Friday, February 15, 2013

Frank Nappi - Echoes from the Infantry - Author Interview & Giveaway

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About the Book

Echoes From The Infantry is the tale of one Long Island World War II veteran, the misery of combat, and the powerful emotional bonds that brought him home to Rockaway Beach and the love of his life, Madeline Brandt. It is about a father and son, and their ultimately redeeming struggle to understand each other's worlds - one a world at war, the other shaped by its veterans. Nappi moves artfully between the present and past, weaving a fictionalized tale of this Long Islander's struggle to reconcile with the demons from long ago and his family's neverending battle with many of the intangible burdens caused by the private life of a man they never really knew. He touches our hearts with a story of courage and perseverance...a story of men who faced the greatest challenge of their generation.

Author Interview

1. Why did you choose this setting?
The setting of Echoes From The Infantry vacillates between war-torn Europe and the tiny town of Rockaway Beach, New York. James McCleary's time as a soldier during WWII is obviously set in several towns in Europe, while the scenes depicting his life post war are all limited to his hometown, which is Rockaway Beach. I chose Rockaway Beach for several reasons, the most compelling being that this is where one of the veterans on which the novel is based grew up. It is the sort of quaint, folksy, post WWII town that embodies so much of what America was about during this time period.

2. How is it a fundamental part of your overall theme?
Well, the story is told in a series of flashbacks and runs simultaneously on three tracks. Naturally, the war scenes are essential as they allow the reader entrance into the private world of James McCleary. The other two tracks chronicle James' life in Rockaway immediately following the war and in the subsequent years, and the present situation he is in with his family. The theme of war having a lasting effect of a soldier's life is conveyed easily and powerfully through this structure.

3. How challenging was it to write about?
Not as challenging as one would think. I was not a part of WWII in any way, nor was anyone on my family. However, the relationship that I forged with two very special WWII veterans and their willingness to share with me their experiences both during the war and of course afterward made the whole topic come to life for me with startling clarity. I really felt, after all was said and done, that I had walked next to them while they were engaged in combat.

4. How did you develop your setting as you wrote your book?
As I said previously, the setting of Echoes From The Infantry vacillates between war-torn Europe and the tiny town of Rockaway Beach, New York. James McCleary's time as a soldier during WWII is obviously set in several towns in Europe, while the scenes depicting his life post war are all limited to his hometown, which is Rockaway Beach. As noted earlier, I chose Rockaway Beach because of the connection to one of the men who inspired the novel and because of what the area represents. The book unfolds in a series of these alternating flashbacks.

5. How do you transport them there through your writing?
Like any author, I use description, particularly of the sensory variety, as the vehicle through which I transport readers into another time and place. It is essential that a reader feel connected to the surroundings in order to feel what is happening as they read. This makes the setting come alive for the reader.


Madeline came home to find James on the couch. She set her bags down and kissed his cheek. He was unavailable. He reminded her somehow of those German cities in ruin: not functioning and only remotely hopeful for a future. “My goodness, the stores were mobbed,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” He barely acknowledged her arrival. He was lost in the familiar practice of stuffing those goddamned socks under his arm. Those socks. How she hated those socks. More than anything. More than the way he sat in the living room of their home in the evenings, staring vacantly out the window into the darkness; more than the way he jumped to attention each time an airplane passed overhead or a car door slammed. Those socks. He had them squirreled away in every room. There were enough pairs to outfit all the New York Yankees.

They were more disconcerting than the way he ground his teeth while he slept or the way his mind drifted during moments such as these. She had tried. From the moment he came back to Rockaway, she tried to guide him gently toward his new life. She prepared all of his favorite meals. She made certain that the house was always warm. Fresh flowers adorned the tables in each room, and the soothing tones of classical piano insulated their home from the harsh sounds of the street, which always seemed to bring him back to the front line.

