It’s surprising, amazing even, the links to today that can snake unexpectedly out of the past. One such connection revealed itself to me as I worked on my new novel DOWN A DARK ROAD. The focus of the novel is based on true events—the discovery of a Nazi death camp, Gunskirchen Lager, in Austria near the end of WWII in Europe. The discovery was made by a young US Army infantry lieutenant and his platoon.
The lieutenant, Jim Thayer, survived the war and went on to become a successful businessman and prominent civic leader in Oregon. He and his wife raised a daughter and four sons, one of whom, Tommy, went on to become the lead guitarist for the immensely popular rock group Kiss.
That’s where a surprising link to the past emerges. The cofounder of Kiss is the flamboyant Gene Simmons. Gene’s mother, Flora Klein, was a survivor of the Nazi death camps. In fact, she was in the same complex, called Mauthausen, of which Gunskirchen Lager was a part. Perhaps if Jim Thayer and his troops had not stumbled into Gunskirchen when the did, many more prisoners in the Mauthausen complex would have died. As it was, thousands already teetered on the verge of starvation when the US Army showed up.
It’s possible that if Jim and his platoon, and other units of the army’s 71st Infantry Division, had arrived just a day or two later, there would have been no Flora Klein, no Gene Simmons, and no Kiss.
So it pleased me greatly when Tommy–I’d worked closely with Tommy and his brother, John, on the novel–told me that Gene was eager to get a look at DOWN A DARK ROAD. He’ll get an early peek at it. But the rest of you will have to wait until May 9th.
Then, I hope you’ll find your journey down a dark road in WWII Austria both riveting and informative.