Author Interview with Jack Martin

Today we welcome Jack Martin.

Book ‘Em:  Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.

Jack Martin:  A native California, I graduated the UCLA school of law back when God was young and dirt was new [1976, if you must know]. I spent 35 years in the aerospace industry, before recently retiring. I had a wonderful marriage of 27 years to my wife Sonia, who passed away from ovarian cancer on Christmas Eve, 2009. She always urged me to write; so here I am.

Book ‘Em:  Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?

Jack Martin:  I have written seven historical mysteries with whiffs of the paranormal, five set during the Civil War, one during the Great Depression, and one during World War II. They all relate to what I call “the secret history of the United States;” imagined incidents involving famed American figures which were suppressed because of the potentially irreparable damage their widespread knowledge would cause the country. The overarching themes of all my novels are love, death, and redemption. My late, beloved wife Sonia encouraged me to write on these themes, having long put up with my obsession on American history and interest in (although not blind belief in) various “conspiracy theories.”

Book ‘Em:  Do you have a work in progress?

Jack Martin:  I have just completed the final draft of a World War II mystery, tentatively entitled “Destroyer of Worlds,” dealing with a race to prevent the completion of a Nazi atomic bomb.

Book ‘Em:  What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?

Jack Martin:  The most difficult scene I ever wrote was one involving the murder of a small child. An infant represents the ultimate in innocence and its protection calls on the most basic instincts of human beings. I felt it necessary to the plot, in order to demonstrate the irredeemable evil of the antagonists, and to set up an act of redemption by the morally flawed protagonists.

Book ‘Em:  What sort of research do you do for your work?

Jack Martin:  I have a collection of works on history that should qualify me for an appearance on “Hoarders.” I do most of my research in my own library.

Book ‘Em:  Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?

Jack Martin:  I read books on history, astronomy, horror, and science fiction. At any given time, I’m alternately reading a novel and a factual book. I would have to say that among my favorite authors are H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Heinlein, Philip Kerr, and Stephanie Barron.

Book ‘Em:  Was there a person who encouraged you to write?

Jack Martin:  My parents and my wife; all now sadly gone.

Book ‘Em:  What would you say are your strengths as an author?

Jack Martin:  A “voice” that transports a reader to a different time and place, and a desire to touch on difficult moral issues without detracting from the adventure of the story.

Book ‘Em:  How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?

Jack Martin:  I write often but not as regularly as I would like; to my surprise, I found that retirement left me busier than when I was employed full time.

Book ‘Em:  Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?

Jack Martin:  Hopefully churning out ever more exciting tales.

Book ‘Em:  If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?

Jack Martin:  Write, write, write, no matter how many times you are rejected.

Book ‘Em:  What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?

Jack Martin:  I found your book truly enjoyable.

Book ‘Em:  Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.

Jack Martin:

Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, in charge of the Los Alamos arm of the Manhattan Project, leaned back in his desk chair and lit another of the seemingly endless series of cigarettes with which his days were punctuated. The small lunch on his desk remained untouched, as it did most lunchtimes these days. He had never been particularly interested in food, and since being appointed to the project ate only when he felt like it, which was not often. Tobacco, not nourishment, was his food; as a result his six foot frame carried less than 140 pounds.

Oppenheimer was a brilliant scientist, who before the war had held professorships simultaneously at the University of California and Cal Tech. A rather unworldly individual who had learned Sanskrit as a means of relaxation, he nonetheless had an uncanny ability to charm those around him, to get them to do things for him that they would have done for nobody else. Rare for a scientist, his charm extended to women. Over the years he had seduced the wives of two colleagues and had at the same time maintained a long-term affair with a Communist activist in Berkeley who, when finally convinced that he would not leave his wife for her, had killed herself. The overall head of the Manhattan Project, General Leslie Groves, could not have been more different in personality or politics from Oppenheimer; but the left-leaning scientist had in effect seduced Groves as well. The General absolutely supported Oppenheimer on every matter, and would not listen to a word of criticism against the lab director.

Oppenheimer might seem unworldly; but he focused on the largest issues to the exclusion of all else, slowly destroying his health with worry, tobacco, and malnutrition. On the one hand, he was focused utterly on the completion of the atomic bomb, which everyone at Los Alamos referred to as “the Gadget.” So many technical issues had been solved, and so many remained to be solved; but at the end there would be Mankind creating on the Earth for the briefest moment a literal piece of the sun. The technical challenge enthralled him. On the other hand, he knew that the bomb would be used to kill hundredths of thousands, perhaps millions, of men, women, and children indiscriminately. He was deeply troubled by the moral implications of the work at Los Alamos. Only the fear of the diabolic Hitler having sole possession of such a weapon had allowed him to overcome his reservations. However, the fall of Germany was near, and the Japanese simply did not have the industrial capacity to make a Gadget of their own; yet Washington show ed no signs of slowing down the program. He worried more and more that it would be used against defenseless nations, and that he would not be considered the savior of America, but a mass murderer. Recently he had awakened from a nightmare where he had stared into a mirror and Hitler’s face stared back at him; he had not told his wife why he had awoke screaming.

Miss Laura Palmer, his personal secretary for the last two years, entered his office unannounced. She looked at Oppenheimer’s untouched lunch tray and frowned. “Dr. Oppenheimer, this simply cannot continue. You never touch your lunch these days. And I’ve checked with Mrs. Oppenheimer. She says you hardly touch any food at home, and is as worried as I am. I should call one of our doctors in; I’d bet a month’s salary he would diagnose malnutrition.”

Oppenheimer looked at his secretary and smiled sadly. Palmer was a tall, thin woman, whose lustrous brown hair was matched by darkly brown eyes. She was a beautiful woman, who normally he would have effortlessly seduced; but strangely, he felt not the slightest desire to do so. He thought that this lack of desire stemmed from her constant mothering of him over the last two years; his own mother had been a socially ambitious woman with little time for her brilliant, rather strange son, whom she handed off to nurses and nannies until he was old enough to be sent to boarding school. Oppenheimer was completely familiar with the writings of Sigmund Freud, and was well aware that Palmer had become in effect a surrogate mother figure.


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