Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I've Already Met the Devil - An American Life, Two American Wars by RK Price : Interview & Excerpt

Historical Fiction

A horde of battle hardened Nazi panzers charge over the frozen landscape of Bastogne in a last, desperate act to fulfill Hitler’s maniacal dream. Calmly waiting in his machine gun nest is the teenager from Colorado. His eyes are focused on the tree line, and his frostbitten fingers touch the trigger. Archangelo, known as Johnny, is about to meet the devil, and he’s about to spit in his eye.

Johnny, the last of Nick and Angelina’s seven children, stands his ground that Christmas night as he has throughout his service in the elite corps of the 101st Airborne Division. He returns home a humble, reluctant hero searching not for acclaim, but for peace, to shed his nightmares of death, to find comfort with his family, and make his way with Carlo, the brother he adores. But the devil returns, defiant and dangerous as ever.

Johnny’s own kind, people of his Sicilian heritage, present the ultimatum: Join us in our corrupt, diabolical world, or you will be destroyed and everything you fought for in your first war will be lost. In this second war against his neighbors, does he spit, once again, in the devil’s eye?

“I’ve Already Met the Devil”

We were going to war.  We didn’t want to.  We had been shoved, pulled, jerked - screaming and thrashing - into the conflict. But now that the fight was forced upon us we would answer with a fury. We knew the enemy.  It is cloaked in its pin-striped uniform.  It is well-equipped and supported with regiment-sized forces. It has abundant weapons; refined tactics and a relentless pursuit of its cause. There was no doubt who or what it was, and there was no mistake that evil oozed from every pore in its body. 
I had known that kind of enemy once, had already met him; had already met the devil on the battlefield when he tried to annihilate the world. My disgust for him is all-consuming, and my revulsion for the new devils in my life still haunts me now. 
When I look back on those days and weeks prior to our counterstrike, I find the details difficult to reconstruct.  We covered our tracks so well, and our well-crafted alibis became so impenetrable that sometimes separating fact from fiction is not an easy exercise.  I do know that it took meticulous planning and preparation. I was responsible for that. The technical part was easy for Maggie.  She had had plenty of training and plenty of practice at her special craft, and she was riveted on the task at hand. 
We would have liked to put the events into motion sooner than we did, but we had to give time for Maggie’s belly to flatten and for her strength to return.  We now had a baby girl, eight pounds, thirteen ounces; born one month after they released Julie from the hospital.  We named her Rose. She would blossom. 
After that, some six weeks of relative quiet and calm passed with the exception of the occasional dirty diaper or nighttime hungry yelp here and there.  Tranquility prevailed in the early weeks of our second child’s life. But soon we knew our mission would begin in earnest. 
The shock back to reality interrupting our brief retreat to a normal life came with the fourth raid on the restaurant carried out by Borgstadt’s patrolmen. 
Again, they failed to find anything, and failed to scatter our customers.  Their leader didn’t bother showing up that night to review the good works of his gofers. 
We had waited for Borgstadt with hot coffee brewing. We would have enjoyed the confrontation with him.  We could see the detective for what he really was – a cheap, ugly, ramshackle stand-in for Strawberry.
Tying Borgstadt to Strawberry had been easy.  Stupid cops, playing mobsters out in plain sight, with their capo hiding behind a gold shield pinned to his chest. Their belligerent, harassing raids had become almost comical, but we weren’t laughing.
The next morning after Borgstadt’s no-show we returned to duty with renewed vigor.
 The complicated part of our plan was deployment.
Surveillance of our targets came first.  We were challenged with finding, tracking and predicting the routines of our enemies. We turned the tables on them from being the stalkers to those being stalked. That part was relatively easy in spite of the fact that since the Apalachin raids Jimmy and his boys had gone further underground, hiding and scheming; pushing and peddling, extorting and robbing from bunkers in blanketed obscurity.
My Army days helped us considerably in plucking the rats from their holes. Tactics and maneuvering skills came back to me rather quickly once I put my mind to it.  When we had the intelligence, and when we decided where to act, the rest was the not-so-simple stage of execution. Our timing had to be perfect to carry out our deed successfully, and what we desperately needed on our chosen night were a few extra minutes for added safety. And so a time-consuming decoy was in order. 
 On that night we watched from afar as the big cars gathered beneath the giant tree.  We knew which one he drove.  We had been told he would come that night to share his demented wisdom with the others.  Time to move out.
I felt horrible about having to wrap that big male raccoon in the trip wire that surrounded Jimmy’s compound. I’m still not sure what the slightly-built thug did with the angry, snarling animal after he unearthed himself from Jimmy’s cave to investigate the noise.
Whatever happened between Jimmy’s tiny trooper and  the squealing varmint, we’ll never know for sure, but I do know that Jimmy’s guy bellowed louder than our hissing decoy, cussing and moaning all the way back to the trap door entrance to his boss’ cavern.
What we also know is that it took him thirty minutes to find the location of the disturbance.  And that’s all the extra time we needed.
That additional half-hour allowed Maggie, dressed all in black and moving through the darkness with stealth precision, to install the device to the undercarriage of the big Lincoln, make the proper connections, and set the timing trigger.
She returned to our chosen spot, adrenaline pumping and panting hard, with a thumbs-up. And then we waited in the shadow of a dim moonlight.  It was now well past midnight and into the early hours of the morning.  Maggie, hard to see draped in her dark clothing, dozed off.  I had trouble staying awake myself.  Our vantage point was about a half-mile away. We kept watch through the highest powered set of binoculars on the market - Army-Navy surplus.
And then, as the sun peeked just above the horizon yet the sky was still a hazy grey, I caught sight of some movement below. A number of shadowy figures emerged. I laid there waiting, tense. Finally, I saw him. The fat man appearing in the dim light. My heart pounding in my chest.  There he was at last, carrying his right hand with his left in a strange way as if it hurt him. He walked slowly, a deliberate, plodding gait, with his head down and shoulders stooped.  He looked tired, forlorn, and I almost felt a twinge of sympathy. Almost. He arrived, opened the car door and edged his way in.  The dome light came on.  I could see his face clearly. I hated the sight.  A moment later a blinding light.
Maggie didn’t care to see.  I was glad the guard dog, a German Shepherd, was some distance away when the blast occurred.  The animal was not hurt. The flash came first and then the sound an instant later. Maggie turned to go, but I grabbed her arm, taking a moment to gaze at the spectacle, the devastation. 
We dashed to our awaiting truck, the bright orange ball erupting behind us, racing skyward, consuming the Lincoln and its occupant.
We sped away in the opposite direction of the scene, and could not hear the German Shepherd barking hysterically at the flames.

How did you start your writing career?

Everyone is a writer or at least they should be. In this world if you can’t write, at least bring an understandable sentence together, trouble is ahead. What we have had and will continue to love and hate are story tellers.  If you can tell a compelling story, then you might be an author.  Writing is mechanical; it should function like a machine; turn it on and turn it off.  Basic stuff.  However, good story telling should be magical and mystical like a blooming flower.  Great story telling is like a flower that blooms in the night.  Boris Pasternak and Larry McMurtry are great authors. They let you see that flower blooming at night even when its pitch black.

Tell us about your current release.

I’ve had a love affair with “I’ve Already Met the Devil” for more than twenty years.  It’s one of those stories that blossoms in your heart one day like when you captured the attention of the pretty girl who sat behind you in sixth grade and after being apart for many years finding her and falling in love all over again.  Most of the main characters and certainly the main story line are based on true events. I knew many of these people.  I was part of their lives. Names have been changed and time sequences are different but cold hard facts are retold throughout. The book is historical fiction yet if you were to research the history of Pueblo, Colorado and its many fascinating citizens who lived through the first seventy odd years of the twentieth century you would find distinct parallels in each chapter. You embark on a journey with Brothers, Johnny and Carlo.  You learn about Sicilian American immigrants. Their culture. Their struggles.  Their achievements and their tragedies. You discover the Steel City of the West.  You meet another forgotten hero of World War II and you join him in his fight against tyranny.  You meet and defeat the Devil in Europe yet you return home to face another Devil as evil and as deadly as your enemy overseas. The Mafia in Southern Colorado? Who knew?  You  learn about this dark spot in America’s past and much more from reading Devil. Keep an American history book on your nightstand while reading. I hope you fall in love like I did.  

Tell us about a favorite character from a book.

