Saturday, April 20, 2024

Live Music and Rock Concerts by Jenn McKinlay

 JENN McKINLAY: Hub and I love going to concerts. He's a musician so it makes sense. Also, we're children of the 70's and 80's when concerts were events! Going to the show, getting the shirt, and wearing it to school the next day was a big freaking deal. Thus, my need to buy Springsteen's T-shirt a few weeks ago when we were lucky enough to catch him on his latest tour.

What do I love about concerts? The performance, for sure, but it's more than that. As Hub and I sat in our cheap two-kids-in college-seats, I chatted it up with the people around us--as you do. There were people in attendance who had seen the Boss over thirty times and they were now there with their grown children, making it a generational experience. I get the generational thing. My mom is a serious live music lover and concert goer and has seen everyone. I will likely never catch up to her.

There were also people from other states and even far away countries (Australia) who were following Springsteen on tour so after they caught him in Phoenix, they were following him to San Diego. No two shows are ever exactly the same, so I get it. 

Jenn and Hub (waving to our friend Paige Shelton who took this pic from the floor)

Steve Van Zant and Bruce Springsteen

One of the best concerts I ever attended was U2's Joshua Tree tour in the Hartford Coliseum with all of my college roommates. The crowd left the arena singing "And I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" all together and it was so powerful it made the hair on my arms stand up straight. 

Recently, Hub and I have seen Brian Setzer (Stray Cats) and the Gin Blossoms (Hub is in another band - Honeygirl - with one of them) and we had tickets to see Jimmie Vaughn but he had to postpone. This is mostly why we've been filling our empty nest days with concerts. It occurred to us that we're getting up there and our musical icons are, too. If we don't see them now, we might not get the chance.

We were lucky enough to see the Rolling Stones before Charlie Watts passed away, and it meant a lot to us to bring the Hooligans to that show as well as many others over the years -- such as ZZ Top at the Arizona State Fair (their first rock concert), Dead & Co (several times) and Guns N' Roses for H2's birthday when the band reunited. Also, I was delighted when they recently went to see Post Malone and had to buy the T-shirt. 

Full disclosure: I'm writing this on Wednesday, but on the day this posts, I will have just seen Phish in the Sphere in Las Vegas, assuming all goes well :) I'll be sure to report back in! 

So, what about you, Reds and Readers, are you a concert goer? What show made a lasting impression upon you? If you could see any rock band or musical artist (living or dead) in concert, who would it be? 

P.S. Okay, it's Friday and the Phish concert is tonight. This is the view of the Sphere from our room! Wild, huh?

Friday, April 19, 2024

The Shanghai Connection By Libby Fischer Hellmann

Libby Fischer Hellman: Hi, Reds. Wonderful to be back with you! Thanks for including me.

MAX’s WAR: The Story of a Ritchie Boy is my just-released historical thriller about a true but little known story from World War Two: the Ritchie Boys. They were a group of 2300 German Jews who escaped Hitler’s Germany, emigrated to the US, and joined the Army to fight the Nazis. 

As you can probably surmise, I did intense research on the time period. While doing so, I discovered even more stories that haven’t been widely told. One of those stories, which I included in the novel, follows. 

You know that during the Holocaust the Nazis tightened restrictions on Jews. Many Jewish families were desperate to flee Germany and the Occupied countries. But as restrictions for them at home mounted, so did restrictions in the countries willing to accept them. Quotas limited the number of immigrants Europe and America would accept. America was especially stingy. In 1938-1939, over 400,000 Jews applied to emigrate to America. Only 27,000 received visas. 

In MAX'S WAR Max’s German girlfriend, Renée, and her family were lucky. They capitalized on one of the only paths open to Jews—if they were prepared for a dramatic change. They emigrated to Shanghai, China.

Shanghai 1920's

Why escape to the other side of the world? The exodus was in large part made possible by a heroic Chinese diplomat in Austria, Feng-Shan Ho. Often called the “Chinese Schindler,” he risked his job by issuing thousands of visas to German and Austrian Jews.

The other stroke of luck for Jews was Shanghai’s reputation as an "open city." Much of it was controlled not by the Chinese but by foreign powers – including France, Britain, and the United States. Customs officials were “tolerant” of Europeans who flocked to the city, and often “neglected” to check passengers’ papers carefully. Altogether about 20,000 Jews fled to Shanghai, and most of them survived the war. 

Shanghai in the 1930s was the most sophisticated city in China, but life in the Far East was still a shock, as Renée “reports” in a letter to Max.

There are tall skyscrapers everywhere, and the harbor lies directly in front of them. But once you get ashore, there are hordes of people packed into small spaces. Rickshaws operated by young men pull people all over town. You can see the veins on their legs popping out. There is also a glut of bicycles but only a few autos. 

