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Book Review Interviews - What Does the Fourth of July Mean to You?

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The following author interview(s) is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar.

July 4th or Independence Day should have a special place in every Americans heart.  It is a national holiday that is marked by patriotic displays. These best-selling authors write about American values and customs and/or have characters that attempt to keep US citizens safe.

Ted Bell has written spy novels, and thrillers about World War II time travel. His latest book, Warriors, delves into the dangers of an emerging China.

 Alafair Burke, a former prosecutor, uses her experiences to write realistic plots and to show the interaction between DAs and the police force. Her latest book,All Day And A Night informs readers that many times the police and prosecutorial teams have tunnel vision in the way they look at a case.

Jim DeFelice is the author of the Dreamland books, the longest running air combat series.  His latest book, Drone Strike, combines military issues and technology while the plot delves into the US President ordering the destruction of Iran’s nuclear program.  He is also the co-author of American Sniper with the late Chris Kyle.

J. A. Jance writes a number of different series.  Her latest book, Moving Target discusses the threat of computer hackers.  Last September in a different series her novel, Second Watch, was a shout out to Viet Nam veterans. Her next novel, due out this July, Remains Of Innocence, brings to life Arizona's Cochise County and the desert Southwest.

Oliver North, a retired US Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel, writes both non-fiction books and novels involving a military theme.  His latest book, Couterfeit Lies, has a very important plot, a warning on the criminal activities of the North Korean regime. It delves into how counterfeit bills are used to pay for their nuclear and missile research including their ability to build nuclear warheads so the Iranians can avoid compliance.

James Rollins writes three series of books each year.  His latest book, The Kill Switch, is a shout out to military dogs and their handlers with a bioterrorism plot. His next book to be published this August, The 6th Extinction, mixes history, science, and adventure with the latest techno-weaponry.

Dave Wellington’s main character, Jim Chapel is a retired army ranger who now works for a secret intelligence agency.  Jim is an emblem to show the troops how much respect and admiration people have for them. His latest book, The Hydra Protocol, is a warning of how a rogue group can get ahold of a Russian nuclear weapon.

Beatriz Williams brilliantly combines history with a commentary on US society.  Her latest novel, The Secret Life Of Violet Grant, allows the reader to compare the historical significance and the norms of the day between the years just before World War I and the early 1960s. 

Thomas Young is a flight engineer for the Air National Guard.  He has flown missions into Iraq, Afghanistan, and during the Serbia-Bosnia conflict. Coming out this July, Sand And Fire, explores the dangers of chemical weapons falling into terrorist hands with the focus on the Marine Corp culture.

Each of these authors has shown their patriotic spirit through their story lines and characters. Blackfive.net asked them to discuss what July 4th means to them.

Elise Cooper:  What meaning does July 4th have to you?

Ted Bell: The sad thing: if you did one of those man in the street interviews and asked random passersby that question they’d probably say “Fireworks”! Very few people are taught history anymore. They have little clue about the epic struggle that lies behind that holiday, nor of the brilliance and bravery of that little band of brand new Americans who made it possible: creating the greatest system of government the world had ever seen. We need to restore George Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and the Founders to the classrooms before it’s too late, if it’s not already.

Alafair Burke: Clearly there's an appreciation of country, but I also associate July 4th with both community and personal independence: good people standing up for what they believe in.

Jim DeFelice: Growing up, the Fourth of July meant three “B”s to me: Baseball, Barbecues, and Booms. We usually spent the day playing baseball in a nearby high school field, went home for a barbecue dinner, then returned for town fireworks at the same field.

J. A. Jance: It's the birthday of our country, the land of opportunity.  It's the place my forebears came to as immigrants, looking for a better life, and they found it.

Oliver North:  I look at Independence Day as the culmination of what transpired in that long difficult year to dissolve the union between us and a tyrannical foreign leader, as well as how fifty-six remarkable men sat down and created something the world has never seen before.  I hope these values will not be given away today.

James Rollins: For me, it’s a celebration of family and country.  It’s a time to remember how blessed we are to live in this beautiful land: free and able to pursue our dreams.

Dave Wellington: On some level it’s just a day like any other, meaning it’s not like I’m more American that one day out of the year. It’s useful as a chance to think about what being an American means, and how that’s changed over the years. We could all do with a little more quiet reflection these days, I think.

