FRONT LINES is a real passion project for Michael; a book he has wanted to write for years. He uses the story of Rio and her friends as a lens through which to explore America’s role in WWII. Michael says:
‘World War II may be the single biggest event in modern history. It was slaughter on a scale the world had never seen before and thankfully has not seen since. But statistics don’t really tell the whole story. For that you need people – characters.’
There’s been too much whitewashing of history. There is no question that what we have come to call the Greatest Generation saved the world. They actually did, in fact, save the world. Just like superheroes. But like any well-written comic book hero, the Greatest Generation was flawed. Deeply flawed.
The 1940’s were an era of undisguised racism, anti-semitism and sexism. There are cases when returning black veterans were forced to give up their seats on trains – for German prisoners of war. Let me restate that: black men who had fought the Nazis, were forced to give their seats to the very men they’d fought. Japanese-Americans in California were forced into detention camps, their businesses ruined, their property sold off for pennies on the dollar. Jews were still denied entry into many colleges and almost all social clubs.
And yet. And yet, these are the Americans who fought the German Nazis, the Italian fascists and the Japanese Imperial Army, and helped to defeat the greatest threat to life and liberty in all of human history.
Rio, Frangie and Rainy, along with the many other characters of all genders and races, are typical American soldiers. They march and dig holes; they are sometimes brave and sometimes not so much; they swelter and they freeze; they laugh and cry; they love and hate; they kill, and are killed. They travel a path from their homes to Kasserine, Sicily, Monte Cassino, Omaha Beach, the Battle of the Bulge, and Buchenwald.
Theirs is the story of regular people, regular kids, swept into the most terrible of wars. Rio the deadly farm girl, the compassionate Frangie, determined Rainy, flighty Jenou, tall and handsome Strand, mischievous Jack, loutish Geer, dependable Stick, lovelorn Tilo, solid Cat, and more, are imperfect people. They are not always wise. But in this alternate history, they will be part of the army that saved for us the freedom we now have.
They will, in short, save the world.
Listen to Michael discuss the genesis of Rio Richlin:
How do you possibly define the genre of a book like Front Lines? Michael shares his thoughts on this question: