Necessary Background Info

When I was a teenager, I was close to my maternal grandfather, Milton M. Brown. I was fascinated by the time he spent as a "delegate" in Herbert Hoover's WWI Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB). He was one of only 185 American supervisors who ever worked for the CRB. After he died in 1979, I inherited all his diaries, correspondence and photographs from that period (1916-1917).

From 1986 through 1989, I worked full time researching the time period, WWI, the CRB, and numerous delegates. From those efforts, I wrote an 850-page historical novel, Honor Bound. I had a few nibbles -- agents and publishers who asked for the entire manuscript -- but no one offered a contract. In the late 1990s, I made a half-hearted attempt to rewrite the novel, but it didn't go far.

After my second book, Facing Your Fifties: Every Man's Reference to Mid-life Health came out in 2002 (and was included in Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2002), my agent looked at Honor Bound. He suggested the topic would do well -- and fit my writing strengths -- if it was a history book written in novel-like style.

At the end of 2012, as I turned 60 years old, I came to the conclusion that it was time to take up this incredible humanitarian story again and see if I could make it work.

After more than a year of researching and writing, and with the help of a talented book team, I published Behind the Lines: WWI's little-known story of German occupation, Belgian resistance, and the band of Yanks who helped save millions from starvation. 1914. It detailed the complex and chaotic beginnings of the CRB and CN during the critical first five months of the war (August to December, 1914). It was released in October 2014 in time for the 100-year anniversary of the start of WWI and the CRB.

Since then, I'm happy to report that Behind the Lines has garnered national recognitions and reviews that include a Kirkus Starred Review (only 750 out of 10,000 books annually reviewed by Kirkus are awarded a Starred Review) and inclusion in Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2014. The last sentence of the review states: "An excellent history that should catapult Miller to the top tier of popular historians." You can read all the reviews at the book's website, which can be reached by clicking here.

Below are my blog posts about re-immersing myself in this important humanitarian topic. The posts start in Dec. 2012 and come up to the present. The posts are laid out with the most recent first. A "List of All My Posts" is on the bottom right of this page. I start each post with a quick snippet of history. I used to call this item "A Spot of History," but now it's titled "Don't-Forget-WWI Project."

My main forcus now is to finish researching and writing WWI Crusaders, which tells the riveting full story of the American CRB delegates from August, 1914 to April, 1917, when America entered the war and the CRB delegates had to leave Belgium and Northern France.

I hope you find something of interest within this blog. For more information about Behind the Lines and/or WWI Crusaders, please go to the books' website by clicking here.

Post #26: The Cast of Belgian Characters and How the Book is Doing

January 5, 2015

An Excerpt From Behind the Lines

Edouard Bunge
Primary People in the Book


Edouard Bunge—A wealthy Antwerp merchant, Bunge was vice president of the provincial relief committee for Antwerp Province, owner of Chateau Oude Gracht on the Hoogboom estate, and widowed father of five daughters—three of whom, Erica, Eva, and Hilda, were living with
him when the war broke out.
Erica Bunge—A twenty-two-year-old woman from a wealthy Belgian family, Erica Bunge was unusual because she had graduated from agricultural college in England and helped run the farm on the family’s Hoogboom estate. During the German occupation of Belgium, she would help in a soldiers’ hospital, volunteer at a soup kitchen, and work late at night in the underground against the Germans.
Abbé Vincent de Moor—A man of the Catholic cloth, de Moor was not only a priest but a clandestine operative for British intelligence. He became partners with Eugene van Doren on an underground newspaper that would inspire a nation but lead to the imprisonment of many and the execution of a few, including a young Belgian woman named Gabrielle Petit.
Émile Francqui—One of the most powerful and ruthless financial men in Belgium before the war, Francqui would lead the Comité National, the Belgian counterpart to the CRB that handled the actual distribution of the CRB food throughout the country. He and Hoover had met before
and disliked each other immensely. With his passion for his country and his dominating personality, Francqui would create numerous problems for Hoover and the CRB.
Eugene van Doren—A Belgian cardboard manufacturer, van Doren so hated the Germans that he took up clandestine work for de Moor before helping to develop the idea for an underground newspaper, La Libre Belgique. His work and the newspaper would inspire the nation and
would lead to a German reward of 50,000 francs for the capture of the newspaper’s publisher, whose identity was unknown to the Germans.

My Post: Happy New Year! I hope that you—the small band of kind souls who have “liked” my blog and read every post—have a great new year filled with joy and magic.

I’m happy to report that Behind the Lines ended 2014 on some very high notes. 

* Kirkus Reviews included it in its Best Books of 2014 (Indie) 
* Publishers Weekly, the bible of the book business, called it “an intriguing read”

* Foreword magazine called it a “fascinating book” in a review entitled “The Indie We Love.” 

All the reviews of my book can be seen by clicking here.

I know how lucky I’ve been with this book. The kind of critical praise it’s garnered is hard to come by even if the book is published by a traditional book publisher. For an Indie, or independently published book, it’s something very special.

The competition for any kind of media exposure is incredibly intense. In a previous post, I mentioned that there were more than 300,000 new books published every year in the United States alone. I’ve just found out I was wrong—Bowkers, which produces Books In Print, has announced that there were 450,000 self-published American books released in 2013. If you add 2013’s stats for traditional book publisher, the total figure would be well over half a million new books in ONE YEAR!

Moving forward, I can’t focus on such numbers. I need to stay true to my CRB/Belgium project by focusing on Book Two (no title yet).

I’ve already done a rough outline of Book Two, which will contain five sections:

Winter 1914-1915
Spring 1915
Summer 1915
Autumn 1915
Winter 1915-1916

I’ve also just booked a flight to the Hoover Institution for three days of research. While I did most of my book trilogy research last year, this trip will help me fill in some holes in the stories of some of the CRB delegates. And I’ve just rehired a good researcher, Wes Beck,, to do some work at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa.

I’m hopeful this will be another good year that will be filled with the writing and publishing of Book Two. And I’ll try and do a better job of keeping you posted on how I’m doing.

Thanks again for being supportive of me and this little-known but GREAT American/Belgian story.  

End of Post

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