“Jimmy!” she admonished him. “Did you hear a word I just said?” Her arms were folded. The tapping of her foot on the oak floor echoed like a drumroll. “Yeah, yeah, Maddie. I heard you.” He pulled his hand out from under his shirt. His gaze was still off in the other direction. “Look, Jimmy. This has gone on long enough,” she said. “It’s time to live again. Time to be a husband again. Jimmy, please. Put those damn socks away.” They were the most difficult words she had ever spoken. She labored for weeks over how and when and even if she should. He was unpredictable and at times volatile, particularly when she questioned the reason behind what he was doing. This fear had held her voice captive. Until now. When she heard the words leave her lips, she was surprised, almost as if they were uttered by someone else.

“What did you say?” he responded, cutting her down with his icy stare. “Why would you ask me that?” She cowered in front of him like a frightened child. She did not answer. Why had she said anything? She should have kept her mouth closed, left him to his thoughts. Now she was reeling, and with nothing else to say, her silence enraged him. He grabbed her by the wrists and shook her violently, muttering something about soldiers and shell holes and Bastogne in the winter. She started to cry. He released her abruptly and stormed upstairs, leaving her crumpled on the floor.

She had bundled up his uniforms and his pack, buried them in his footlocker and tucked it all away neatly in a corner of the attic. She had hidden his souvenir weapons and photographs as well. Even the decorations he had received were placed out of his reach, in the back of her jewelry box. She thought she had covered everything, separated him from the world that still haunted him. But she had forgotten something. She sat on the floor, feeling stupid and childish. Dusk had crept through the window and there she sat, crying, wiping her eyes on her shirt sleeves. She did not want to feel this way. It was worse than any confrontation with James could ever be. She lifted herself off the floor, grabbed a bag, and gathered every last pair of socks he had, leaving only the ones under his armpit and on his feet.

She found him upstairs, sitting in the shadows of their bedroom, his head resting in the palms of his hands. “Jimmy,” she whispered. “I don’t know exactly why you are still carrying those socks. I’m sure you have a good reason. But you’re home now. You don’t need them, sweetheart.” She ran her hand gently across her protruding belly. There wasn’t going to be room for an extra pair of socks in the life Maddie had planned for herself and for her family. There were things now more important than socks, something inside of her, a new life, full of hope and promise. He needed to understand that. “Let me have them, Jimmy. Please. I want them.”

He rose slowly but said nothing. He slid his hands around her waist and locked them behind her back. Then he started to crumble. “I’m sorry, Maddie. I’m sorry. But I can’t. I can’t do it,” he said, choking on every word. “I can’t do it, Maddie.”

……she was right. Everything would be great. He could do this. Husband. Father. Plenty of guys did it. Why not him? He turned to her and opened his eyes. Her face was just a silhouette, glinting in the sheen of the moonlight. He pressed his mouth against hers. It was great. Everything would be great, he thought, if he could find a way to just forget.


Echoes from the Infantry can be purchased at:

Price: $3.99
Pages: 256
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release: October 13, 2005

About the Author

Frank Nappi has taught high school English and Creative Writing for over twenty years. His debut novel, Echoes From The Infantry, received national attention, including MWSA's silver medal for outstanding fiction. His follow-up novel, The Legend of Mickey Tussler, garnered rave reviews as well, including a movie adaptation of the touching story "A Mile in His Shoes" starring Dean Cain and Luke Schroder. Frank continues to produce quality work, including Sophomore Campaign, the intriguing sequel to the much heralded original story and the just released thriller, Nobody Has to Know, which received an endorsement from #1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille. Frank is presently at work on a third installment of his Mickey Tussler series and his next thriller. He lives on Long Island with his wife Julia and their two sons, Nicholas and Anthony.

Connect with Frank:
Web Site
Blog Tour Stops

About the Giveaway:

Leave a comment with your email address to win an ebook of Echoes from the Infantry. Ends 2/28/13.


  1. Frank, you really got the details of war torn Europe right. It shows in your writing. Great job!

  2. I found not just the post, but the comment persuasive.