80th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

by Debbie Burke


Arizona Memorial Pearl Harbor
Photo credit nps.gov

Today is December 7th, 2021, the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor that launched the US into World War II in 1941.

Few people are alive today who remember “a date which will live in infamy (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt).

Fewer still are people who survived the attack that morning in Pearl Harbor. The last ones are in their late 90s to 100+ years.

The closest that we in 2021 can come to learning about that day are stories collected and recorded at this link.

December 7, 1941 was a pivotal date that changed the history of the entire world.

Our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents could all tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing on that day.

Long before tattoos became a fashion statement, many young sailors had “Remember Pearl Harbor” permanently inked on their arms.

Battleship Row Pearl Harbor
Photo credit – US govt.

On December 7, 1941, my husband’s grandfather was serving on the USS Tennessee docked on Battleship Row. During the attack, his duty was to grab burning sailors who were being handed up to him from below decks. He then had to throw them over the side of the battleship, far enough out that they didn’t strike the anti-torpedo blister, in order to extinguish the flames consuming their clothes and bodies.

Anti-torpedo blister
Photo credit – Wikipedia


When the USS Arizona blew up, his back was toward the explosion. He was horribly burned but, after a year in the hospital, he returned to duty through the end of the war. His back was forever scarred like a topographic relief map.

About ten years ago at a gym, my husband was talking with an older man on an adjacent treadmill about World War II and specifically Pearl Harbor. A young man about 20 who overheard their conversation approached. He was a junior in college, polite, well-spoken, articulate, and appeared to be a curious, conscientious student.

He asked my husband, “Excuse me, sir, can you tell me what Pearl Harbor is?”

Apparently the “date which will live in infamy” was no longer taught in school.

JFK Lincoln Continental – photo credit Wikimedia

November 22, 1963 was the defining date of infamy for my generation of Baby Boomers. We can all tell you exactly where we were and what we were doing when we learned the news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

Again, the world shifted on its axis and events that occurred after that date were forever stained by it.  

About five years ago, my husband and I were chatting with a young woman working her way through college as a server in a restaurant. We mentioned John F. Kennedy. She said, “Kennedy? Wasn’t he a president that was killed in a car crash?”

Apparently, my generation’s date in infamy is now a barely-remembered blip in history.

Two years from now will mark the 60th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. Oh my, that makes me feel old.

World Trade Center – photo credit Wikimedia CC BY-SA 2.0


September 11, 2001 again changed the entire world. Generations born after that date have never known air travel without the TSA, body scanners, pat-downs, luggage X-rays and searches.




2020 doesn’t have one specific date when the entire globe changed. But just the mention of “2020” is enough to provoke a sigh, a grimace, or an eye roll in every person of the age of cognizance who’s alive today.

2020 is part of our collective consciousness, as December 7, November 22, and September 11 were part of the collective consciousness of earlier generations.

Last week, a friend came to visit with her 18-month-old baby who was born in 2020. We were contemplating what Aubrey’s future might look like. Because of pandemic restrictions, she hadn’t encountered many people outside her close family and almost no one around her age.

Recently, they had gone to a playground where Aubrey saw other toddlers for the first time and reacted with amazement and curiosity. She approached a little boy and touched him.

The boy’s mother immediately swooped in and picked up the child, scolding, “We don’t touch.”

People born after December 7, 1941 never knew a world that wasn’t profoundly influenced by World War II. That was their frame of reference, their concept of “normal.”

Same for people born after November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001. They never knew what the world was like before JFK’s assassination or before planes struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

What will school be like for Aubrey in a few years? We don’t know. But, whatever the circumstances are, that will be “normal” to her because it’s the only frame of reference she knows.

The generation born in 2020 or later will never fully realize the world was once a different place.

Aubrey won’t know that parents once thought it was perfectly normal socialization for children to play, touch, push, hug, and watch each other’s reactions.

What does all this have to do with writing?

Nothing and everything.

As writers, we record the world we live in, or research, or make up. We also contrast our story worlds with other locales, other cultures, other periods in history, and even imaginary journeys into the future.

Throughout time, writers have chronicled the collective consciousness of different generations.

No matter the genre—crime, romance, history, fantasy, horror, nonfiction, etc.—we capture the zeitgeist, which Merriam-Webster defines that as “the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era.”

That’s an awesome, daunting responsibility.


Eighty years later, is Pearl Harbor relevant in today’s world?

A handful of remembrance ceremonies will be held today but, in a few more generations, there won’t even be ceremonies.

The date will fade into obscurity like April 14, 1865.

What happened on that date?

Back then, every American could probably tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they learned Abraham Lincoln had been shot that night and died the following morning.

Time marches forward. Younger generations replace older ones who have been the keepers of the memories. Old memories are forgotten and new ones take their places.

If future generations find our stories on the dusty shelves of cyberspace, they may smile or scoff at quaint, outdated references.

