Interview with military historical author David McCue


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Author David McCue is here today to chat with me about his
military historical novel, When
Angels Wept
.
Bio:
David McCue is a native
of Southern Californian. Like Rod Hirsch, the hero in his novel, his parents
were from Iowa and raised him with Midwestern values. He grew up in Palos
Verdes, CA and graduated from California State University Long Beach. He and
his wife live in south Orange County and have two sons. David is a WWII and
Vietnam War era history buff with a particular interest in military aircraft. When Angels Wept is his first novel.
His interests are varied
and include spending time with his family, reading, travel, landscape design,
and vintage corvettes. He spent many years restoring the vintage 1970 Corvette
he has owned since 1974. The time put into the restoration was well worth the
effort. It won top in its class at the prestigious all Corvette Plastic
Fantastic Car show in San Diego, the largest all Corvette show in the country.
He has been influenced
by John Steinbeck, Pearl S. Buck and later Larry McMurtry, Herman Wouk and
Mario Puzo among others. When he finished Wouk’s Winds of War and War
and Remembrance
, he recalls thinking they were “damn were fine books” and
that they would stay with him forever. He says he got the same feeling after
reading Stephen King’s The Stand.
“In writing When
Angels Wept, 
I wanted my readers to take something away
with them long after they had finished the book,” McCue says. “I wanted them to
feel that the message contained within the pages was important and had merit.
If readers feel that, I’ve done my job.”
Please
tell us about your current release.
In World War I it was
labeled “shell shock.” In World War II it was known as “battle fatigue.” Today
most of us are familiar with the term “post-traumatic stress disorder.” No
matter what the label, it remains the destruction of the minds individuals who
experience traumatic events…typically events no one was ever meant to
experience, like the unspeakable events of war. When Angels Wept follows the path of one such individual, an
idealistic young airman named Rod Hirsch, who experiences the most absolute
horrors of war during his time fighting in World War II. Hirsch has been raised
with a respect for life and a belief in the rewards of hard work. The young man
accepts his duty to his country without question. When he enters the Army Cadet
Pilot Training Program and eventually becomes the captain of a B17 bomber, his
inner struggles begin. Hirsch learns to deal with military life and the diverse
personalities of the men in his charge.
There is more in store
for Hirsch than just air battles and kills however. He also finds love while
shopping for a special gift for his mother in a small bucolic English village.
The moment he lays eyes on Shelly, a new layer of complication centers his
young life.
Hirsch’s record of
staying alive over the skies of Europe eclipses all other pilots’ until one day
when he and his crew come up against an insidious evil his mind could never
have concocted. After losing his entire crew, Hirsch’s grip on reality
seriously wavers. The horrors of war begin a relentless invasion into his
psyche, his mid-western values are compromised forever. Guilt rages and seeps
into every fissure of his mind.
War indeed is hell, but
for those with PTSD, it is a personal torment that no amount of medication can
cure. So it is for Hirsch as the cracks between reality and horrid war-torn
memories deepen and expand. His final break from reality comes when Hirsch
uncovers the body of his love, bloodied and crushed by the rubble left by a
rogue German bomb. Hirsch’s new focus is to find the bomber responsible German
pilot and exact an unholy revenge.
While When Angles Wept chronicles the path to
destruction of just one man’s life, the result of the effects of war that
hundreds of thousands of soldiers experience today. The book takes readers through
the insidious downward physical, mental and emotional spiral that
post-traumatic stress disorder causes. You can’t see it; you can’t touch it; it
has no taste or smell. PTSD is the mind’s own grim reaper that has just one,
single purpose…to kill the human spirit over time.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always had an
interest in military history and military aircraft. For some reason, during a
dramatic section of Yanni at the Acropolis, an image of American B17
bombers fighting the Luftwaffe during raids in WWII developed in my mind. By
the time I got home a sketch of a story was spinning in my head. Although I was
unprepared, not proficient at typing, spelling or punctuation, I started to
write it. I guess it was just the number one item on my bucket list.
Excerpt from When Angels Wept:
A few blocks away, a boy on a bicycle peddled in
their direction. Although the 13-year-old was never greeted warmly, everyone
knew Harvey. His bike had a bent pedal that nicked the frame slightly, warning
that he was coming.
As he rounded the corner, two neighbors talking
over their fence abruptly stopped upon seeing him. They stared, wondering where
he was going. They resumed their conversation only when he’d passed. Harvey
wore no badge or uniform, but everyone knew his official capacity; he delivered
telegrams, words cut from a teletype and pasted on to paper and sealed.
