruction?

Haunted by ghosts and loss, Chance battles Soviets of the new Communist empire on the ground and in the air. Lines between enemies and friends blur, but ultimately, the answer to salvation lies in Berlin’s subtlest and most powerful resource.

Rich with daredevil aviation action and historical accuracy, Jitterbug Lift is a Cold War adventure story with heart.  Dedicated to the men and women who came together to forgive and save Berlin.

To order or review, visit AMAZON. Available in paperback and all e-book formats.

And just who or what is Oliver Flynn?

          Dominic Oliver + Kaenan Oliver + Jay Flynn = Oliver Flynn

Book:        Jitterbug Lift
Author:      Oliver Flynn
Publisher:  Createspace
Genre:        Historical Action-Adventure Cold War Suspense Novel

Interview with Oliver Flynn: 

"Together we can do great things."

Oliver Flynn is the nom de plume of collaborative authors Jay Flynn and Kaenan Oliver and Dominic Oliver.   Taking time out from their busy screenwriting careers (separately and together), the trio published their first collaborative novel, Jitterbug Lift, an historical action suspense novel fueled by desire, revenge, romance and forgiveness during the dawn of the Cold War.  I was able to catch up with them in Cyberspace:)

Q:   Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this amazing novel, please answer one burning question:  How the heck do three people write together?

Jay:  It is a relationship.   We’ve known each other for years and had our good times and bad.   We have spent weeks non-stop polishing a draft and other times had to sneak our writing in like alcoholics.
It has to be about the story.   Sometimes one of us will champion an idea, but can be outvoted.   Dom thinks Kae and I gang up on him, but many times he is right and we have to concede despite having the majority.

Kaenan:   Whatever’s best for the story makes for the best collaboration.  Sometimes we work face-to-face but, when busy schedules intervene, we trade drafts so that each voice gets room at the table.

Dominic:   We make it a point to check egos at the door.  We have respect for the other’s point of view, and a lot of similar interests.   Bottom line: find great partners.


Q:  What drew you to this story?
Kaenan:   Origin stories are interesting.   The opening shot of the Cold War was the Berlin Blockade and the Berlin Airlift.

Jay:   Thousands of planeloads flew into Berlin over the laughing Russians and their blockade.   How can you feed a city a few hundred sacks of flour at a time?   It seemed hopeless.   But given enough planes and enough pilots–you can–and they did.   The Berlin Airlift was an amazing feat.

We’ve always been attracted to the idea that great things are done by ordinary people.   Like the guy standing up to a tank in Tianemen Square.  Sometimes all it takes is one.   Other times it takes thousands. A pilot once told me, “Think about this the next time you’re at 35,000 feet flying over the Rockies.   You’re being held up by things that weigh so little that it takes a trillion trillion of them to make a gram.   And each one is hitting the plane’s wings and pushing it up, just a little.   But given enough of them, they will carry you home.”   We’re a lot bigger than those molecules of air.   Together we can do great things.

Q:   Would you call the Berlin Airlift humanitarian or politically motivated?

Dominic:   Both. And it worked for both reasons.

Jay:   It depended on whether you were flying a desk in Washington or a C-47 with iced wings through fog into Berlin.  Some pilots treated it as a job and others got to know the people who were eating the food they brought in.  It was hard to ignore the children.  They had nothing to do with the war and were suffering.

Kaenan:   Without the humanitarian aspect, Allied fliers couldn’t have carried out such an impossible mission over that stretch of time.   They landed a plane filled with fuel and food every three minutes for almost a year.
To see the effect on people on the ground had to be astonishing and rewarding.   Once you see people and not countries, there’s room for healing to take place.

Q:  Although much has been written about World War II and Cold War espionage, very little addresses the Berlin Blockade and the Berlin Airlift.  Why do you think that is?

Jay:   The airlift was a long, drawn out heroic effort.   By itself, it makes for a dull story of moving cargo and flight operations.   However, being there, getting caught up in it, struggling to survive as you become a part of the salvation of citizens who were your former enemies–and discovering the humanity that is driving the airlift–that’s a story.

Kaenan:   We used the setting for a personal quest.  We wanted to get into Berlin itself, as well as in the air, and take the story deeper.