But I hope they will also recognize human truths we wrote about that transcend time.

Dates like December 7, 1941 are still worth remembering and worth writing about because of the people in Pearl Harbor who made history. 


Today is my last post in 2021 before TKZ goes on annual hiatus.

I’m grateful for your friendship and interest. Except for the written word, we probably wouldn’t have met. So glad we did!

Warmest holiday wishes to you and your loved ones.



Special holiday prices for all Tawny Lindholm Thrillers with Passion through the end of the year. A great gift for your reading friends…or yourself!

SATURDAY EVENING POST – 200 Years of American History

by Debbie Burke


When I was a tot in the 1950s, my grandmother lived with us. She smoked Raleigh cigarettes and saved the coupons in her top dresser drawer.

Raleigh cigarette coupons could be redeemed for gifts, keeping smokers loyal and addicted.

The scent of tobacco and Yardley’s English Lavender mingled in a rustic perfume that belonged uniquely to her.

Looking back, I realize how much she influenced me to become a writer. In her clipped British accent, she read Mary Poppins and Dr. Doolitle to me, awakening a love of books. She introduced me to the romance of storytelling as she related her own exciting teenage adventures, like the time she stole a boat and sailed from England to Spain

She also subscribed to the Saturday Evening Post, which she used to teach me to read.

Each week when the magazine arrived by mail, we’d sit in her bedroom and giggle over the cartoons. Hazel was my favorite and became the basis for a popular 1960s TV sit-com starring Shirley Booth as the wise-cracking maid who was smarter than her bosses.

Today, the Saturday Evening Post has endured when most print magazines have disappeared.

Recently the Post unveiled their new website that includes every issue all the way back to 1821. The task of scanning and digitizing tens of thousands of pages took nine years.

For $15/year, subscribers receive six current issues plus access to nearly two hundred years of history. I just subscribed as a fond trip down memory lane because of my grandmother.

However, the deeper I delved into the Post’s archives, the more I realized what a valuable resource this could be for writers of historical fiction. Nearly two hundred years of American life are collected in one convenient location. I soon got lost in bygone eras.

Below are a few ideas how the Post archives can enliven your historical fiction:

Language: Reading prose written during your chosen era helps you better capture the particular phrasing, jargon, and speech rhythms of the time.

In an example from 1821, a fanciful story features a talking mirror warning readers about vanity with this snippet of dialogue:

“How many charming creatures have I spoiled, and made beauty the greatest misfortune that could befal [sic] them! . . . Alas, why was I made a Looking glass?”

Contrast that flowery style with the terse dialogue from Alastair MacLean’s 1960 short story, Night Without End:

“From now on, Zagero, you and Levin ride with a gun trained on you!” Mason snapped.

Setting details: Illustrations for architecture, building styles, and period home furnishings add authenticity to your story world.

Creative Commons


I was drawn to advertisements for home appliances from the 1950s, recalling brands like Kelvinator and Hotpoint, and refrigerators in a choice of colors like pink and turquoise.



Employment: In the 1910s and ’20s, many ads featured motor oil, tires, and batteries, reflecting industrialization as society changed from carriages to automobiles. A character living in Ohio then might work at the Timken Roller Bearing Company in Canton or manufacture Grande Cord tires at the Republic Rubber Corporation in Youngstown.

Styles: Fashion illustrations in the Post showcase clothing, shoes, and hairstyles of each era. In 1927, a female character might straighten the seam lines on her Realsilk hosiery while her husband shines his stylish Selz shoes.

1929 Ford 5AT Tri-Motor N9651-Wikimedia Commons

Transportation: In the span of two hundred years, horse-drawn carriages and stagecoaches were replaced by trains and steamships which gave way to airlines like Pan American and Trans World Airways. Automobile ads from the early twentieth century feature now-forgotten brands your characters might drive, like Hupmobile, DeSoto, and LaSalle. Or they might fly on a Ford Tri-Motor.

Health/Medical: In the 1960s, ads for Chesterfield, Pall Mall, and Viceroy played counterpoint to feature articles like “Crash Effort for a Safer Cigarette” from April, 1964. By the 1990s, the Post’s focus had shifted to breakthrough medical developments, with nary a cigarette ad to be found.

Warning: resist the temptation to pack in too many details simply because you don’t want to waste the research. Use only as many as are needed to capture the flavor of the era.

Perspective: By reading Post issues prior to a major historical event, the author can find insights into what precipitated the event.

I found one example in a cautionary article from 1900 by a young member of the British Parliament named Winston Churchill. He warned that a complacent citizenry and a weak, underfunded military could lead to future conflicts. His predictions came true in 1914 with the Great War. By 1940, he became Prime Minister and led the Allies against the Axis in World War II.

Political Issues: Letters to the editor illustrate why people believed and thought the way they did at the time. They voiced opinions based on how certain topics affected them that day, without knowing what was in store in the future. Articles, bios, and op-eds from the Post can lend authenticity to the attitudes of your characters during a given period.

