Monday, December 23, 2013

Folie A Deux Between Friends - Bev Myers and Joanne Dobson collaborate on "Face of the Enemy."

Christal Cooper – 1,525 Words
Facebook @ Christal Ann Rice Cooper

Folie A Deux Between Friends
 “We so much enjoyed the process of collaboration. It was like a folie a deux, where you have two people talking to the same imaginary friends.”
Writers Beverle “Bev” Myers and Joanne Dobson

Kentucky resident Beverle “Bev” Myers and New York resident Joanne Dobson met on facebook, developing a friendship and a working relationship – the two women joined forces to write the fiction drama/mystery Face Of The Enemy.

       The two women were already established writers when they met on line.  Joanne is the writer of the Karen Pelletier academic series.

       Bev of the Tito Amato mysteries set in 18th-century Venice.  

Joanne and Bev already admired the other’s work and had taken on the role of trusted first reader for individual writing.

Their Internet friendship took a new fuller meaning when Bev learned that Joanne owned a part-time condo around the corner from Bev’s full time residence in Louisville, Kentucky.  When they learned that they also shared the same publisher the two women decided it was time to meet, which they did at a coffee-shop in Louisville, Kentucky. 

       “We got along like a house afire, and the rest is history.”  The two women wrote in an interview conducted via email.

       The idea for Face Of The Enemy came from two inspirations:  Joanne’s mother, Mildred Abele, and her cache of letters; and the popular PBS mystery series Foyle’s War, which depicts a British detective attempting to solve murders while Britain is fighting for survival.

       Mildred worked as a private-duty nurse (like Face Of The Enemy protagonist Louise Hunter) in New York City during World War II, during which she wrote a treasure trove of letters to her family in Canada. 

       “Mildred was a natural writer who made the time and place come alive in every detail—the letters cried out to be used in some way.”

       The two women decided to turn the British theme of Foyle’s War into an American theme and combine that with Mildred’s cache of letters – thus Face Of The Enemy was conceived.

       The next step was the research, which took several months and was very intense.  They read online archives of the New York Times, and numerous books about New York during World War II, some of which are:  Over Here:  New York City During World War II by Lorraine B Diehl and Helluva town:  The Story of New York During World War II by Richard Goldstein  They also read numerous books about America’s experience during the war, some of which are:  The Good War by Studs Terkel and The American Homefront:  1941 – 1942 by Alistair Cooke.

       “Specific questions such as the procedure for detention of enemy aliens, trends in mid-twentieth century abstract art, or the location of the coroner’s office in 1941 were dealt with by consulting everything from academic journals to the Internet. We were also able to interview a number of people who lived through the period, and their stories were a goldmine.”

       During their research, the two women came across a New York Times issue dated December 8, 1941 with a front-page article headlined:  JAPANESE ROUNDED UP BY FBI, SENT TO ELLIS ISLAND.

“This was a historical fact that neither of us knew anything about.  We were curious, so we looked into it, and, indeed, Ellis Island—symbol of welcome for American Immigrants—was used throughout the war as a detention center for enemy aliens, Germans and Italians as well as Japanese. Thus was born Masako Fumi, brilliant artist and beloved Japanese wife of an American professor, suspected of espionage, detained and interrogated on Ellis Island by the FBI.”

Joanne received a huge surprise when she learned of a German submarine coming to Amagansett, Long Island, New York on June 3, 1942, where it landed four Nazi saboteurs.  The four men were equipped with explosive, primers, incendiaries and $175,000 in U.S. currency with the plan of disrupting American defense production.  Within two weeks the four Nazi saboteurs and four other co-conspirators, (who landed in Jacksonville, Florida) were arrested by the FBI. 

       For Bev, her huge surprise from the intense research was to learn how powerful the German-American Bund organization was.

“In the years leading up to the war, this powerful organization held open meetings and a massive rally at Madison Square Garden, ran camps for children that indoctrinated them in Nazi philosophy and politics, and attempted to induce recent German immigrants to keep their allegiance to the Fatherland.” Bev said.  

Most of the intense research was completed by the time Bev and Joanne started writing the novel; but they found themselves faced with more questions during the writing process that required more research.

“The research slowed but didn’t stop over the year during which the active writing progressed. Every scene seemed to present new questions that needed to be answered.”

The two women had brainstorming sessions where they met over lunches and glasses of wine and discussed setting, plot, and characters for the novel.  Some of those sessions centered on certain scenes in the book, in which the two women would alternate writing, while the other would critique the specific scene.

