A Q&A with Lynmar Brock, Jr. Question:
Your novel, In This Hospitable Land
, was inspired by the true story of a Belgian family who actually survived the Holocaust while living in the South of France. Tell us about this family and your discovery of their story.
Lynmar Brock, Jr.: Very simply I married one of the little girls. For my own family, we arrived in 1620 on the Mayflower and in 1682 with William Penn as he set up Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. Thus I had my family history down very well. But having married a girl from Belgium who arrived in the US in 1950 I was really interested in her family for my own sake and as much as for our two sons. I wanted them to know of their mother's story. That was really important to me. As an aside, our younger son has married a wonderful German girl (woman) and they have two children. And so I am trying to get her history, for now the "soup" thickens and after a couple of hundred years of mostly English/Scot/Irish ancestors (with a German g-g-g grandmother thrown in) the blood lines have been enhanced with all these new genes. Such a benefit. And to the point, as a young person (b. 1934) I did pay attention to the Second World War and knew much of what was going on. I remember specifically D-Day, the invasion of Normandy in 1944. In grade school we all knew what was going on. And so, getting married in 1963, Claudie and I sat down with her father and aunt and uncle and recorded five hours of conversation about the war years. For the first time they were willing to share that which they did not for the rest of the family or others.
Question: How much of the novel is fiction and how much fact? Was it difficult to use factual events in a fictional work?
Lynmar Brock, Jr.: Having gotten the family's story from them in 1969-70, then visiting France to be with the persons who made the survival of the family possible and gather their stories, I was able to assemble a pretty fair story line with dates in which I have some real confidence. And as new information came, I could test it against that which I already knew--the old method of getting two sources for one piece of information.
The events are real, enhanced by the history and printed by the participants following the war and for their own satisfaction. Also, my father-in-law printed several pamphlets at the university, including citing the 500 sheep missing and the fighting at La Riviere. The events are real. The one place where I am not sure that Andre was present was the incident of the killing at Les Puits de Celas. But that event was real. We have visited all the locations cited. It was easier to use factual events and then work on the dialogue. As I have said to others, I don't have their exact dialogue--it was never written down--but I had them say in the novel what I think they should have said. The dialogue is consistent with my knowledge of both the family and the many French who were there, who participated in the events and shared with me/us over a long period of time their feelings and emotions.
Question: You were in the U.S. Military before retiring to civilian life and becoming a businessman. How did your knowledge of military maneuvers influence your writing of this novel?
Lynmar Brock, Jr.: As a result of serving in the peacetime Navy, I know about military practices which I am sure were practiced by the Germans very effectively. Being in the U.S. Navy is not fun and games. It is a serious business. Being at the Pentagon in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations was a very serious business. I was recalled to active duty on our destroyer in 1961 when President Kennedy activated the reserve destroyers as a result of the raising of the Berlin Wall. It gave me a military perspective. And yes, I'm glad nobody was shooting at me during my service.
Question: Can we expect other historical fiction from you? What are you working on now?
Lynmar Brock, Jr.: Yes. I have written an historical novel, Must Thee Fight, the story of a Quaker youth who decided to join the military during the American Revolution against Quaker teachings and principles. I used the tension I faced when I had to decide whether to join the Navy or become a conscientious objector. I joined the military. And the true story is that only one of my Quaker ancestors joined Washington's army or militia. I have written a third novel, historical fiction, Genevieve, of a Navy officer in the Mediterranean Sea in the 1950s on a destroyer, meeting a beautiful French girl on vacation and the interaction between the two and the activity on a ship and the consequences of the relationship. I am now working on a sequel to Must Thee Fight.
The Family That Inspired In This Hospitable Land
Click on thumbnails for larger images
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|La Font, home in the Cévennes ||The children bringing wheat in from the fields ||Part of the Sauverin Family: |
Front: Christel, Christian Ida
Back: André, Denise, Alex
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|Katie, Ida, Christel, Genevieve, and Philippe |
at La Font
|Rose Sauverin, walking up from Solyrols up to La Font ||Alex and André shoveling manure |
About the Author
Lynmar Brock, Jr., is a native of Pennsylvania who grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Newtown Square. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English and an MBA from Dartmouth College before joining the U.S. Navy in 1956. He served as an officer on a destroyer in the U.S. Atlantic Fleet and later was transferred to the Pentagon, where he worked in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. After returning to civilian life, he took over operations of Brock and Company, his family’s food-services company, where he was president/CEO for forty-five years. He has also served on the board of directors of Rotary International, and his work with this worldwide service organization has taken him to India, Madagascar, Pakistan, and the Afghan border. In addition to In This Hospitable Land
, Lynmar Brock is the author of Must Thee Fight
. He is currently at work on his fourth book. He and his wife, Claudie, have two sons.