Under Fire: The Story Behind the Story
by Linda Matchett
War always has a tremendous influence on people’s lives, and WWII was no exception. I grew up hearing stories about that time period from my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Most were too old to serve in combat, but they did their bit in a host of other ways. For example, my paternal grandfather worked for Shell Oil Company and was responsible for the gas ration stamps for Baltimore, Maryland, a city of nearly one million people. He had a particularly harrowing ordeal involving the police and a trunk full of boxed stamps. And even though my dad was a child during the war, he was also impacted in many ways.
As a former Human Resources professional, I am intrigued by the role women played during WWII, and the changes that occurred to society because women were no longer relegated to the home. They volunteered, took jobs, and started charitable organizations, in addition to running their households. Most compelling for me are the inroads women made into jobs previously commandeered by men.
As a result, when I decided to write my debut mystery, Under Fire, I wanted to use a protagonist whose career choice was unusual for a woman. Because she was an amateur sleuth, she needed to work in a profession that allowed her to follow clues wherever they led. I racked my brain to no avail. Then I happened past an exhibit about war correspondents at the Wright Museum of WWII where I am a volunteer docent. The display focused on Ernie Pyle, but included a small placard that said of the more than 1,600 certified reporters, only 127 of them were women. Eureka! My main character had a job.
Using a 1947 high school yearbook, I named her Ruth Brown. She is intelligent, curious, and tenacious-all necessary traits to being a journalist. Because of her position as a war correspondent, I was able to send her to England and Ireland where she experienced rationing, bombing raids, housing shortages, difficulties with public transportation, and black market schemes. In order to make Ruth realistic, I read countless memoirs, autobiographies, and newspaper articles by those 127 female correspondents. Their stories are one action-packed adventure after another, many of which are almost beyond belief. I homogenized many of their encounters and subjected Ruth to similar circumstances.
After creating my protagonist, I had to come up with a mystery for her to solve, and a study of the London police blotter gave me lots of cases from which to choose. I won’t give away any spoilers, but suffice it to say, the war plays a large part in the motive, as I discovered it often did in real life crimes at that time. It is my hope that Ruth will put a face on the war for readers, and that she will honor those women who served at home and abroad, in both big and small ways. Under Fire explores themes of God’s grace, forgiveness, and second chances and is available from eLectio Publishing: www.electiopublishing.com
About Linda: Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda Shenton Matchett has lived in historical places most of her life-from Edison, New Jersey (named for the famed inventor of the lightbulb) and Washington, DC to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire (reputed to be the oldest summer resort in America).
A freelance writer for over ten years, her articles and devotionals have appeared in numerous print and online publications. A varied career has included stints as a crisis counselor, human resources professional, bed and breakfast owner, and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House, Snackbar, and Catering Manager for Brewster Academy, a boarding high school.
In her off hours, she can be found volunteering as a docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and as a Trustee for the Wolfeboro Public Library. She is active in her church where she serves as treasurer, usher, choir member, and Bible study leader.
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A Note from Peg: This book releases TODAY, July 25, 2917. Use the link above to get your copy hot off the press!