Over a year ago, Scholastic asked me if I would be interested in writing a novel for a new historical fiction series they were starting for 9-12-year old boys. It would be similar in style to their Dear Canada series which has been very popular with girls. I’d never written much fiction but was pleased to be asked. Scholastic thought a war book might be a good idea and I instantly said I could write a novel about the Dieppe Raid. I had just done a non-fiction book DIEPPE: Canada’s Darkest Day of World War II for Scholastic and knew there were lots of stories told to me by veterans that I didn’t have room for in a 48-page book. I also knew that kids were fascinated by the stories about prisoner of war camp and how the men dug tunnels and made amazing escapes.
So I submitted an outline and sample chapter for a book to be called Prisoner of Dieppe. Scholastic approved this and I spent most of ’09 working on it. And I found I really enjoyed doing it. I used a lot of dialogue for which which I think I have a knack. Having done a lot of Dieppe research for the non-fiction book I thought I would have a headstart. But I soon found I needed to do a whole lot more. Invaluable help in this was provided by my Dieppe veterans, particularly Ron Reynolds of Port Hope. I would call Ron several times a week with questions about tiny details (what kind of uniform did Lord Mountbatten wear?, did you have toilet paper in POW camp?) etc. Even at 90 Ron’s memory was crystal clear – and he never exaggerated or embroidered any of the details, he always told it like it was.
I had decided to dedicate the book to Ron but sadly, I had to change the dedication to ‘In memory of Ron Reynolds’ since he died on April 18th. I gave a eulogy at his funeral on the 22nd and read a few excerpts from the book that incorporated Ron’s experiences. Some men were broken or embittered by their POW experiences but Ron retained his kindness, sweetness and irrepressible high spirits through all his 91 years.
Prisoner of Dieppe will be available in September 2010.