Beatriz Williams: Now that I’m an adult, the holiday reminds me of our extraordinary nation, that such a brave and brilliant collection of men and women gave us our start. When I hear the words “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor,” I just get chills. That oath had heartfelt meaning in the 18th century, and we should try to live every day in appreciation of the sacrifices these people willingly made for us, the generations who followed.

Thomas Young: It's a celebration of the American experiment: government of the people, by the people, for the people. Ideally, it's a moment to take a break from political differences and share in the appreciation of American ideals.

Elise Cooper:  How did you celebrate it as a child and now?

Ted Bell: My birthday is the day before so I always pretended the fireworks were for me. With the parades, and marching drum and fife corps in period costume, no one had any doubt what we were celebrating. Hopefully this year I can be in a small town that still has the traditional trappings of the historic 4th, that’s where I want to be. I think it might happen this year, on a small island in Maine! Thank goodness!

Alafair Burke:  Hot dogs on the grill and fireworks.  I'm amazed at the shenanigans our parents permitted back then. Today: Hot dogs, margaritas, and a lot of reading in the sun.

Jim DeFelice: I learned a lot about the hardships common people suffered during the war, and how adopting the Declaration was a real act of bravery and defiance. The document itself was read aloud in the small villages up and down the Valley, and people felt a real camaraderie and revolutionary spirit just hearing it. These days, in the weeks leading up to July 4th I hang out my 1776 flag – an authentic replica, of course, but at least it’s made in the U.S. – and hang it in our front window. It really looks cool with the light shining behind it late at night. Usually we have a barbecue that weekend, either with the relatives or friends. If it’s at my house, we’ll probably play a little softball, or maybe soccer, out on the front lawn. One year we played cricket, but nobody did very well, maybe the spirits of fallen redcoats were having their revenge.

J. A. Jance: As a child in Bisbee, Arizona, the Fourth started with coaster races down Tombstone Canyon, followed by a parade.  In the afternoon there were kids activities at the Warren Ball Park. Then, after a supper of hot dogs and watermelon, it was time to watch the fireworks. I now spend it with a family gathering, the hotdogs and watermelon remain the same.  Swimming in the afternoon if it’s not too cold, after all this is Seattle, and fireworks at the end of the day.

Oliver North: I grew up in the army.  There was always a military parade on the base.  I would also go out with my Boy Scout unit and put flags on the grave markers of those who have served. Now I read the entire words of the Declaration of Independence at my church service.

James Rollins: Pretty much how I celebrate it now.  The whole extended Rollins clan would gather at someone’s house for a barbecue.  It was hamburgers and hot dogs and ice-cold watermelon.  It was chaos, punctuated by firecrackers popping, and culminating in a night bursting with fireworks. About the only thing different from the celebrations during my land-locked Midwestern childhood is that a good portion of my extended family now resides out here in the West, which means we all pick a house that has a pool.  A new tradition is a game of volleyball in the water.  The neighborhood also does a small community Fourth of July parade.  We also try to attend the fireworks show over Lake Tahoe in the evening.

Dave Wellington: There’s a photograph of me marching in a Bicentennial parade. I’m wearing a sailor suit and pulling a wagon. My little sister is sitting in the wagon, dressed as Betsy Ross. I would have been five. I also have memories of running around a beach while someone threw cherry bombs at me. I’m sure that was less hilarious at the time. Today, typically by cooking burgers on my grill and drinking beer. If I can find some fireworks, that’s always a plus. I don’t have any real rituals

Beatriz Williams: My mother usually made her famous barbecued chicken and macaroni salad, and when my sister and I were older, my father would take us to get some small fireworks—sparklers, mostly—which we would set off at twilight. We usually now go to Wellesley, Massachusetts, where my husband’s family has been holding a Fourth of July reunion baseball game every year since 1889, on the front lawn of the main house, pitting various branches of the family against each other. Of course, the game is carefully orchestrated to wind up as a tie! Then everybody goes off to one of the cousins’ houses nearby for swimming and picnics.

Thomas Young: Growing up in rural North Carolina, my family would gather for a picnic at Kerr Lake. We always had typical Southern fare: fried chicken, slaw, hot dogs, potato chips, baked beans, apple pie, chess pie, etc. We usually spent much of the day fishing, swimming, or water-skiing. July 4th came as a nice break in the middle of a very busy time on the farm. Currently, my wife and I live in Alexandria, VA, near Washington, DC. Sometimes we go into Washington to see the fireworks. Some years we go home to North Carolina to visit relatives there. And at other times, we join family members in Myrtle Beach, SC.

THANK YOU!! Happy 4th To Everyone

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