The most wanted man in the country is sleeping downstairs...
If that ever happened, what could we do?
This scenario actually came to my mind later on. What triggered the birth of Enemy Within, my new WW1 thriller, was reading a newspaper article. I had just read a book about someone who tracked his father`s place of death in a field in Flanders. His father died in the war, back in 1916. It was a very moving book. That got me thinking about WW1.
I did a google search (as you do) about secret weapons of WW1. Ok, I admit I have a fascination with secrets. Especially secrets that governments like to keep from us. And they tell us only after 35 years, when the Official Secrets Act loses its power. Most of the time, we never get to know. We read the headlines, but not the stories behind them.
This search landed me on a newspaper article in the NY Times from 1991. In a nice suburban neighborhood of Washington DC, a series of building sites were being developed for premium houses. So for guys with lots of cash. Beautiful site, by the river. Used to belong to the American University in the early 19th century. But the digging was halted. Police was called, then the bomb disposal squad, then the ATF, and the FBI.
Deep under the ground, buried under layers of dirt and gravel, were rows of mortar shells, improvised bombs, and most disconcertingly, gas canisters. As in chemical gas.
Yes, you heard that right. Chemical gas canisters buried ten feet below a nice, posh part of Washington DC. Not far from where several senators and bankers lived. And still do.
Turns out the American University had the world`s largest chemical warfare division during the first world war. Some scientists believed in it passionately. It would make the war shorter. The Army even created a brand new division for it. They ( the army) took over several university chemistry departments, AU being the biggest one. A 90 hectare site was leased by the US Army to do their experiments in.
The more I read, the more hooked I got. Chemical weapons are a big no no now, but back then? It was all the rage. Drop a few hundred of those babies and watch the Kaiser`s men go running back to their mothers. Of course, real war is different. But I wanted to write a book. Color it with my imagination.
Then Maggie arrived. I was reading a lot about the Suffragettes as well at the time And Maggie well, she was not a suffragette but she defied norms. She did a man`s work, and then some. But she was also an attractive woman. And slowly, she started to change the way the story moved....I started to like Maggie a lot. Without her, the heading of this blog, and the book itself I think, would not exist.