He will make readers think regarding moral questions: should the US have developed the bomb, are the scientists at fault, and what would someone do if they could rescue their family but it might compromise the mission?
The hero is Nathan Silverman, a Jewish German immigrant who was sent to the US to escape the Nazis by his family. He is also the son of a theoretical physicist. Once in America he decides to enlist in the US Army to help fight the Nazi regime. Because of his background he is selected to be a Ritchie Boy, to be used as an interpreter and in counterintelligence. But the high command has other plans and recruits him for an important mission, to guard a US nuclear scientist, Dr. Allison Fisher. They will be sent into the heart of Germany to find out how far along are the Germans in developing an atomic bomb and to help a German theoretical physicist defect. Once there, Nathan, with Allison’s blessing, also tries to find out what happened to his family and can they help them escape as well.
The plot has very intriguing characters and the story does not disappoint. Readers will be captivated by this riveting novel.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?
Ronald Balson: I came across this letter written by Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt. I mentioned it at the beginning of the book. It alerted the President on the research about the atom, how those involved were not really organized, without any coordinated method, and warned the President the science worked upon could lead to a very powerful bomb. I decided to craft a story about the race between the US and the Nazis to build the atomic bomb.
EC: What is authentic?
RB: The characters and the plot were my creation. But the historical background is very accurate. For example, US soldiers found the nuclear reactor in the Black Forest in Germany. The Ritchie Boys did exist, a top-secret Army training camp where 1100 boys from Austrian and German heritage were recruited to work with US intelligence to interpret scientific data. When I talked about the sabotage of the nuclear reactor that is true. I tried very hard to be accurate with the facts. As a matter of fact, recently in the New York Times obituary was a story about a Ritchie Boy who was sent into Germany as a spy.
EC: You also include the debate over the nuclear bomb?
RB: During my book tour I do a little skit regarding a scene in the book. Nathan and Allison debate over the issue with some tension between them. Allison says how the scientists learned about the atom for the good of mankind and blames Nathan who is part of the military that ends up making a bomb. In the epilogue I talk about dropping the bombs on Japan.
EC: How would you describe Nate?
RB: A Ritchie Boy who was Jewish. He is intelligent, defiant, courageous, and talented.
EC: Wasn’t he also impulsive and naïve, possibly affecting the mission?
RB: He did attempt to try to find his family. He is a human being who will make mistakes. I like him for that reason. If I was Nathan in his situation, I would seek out information. Would I have given an old girlfriend the address of the safe house so she could deliver information? Yes.
EC: How would you describe Allison?
RB: Serious, workaholic, strong, quick thinker, courageous, logical, feisty, and determined. Yet, she was terrified because she had no military training.
EC: How would you compare Lena, Nathan’s ex, to Allison?
RB: In the beginning, Lena was spoiled and pampered. Yet she did stand up at the end. Lena was a manipulator, but it came across how she cared about people. She ends up doing the right thing.
EC: The relationship between Allison and Nate?
RB: I did not want it to be superficial where they jump into bed. The affection did grow throughout the book. The looked on each other as a team.
EC: What about your next book?
RB: It will be out probably in the winter of 2024. The story takes place in the Netherlands during WWII.