Happy Wednesday, everyone! Welcome to my second and final stop on the blog tour for Defiant Heart by Marty Steere. My stop today is a guest post from Marty where he tells us about a little about his research for his novel and shares a deleted scene. Enjoy!
This blog tour is presented by Virtual Author Book Tours.
Defiant Heart opens a few months before the United States is drawn into World War II, at a time when there was a robust debate about whether the U.S. should become involved in a “European” war. In the first chapter, Tom Anderson and Dick Mayfield are debating that very issue when we meet them.
We subsequently learn that one of the principal characters, Mary’s father Jim Dahlgren, the mayor and owner of the hardware store where Jon works for a time, is planning a run for Congress with the backing of the America First Committee, one of the most prominent anti-war groups in the country. The AFC’s most recognizable spokesman was Charles Lindbergh, who had gained fame in 1927 when he became the first man to fly an airplane across the Atlantic.
To this day, historians debate whether and to what extent Lindbergh was an anti-Semite. I’ll leave it at this: It’s hard to read some of the things he wrote and said and conclude that he was anything but. However, one thing is certain. The AFC consistently accused Jewish groups of seeking to push the U.S. into the war.
One of the major points of tension in Defiant Heart is Dahlgren’s firm belief that, if he is to be successful in his campaign, he must distance himself from all Jews, and that means keeping his daughter away from Jon, who happens to be the only Jew in town. It causes Dahlgren to do some fairly deplorable things.
Early on, I wrote a scene that was intended to convey some of this tension and some of the general anti-Semitic prejudices at the time. I subsequently cut it from the novel because it wasn’t essential. Pretty much everything we learn in that scene we pick up elsewhere in the narrative. I did always like the scene, though, particularly because it helps humanize Reverend Mayfield. But Mayfield never became an important character, and it wasn’t too hard to lose it.
I thought, though, for my guest post, I’d share it with Brandee’s readers. If it were still in the book, it would appear just after the scene in which Jon is forced to hold the medicine ball over his head during gym class, and just before the scene in which Mary questions her dad about who’s working the store these days.
The rain had begun in the late afternoon. Heavy clouds had rolled in, darkening the sky prematurely, and sunset had come an hour early.
Dick Mayfield stepped quickly off the stoop, allowing the screen door to close behind him with a bang, and hurried across the short walkway that ran between the rectory and the church, shoulders hunched against the pelting downpour. He entered by the back door, took an immediate right turn, and began descending the steps to the basement. He wondered how much the rain would affect the turnout. When he reached the bottom of the steps, however, he realized that, while it may have gotten some people wet, it had not dampened the enthusiasm of the group. There were several dozen people in the large community room. As he stepped through the door, Jim Dahlgren was just calling the meeting to order.
“I’d like to thank all of you for braving the storm and coming out tonight. And, of course,” Dahlgren said, gesturing toward the back of the room, “our thanks to the Reverend Mayfield for making this room available to us on fairly short notice.”
Mayfield, who was just taking a seat in the last row, gave a small wave of acknowledgement as a few heads turned in his direction.
“Let me start with some good news. According to the national organizing group in Chicago, as of today, membership in the AFC is more than 800,000.”
That drew a smattering of applause.
“With these kinds of numbers, if we speak as a single voice, we can, and will, stop those who are pushing this country into a war that none of us believes is in our best interests.”
“Now, let’s talk about the challenges we face.” Dahlgren stepped out from behind the lectern and began pacing. “Even though we’re growing in number, we’re still having difficulty getting our message out. Why is that?”
“I can answer that,” said a man near the front of the room. Although Mayfield could not see him, he recognized the voice as belonging to Mort Fletcher, the president of the Farmer’s Bank and one of the town’s most prominent residents.
“It’s pretty simple, really,” continued Fletcher. “We’re getting shut out by the media. Radio, magazines, newspapers. They all pretend like we don’t exist.”
Dahlgren nodded in agreement. “But why?” he asked.
“I’ll be damned if I know,” replied Fletcher. “It’s almost like the people who own ‘em are itching to get us into the war.”
A chorus of murmured agreement filtered through the crowd.
Still nodding, Dahlgren returned to the podium and picked up a sheet of paper.
“Last week,” he said, holding out the sheet, “Charles Lindbergh gave a speech in Des Moines. Has anybody here read anything about that? Or heard anything about it?”
Nobody said anything, and Mayfield could see a number of heads being shaken.
“Let me read you something from that speech,” Dahlgren said, pulling a pair of reading glasses from his pocket.
“‘National polls showed,’” he began, “‘that when England and France declared war on Germany, in 1939, less than 10 percent of our population favored a similar course for America. But there were various groups of people, here and abroad, whose interests and beliefs necessitated the involvement of the United States in the war. I shall point out some of these groups tonight, and outline their methods of procedure. In doing this, I must speak with the utmost frankness, for in order to counteract their efforts, we must know exactly who they are.’”
