I believe most fans of historical
fiction would agree that thorough research and detailed knowledge of the
location and period of the story is of utmost importance. This is key to
developing a solid and believable plot line as well as interesting and convincing
characters who speak and act in a manner appropriate to the culture of that
time and place. The Humble Courier takes place in Germany during the
interwar period and I put a great deal of effort into researching German
history from the end of the Great War to the beginning of World War II. The
study of German history, politics, culture, customs, geography, and cuisine has
been one of my lifelong passions. As you can imagine, I have amassed a rather
sizeable library on all things German. While researching and writing this
story, I consulted a score of textbooks on German history and culture during
the period 1914 through 1939, including books on the role and activities of the
Catholic Church in Germany.
I also am a German speaker who had
lived and worked in Germany and Austria for roughly five years of my life.
These years allowed me to experience German culture firsthand along with the
opportunity to visit over 100 cities, towns, and villages throughout Germany
and Austria, including many of the locations depicted in The Humble Courier.
In addition, while drafting the story, I had the opportunity to revisit Trier,
Germany—location of about one third of the action in the novel—to refamiliarize
myself with many of that city’s landmarks, including St. Matthias’ Abbey, the
Electoral Palace, the Kastilport, the Episcopal Seminary, and the High
Cathedral of St. Peter. This proved invaluable and led me to redraft a few
chapters to modify the plot and to improve the richness and accuracy of my
descriptions. I realize that overseas travel is expensive, not to mention
difficult during this pandemic period, but it is vitally important in helping
to create a believable portrayal of the scenes for your story.
Many friends and colleagues have asked
me whether I relied on the Internet and whether I believed that this is an
appropriate research medium. I did indeed use Internet websites to research
several aspects of my story. Why not? There is a wealth of information
available on the web. That said, I was careful to substantiate this data by
examining multiple sources—both electronic and hard copy—to ensure accuracy.
I had a wonderful time creating the
characters in The Humble Courier. Several characters were not part of the
original plan for the story but came into being as my writing progressed.
Several characters are introduced early in the story only to reappear later to
play key roles in the plot line and to move the action forward. A handful of
true historical figures also appear in The Humble Courier. The actual
fates of several of these individuals, however, differ from their outcomes in
the novel. I consulted biographies on these historical figures in an effort to
ensure that their words and actions were commensurate with their personalities,
positions, and circumstances.
The Humble Courier also contains several
paragraphs of historical information designed to provide readers unfamiliar
with Germany’s interwar period the necessary background to understand the
environment in which the story is taking place. These passages were designed to
avoid bogging down the action or converting the novel into a history textbook. I
also included an Author’s Note at the end of the novel informs the reader which
characters in the story are fictional and which were historic persons. This is
a device used by some of my favorite historical fiction novelists, including
Bernard Cornwell and Robert Harris.
I believe readers will enjoy The
Humble Courier. The story contains a new and compelling plot line, heroes
the reader will care about and root for, as well as villains they will love to
hate. One doesn’t need to be a historian, or even a fan of historical fiction,
to enjoy this tale of a brave and caring Catholic priest, living in an
extraordinary and brutal time and place, who decides that passive resistance
against evil is simply not enough.
About the book: Father Hartmann Bottger, a Benedictine monk and priest, has
confronted bullies his entire life, including pompous clerics, local thugs, and
callous and corrupt French Army occupation authorities in the German Rhineland.
But Father Hartmann faces his greatest challenges with the rise to power of the
Nazi Party and the brutality of the dreaded Gestapo, which threaten the rights
of the Church as well as the lives and spiritual beliefs of Father Harti and
the members of his small village parish.
The Humble Courier takes place in Germany
during the turbulent years from the end of the Great War to the beginning of
World War II. It is the story of a German soldier who believes he has been
called to the Roman Catholic priesthood and tasked with fighting evil and
protecting the weak from the strong. Although Father Hartmann initially employs
passive resistance to fulfill what he perceives to be his mission, he comes to
the conclusion that more aggressive—even violent—means are necessary to
confront the awesome power of the SS and the Gestapo. Employing unlikely allies
and extraordinary methods, Father Hartmann sets out to take the fight to his
enemies, justifying his actions with St. Augustine’s proverb “Punishment is
justice for the unjust.”
About the Author: A self-described Germanophile, J.T. Maicke writes historical novels that take place in Germany or
among German American communities in the Midwest. The study of German history,
geography, language, culture, and cuisine has been one of his life-long
passions. He has spent several years living and working in Central Europe
and has explored many of the locations mentioned in his stories. Maicke is a
great fan of historical fiction, and his favorite authors include Ken Follett,
Bernard Cornwell, George MacDonald Fraser, Umberto Eco, Robert Harris, and
Morris West. He was educated by Benedictine monks and nuns in the Midwest and
several of his stories have a Roman Catholic theme.