On July 11 I spent from midnight until three a.m. in a radio conversation with Bob Fass of WBAI’s (New York) Radio Unnameable talking about my new novel, The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend. Bob is a radio legend, being the subject of the award-winning documentary by the same name as his program. Bob Fass revolutionized late night FM radio by serving as a cultural hub for music, politics, and audience participation for nearly 50 years. My friend, poet Michael Castro, who grew up on Long Island, credits Fass with opening and supporting his thinking when he was in high school long ago.
Bob’s interest in the novel comes from his strong stance in opposition to war. We discussed the opening days of the war, the Battle of Mons being among the earliest and most important. The main feature of the novel is that it was widely believed that St. George and a horde of angels fought on the side of the British, saving the army from extinction and an early victory for Germany. If the British had fallen, it is likely that the war would have been short and the face of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa very different than what it became. There would have been no Great War, but a Brief War.
Bob and I discussed the history of war as a subject for literature beginning with the Iliad and coming to the novels of Hemingway, Dalton Trumbo (Johnny Got His Gun), and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. I told Bob that I had written my Master’s thesis on four novels, the tetralogy entitled Parade’s End, by Ford Madox Ford. My interest in World War I was kindled by that study.
We talked about my novel differing from other war novels significantly in its tone and approach. While there is violence and brutality in it, because angels play a major role, the novel has the qualities of a fantasia, with lyrical and poetic language. It plays freely with what happens, since angels can do anything. There is beauty and invention in the descriptions.
In the course of the three hours I read several passages from The Angel of Mons.
You can listen to the interview by going to Radio Unnameable for July 11—scroll down quite a way. (We start with the song from and talk about my book The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand.) The program will be available through July 24. There are generous portions of music, all about war, in between our conversation.