Q:  With all the Nazis that were in Berlin, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone in the Allied countries feeling much sympathy for them.  

Jay:   The Marshall Plan–which included helping rebuild Germany–was very controversial.   But as in many wars, the victims live right next to the bastards who started the war.   The decision not to punish everyone was enlightened.

Dominic:   When you’re in the army, as most of those airlift pilots were, you’re in the mode to do what’s needed.  It was definitely the right thing to do and Truman did it—in the middle of an election.  He wouldn’t back down.


Q:  The bond between Chance and his buddy Nevada reminded me of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  One loves danger and the other is simply willing to face it.  Why did you use a friendship between two former bomber pilots as the vehicle for telling this story?

Kaenan:  I love Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which deftly merged history and adventure.  In Jitterbug Lift, the Quest and the Rescue are classic story paradigms.

Jay:  The story is about reunification and healing.  The characters are all scarred, sometimes visibly, sometimes not.  People struggled desperately to become whole.  It was almost a half-century after the war before Europe was put back together.

Q:  Sonya, the Jewish Resistance fighter who still needs to complete her mission, reminds me of the Wadja film, Ashes and Diamonds (the Polish Resistance fighter who still needs to carry out his last mission in postwar Poland.)  Were you influenced by this film? 

Jay:  I am not familiar with the film.  Sonya has aspects of a number of strong women I have known.  But the one thing they all were was relentless.  Battered, bloodied and pounded down, but never out.  Never giving up.  I got run over by a few of them.

Kaenan:  I haven’t seen the film.  I admire the film Two Women and the novel Sophie’s Choice for two very different ways that women can be ravaged by war, neither heroine of which was Jewish.

Dominic:  Almost everything good that I learned in life I learned from women, so I appreciate strong female heroes.  The WWII nurses in Cry Havoc and So Proudly We Hail (that Veronica Lake scene!), also Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, even Ripley kicking some scary ass in Alien.

Q:  How many Resistance fighters were left in Berlin after World War II?  What percentage were Jewish?

Jay:  Unfortunately the Gestapo was very effective in hunting down Resistance fighters of all types in Germany.  One of the most active Jewish groups, the Baum Gruppe (Baum Group), was wiped out in 1943.  After that, many cells worked quietly with the Allies gathering intelligence.  There were handfuls who survived, many of whom were women, but during the war their life expectancy was short – and they knew it.

Kaenan:  There was the surprising Rosenstrasse protest in 1943, but that was conducted by non-Jewish women to save their Jewish husbands and was completely above-ground. It was also shockingly successful and not repeated. Hitler held a tight fist on insurrection, so there were only pockets of resistance reported early on, though it seemed to grow as the war ground down and looked less inevitable.

Dominic:  There were only around 1000 or so Jews still in Berlin by the end of the war, mostly in hiding.

Q:  Major players in the story are the postwar German women who essentially helped to rebuild Berlin.  Why do you suppose history downplayed their role?

Jay:  There is a scene in the book where Chance comes out of the train station in Frankfurt and sees the women working in the rubble.  That was supposed to be it for them in the story, but it grew into a major part.

Those women were ordinary and working one brick at a time.  It has often been mothers who have moved the world.  Look at the end of the Irish Troubles.  Mothers played a major role in ending the violence.

When we started writing the story, they were part of the milieu because they had to be a part of it.  We discovered the actual women as we researched the story.

Dominic:  We bombed nearly all the factories to bring the war to an end. It was a city of mostly rubble and the only real work force was women. What a job they did.

Kaenan:  With so many male adults and teens captured or killed, who else could do it?  The city couldn’t rebuild until the damage was removed.
It must have been a devastating experience for those who needed to believe in Hitler’s rhetoric about being superior and that victory was assured.  Failure is the great equalizer, but those women rose to the job and absolutely proved themselves to the Allies.


Q:  There are strong sex scenes in Jitterbug Lift.  What’s your process? Do you slug back Scotch first?

Jay:  Drinking before sex is bad for men. Seriously, sex is a form of expression.  The characters may be driven by anger and revenge, desire, lust or passionate love.  Many times it shows a whole hidden side of the character.  What is important is to make sure the character is making love like they are revealing their insides.  You have to then let them go.  You can’t be afraid your friends will read this and think you are some kind of….whatever.  It’s the character, and you have to be honest to them.