       “Some passages were tossed back and forth six or eight times, some only once. We were quite surprised and pleased when this process yielded an authorial voice that was neither Joanne nor Bev, but a third voice altogether.”

       Joanne’s favorite entries that Bev wrote were the scenes featuring Lt McKenna and the young Howie Schroader. 

       “She nailed everything about those characters, their lives, their heartbreaks, their hopes and dreams, and especially, their voices. The scenes where Howie begins to remember details of his childhood summers at the American Bund’s summer camp on Long Island, and comes to understand the Nazi indoctrination he was getting there, are Bev’s. And they are heartbreaking.”  Joanne said.

       Bev was impressed by Joanne’s writing entries about Masoka during her imprisonment.  In these entries it is amazing how Joanne manages to make Masako so strong and yet so fragile (especially when she falls into a severe depression) all at the same time.  This attribute makes Masako a three dimensional character that is essential to make a novel a literary one.

       “Like a painter wielding her own brush, Joanne interspersed the narrative with brief passages that laid Masako’s heart bare. Her shame, grief, and worry became palpable things.”  Bev said.

       In the end, both women identified with different characters of the novel.  Bev identified more with Lt. Michael McKenna, which is a surprise considering how unalike the two people are:  Bev is not Irish, not a New Yorker, and never had any connection with law enforcement.

“This man spoke right to my heart. I could feel his irritation at having to delay retirement because the younger men were going off to war, his sorrow and bewilderment over his wife’s retreat into dementia, his frustration with accomplishing good police work while the world seemed intent on destroying itself.”  Bev said.

Joanne, the true native New Yorker, identified more with Louise, who is a Southern woman, new to New York and sometimes bewildered with its culture.

“The plight of this sweet Southern woman, seduced by a New Yorker and then abandoned in the big city, spoke to me. I loved seeing her pull herself together, face her brave new world, and begin to develop some of that brash New York moxie!”  Joanne said.

       There is one character that insisted to be in the novel, even without persuasion from Bev and Joanne, and that character is Abe Pritzker.

       “He wasn’t in the plans when we outlined the book, but he let us know he intended to join the cast!  Once he opened his mouth and began talking, there was no shutting him up.  And then I fell in love with him . . . and so did Louise, especially after the scene in the Macy’s women’s coats’ dressing room. . . .”  Joanne said.

       Face of the Enemy was published on in September 2012 by Poisoned Pen Press ( the same press that published both Bev’s and Joanne’s other books. 

       “We have a good relationship with the entire staff, so the process of getting to print was relatively uneventful.”

       There were quite a few surprises Bev and Joanne received as writers of Face Of The Enemy; one of which was for their readership finding it hard to believe that the United States would incarcerate Japanese ancestry on the East Coast.  Readers were also upset with Bev and Joanne for sympathizing with Masako Fume.

“There has also been a small but definite backlash over our sympathetic treatment of a Japanese character.”

       This criticism has not prevented Bev and Joanne from writing.  Bev’s book Whispers Of Vivaldi, a part of her Tito Amato series, will be published in January of 2014. 

       “In Whispers of Vivaldi, a purloined opera meant to save Tito’s theater from ruin leads to murder.”  Bev said.

       Joanne has just completed a historical novel set in 19th-century New York City and India. 

       “The connections are the American Foreign Missions movement, a runaway wife, an interracial love affair, and the Colored Orphan Asylum on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.”  Joanne said.

Photo Description and Copyright Information.

Photo 1, 27,
Beverly Graves Myers.  Copyright by Beverle Graves Myers.

Photo 2.
Joanne Dobson.  Copyright by Joanne Dobson.

Photo 3 and 36.
Jacket cover of Face of the Enemy.

Photo 4a.
Jacket cover of Quieter Than Sleep.

Photo 4b.
Jacket cover of Northbury Papers.

Photo 4c.
Jacket cover of Cold and Pure and Very Dead.

Photo 4d.
Jacket cover of The Maltese Manuscript.

Photo 5a.
Jacket cover of Interrupted Aria.

Photo 5b.
Jacket cover of Painted Veil.

Photo 5c.
Jacket cover of Cruel Music.

Photo 5d.
Jacket cover of The Iron Tongue of Midnight.

Photo 5e.
Jacket cover of Her Deadly Mischief.

