More Backstory About My Tribute to the Greatest Generation

How My Novel “Called to Arms Again” Came to Be

By J. L. Salter

Details have become somewhat hazy over the past ten years, but I’m pretty sure the seeds of my third novel — third completed and the third to be published — came during a slow drive up the hill and along the curves of the retirement community where my father-in-law and mother-in-law were then living.

I spotted something I had never seen before… or simply had never noticed — most of the condo owners had their garage doors raised about one foot. I asked my F-I-L why and he explained it was alleged to release some of the heat buildup during summer months. I’m not much of a scientist so that made as much sense to me as any other reason.

“But what if somebody wanted to break into all these condos?” I asked rhetorically. “All they’d have to do is get a skinny kid to shimmy under the garage door and then he could get inside and let the robbers walk through the front door.”

And there was my basic story: a community of retired condo owners are invaded by a gang of robbers who slip into each house by way of the raised garage doors.

C2AA-lge-500x750-A

Of course, it took months to write. And after my F-I-L died, it took me some 14 months to return to this novel at all. It eventually reached about 165,000 words, from which I had to hack away some 55,000 words just to get it into a size that my publisher could consider.

It’s a heartfelt tribute to the Greatest Generation… and (of all my novels) probably the closest to my own heart. Anyone who knew my F-I-L and M-I-L will recognize them in this novel. Both have since passed away — Dad in 2008 and Mom in 2010.

Below are some paragraphs from the novel’s Afterword:

Inspired by the strength and sacrifices of the Greatest Generation, this novel weaves together themes of patriotism, pioneer spirit, self-reliance, and the willingness to fight for your own present as well as the future of generations to follow.

A portion of this fictional plot pits an assembly of aging World War II veterans – and friends and neighbors of both genders – against a gang of opportunistic criminals in their twenties.

Called to Arms Again features fictional members of the real-life Honor Guard of American Legion Post 38, which (over the eighteen year period, 1989-2007) had provided military burial honors to nearly 2000 veterans buried within Pulaski County.  [In the five years since that tally, they’ve provided over 530 additional military burial honors.]

Though about 980 WW II vets die each day, their lives and stories won’t necessarily be forgotten if we continue to honor them in fiction and non-fiction.

Featured prominently in this novel – as in two other as-yet-unpublished manuscripts – is a fictional figure inspired by certain characteristics of my late father-in-law (a long-time member of the Post 38 firing squad).

I had just resumed serious work on this novel when my father-in-law was hospitalized in early February, 2008. From February 2 through April 1, I worked on this manuscript for sixty consecutive days (often until midnight), trying to finish it … in hopes that Dad would remain alive and alert long enough to read it. I had given him updates on my progress during both of his stays in the hospital – thirteen days and seventeen days – as well as the approximately four weeks in between when he was at home but still very ill.

He had read my other two novels (which featured “his” character) and seemed eager to read Called to Arms Again. But he never had the chance: I couldn’t produce it quickly enough, though I wore myself out trying. In the few moments I had to say my final words to him on April 1, I also told Dad I had finally completed my first draft — still quite rough, but readable. He and I both knew he would never get to read it. I reminded my dying father-in-law that my novel was inspired by him and members of his honor guard. I’ve already forgotten the specific words in his reply, but he grinned and said, in essence, “I’ll bet it’s a corker.”

I think it is a corker and I believe Dad would have loved it.

P.S.  Twenty members of the Post 38 Honor Guard were in uniform at the funeral service of Charles A. Williams.

[JLS # 359]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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8 Responses to More Backstory About My Tribute to the Greatest Generation

  1. I absolutely loved this book, I’ve read it twice. I enjoy hearing the inspiration for your story. Your father-in-law sounds like he was a wonderful man.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      thanks, Angie.
      To the best of my recollection, you’re the first person — other than beta readers — to have told me they read one of my novels twice. I’m honored!
      This one — C2AA — is one I think would make a great movie.

      Like

  2. People do not understand how WWII differed from so very many others, indeed, EVERY other war in which the U.S. has ever been involved, and how every life was touched, every family touched and so many lives changed throughout the country, (and much of the world). Although I was born to parents who had met only because of the war, (the worked in a ‘war plant’ outside of Washington, D.C.), I did not understand the scope of what was at risk for the world at that time. War is a horrible thing, and it is entered into way to lightly by those who would not fight themselves. We thought we knew what was going on in Viet Nam; most think they do in the Middle East.Whether or not Americans should have given their lives, Indeed, even those who came home gave at least part of their lives), generally speaking, war does not affect the rest of society, but it certainly did during WWII. So much sacrifice, so much bravery, few will learn or remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      Yes, the sacrifices and relative unity on the home front was quite different than at any time in America — before or since.
      What’s additionally special (to me) about the people who fought and sacrificed during WW2 is that they’d also suffered and survived the Great Depression. Sort of a double whammy, I guess you could say. PLUS, many of the older folks still remembered the horrible “War to End All Wars” of 1914-1918.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I’m sure your father-in-law would love the book he inspired, and I know he appreciated your effort. Interesting story about the raised garage doors. I never thought to ask about that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Patricia.
      It hit me extremely hard when he died, comparatively young at nearly 83. I think that’s part of the reason it took me some 13-14 months before I could force myself to return to the story and complete the two necessary overhauls … and that major surgery of cutting 55,000 words.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Joselyn says:

    I would have thought that leaving the garage doors slightly raised was to let the cats in and out.

    I can’t imagine having to cut 55k from a novel. Most of my novels are barely that long after the second draft.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      well, after two complete overhauls, this novel was around 165,000 words — my longest ever. I knew I had to get it CLOSE to 100k for any publisher to even consider it. So I went through it with a machete — cutting entire chapters, plot threads, and many scenes I really wanted to keep. It was agonizing. After 55k words were chopped away, it was down to a trim 110,000.

      Liked by 1 person

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