Many have asked what is the backstory of the book “A Private War” and “A Private War II.”
I will answer this question but I will cover “A Private War II” released in April 2017 in a separate post.
“A Private War” was published in April 2016. It is available in both paperback and kindle edition at https://www.amazon.com/Private-War-Perry-Cockerell-ebook/dp/B01I0TJ12A/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1496153234&sr=8-2&keywords=perry+cockerell. You can read the entire novel in one book if you choose. I wish I could change the price but it is set by Amazon. The book was later divided into four smaller books and released as a series. The series edition contains hand drawn illustrations by Alyssa Cullman a new artist from Kentucky.
Do not confuse “Part 2: The Press” with the sequel “A Private War II.” Part 2: The Press is the second installment in the series of the “A Private War.” “A Private War II” is the sequel to the first book. “A Private War II” will be divided up and become Parts 5 and 6 of the series.
Believe it or not I’m working on “A Private War III” to be released in April 2018 and that should be the end of the trilogy.
Here is the synopsis of “A Private War” based on installments.
“A Private War Part 1: Andre and Booker”
This book tells the story of Andre Williams and Booker Thompson and how they grew up in Mountain Springs, Alabama after a tragic fire at Andre’s home. It briefly introduces Andrew’s family including his brother who is singing while playing his guitar and then a visit by Booker’s Aunt Clara who came over after going to church at the new Catholic Church named St. Peter’s not far from the home.
Andre and his friend Booker Thompson are at the home. Other family members are introduced such as Andre’s mother who reveals that she wants her kids to go to the new catholic school because it will be a private school and the school will not discriminate against her children.
Andre’s father is briefly introduced and wants Aunt Clara to become the new choir director at their protestant church. He has no idea of his wife’s intentions.
Aunt Clara, Andre and Booker go to the attic of the home where candles are lit for a cake for Andre’s birthday.
Later the home goes up in flames and the entire family dies in the home while Andre is taken to the catholic church by Father Webster and Sister Camille. They are helped by Sister Laurie and Sister Aude.
Later Aunt Clara comes to the school and removes Andre so he can grow up with Booker.
Growing up Andre longs to go to the school and visits Sister Camille frequently who puts ideas in his mind. They discuss deep issues. Andre sings to Sister Camille with a new guitar he purchased at a pawn shop in downtown Mountain Springs after taking a part time job during the summer.
The characters Alvin and Lewis who are barbers at Second Street Barbershop in downtown Mountain Springs are introduced in the book. Shorty Miller is the black shoe shine man at the barbershop. Shorty befriends Andre and Andre visits with him every Saturday when he goes to work.
Andre visits Sister Camille over the years and gains access to the library at the church that contains a copy of a book by Genevieve Behrend that is about the concept of the “Law of Attraction,” that thoughts deliver from the universe what you desire and think about. Andre is influenced by Sister Camille’s talks.
Andre and Booker enlist in the Army after Uncle George took them to a recruiter after he could no longer care for them. Uncle George leaves them in an emotional farewell.
After joining Andre leaves the recruiting station and goes to see his girlfriend Sherry and explains to her what he learned in the book by Behrend – that the universe brings you what you think about. She had no idea what he was talking about. Andre sings to Sherry. Then he returns to the recruiting station unnoticed that he left for the evening.
Mountain Springs, Alabama is a fictional town that is based on downtown Fort Worth in the 1960s. Many people who grew up in Fort Worth will recognize the description.
St Peters Catholic Church in the book is inspired by The Shrine of the Most Immaculate Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama. The description of the church at the beginning is a description of the morning Mass at EWTN in Irondale, Alabama.
The first installment can be purchased at: https://www.amazon.com/Private-War-Part-Andre-Booker-ebook/dp/B01N2BFKXC/ref=la_B01FLACBCI_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1495666197&sr=1-6.
“A Private War Part 2: The Press”
This book begins the independent story of Oliver Smith who was the first Afro-American journalist to cover World War II. Oliver Smith is based on the real life journalist Ollie Stewart. Smith is sent to a war conference for journalists on December 8, 1941, where he meets Andrew Phillips, the publisher of a black newspaper in Chicago. He shows Smith the photo of his beautiful daughter. Smith remembers her photo.
