Autumn 1944. With the Allies giving chase across France, German forces are in full retreat after the defeat at the Falaise Gap. In the confusion of the fast-moving situation, small squads find themselves on their own or cobbled together from other units, with whichever officer has the highest rank taking command. These units have one goal in mind, which is to move closer to Germany. It’s bad enough that troops on both sides find themselves short on fuel and ammunition. Their path is also blocked by physical obstacles such as the Moselle River. Now, two of these orphaned squads—one American unit, one German—find themselves in a small French village with a bridge across that river. Both sides want possession of the ancient bridge across the Moselle, and the result will be an epic showdown that pits general against general, and sniper against sniper.
Author David Healey stopped by The Big Thrill for a quick interview about his latest thriller, GODS & SNIPERS:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
If America and Americans have had a greatest moment, it was definitely World War II. Young men and women from small towns and even the most rural locations suddenly found themselves farther from home than they had ever imagined. Many gave their lives to free the world from tyranny. A few of those ordinary soldiers became heroes, like Caje Cole in these stories. This book and the others in the series celebrate ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
Today, the military is very career-focused and snipers are highly trained. This was definitely not the case when you go back more than 70 years to World War II. Some soldiers discovered that they had a natural ability and marksmanship skills to be deadly with a Springfield rifle. That’s just what happens to Caje Cole. I think any reader would naturally wonder, if they were handed a rifle with a telescopic sight, how would they do?
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
I don’t know that it’s authors who have been an influence on writing these books so much as storytellers. In my earlier career as a journalist I was lucky to get to know a few of the veterans who served in Normandy and was inspired by them. They came home and lived out these quiet lives as community leaders and family men, but what they did as young men was quite extraordinary.
David Healey made his publishing debut with Sharpshooter, a what-if historical thriller about an attempt to assassinate Union General Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War, published by an imprint of Penguin Putnam. That novel was the result of years of research into the Civil War that included time as a reenactor at Gettysburg and other battlefields.
In its review, the Civil War News wrote: “Sharpshooter has the feel of a techno-thriller, the kind offered by Tom Clancy or Dean Koontz … Sharpshooter moves quickly and is filled with all manner of intrigue.”
Healey has brought that same passion for research and history to his World War II novels, Ghost Sniper, Iron Sniper, GODS & SNIPERS, Ardennes Sniper, and Red Sniper. During a 21-year career as a journalist, he was fortunate enough to interview many veterans of the 29th Division who landed at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. Some of the events and characters in these novels were inspired by their stories.
He loves the idea of a character like Caje Cole, a self-reliant backwoods hunter who turns out to be unrelenting and ruthless as a sniper, especially against a skilled adversary, in the pages of these books.
In addition to fiction, he has written books on regional history, including 1812: Rediscovering the Chesapeake Bay’s Forgotten War and Great Storms of the Chesapeake.
A graduate of Washington College and the Stonecoast MFA program, he was recognized in 2011 as a Chaney Scholar in history by St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Visit him on his website and follow him on Facebook.