For instance, in early 1960, the Post interviewed then-candidate John F. Kennedy. At the time, Pope John XXIII mandated a total ban on birth control. When JFK, a Catholic, was asked about his position, he stated: “Our government does not advocate any policy concerning birth control here in the United States.”

Letters to the editor expressed concern that JFK’s Catholicism would sway his political direction. In the 1960 election, separation of church and state was considered a critical issue.

By 1962, that concern was overshadowed by the Cuban missile crisis. As Americans stockpiled canned food and built backyard bomb shelters in anticipation of nuclear attack, JFK’s religion faded into a non-issue.

Authors and readers of historical fiction have foreknowledge. We know the North won the Civil War. However, story characters in 1860 can’t know that. Character A may feel optimistic about a certain event while character B views that same event with trepidation. The difference in opinion amplifies conflict between A and B. Plus, the reader feels an added layer of tension, knowing that event will soon lead to the bloody battle between the Union and the Confederacy.

Obviously, I fell way down the vast rabbit hole in the Saturday Evening Post archives. I’ll be back for more visits to the archives that refresh memories of my grandmother as well as tidbits about bygone days.


TKZers, what are your favorite historical references? Does reading about history tempt you to write about it?




Please check out my thriller Instrument of the Devil, on sale for $.99 until November 15 on Amazon.

When Does License Give Way to Responsibility?

By John Gilstrap

When Six Minutes to Freedom was published in 2006, I was shocked and, frankly, dismayed by the number of fans who told me that they couldn’t wait till my next novel came out because they don’t read non-fiction. But SixMin is a thriller, I told them; it just happens to be true. Some took a chance, most didn’t, and that’s fine. People obviously have the right to read whatever suits their fancy. I’ve turned my back on non-fiction anyway. It’s too hard. In writing non-fiction, you’re constrained by what actually happened, without regard to the development of the most intriguing story arc.

Fiction is about drama; non-fiction is about reality. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But in these hyper-political times, where it seems that everyone on every street corner has proclaimed him or herself to be either a rabid Republican or a rabid Democrat or rabid Something Else Entirely, I’m wondering if a little non-fiction might be in order.

McCain says that Obama voted against funding the war in Iraq. Well, not really. He voted against a bill that funded the war without setting a date for early withdrawal. Without addressing the wisdom of the vote itself, I’m dismayed that the sound bite omits the qualifier. On the other side, Obama asserts that McCain likewise voted against a bill to fund the war, but he omits the extenuation that McCain’s objection reflected the presence of a hard date for withdrawal.

Why, then, don’t they publicly argue the real issue, which is the wisdom of announcing a withdrawal date? I think it’s because that argument is a complex one, and complex arguments can’t be conveyed in a sound bite—which has become the attention span of far too many voters. I hate to let my cynicism show so clearly, but I’ll bet bucks to buttons that of every ten people who blame the worldwide financial woes on Democrats or Republicans, not two of them could cogently articulate what, exactly, their alleged culprit did wrong. I’m sorry, but the laying of blame on “Wall Street’s corporate greed” is so hyper-simplified as to be meaningless.

Does the sound bite drive the news because of viewers’ demands, I wonder, or really because the sound bite represents the depth of knowledge of the average news reader? Clearly, that’s not my call. My bag is the entertainment business. I make stuff up for a living. And if I do my job really, really well, I can create global crises that seem very plausible, even though they’re built entirely of my imagination. It’s a cool job.

But I wonder sometimes where my license to entertain ends and where my responsibility as a citizen begins. For years, I’ve been sitting on this really terrific, terrifyingly plausible terrorist plot because I worry about giving the bad guys a new idea. We’re a nation at war, and I deeply and genuinely worry about writing anything that might bring additional danger to people in harm’s way. I worry about making our nation and our leaders look worse than they already do to the rest of the world, because I believe that everything that weakens those leaders internally empowers our enemies abroad. Empowered enemies, in turn, shoot at people I love.

Now, let me state for the record: I in no way favor any form of government-imposed censorship. Ever. Never in any case, period.

But is a little voluntary restraint out of the question?

Remember a few years ago when Oliver Stone released his movie JFK? It was a complete and total fabrication of events surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy, and to his credit, Stone never represented it as anything but. Still, a recent poll showed that an astonishing majority of Americans believe that the film represents a historical record. Next week, Oliver Stone will release W, his “biography” of President Bush—a man whose politics Stone openly loathes. He confesses that the movie is likewise fiction, but surely he knows—as we all know—that a substantial majority of Americans will not bother to do the independent research to find the reality within the fiction, and will therefore accept his fiction as truth.

Intellectually, I understand and accept and would even defend that there’s nothing wrong with that. But deep inside where that little whirly-gig tells you what’s really right and wrong, I wonder about all those young men and women in harm’s way who will face a newly re-empowered enemy.