Smith is approved to cover World War II in Europe by the U.S. government who was concerned about reporting of the conditions of the black soldier during a time when the armed forces were segregated. The book follows his tracks during his reporting of the war. Smith meets Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill and interviews Josephine Baker while in Morocco. These incidents actually occurred during the real life of Ollie Stewart.
Andrew Phillips tells his daughter about Oliver and she watches his postings for the next two years. He encourages her daughter to become a foreign correspondent. She agrees and decides to cover a day in Washington, D.C. where she covers the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt during a trip to Virginia. She enters the room and is the only black person in the room. She is mortified as the only available seat is on the third row. She speaks to Eleanor Roosevelt after the meeting as observed by everyone. This scene is fictional. Eleanor Roosevelt did attend a meeting on that day in Virginia and her dialogue is out of one of her newspaper columns.
Tatiana then travels to Washington, D.C. to cover the opening of the Pentagon.
The book introduces Ed Nelms who is the publisher of the Birmingham Defender. This paper is fictional and is modeled after the real newspaper in Chicago called the Chicago Defender.
Shorty Miller moves his shoeshine job to Birmingham to the newspaper and shortly thereafter Nelms makes him a reporter and renames him Cub Miller.
This installment covers the African Campaign in 1943 where the U.S. soldiers were sent to North Africa to drive out the Germans. Oliver meets Andre and Booker on a British ship as they sail from England to Oran, Morocco. The book follows the invasions of Sicily, Italy and Operation Dragoon through Southern France and contains significant contributions of the black soldiers fighting in these theaters such the Red Tails flying in Africa to bombard Sicily and the Buffalo Soldiers who fought in Italy. Racism or the treatment of the black soldier is avoided in the book. The book is not intended to be a story of racial conditions.
The book includes factual information regarding real journalists who covered World War II including Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gelhorn, Mary Welsh and many others.
The installment can be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Private-War-Part-Press-ebook/dp/B01N4WX562/ref=la_B01FLACBCI_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1495666197&sr=1-2.
“A Private War Part 3: Onward to France”
Part 3 covers the Allied invasion of Normandy, the troops’ efforts to come ashore, and the Allies’ march to Paris. You will witness Oliver and Cub coming ashore as journalists after the invasion and their march towards Paris accompanied by Major Jonah Lee. You will experience interactions of the news journalists with the military press briefings.
The book diverges to cover the exploits of Ernest Hemingway and his efforts to assist the French Resistance and being brought up on charges of violating the rules of Engagement. The book shows a fist fight between he and another journalist after Hemingway rented out 10 rooms at a hotel in Rambouillet for military equipment leaving the reporters with no rooms for sleep except to sleep on the floor. This information was taken from a book by Andy Rooney who was a reporter at the time and witnessed the incident.
Hemingway was literally put on trial at an inspector general inquiry in Nancy, France where he defends his actions as part of his role as a journalist and not engaging in fighting in the war as most had observed. Other scenes include his relationship with Marlene Dietrich and her visit to him in Paris, France at his hotel after the French capture Paris.
The book follows Andre and Booker’s fight through Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Operation Dragoon until the two plot lines merge into an exciting JAG investigation involving the central characters.
The black soldiers fought in Italy and through Germany in an integrated until in 1945 but black infantry soldiers did not fight through the south of France in Operation Dragoon. The book fictionalizes Andre and Booker fighting in combat roles in Africa at Kasserine Pass and through France through Operation Dragoon.The author fictionalized this part to make the plot work because he needed Andre and Booker to end up in Paris during the latter part of 1944.
During Operation Dragoon and outside of San Raphael, Andre allegedly shoots Booker in mistake while trying to defend themselves from Germans. Booker is injured and the two discuss old times such as when Booker accidentally tied his girlfriend to a tree. Then they talk about the fire at Andre’s home when they were young. Booker thinks that Andre believes he accidentally caused the home to burn down when they were young. The question of who caused the fire would be a mystery the carry the rest of their lives into the incident is discussed during the war while Booker was injured. Booker accuses Andre of thinking he caused the fire.