“‘The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war,’” he said, continuing to read, and then paused, looking over the top of his spectacles and making eye contact with several in the audience, “‘are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.’”
Mayfield sat up straighter and leaned forward.
Dahlgren lowered the sheet from which he had been reading. “We all understand why the Brits want us. Same reason as the last time. Every drop of American blood is one less drop of British blood.”
More murmured acknowledgements.
“But, on their own, the British can’t drag us into their war. They need help here in this country. And they’re getting it. And Mr. Lindbergh has had the courage to point it out.”
He raised the sheet of paper again.
“‘Instead of agitating for war,’” he read, “‘the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way, for they will be among the first to feel its consequences. Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastations. A few far-sighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do not.’”
Dahlgren paused for effect, then finished with emphasis. “‘Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.’”
Dahlgren looked up. “In short, we’re not getting the word out, because it’s being prevented by the Jews.”
“No,” said Mayfield, in alarm, but his voice was drowned out by dozens of other voices, as everyone started speaking at the same time.
Dahlgren allowed the crowd to talk over itself for about a minute. Then he raised both hands, palms down and made a tamping motion. Slowly, the talk died down. Dahlgren waited patiently until everyone had stopped speaking and he held the attention of the entire room. Despite his agitation, Mayfield could not help but notice that, as a politician, Jim Dahlgren, who had always been somewhat gifted, was really coming into his own. It did nothing to ease Mayfield’s concern.
“What we need to do,” Dahlgren said, in his calm, authoritative voice, “is channel our emotions and apply them in an organized and effective way. We need to show those who are trying to prevent our message from getting out that it’s not in their interests to be manipulated by a minority group with an agenda.”
Mayfield let out a small snort at the irony of that statement. No one around him heard, or, if they did, they chose to ignore it.
“We should organize a boycott of any business run by Jews,” said a woman a couple rows away. Mayfield was not sure who had spoken, and he was loathe to offend, so he bit back the retort that
had jumped to the tip of his tongue: Good luck finding one of those in Jackson.
“I know for a fact that the board of the Merchant’s Bank in Ridley is controlled by Jews,” said Mort Fletcher.
Oh, great, thought Mayfield. Let’s channel our xenophobia into some increased business. He was about to laugh when the next speaker caught him up short.
“Let’s kill ’em.”
The speaker was Lucius King, a farmer with whom Mayfield had never actually spoken. King did not attend Mayfield’s church and had not been active in town gatherings until the last couple of years, when his son had emerged as a star on the local basketball team. King had always struck Mayfield as an oaf and an opportunist. These were uncharitable thoughts, and Mayfield had not only internalized them, but had chided himself for thinking that way. Not now, however.
“Stop that!” He was on his feet, though he had no recollection of standing. “Stop that,” he repeated. “This is a place of worship, and that kind of ugliness has no business here.”
Mayfield was breathing hard, and he realized that the hands at his sides were clenching and unclenching.
“Yes, yes,” Dahlgren was saying from the front of the room. “The reverend is absolutely correct. That’s not what we're here for. No one is, or, at least,” he looked meaningfully at King, “no one should be, advocating anything like that.”
“Yeah,” said King flatly, “sorry Reverend.”
The meeting lasted for another forty five minutes or so. Several suggestions were put forth in an attempt to find a way to get the AFC’s message of non-intervention out. The boycott idea fell to the wayside, Mayfield was glad to see. More importantly, there were no more suggestions of violence, though the undercurrent of hostility never completely went away.
In the end, the decision was made to approach the editor of the Winamac Record, the county newspaper, and place an opinion piece. Jim Dahlgren was unanimously selected to be the author. Mayfield suspected that this had, all along, been what Dahlgren had intended to be the outcome of the meeting, in which case, Mayfield decided, Dahlgren had wasted a lot of people’s time in an exercise of political theater that did nothing other than to further cement Dahlgren’s role as the leader of the local AFC. And, of course, in the process, rile up a lot of emotions.
Mayfield waited as the attendees slowly filed out, and he and Dahlgren were the only two remaining.
“This is very dangerous territory you’ve staked out, Jim,” Mayfield said when they were alone. “I implore you to reign it in before it gets out of hand.”
Dahlgren gave a dismissive wave of his hand. “I think you're overreacting Dick. Sure, a couple of people got a little carried away. But cooler heads prevailed.”
He clapped Mayfield on the back. “Thanks again, Dick.”
At the bottom of the stairs, Dahlgren turned and looked at Mayfield. “Really, you don't need to worry. I don’t see a problem.” He turned and ascended the stairs.
Mayfield shook his head sadly. Maybe you don’t, he said to himself. I do.
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About the Author
The son of a career Air Force officer, Marty Steere grew up on or near military installations across the country and overseas before settling in Southern California, where, when he's not writing, he practices law. Sea of Crises is his first novel. His second, Defiant Heart, was released on April 14, 2013.
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