By far it is Johnny.  In real life he was the father I never had. He was a man short on stature but a pillar of strength and integrity.  He was that true American hero who lied about his age, joined the Army after Pearl Harbor and at 19 young years, parachuted behind German lines on D-Day along with those other great men made famous by Stephen Ambrose in his “Band of Brothers” epic.  Johnny fought in that war with great honor and he brought that honor home to oppose a growing cancer on his community.  His new enemies were his own people, those Italians and Sicilians who were friends and neighbors, now corrupted by power and greed festered by a seething criminal element few people knew even existed in that part of the country.  New York, Chicago, yes, that’s where the Mafia thrived.  Colorado, no, it couldn’t happen there.  But yes it did, and Johnny and his brother were on the front lines of the battle against it.  That’s why he’s my hero and why I told his story.   

Tell us about your next release.

My next book is called the “Thunderbird Conspiracy, Oswald’s Friend Robert Kaye.”  The book is due out in mid July.  You might recognize the name Oswald.  Yes, it’s the same Oswald as in Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy.  Thunderbird is also a book based on true events.  Robert Kaye, the central character, was an employee of my uncle until the fall of 1963.  He was a true enigma; a mysterious little man with a fiery temper and a radical view of the world at that time.  He professed a love of America but a hatred for its leaders including our President.  He claimed to have met and befriended Oswald during the months leading up to the assassination, and in the minds of many helped Oswald carry out the killing. The book presents a new, dramatically different entry to a long list of conspiracy theories. Thunderbird is historical fiction.  It is a true tale about my beloved uncle and many members of my family.  That story is interwoven with Kaye’s as we came to know and despise him. Kaye’s name and his many aliases were made public in 2008 when additional Kennedy assassination documents were declassified by the National Archives.  Take a look.  You will be as intrigued as I was.  Thunderbird will grab you by the throat and won’t let go for 400 pages. Visit my website rkprice.com and tell me what you think. 

Who is your favorite author? 

E.L. Doctrow is the master at historical fiction.  No one comes close in this generation to his wonderful treatment of historical figures and events while integrating fictional characters into scenes that bring to life the times in which he chronicles.  I admire that skill immensely. May his work continue with even greater intensity.   

What are you passionate about these days?

The rampant downward slide of our country’s appreciation for language arts.  We are bastardizing the English language and its masterful application.  There are so many fabulous wordsmiths among us who go unnoticed in favor of exploitive trash like the recent erotic trilogy making millions while forsaking event simple sentence structure. Come on, how many times can one use the word scurrilous and get away with it?

Beatles or Monkees? Why?
Of course, the Beatles.  They were outliers who worked their ten thousand hours in dive German bars before perfecting a talent which people will still celebrate five hundred years from now.  Sorry, Davy Jones, may he rest in peace.

R.K. Price is a Colorado native. He lived in Pueblo for a number of years, earning his way through college as a radio/television and newspaper reporter. He moved north to Denver in the mid 70s, joining a major advertising/public relations firm as a writer, producer and press agent. Later, he formed his own media relations and political consulting firm. He spent the early 1980s in Washington D.C. actively involved in national politics, and returned to Denver in the mid 80s to become an investment and mortgage banker — a profession he remains in today. He now lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife Janet and daughter Sara.

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Print copies of I've Already Met the Devil and The Thunderbird Conspiracy
Two winners! Ends July 28th


Karielle Stephanie said...

Both books sound interesting! Thanks for the great interview :)

Vesper said...

Can't agree with the author about the Beatles vs Monkees

Dee B. said...

Great interview. Great books! I particularly can't wait to read The Thunderbird Conspiracy ...sounds great!

Darlene said...

Johnny sounds like a complex character. Thanks for the giveaway!

Anonymous said...


oriana said...

the book sound interesting, i would like to read this becasue of the change of genre, i always read YA novels
Thanks fro making this international!
and ilike the new design of the blog

Kristall said...

interesting books. Looking forward to read them

wwe11 said...

sounds like good books.

G said...

love historical fiction
ceis8009 at yahoo dot com

Nancy said...

I love historical fiction. The next book sounds good, too.

bettycd said...

Used to read a number of books set in WW2 years and on into the Cold War years. I'd love to read this one.

Kara D. said...

Books sound fantastic.

Dinda_SI said...

The books sound interesting. thanks for the giveaway!

Daniel M said...

thanks for the giveaway! - regnod(at)yahoo(d0t)com

Gale Nelson said...

love the Beatles! Thanks for a great giveaway!

k.a. said...

such original ideas - count me in

Ana Maria C said...

Thank you for the interview and giveaway!