From a distance it looks very Western, with electric signs and buildings and trolley cars. But up close, I noticed that the streets are not well maintained, and the odor is insufferable. I gather there is little indoor plumbing unless one lives in an affluent neighborhood. There are a proliferation of stalls selling food and drink, but we wouldn’t think of eating anything off the street. 

Even so, they tell me Shanghai is truly an international city, the largest in China. It is responsible for over half the country’s imports and exports, and everyone here is in the business of making money. They call Shanghai the “Paris of the East, the New York of the West” because aside from legitimate trading, Shanghai is notorious as the center of criminal activity in China. Opium is a huge export, and some of the wealthiest Europeans here run those businesses.

While most Jews recognize the difference between Ashkenazi (Western European Jews) and Sephardic Jews (from the Middle East, Spain & Portugal), Renée discovers a branch of Sephardic Jews in Shanghai who were new to her.

A few weeks ago we were invited to Shabbos dinner by the Sassoons, who are probably the most prominent Jewish family here. They are Bagdadi Jews, a branch of Judaism I confess is new to me. They come mostly from Iraq, Basra, and Aleppo, and other Arabic-speaking parts of the Middle East. They’ve been in Shanghai for decades, and are extremely wealthy. The family does most of their trading with Britain, and they all speak English. They are so central to Shanghai’s wealth that no one would dare to impose any antisemitic decrees. So different than Germany. 

Renée’s father was a successful jeweler, and her parents found a home in the upscale neighborhood of Jefferson Park. They assimilated into Jewish life—Shanghai had its own synagogue, Ohel Mosheh. Later there was a school and an active life for young Jews. Renée found the Chinese people generally friendly and supportive.

Jewish Refugee Museum

However, there was an existential threat to immigrant Jews: the Japanese. Again Renée “writes” to Max:

Did you know the Japanese bombed Shanghai in 1932? They occupied Manchuria but Chinese students protested (as they should), so the Japanese broke up the protests with bombs. They are so aggressive they almost make the Nazis look pacifist.

In 1937 the Japanese captured Shanghai. For the most part, they left the Jews alone. But after the Americans entered the war in 1941, things changed. They were, after all, allies with Nazi Germany.

They forced us to move into the ghetto in Hongkou, which is a horrid slum. They also treated the Chinese—well—as badly as the Nazis treated Jews. They had big plans. They thought they would conquer the world. 

Girls of the Shanghai Ghetto

Over 10,000 Jews were crammed into space for half that number. There was no indoor plumbing, heat, stoves, or garbage collection. The conditions were barely tolerable. Illness swept through the ghetto, and many died. Still, there was no incarceration or torture of Jews by the Japanese. The Japanese treatment of the Chinese was a different matter. 

After the war, not many Jews returned to Europe. Many went to Israel and the US. What about Renée and her family? Did they move back? Did she and Max ever see each other again? 

The answers are in MAX'S WAR.

Reds and Readers, did you know about the exodus of Austrian and German Jews to Shanghai? 

Jenn: I didn't. Thank you for sharing this story with us, Libby. I am looking forward to reading Max's War!


Thursday, April 18, 2024

Cover Reveal: The Rose Arbor by Rhys Bowen

 Okay, Readers, we have a treat for you today. The cover reveal for our Rhys's spectacular new novel THE ROSE ARBOR is here...

Pre-Order NOW

More about the novel: 

An investigation into a girl’s disappearance uncovers a mystery dating back to World War II in a haunting novel of suspense by the bestselling author of The Venice Sketchbook and The Paris Assignment.

London: 1968. Liz Houghton is languishing as an obituary writer at a London newspaper when a young girl’s disappearance captivates the city. If Liz can break the story, it’s her way into the newsroom. She already has a scoop: her best friend, Marisa, is a police officer assigned to the case.

Liz follows Marisa to Dorset, where they make another disturbing discovery. Over two decades earlier, three girls disappeared while evacuating from London. One was found murdered in the woods near a train line. The other two were never seen again.

As Liz digs deeper, she finds herself drawn to the village of Tydeham, which was requisitioned by the military during the war and left in ruins. After all these years, what could possibly link the missing girls to this abandoned village? And why does a place Liz has never seen before seem so strangely familiar?

Isn't it just fabulous? A perfect summer read. 

What do you think about cover reveals, Readers? Do they help you get excited for an upcoming release? 

Even more thrilling for me, I received my ARC just in time for a trip to Nevada! Yay! Thank you, Rhys. And, naturally, I had to take a picture of it against my rose bush.