What is reconstructing a war event no one has a broad scope of like?
The Latin American Post interviewed Robert Fowler, author of our latest book featured in the Latam BookLook The Gun Club: the U.S.S. Duncan at Cape Espereanza. Here is what he told us.
Firstly, we wanted to know about what the writing was like.
Circa 1991, author Robert Fowler went to a Navy reunion with his mother. There, he met World War II veterans who had fought alongside his father in U.S.S. Duncan, a destroyer ship that sunk in the Pacific in a battle against the Japanese. In that reunion, he noticed none of them really knew what had happened: they all remembered little pieces. He began reconstructing the information through conducting interviews. At first, “it was just to figure out what had happened for my mother and me”, Fowler told us. When he noticed he had a lot of information, he began writing one chapter, to see if it could turn into a book. “And then it did”. It took him 20 years.
One of the elements of the book that caught our attention the most were the letters. Fowler included letters from his father to his parents and sister. We asked him about what it was like, and where the letters came from. He told us that most of the letters were ones that his grandmother kept in her library, which he found after she died. “I don’t think I knew they even existed before”.
We asked him about his mother, and whether she had kept any. “My mother burned most of them”. To her, Fowler said, it had been too hard. His parents had only been married for about four months, and they never even had a fight, because they were expecting Robert sr. to have to go to war at any moment, so they were scared to waste time. Fowler told us that her mother never really got over his father’s death. He also told us that she remarried later, to one of his father’s best friends from the Navy. So the letters were the ones his grandmother and his aunt had kept.
We asked Fowler if he was planning on writing another book. “Well, right now I am kind of recovering for this one”. However, a book in the future is a possibility. Right now, he is more dedicated to his film projects. He started as a theater producer, in New York City, but he actually wanted to make films, so he moved to California, where he currently lives.
We also wanted to know about the publishing process, which he described as “impossible”. He told us that publishers would take the book, send it to marketing, and then after two weeks it would get rejected. After a while, his agent got frustrated, so they decided to self-publish the book.
It has been very well received amongst Navy men, because, Fowler thinks, it is the only book (or one of the few) that really tries to depict what it was like to be on the ship. When they were on the ship, Fowler noticed when conducting interviews, “guys had no sense of what was going on in the outside world”. They knew there was a war, but they did not have a scope of what was happening. “The world was the ship”.
Latin American Post | Laura Rocha Rueda