New local authors promote books

Published 6:45 pm Friday, May 21, 2010

We have a continuing interest and a gathering cadre of local authors publishing books.

Two new authors have recently appeared, Freddie Smallwood, writing about My War, chronicling his participation as a soldier in World War II, focusing primarily on his observations and front-line activity during the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944.

And Janie Hopwood, offering her novel Beck House, taking place in Sumter County, Georgia.

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Ms. Hopwood will be at The Book Nook from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday signing copies of her book. She was born in Americus and is granddaughter to the real Rena Beck. She taught at Georgia Southern University and in the public schools of Georgia for 30 years. She currently lives in Tifton but has many friends in southwest Georgia as well.

Smallwood will be scheduled soon to repeat the book signing process. In the meantime, his book is on sale at The Book Nook and at the library.

In Ms. Hopwood’s book you can follow the adventures of an extraordinary, yet ordinary, widow who finds herself face-to-face with progress, and battling a county government that does the unthinkable to Beck House.

In My War, if we remember our World War II history, this is the battle in which the German generals sent a courier across enemy lines with a demand note for the American surrender. American General Anthony McAuliffe’s famous answer living in infamy was “nuts.” An American officer dispatched to deliver the general’s answer of “nuts,” discovered that the Germans were confused with the answer. The American officer said to them, “If you don’t know what ‘nuts’ means, in plain English it’s the same as ‘go to hell.’”

Smallwood’s book is more than a historical retelling of the Battle of the Bulge, although you get a good accounting of it from the eyes of an American Army private/foot soldier who lived it.

The book basically recounts his army service, through signing up for the draft in 1943 on his 18th birthday, then experiencing basic military training, then across the ocean on a troop ship to England and finally into France where heavy German activity was underway.

Those of us who have served some time in the military may have old memories stirred as Smallwood takes us through boot camp. My recollections of it were just like his, only my experience was in 1958. Reading Smallwood’s book reminded me of so many similar events, and I remember thinking at the time, it seemed we were receiving training as if we were still fighting World War II.

Smallwood says it took 10 years to research and write his book, an autobiography to leave behind for his family history. It not only is his story in the timeline of the waning days of the war, but he puts it into perspective, its place in history, with events that took place alongside the war.

There’s “Sad Sack” cartoons, photos of war posters asking Americans to buy bonds, the famous Rosie the Riveter poster, the symbol of women in the factories building materials of war while the boys were at war, and of course, there’s the famous photo of Uncle Sam, saying, “I want you.”

On the radio, we listened to Jack Benny, Burns and Allan, Amos ‘n Andy, Fibber McGee and Molly.

Movie stars such as Clark Gable, George C. Scott, Tyrone Power, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and James Stewart entered the war effort, many earning battle stars and Purple Hearts.

Our history would also show that in Belgium in 1944, the winter of the famous battle, was remembered as one of the coldest on record, sometimes temperatures falling 40 below zero. Smallwood was there, and he describes the hardships, trying to keep warm, keep healthy, keep from starving.

You will get some autobiographical information about the Smallwood family in Attapulgus, growing up on a farm, with its main crop of shade grown tobacco.

After the war, with his wife, Janie, the Smallwoods take several trips to France where he attempts to retrace his footsteps and to reconnect with some of the civilians he met. Of particular merit is the story of the German soldier’s pocket watch, given to him as a wartime souvenir in trade for a handgun. Inside the watch, the owner’s name was engraved.

Many years later, Smallwood decides he wants to return the watch to its rightful owner, and so he did, where it was discovered that one of the family members of the watch’s owner, was also in the Battle of the Bulge. The events involve reuniting with families, becoming friends instead of enemies.

The war was over.

Both books are on sale at The Book Nook.