Naked Innocence & the Voice of War: Making Story at The Atavist

One of the pleasures of writing My Mother’s Lover, my recent Atavist story about my mother’s reverberant World War II love affair, was discovering how much the enhanced eBook format could add to longform narrative. Knowing the story would come out in both a media-rich iPad/iPhone/iTouch version and simpler Kindle and Nook versions, I wrote My Mother’s Lover to stand on its own. While I was slaving away over words, the clever crew at The Atavist found video and audio, separately, that they put together to make a short film. It appears about halfway through the iOs version.

The video is from a training film of an operation of the 2d Emergency Rescue Squadron, or ERS, one of five such squadrons the US Army Air Forces created late in World War II to rescue airmen downed in combat. The voiceover comes from an oral history project that recorded a 2d ERS squadronmate of Angus, my mother’s lover in real life and in the story’s title. In the audio, Angus’s squadronmate tells, among other things, of a Japanese raid on the Iwo Jima airbase where he and Angus were stationed. His description of the bloody sword attack comes at a critical point in the story, when Angus is entering the war zone in earnest. It brings close the dangers he faces.

I find the film moving, partly because the video and audio came from different sources, which is something we worried would not work. It does. The video the rescue off the New Guinea coast* of a young P-38 pilot. He gets plucked from the water by an ERS crew in a Catalina PBY flying boat, climbs aboard, and chats amiably (and silently) with his mates rescuers while toweling himself off, relaxed and unclothed. This beautiful young man’s youth and confidence make him seem all the more vulnerable to the troubles being described, years later, by a man who has already lived through what this young man has yet to face — an echo of many of the tensions in the story surrounding this little film.

Hope you enjoy it.

*It’s possible this was a training mission, given the date and location, October 1944 off New Guinea, attributed at the video’s source. New Guinea was in U.S. hands by then, so saw relatively little action along its shores. On the other hand, P-38 pilots were flying out of New Guinea, and it wasn’t unusual for a fighter or bomber damaged on a mission, or suffering mechanical failure, to limp back to or near base and require rescue. In any case, if this is a training run (as I described it in the initial version of this post), I find the pilot’s innocence that much more touching, for he almost certainly will see worse in the months ahead.


You can order My Mother’s Lover on multiple eBook platforms at The Atavist, or sample a free excerpt at The Atlantic here. In the iPad/iPhone/iTouch version, you can choose to have me read it aloud to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *