The following interview with Jack Higgins 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 on the right side bar.
Jack Higgins, the author of the famous book, The Eagle Has Landed, has a new book out, Rain On The Dead. There are similarities between both books, including IRA characters, the main character as someone flawed, as well as a plot line that includes assassinations and kidnappings.
Rain On The Dead begins when two Chechen Muslims attempt to assassinate the US President, Jack Cazalet. Unfortunately for them, Cazalet has guests with him, including black ops specialist Sean Dillon, and ex-IRA gunman, and his colleague, Afghan war hero Captain Sara Gideon. With the help of the English authorities Dillon, Gideon, and company search for those responsible, IRA sympathizers and Al Qaeda terrorists.
Yet, readers cannot think of Higgins without bringing to mind his classic thriller, The Eagle Has Landed, especially since this year is the fortieth anniversary. The plot has Colonel Kurt Steiner forced to take a crack team of commandos to England. Their mission is to kidnap or assassinate Winston Churchill. The Germans enlist the help of an IRA assassin and a South African woman who hates everything the English stand for. This book is a riveting account of whether the Germans will succeed.
Below is the Q/A with the author about these two books for blackfive.net.
Elise Cooper: Both books deal with the IRA. What point were you trying to make?
Jack Higgins: They were fighting for the position of Ireland in the British Empire. They wanted independence as a country. In the end they achieved something of the kind.
EC: In Rain On The Dead you imply that the IRA fights for independence while the Muslim terrorists fight to impose their will. Do you agree?
JH: Yes. I see what you mean. Both groups are fighting a new type of war and do not wear a uniform. It becomes very difficult for the authorities to recognize the enemy. It could be anyone in the street. At least with the Irish, they had a genuine desire for independence, which many saw as reasonable. I would not compare this with they type of terrorism the American President and the British Prime Minister were recently discussing.
EC: Let’s talk about Rain On The Dead. In it you have the likeable character Sara Gideon who is Jewish. Why?
JH: I made her Jewish because my foster parents were Jewish and were very good to me. I got to know Jewish traditions and the faith very well. I wanted to show that there are plenty of Jewish people who are serving in the British and US military. That is why she is a retired war hero. She is a good character and her Jewishness is a part of who she is.
EC: Why did you bring back the former US President, Jack Cazalet?
JH: I found it interesting to use him in this story. He is quite a popular character and I enjoy writing about him so I felt we were at a stage to bring him back. There are a huge number of fans that look forward to reading about this character and seeing what will happen to him.
EC: What US President did you most admire?
JH: I suppose it would have to be Jack Kennedy. Many years ago I wrote a book, Day of Judgment, which was primarily set in Germany. It had in it a very famous visit by a US President to Berlin where he made a very famous speech to the German people. Historically, it affected world politics at the time. I used it as background for this book. The novel is about the underground that tried to help people escape from the East German Communist regime. Obviously, I used President Kennedy in certain scenes of the book.
EC: Your style is to write characters that are not all good and are not all bad, such as Sean Dillon and Colonel Kurt Steiner. Please explain.
JH: Human beings are not like they are portrayed in Hollywood. They are individuals who are a mixture of good and bad. Many of my fans like these type of characters. I like when people question if the characters are really villains or protagonists. These types are very interesting to write about.
EC: What about Steiner?
JH: I tried to make the point that he and his men were not Nazis but just soldiers. Steiner is a reasonable person who was forced by circumstances to do a certain job. There is not much he could do about it. If he did not join he and his family would all be punished.
EC: In The Eagle Has Landed you contrast the soldiers with the Nazi atrocities of the Warsaw Ghetto and what was done to Steiner’s father. Why?
JH: I wanted to show these atrocities through the eyes of the German soldiers. They were disgusted by what was happening; yet, were unable to do much to stop it. I also had some personal experiences. I served in Germany just after the Second World War and my uncle was a regular soldier in the British army. He was wounded and captured early in the war. Although he was not Jewish he was sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp to work in the factory there, which was against international law. This gave me an interest in the Nazi situation and World War II.
EC: Colonel Steiner saved a Jewish girl but was not executed. Is that realistic?
JH: Yes. What the Germans did to soldiers like Steiner is require them to do very dangerous jobs within the military. For example, they worked to dispose bombs and clear mine fields. With these jobs there was a good chance of blowing themselves up. In the novel, Steiner and his men were made to do the dangerous work of sitting on top of torpedoes to disarm them. This was a suicide job since most did not survive for very long.
EC: In the book you have Steiner commenting on the rules of engagement. This is the direct opposite of what the Islamists terrorists did in your latest book. Please explain this quote from The Eagle Has Landed, “Why, did you think we’d hold the entire village hostage or come out fighting, driving the women in front of us? The brutal Hun? Sorry I can’t oblige.”
JH: Steiner was an honorable man and soldier. He had a moral code. I really don’t know why the Muslims do what they are doing. Those terrorists don’t seem to have a moral code.
EC: Since this is the fortieth anniversary of The Eagle Has Landed any plans?
JH: I believe there is talk of remaking the story on television. There was the movie starring Michael Caine as Steiner. I think a TV show would be very helpful to get more of the book story told than in the two hour and ten minute film.