Swann’s War

Michael Oren

October 25th, 2022

Dzanc Pub

Swann’s War by Michael Oren brings to life a small fishing community.  It delves into the role of an American policewoman as well as the placement of Italian POWs during WWII. 

World War II is raging overseas, but life remains painfully quiet on the rugged New England fishing island of Fourth Cliff. With most of its able-bodied male inhabitants away in the service, the island is now home only to aged fishermen, concerned women and children, and second-rate soldiers guarding a low-priority military emplacement and camp for Italian POWs.

With her husband Archie, Fourth Cliff’s beloved police captain serving in the military, Mary Beth Swann is thrust into the role of police captain to find the killer who is murdering Italian POWs. Determined to find the killer, Swann is forced to rely on the help of a simple-minded deputy, a disgraced doctor, and a mob-connected mainlander to solve the case.

The acknowledgement section is a bonus with Oren discussing the true facts behind the novel. This includes how 600,00 Italian Americans were uprooted and designated as “enemy aliens,” how the Italian Mafia helped with the war effort, and the role of policewomen.

Elise Cooper:  Your main character is a police detective.  You have done a lot for the police?

Michael Oren: I am on a committee for the fallen police.  I feel duty bound to attend the Memorials.  Here in Israel, we depend on them for survival. They are underpaid, over worked, and it is hard to recruit the best people.  My daughter-in-law is a very good police officer who is very committed.

EC:  Why a fictional book?

MO: I am a fiction writer.  History writing supports my fiction habit.  I have been writing fiction since I have been in my teens including poetry and film scripts. I won the PBS Young Film festivals at the age of fifteen. This is my fifth book of fiction. For me, writing is freedom to be in a different world instead of talking about the Iran Nuclear Deal and the peace process. 

EC:  From a fiction writer to Israeli Ambassador?

MO: I have two loves in my life.  Writing fiction and Israel. It was not so easy to reconcile the two.  As a history writer the best comments I get is that my books read as novels. I employ a lot of the writing craft of fiction into writing my history books. Conversely, in writing fiction I draw upon a lot of my historical skills. 

EC: Is Swann’s War from the genre of historical fiction?

MO:  I did tremendous amounts of research.  Since it takes place during WWII, I made sure I had it accurate on how people spoke, what they wore, and what tools they used.  Every detail I wanted to get correct. I found it was a tremendous challenge. 

EC:  How did you go about getting the story?

MO:  I did make up the setting and never wrote this character before. She is not Jewish, but an Irish Catholic from South Boston.  She is now living in a fishing community made up of Congregationalists on an island named Fourth Cliff. There are some differences and some similarities to me.  My father was a decorated WWII veteran, and I did grow up in Boston. 

EC:  How would you describe Captain Swann?

MO:  She is human with fears, insecurities, and doubts about herself. In 1944 policewomen were referred to as “women policemen.” They did not carry guns or go on beats.  She married this police captain who goes off to fight for the Marines.  She finds herself now a police captain carrying a gun.  She is not accepted by the community because she comes from a different place, Boston, with a different religion. She is up against all these odds and feels completely alone. I have profound respect for her because she never breaks and is courageous. She is fundamentally a good and a moral person. 

EC:  What role did WWII play in the novel?

MO:  The role of women in the home front and the issues of POWS. On this island were Italian prisoners of war who were kept separate from the Germans. There was a lot of prejudice against Italians.  President Roosevelt signed an order that resulted in the incarceration of thousands of Italian Americans, among them Joe DiMaggio’s parents. It was a time of deprivation, rationing, insecurity, and fear, on the home front. On this island there is an American military installation whose goal is to prevent German U-boats from attacking America. I talk about the history behind the book in the acknowledgements. 

EC:  What do you want readers to get out of the book?

MO:  To be entertained with the scenery and language.  But I also want them to be inspired by Mary Beth Swann. I wanted to make sure at the end, the reader feels the killer did not come out of nowhere but asked themselves, “how come I did not see it?” 

EC:  Next book(s)?

MO:  Next year a non-fiction book will be published, titled Israel 2048, coming out in April.  It is about my vision for the state of Israel on its 100th birthday, only twenty-five more years.  It covers public policy, foreign policy, Israel-Jewish relations, Israel-Arab relations, and Palestinians. The next fictional book will be a collection of short stories. I wrote a few years ago a collection of fifty-one short stores titled The Night Archerand this will be the second installment coming out sometime next year.




Recommend to friends
  • gplus
  • pinterest

About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.