Q:  The book is full of suspense, terror, torture, gut-level survival.  But it has quite a bit of humor too.  What’s the function of humor in this book?

Jay:  Life itself has humor.  It’s as real as love and hate.

Kaenan:  We always try to bring out humor in any group of characters—and it’s a great tension reliever.

Dominic:  Who can read a serious book or watch a movie without that?


Q:  Tell me about your research, which had to be extensive.

Jay:  I worked for television in Germany and England years ago and learned about the airlift firsthand.  It was some 30 years after the end of the airlift and people were still grateful.

We went to primary sources:  personal accounts of the occupation, films, newspapers–even aerial photos of bombed-out Berlin to answer questions like: If you were there, what would you see, smell and hear?  What was on the radio, in the newspapers, on the protest signs and even the graffiti?  The personal accounts were the most moving.

It took three full drafts to distill that into 400 pages.


Q:  What are your personal connections to Jitterbug Lift?

Jay:  I’m half Irish, half German.  My great-grandfather came to the U.S. in the 19th Century, and my family had close ties with Germany—visiting often until the rise of Hitler.  I’m fluent in German.
A close friend of my grandfather was in the occupation forces–intelligence.  I met a few Berliners while living in Munich who gave me a lot of stories.  My fraternity brother’s father flew B-17’s and was shot down over Germany.  He had quite a story to tell.  My father and uncle were wounded in World War II.

Kaenan:  I’m part-German from relatives that came over prior to WWI. My grandfather claimed to be Irish to avoid shame and anti-German backlash.  Dom and I “adopted” ourselves into a family whose parents survived the Holocaust and lived an incredible story of love and survival.

Dominic:  In the army, I spent more than a year in Darmstadt, Germany, and I grew to love the people I met.  Especially the women. (I was young—that’s another story.)  Seriously, all the German people I met welcomed us as soldiers and friends, which was surprising to me at the time, given the history I knew.  I learned more later.


Q:  JL deftly juggles and interweaves subplots and characters.  How tightly do you outline?

Dominic:  We work separately and together, so having an outline lets us figure the together part before writing a draft.  Knowing the story makes it easier for us to agree.

Kaenan:  We don’t outline so tightly there’s no room to write.  If something special shows up, we can always color outside the lines.  But having lines to begin with keeps the overarching story on track.

Q:  This is Oliver Flynn’s first novel.  You are all screenwriters.  Additionally, Dom is an actor, Jay is an electrical engineer and Kaenan is a script consultant. How did your background in these areas help or hinder you in the writing of this book?

Jay:  Having an engineering background has been helpful in handling the technical aspects of the book, doing the research and creating the world the characters find themselves in.  But as screenwriters, we know story.  And that’s what it comes down to.

Kaenan:   Some authors have admitted they wrote a book to be adapted as a movie, including the character descriptions.  We didn’t do that here. But knowing about drama--act breaks and character trajectory--has been extremely helpful.

Dominic:  As an actor, I look at how characters work, what they say and do, and if that’s consistent with the big picture.  How they relate to other characters, whether a scene makes sense, and the story in general jumps out at me.


Q:  Why this book now?  What makes this story relevant to our 21st Century?

Kaenan & Dominic:  Chance and Sonya had to look past the labels of German and American, killer and victim, to find the other's humanity and their own. The book depicts the human toll of war, the struggle to survive and the power of connection, which seems relevant in any era.
There's continuing genocide in too many nations, and countless stories of survivors left to clean up the literal and emotional rubble.  Art can be a pathway from hatred to understanding.  Even a crack-sized opening is a beginning.

Jay:  The fallout from the Cold War is still behind the headlines.  Alliances and relationships were forged during the Cold War era that have direct ramifications to us.  The Russians invaded Afghanistan and we supported the resistance fighters--including one Osama bin Laden.

A divided Germany was weaker, and its neighbors grew outside its shadow.  Now it is reunified and the leading power in Europe, which has created some friction.

The branches from the Cold War extend everywhere.


So what’s next for Oliver Flynn?  An action adventure novel set in Panama.
What's the title? What's it about?

Shhhh...It's top secret.