Harvey’s first stop was Number 4 Market Street.
He rang the bell nervously. There was no
response. The cable would have to go back in his pouch. As he hopped back onto
his bike, a droplet of water bounced off his nose followed by more drops,
making perfect half-inch circles on the pavement as he peddled toward Mill
Road. Over the last several months Harvey had delivered countless messages from
the War Department. He watched as the hearts of the entire community broke. Rod
looked up the street and saw the boy peddling toward them. 
Shelly turned the same direction. Recognizing
the boy, she gasped, forcing her attention away from Rodney. She drew her fist
up to her mouth and said out loud, “Keep going. Keep going.” 
Harvey continued peddling toward them and
stopped at the Waters’ gate across the street where Pam and her mother-in-law
had just exited their house. Upon seeing him, their umbrellas spilled out of
their hands. Mrs. Waters clenched her jaw and steeled herself. The rain began
trickling off her nose and cheeks but went unnoticed. He confirmed the address,
got off his bicycle, set it down and hesitated at their gate. Mrs. Waters
recoiled. Pamela began whimpering and raised her hands to her face, obviously
fearful of the approaching boy and the official telegram he carried in his
hand.
Harvey approached slowly, avoiding eye contact.
Mrs. Waters stood straight, balling her fists as if squeezing hard enough could
will him away. “I have a cable for Mr. and Mrs. Edger Waters,” he said
respectfully and extended his hand holding the cable uneasily. Alice hesitated.
Her son was a navigator in the RAF. The news needn’t be fatal.
She grabbed the damp envelope. Her freshly
curled hair, now soaked, lay flattened from the rain. The boy continued to look
down as he retreated to his waiting bicycle. Harvey had barely ridden a few
yards when he heard the women scream. The clicking from his peddling quickened
as the boy pumped his legs harder, trying to put as much distance from them as
possible. 
The cable was small, a few inches long and a few
more inches wide. How could something so small upend people’s lives?
“Oh, it’s Hugh!” Shelly cried, “Oh no,”
immediately running across the street, leaving Rod standing uneasily on the
porch. The Waters were like family to Shelly.
At first, Rod wasn't sure what had happened.
After a moment, he realized that Shelly’s neighbor had received word that their
son had been killed. Rod was dazed. In an instant the warm glow of their time
together had turned to ashes as the reality of the war invaded the sheltered
place that they had occupied. 
Shelly needed to be with her friends. Young
Pamela sank to her knees and buried her face in her mother-in-law’s apron. Rod,
feeling helpless, turned to Shelly’s uncle and asked, “Harry, will you tell Shelly
that I’ll write?” He wondered, “Which heart breaks harder, a wife’s or a
mother’s?” The question had no answer.
For a few precious hours, they had shut out the
war. Then this heartbreaking event smashed into their private world with a
vengeance. Rod gave Harry a quick hug and left without another word. Turning up
his collar against the morning’s rain, he looked back to see the three women
locked together weeping, the telegram clutched in Pamela’s hand. 
The skies opened and the angels wept. 
Rod gazed at her through the deluge. Her soaked
white dress clung to her tightly like a second skin confirming the fantasies he
had about her figure. Now with her neighbor’s loss he felt self-conscious,
almost guilty, about the way he’d lusted for her just minutes ago.
Shelly turned to find Rodney looking at her, but
she could not see his eyes through her tears and the rain. Even in the rain she
could still taste his kiss though. The white dress and what she said had lured
him to her. There was never a thought of refusing him, and her knees had almost
failed when his hands drew her into him. 
Rod waved.
Waving back silently, Shelly watched as he
turned and walked away, his form fading in the gray of the rain. Would that be
the last time she would ever see him?
What
exciting story are you working on next?
The second book is titled, The Sins of
Katherine Westbrook
. Katherine is Shelly Westbrook’s mother, a spin-off
character from When Angels Wept. She is smart, beautiful and has a head
for business. However her personal life is ruins. She is an absolute failure as
a mother and wife. After her husband’s death, she meets an American general and
she is quite taken with him, however, her failures in her personal life haunt
her. Her personal history with men is a disaster, so she can’t trust herself to
open up to the general. Her willfulness is in opposition to her lack of trust
in her own judgement and creates an interesting conflict that I felt I could
develop.
 Thanks for being here today, David.

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