The area is bombed and Andre falls into a sink hole and is covered. The Allies evacuate Booker leaving Andre there without realizing it. Andre later recovers and leaves the scene and goes to a Catholic Church in San Raphael where he faints at the door and is taken in by Father Patrick and Sister Martine.
There he tells the story of his growing up and the Catholic School in Mountain Springs, Alabama. The book includes a chapter consisting of a dream sequence where Andre visualizes himself going to St. Matthias Catholic School as a rich black student while poor white children go to public schools. This is nothing more than his vision of St. Peters and wanting Sister Camille and the others to be black instead of white. He reverses the role of racism where whites are poor and subject to discrimination whereas Andre, Booker, Sherry and Mary are rich black students going to the catholic school. He visualizes a dance where he and Booker sing when Booker hated singing. They entertain the students. Later Booker and his girlfriend Mary go into the fields followed by Andre and Sherry. Andre tells Sherry about the burning of his home not far away and he sings to her with his guitar.
Being unable to understand his English, Sister Martine believes he said he was referencing a black Catholic School called St. Matthias. This was only a dream he was relaying to her but Sister Martine thought he was serious. A search of Catholic Schools reveals no such black catholic school.
A JAG investigation is conducted into the shooting by Captain John Thomas who thinks the shooting was not self-defense but was intentionally caused as revenge by Andre against Booker. Andre is charged with criminal negligent homicide.
The book can be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Private-War-Part-Onward-France/dp/1537538942/ref=la_B01FLACBCI_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1495666197&sr=1-5.
“A Private War Part 4: The Trial”
“The Trial” is the fourth installment and covers the court-martial of Andre. You will see contentious attorneys Captain John Thomas and Captain Jesse Weinstein face a dramatic courtroom battles over the shooting being either accidental, intentional or criminally negligent.
Thomas is convinced that Andre’s story of how Booker was shot is phony and that he actually tried to confess at the Catholic Church in San Raphael in France after the incident when he was not catholic. On the witness stand, he identified Sister Camille, Father Sanders and Father Webster as being a black nun and priests and when faced with real photos of them he said he did not recognize them. This was a soldier suffering from depression. Oliver, Tatiana and Cub are astounded at Andre’s testimony that made him appear delusional. Earlier in the book the two incidents where Patton assaults the two soldiers who were suffered from nervous conditions are included in the book forming the linkage to the condition that Andre must be suffering.
The characters grapple with the confounding evidence at the court martial leading to a disagreement between Oliver and Tatiana over whether the story should even be reported in the first place. Tatiana considered the story strange and did not believe Andre’s testimony whereas Oliver who had been in battle for years identified with the soldier and considered him suffering from combat stress. Story lines and characters converge during the unforgettable showdown at closing arguments. They struggle because they do not want to send home a story that might reflect negatively on the black soldier being covered by the newspaper. Of course the book does not discuss racism and the reader expects at any moment – when is racism going to be introduced in the book? It is not introduced as the author wants the story to be just that – a fictional entertaining story and not a discussion of civil rights at this point.
During the closing arguments of the court-martial the young prosecutor Captain John Thomas misplaces the burden of proof in a criminal case and says that the presumption of innocence will disappear and the presumption of guilt will take over when the jury enters the jury room. This is met with an immediate objection by Captain Jesse Weinstein who urges a mistrial. Captain John Thomas is given the rank of a Captain as this basic error can be attributed to a young lawyer losing his cool during the trial. It is not clear why Thomas made such a glaring mistake. The closing argument is based on a real reported federal case where a young inexperienced prosecutor made the same mistake and the conviction was overturned on appeal.
A common theme in the book is the use of songs to the extent that the book is a musical. All of the words for songs in the book were from songs written by Todd Rundgren either with the group NAZZ or during his solo career.
Many questions are finally answered in this installment. Without revealing the result of the court martial the book can be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Private-War-Part-Trial/dp/1537539043/ref=la_B01FLACBCI_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1495666197&sr=1-4.