RS: At the time, it was in every news broadcast. The war, racial cleansing and retribution murder in the Balkans captured everyone’s attention. Now, I get the idea it has been slowly forgotten — certainly by the news media who’ve gone on to the headline dujour. In your experience, is this still a subject for continuing discussion? If this sad history is forgotten, is there a danger we should all know about?

Bob: I’m aware that this may sound callous but I have made no effort to remain up-to-date on the situation in the Balkans. It has indeed disappeared from the headlines but since this depends on the whims of the news agencies it can’t be assumed that everything bad has gone away. Unfortunately, adapting the sense of the words of Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony, the evil that men do is not interred with their bones and does live on, human nature being what it is. Historically, the Balkans has been a tinderbox for conflagration and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that it could be again. The tragedy is that the whole area was united and working together under the leadership of Tito but when he died the vacuum that Nature abhors was created and the inter-cultural rivalries flared up with the results we’ve seen.

RS: The Tuzla Run is a very entertaining read. It’s also rife with very dry and sometimes outright sarcastic humor. How does this voice connect with your personal service in those environs?

Bob: Frankly, I wasn’t aware of being intentionally dry or even sarcastically humorous as I wrote Tuzla but I will confess that I consider humor, cruel or otherwise, to be an excellent safety valve when events are too emotionally overpowering. Not that it should be flaunted in the faces of those unaccustomed to its use but it certainly serves a purpose for those who do their duty in the face of frequent tragedies. Most of the people on active service are caring people but you can’t display the quick of your sensitivities and expect to function over a longish period of time.

.RS: Fiction based upon military history and personal service experiences has always enjoyed a solid readership. Why do you think this is?

Bob: If you write competently about something real you’re going to make a connection with your readers.  If you write well about service life then it’s going to resonate with many, many others who have shared the same or similar experiences in uniform. It’s also going to appeal to the adventurous spirit of those who may not have served but are grateful for the actions of those who have.

.RS: War certainly can provide humanity with both the worst cases of judgement and also the very pinnacle of decisive thinking. In your own experience, have you seen both of these? How do they inform your writing?

Bob: “Worse cases of judgement” and “decisive thinking” are purely relative and which is which depends purely upon the result of the action taken. Churchill fired a couple of generals involved in the North African campaign of the Second World War for appearing ‘hesitant’ against Rommel but with hindsight their cautiousness might have borne fruit. Later Montgomery defeated the Desert Fox because he held out for more men, supplies, etc., until he had an eight to one superiority before committing to El Alamein. Much earlier, and in Canada, General Wolfe, who captured Quebec by defeating the French on the Plains of Abraham, was apparently a bit of a ditherer and mind changer but because of this victory he was recognized as a capable military leader. If the French had interrupted while his men were scaling the cliffs the outcome would have been much different.

Naturally, in my time I’ve had no experience of either type of thinking on that larger scale. I have however seen group & section leaders freeze in the face of fire and being incapable of directing the efforts of their men but I’ve also been in the company of some really cool, calm and collected Trojans.

RS: What led you to writing fiction?

Bob: I could say that writing is in my blood and not a day goes by when I don’t have a burning urge to write. But I’d be lying. I find it difficult to knuckle down and put pen to paper.  I do however, love to talk and often after ‘embroidering’ some war story or other some of the listeners have said, “You should write a book.” So, I did.

RS: What are you working on now?

Bob: I have a sequel well underway for The Tuzla Run with a working title of The Chalice. Some of the characters from the Balkans appear along with a new antagonist who had a brief mention in the first book. Hopefully I’ll have it out this year.

I’m also working with Wendy Bertsch, the author of Dodging Shells, on a collaboration which will cover a wide canvas, Ireland, Scotland, England, Canada and South Africa but is basically about the lives, and the difficulties, of a young couple at the time of the Boer War. It is a new approach for us both. (I was going to say novel, instead of new, but even I would hesitate on a pun like that.) It is going unexpectedly well and we hope to have it finalized by late 2013.

.RS: Well, Robert, I’ll be very anxious to read both as they are released as I’m sure will all your readers. I’m glad to hear you and Wendy Bertsch are collaborating on a new project. She is a gifted editor and writer whose work I’m also familiar with. Best of luck with the new books, and don’t be surprised when you hear from some Hollywood producer. As several of your readers have noted, Tuzla would make a great film!

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