REECE POCOCK - INDIE AUTHOR
Reece Pocock is an Australian crime and historical fiction writer with an Advanced Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing) from Adelaide College of Arts. He served in the army before embarking on a business career, afterwards he worked in finance before taking on a career as a novelist. Won first prize for his short story The Girl in the Red Beret in the Burnside Library short story contest. Highly commended for his Screenplay, The Soldiers in the Di Cranston Award and won the Wildscreen Award for his play Awake to Murder in the US.
In a time when the world is still recovering from the aftermath of
World War II…
A man leaves his history in the war and his devastating wounds of his murdered family. But the war will not fade far from his mind as memories flow from the deaths at Dresden to Germany; the deserters; the killing fields…littered by dead bodies…
hospitals overwhelmed and refugee centres under-supported…
Rolf Krieger arrives in Adelaide after leaving Germany for a new life. He uses his skills as a carpenter to gain work with Bill Kelly, a good man who becomes a friend and confidant.
He finds love in the arms of Bill’s sister, Elaine, a war widow with two children. He experiences happiness, until events from his past track him down as a stranger who believes Rolf stole from a dying aristocrat as the war ended and now wants Rolf to repay the sin with his blood…
They come together to rebuild their lives after the dynamics of a conflict that so far has ruined them…
Peace will not be found at the end of this war…
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful study of conflict and reconciliation - Reviewed in Australia
Reece Pocock has written an authoritative and intimate story of two families brought together by war and peace; in the process, he creates a fine study of how ordinary people are swept along by political and military events over which they have no control but which continue to colour their daily lives. In North Africa in the 1940s, two men - Bill, an Australian and Rolf, a German - confront each other in a one-to-one fight in the vicious battles around Tobruk. Both are forever scared physically and mentally. Later, when Rolf is fighting in Italy, he learns of the Dresden fire bombing, deserts and returns home to find his family dead or dying. Rolf flees Germany and takes the identity of a dead companion, winding up in a displaced persons camp in France, from where he eventually migrates to Australia. The Australians meanwhile are withdrawn from North Africa and fight in the Pacific. In Papua-New Guinea, Bill is exposed to the horrors of jungle warfare and is invalided out of the army.
Five years after the War, Bill and Rolf meet each other by chance in Australia without knowing who the other is, and strike up a working relationship. Some of the locals resent the arrival of German migrants and Rolf is the subject of abuse and violence. When Rolf and Bill’s sister Elaine fall in love, family resistance is strengthened. Rolf eventually realises that it was Bill who wounded him in North Africa and must decide whether to forgive and forget or whether to seek revenge.
Pocock evokes powerful imagery of the viciousness of war in both the desert and the jungle as well as convincingly portraying how men respond under enormous stress.
The dissonance between men at war and men in peace is a central theme of the book. Ultimately the story is a study of reconciliation, forgiveness and rebuilding between former enemies who strive to create new lives together.
The theme is summed up by Bill when he says to Rolf: 'You think the brainless bastard who bayoneted you, was me? The Tobruk soldier was something the stupid fucked-up mad leaders of this country turned me into. 'This is Bill Kelly!' Bill pointed at his chest, 'not the mindless thing thrown into battle at Tobruk; we're two different people.'
As well as a strong plotline, Pocock creates powerful characters, relevant subplots and credible back-stories.
Reece talks about his book - Q & A with our author -
What were your inspirations?
The idea for the book began when I learned that Italian prisoners of war had settled in South Australia and met some of the returning Diggers they knew from the war. The idea of a wounded enemy meeting the person who wounded him formed in my mind and the book followed. In this novel, with so much historical content, I had to study the history books. I treated history with as much accuracy and reverence as I could while weaving my fictional characters into the events. I used information from the book EL ALAMEIN as well as many other publications that I read and referred to in my research. I thank them all and for the meticulous work of these historians. I hope I did not make many errors when I applied history to my story. My sincere thanks to Bill Corey (dec) and Reg Marriott, (dec) who both served in the Second-forty-third and were a great help in providing background information. The events in Clare, Australia, were from memory of happenings when I was growing up as a child around the Clare district. Some of the characters are based on or are composites of people I knew at the time and some information is from my military service from 1958-61.
Thank you to Doctor Andrew Wilson for medical information. I sought advice from the Adelaide writing community that helped me to get through this project. I have been working on this story for many years, and unfortunately, I couldn't work out how to put it all together until I had written other books and finally it came, and I was pleased that all of my efforts were rewarded.
How did you decide on the characters in the book would also be an interesting concept to include?
Rolf is based on my half-sister’s English husband. Elaine is based on my half-sister. Bill is based on my half-brother. Grace is based on my mother; she was a much nicer person than Grace, though. I met men like Bill’s army mates in the army. I worked out how I wanted the characters to act and formed the character from there.
What drew you to the subject matter or the characters?
From my experiences, I knew how soldiers acted; I’d spent three years with them, so I drew from that and formed composites to lift my characters and give them life. I’d watched my mother and half-sisters worrying about Bill when he was in the war, so I understood their perspective. I watched my half-brother Bill Brennan suffering a malaria fit, so that helped with the sequence in the novel. The inspiration and concept for this book were suggested by learning that some Italian POWs met some of their Australian Tobruk guards after they had migrated to Australia after WW2. It was a matter of, the what-if; factor to arrive at the current plot.
What was the biggest challenge when writing the book?
There were huge challenges in writing this book. It started as part of the negotiated project at the Art College. In the beginning, there was a different protagonist, and the story was about Bill and not Rolf. There were various titles, Dancing with the Devil, Love Hate and War, The Soldiers, The Great Southland, Redemption, The German Immigrant. This was my first attempt at writing a novel, and I researched until I understood the soldier in World War II. As it turned out, I only used a small fragment of the research. I kept working on the novel at the same time as writing short stories, screenplays and plays and although parts of the story were good, I couldn’t make it work. I left it on the hard drive and wrote two crime novels, Murder on Display, and The Politics of Murder. After working on various writing projects, I was now much more ready to finish Refugee, and I grabbed it off the hard drive and finished it because the story was part of my soul, because of the connection to my family in parts of the story. All this took thirteen years from when I started Refugee until I finished it.
What interesting experiences did you have during the research for the book,
or while writing or publishing the book:
I interviewed two Rats of Tobruk, Reg Marriott (dec) and Bill Corey (dec). My brother interviewed my half-brother William (Bill) Brennan (dec) also a Rat of Tobruk, Brian (my brother) transcribed the tape and sent it to me. So, I had three interviews with the men who faced danger were wounded and returned home.
The insight they had of where they had served and their personal experiences not only impressed me but gave me many useful facts for my book. I got to know them and admired them and what they did. I loved the research phase of this project for the many interesting facts.
I discovered much about Australians at war and at home during wartime.
For whom did you write it and why?
Women and men over the age of eighteen who enjoy reading romance and adventure in a historical novel.
It is hard to pinpoint the story, and I think it is even closer to something like The English Patient. Maybe something like parts of My Brother Jack, with Jack’s inability to deal with the aftermath of the war. The war scenes are deliberately graphic. I felt this was necessary to show how the war affects their lives after the conflict.
Refugee is an antiwar story. It is critical of the war and those who make war. It treats German soldiers as people hoodwinked by the genocide of their leaders. Strong women bring this story to life as they support their men but are critical of what they are doing. The three love stories give the story a human feel.
But above all, it discloses history; not many Australians are aware of. Australians have been written out WW2 fiction. It is dominated by the US who have not won a war since WW2.
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