Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Researching "Stranger In Time"

I got the idea for my book on time-travel by imagining how my father, a mechanical engineer who was born in 1899, would have regarded the technology of modern life.  He would have been astounded by the existence of cell phones, computers, the internet, DNA genetics, ATM’s, and the space station. I already knew about the simplicity of his time, which included transatlantic radio and Orville and Wilbur’s first flight.

In researching my novel, Stranger in Time, I needed to learn as much as I could about the life and times of colonial Connecticut, the era of my protagonist Daniel Rowland.  My quest began in the Historical Room of the Guilford Free Library where the librarian provided documents and maps of the colonial period.  Next, I explored the old cemetery in Guilford, observing the names and dates on the old tombstones.  For days, I visited some of the old homes such as the Whitfield House Museum, and wandered around Hammonasset State Park, the site of some colonial farms.

During these explorations, the character of the protagonist began to form in my mind as I envisioned the places where he lived and the event he experienced.  Meetings with the Connecticut State Archaeologist, the Madison Archivist, and the Staff Archaeologist of the Connecticut Historical Commission were all helpful in this regard.

I learned much about the Calvinistic beliefs of the Puritans and their services during conversations with the friendly pastor of the First Congregational Church in New Milford. A numismatist described coins of the colonial era. 

All in all, I enjoyed these activities. The people I met were friendly, enthusiastic, and expressed interest in reading Stranger In Time once I had finished my writing.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Time Travel

In my book, Stranger in Time, the American Revolution has just ended and Daniel Rowland, a young farmer, is digging claims on a beach in Guilford, Connecticut.  Suddenly, a strange cloud overwhelms him and he awakens in a hospital room in the 21st century. Awed by technology and bewildered by the lightning-pace of modern life, Daniel experiences crime, murder, and medical problems. He is regarded as an imposter despite his familiarity with obscure details of colonial life. Unable to return to his wife and unborn child in the distant past, Daniel encounters legal complications when he tries to reclaim his farm lost in the intervening centuries.

The possibility of time travel has been seriously considered by scientists. Cambridge Professor Steven Hawking concluded that time travel was impossible because of the paradox. This paradox maintains that if a person traveled back in time and murdered his own grandmother when she was young, one of his parents would not have been born, and therefore he couldn’t exist.  But apparently that’s not the end of the story. An Israeli scientist found a flaw in Hawking’s argument—something to do with parallel universes.

I have always been fascinated by books about time travel.  In H.G. Wells’ classic The Time Machine, a scientist travels ahead many eons to the dim future of mankind. I laughed at the exploits of the protagonist who was whisked back to medieval England in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  More recently, writer Michael Crichton has a group of young scientists return to medieval France to rescue their mentor who is trapped there in his gripping story Timeline.  Finally, in my own story Stranger in Time, the present time becomes the unfamiliar time being visited.

Read more about time travel and the pursuits of Daniel in Stranger in Time.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Unit 731

I did not have visions until I lost my sight about ten years ago. Then I began to use my imagination, colored by my medical, legal, and other life experiences. I wanted to write a novel about germ warfare, fiction based upon fact.

As a serious student of microbiology, I soon became aware that the science had a dark side. Long before researchers like Pasteur and Coch were discovering germs that cause disease, others were using disease as a weapon of war. I was amazed to learn that in 1346, when the Tartars were attacking the walled city of Caffa, they catapulted corpses of bubonic plague victims into the city to start an epidemic. Genoese sailors trapped in the city escaped, and returned to Italy carrying the disease with them to bring the dreaded Black Death to Europe.

I was shocked to find out that during the French and Indian War, the respected Sir Jeffrey Amherst, who commanded British forces in North America, gave orders to distribute blankets from smallpox victims to the Indians hoping to decimate the tribes.

It was encouraging to learn that in 1925, twenty-eight nations signed a Geneva Protocol banning the use of biologic agents as weapons, but neither our country nor Japan signed the treaty.

While working for the National Disaster Medical System as a Public Health Service reserve officer, I found out about Unit 731 and biological weapons. While the existence of the Nazi concentration camps was widely known in Europe and America during World War II, Unit 731, probably the worst of all, was a closely guarded secret.

Started by General Ishii Shiro, a Japanese Army physician, this death camp was devoted to the research and development of germ weapons. Located in Japanese-occupied Manchuria, more than 3,000 men, women, and children were murdered by their use as experimental subjects for testing various germs. Before the camp was captured by the Russians, Shiro dropped thousands of infected rats on Chinese communities resulting in 20,000 fatal cases of bubonic plague.

Shiro and his staff were captured and turned over to the Americans for prosecution, but American army generals anxious to learn results of Shiro’s barbaric experiments, and determined to keep this data from the Russians, persuaded President Truman to pardon the perpetrators.

My travels to the Middle East and the Amazon jungle and my studies of Unit 731 fascinated me, and I was inspired to write And Evil Shall Come, a fact-based novel about Unit 731.

Monday, June 13, 2011

An Introduction

I received my doctorate at the University of Maryland College of Medicine and taught at the medical schools of the universities of Florida and Vermont before going to Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons where I became professor of microbiology and pathology. As a reserve officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, I helped establish Disaster Medical Assistance Teams and lectured on biological weapons to U.S. Navy personnel. I was a legal consultant in infectious disease testifying as an expert witness in many cases. Before losing my vision, I flew as a search and rescue pilot for the Civil Air Patrol. Always a writer, my non- fiction books included Understanding Infectious Disease and The Biomedical Scientist As Expert Witness before I began to use my imagination and turned to writing fiction.