Photo 6, 8, 23,
Joanne Dobson and Beverle Graves Myers at the Face of the Enemy launch at the Frazier History Museum.  Copyright by Joanne Dobson and Beverle Graves Myers.

Photo 7 and Photo 22.
Joanne Dobson and Beverle Graves Myers at Longfellows Books in Portland, Maine. Copyright by Joanne Dobson and Beverle Graves Myers.

Photo 9.
DVD jacket cover of Foyle’s War.

Photo 10a and Photo 10b.
“Her married name was Mildred Abele, but professionally she went by her maiden name, Mildred McKinley, R.N.  These are earlier than WWII but she did work all during the war as a private-duty nurse in Manhattan.”  Joanne Dobson said.   Copyright by Joanne Dobson.

Photos 11.
Top photo on the right is of Mildred and her baby girl Joanne Dobson in 1942.  “The others are my father and my Aunt Martha who came to liv with us when my father was in the Merchant Marines and my mother was working 12-hour shifts.”  Joanne Dobson said.  Copyright by Joanne Dobson.

Photo 12.
An early letter written by Mildred Abele a.k.a Mildred McKinley, R.N.  Copyright by Joanne Dobson.

Photo 13a. 
Jacket cover of Over Here:  New York City During World War II.

Photo 13b.
Jacket cover of Helluva Town:  The Story of New York During World War II.

Photo 13c.
Jacket cover of The Good War.

Photo 13d.
Jacket cover of The American Homefront:  1941 – 1942.

Photo 14.
Photograph taken in the Great Hall of Ellis Island on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1943 of German, Italian, and Japanese nationals, all incarcerated.  Public Domain.

Photo 15.
The New York Times front page from December 8, 1941.

Photo 16.
Ellis Island, the Manzanar of the East Coast.  Public Domain.

Photo 17.
Nazi saboteur trial, Washington, D.C. The special seven-man military commission opens the third day of its proceedings in the trial of eight Nazi saboteurs in the sixth floor courtroom of the Department of Justice building. Sitting on the commission left to right are: Brigadier General John T. Lewis; Major General Lorenzo D. Casser; Major General Walter S. Grant; Major General Frank R. McCoy, president of the commission; Major General Blanton Winship; Brigadier General Guy V. Henry; Brigadier General John T. Kennedy.  This image is a work of a U.S. Army soldier or employee, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain. 

Photo 18.
Flag of the German American Bund (AV), or "German American Federation," a pre-World War II American Nazi organization active in the United States between 1933-1941.  Attributed to PaloeserCreative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Photo 19.
German American Bund parade in New York City on East 86th St. Oct. 30, 1939 / World-Telegram photo.  This photograph is a work for hire created prior to 1968 by a staff photographer at New York World-Telegram & Sun. It is part of a collection donated to the Library of Congress. Per the deed of gift, New York World-Telegram & Sun dedicated to the public all rights it held for the photographs in this collection upon its donation to the Library. Thus, there are no known restrictions on the usage of this photograph.

Photo 20. 
Rally Poster of a German-American Bund Rally at Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1939.  The United States Holocaust Memorial Archives cited in  This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.

Photo 21.
Image of pen in hand from Joanne Dobson’s website.

Photo 24, 29,
Beverle Graves Myers at Carmichael’s Bookstore on  October 11, 2009.  Copyright by Beverle Graves Myers.

Photo 25, 26, 30, 32,
Joanne Dobson.  Copyright by Joanne Dobson.

Photo 28.
Beverle Graves Myers at the Venetian Ghetto in 2007.  Copyright by Beverle Graves Myers.

Photo 31.
Image of the Empire State Building from Joanne Dobson’s website.

Photo 33.
Macy’s Department Store in New York City.  Photograph taken on April 6, 2010 by Mike Strand.  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

Photo 34.
Poisoned Pen Press logo (

Photo 35.
Launch day for Face of the Enemy -   a 1941 tugboat pulling barges full of copies of Face of the Enemy.  Copyright by Joanne Dobson and Beverle Graves Myers. 

Photo 37.
Kuroda Seiki, Lakeside, Kuroda Memorial Hall, Tokyo. Originally called Summering.  Public Domain.

Photo 38.
Jacket cover of Whispers of Vivaldi.

Photo 39.
Illustration entitled "The Great East River Bridge. To connect the cities of New York & Brooklyn." Published by Currier & Ives, 125 Nassau Street, in 1872. Courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collection.  Public Domain.

Photo 40.
A 19th century photograph showing a street in Delhi.  Public Domain.