Category Archives: Books

Like books? So do we. The Memorial Library captures something unique of the history and culture of the American people. While our collection covers all the bases, we’ve also got some unexpected gems – and we’re always refining our stock. Want to keep abreast of the newest arrivals, the timeless classics, the downright quirky? Read on.

We’ll Meet Again: A Scholar’s Farewell

Well, here it is, my last month as a UEA American Library Scholar. It’s hard to believe the time has flown by so quickly and incredible to contemplate some of the historic events we’ve seen together, including a global pandemic, the election of America’s forty-sixth president and the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who as a young woman served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War. But then, working together through good times and bad is what the special relationship between the United States and Britain has always been about, hasn’t it? The American Library and a PhD program in creative and critical writing at the University of East Anglia were an unknown flight path a decade ago, when I was immersing myself in all things noir. I watched a lot of film noir back then, so much so that I felt like I was living in black and white in my tiny studio on Manhattan’s East Side. Some of the movies I watched from that period were not about crime, but about war, and in one I heard (for the first time, I think) Vera Lynn’s unforgettable wartime anthem, We’ll Meet Again. It’s possible my dad sang it to us when were kids—he was known to belt out classics like You’re in the Army Now and Over There and was also a lover of big band music like that arranged by bandleader and US Army Air Forces Captain Glenn Miller, who died in 1944 when the plane that was transporting him to a concert for Allied troops in liberated Paris was lost over the English Channel.

My father, Flight Officer Eugene L. Solomon, a B-17 pilot with the 384th Bomb Group, himself spent some of his leave in Paris, as evidenced by his well thumbed American Red Cross map of that city. Fortunately, he never had to use the other map he carried, a silk escape map. After flying the last strategic bombing mission in Europe on April 25, 1945, the group was chosen to move to Germany as part of the United States Air Forces in Europe and initially deployed to Istres, France in June. Before that, the crew spent VE Day in London, where the crowd was ‘packed like sardines’ and my father saw King George, Queen Elizabeth, (then) Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Flight Officer Eugene Solomon, the author’s father, top row, second from left. The crew (not shown in listed order): Pilot Lawrence E. Thurston, Co-Pilot Eugene Leonard Solomon, Navigator Theodore T. Gore, Togglier (bombardier) Robert Lee Wilkinson, Radio Operator/Gunner William O. King, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Oliver T. Larson, Ball Turret Gunner Elias S. Huron, Waist (Flexible) Gunner James Lindsay, Tail Gunner Ralph Cauthen. Photo courtesy of Christopher Wilkinson, the son of togglier Robert Lee Wilkinson, bottom row at left.
American Red Cross Map of Paris for service members
Silk escape map

According to Walter E. Owens’ As Briefed: A Family History of the 384th Bombardment Group, the 384th transported Allied troops to Germany and American soldiers to Casablanca for return to the US, among other missions. The latter was known as Project Green, which operated from June to September 1945 and was, according to the 384th Bomb Group’s website, ‘a key part of the “Home Bound Task Force” that returned combat troops to the USA following cessation of hostilities in the ETO. Troops were ferried from various European locations to Port Lyautey, Morocco, there to await transport home.’ 

Dad’s crew helped redeploy the 101st and the 82nd Airborne and medical personnel from field hospitals that weren’t needed anymore, some of whom were intended to be sent to the Pacific. They repatriated French citizens who had fled France and were living in North Africa, including the wife, two daughters and son of General de Gaulle’s aide de camp. Dad told us in a family interview I conducted that the crew took the kids ‘up front and let them sit in the seat and “fly the plane”’. The crew also repatriated Greek citizens who had been brought to Germany to be slave laborers. On one of their missions, they flew to an air station outside of Munich to deliver supplies and witnessed the horrifying aftermath of Dachau concentration camp. 

Another operation my father participated in was photographic mapping duty, or as he put it: ‘they photographed the entirety of Europe at 20,000 feet.’ Except, that is, for the USSR, because ‘the Russians wouldn’t let us.’ The 384th BG was inactivated in France in February of 1946; however, my father was on active duty in Europe through July, when he returned to the US.[1] In Istres, every flying officer had to get a job in a ground position, so my dad became an assistant intelligence officer, for which he had to go to intelligence school in Wiesbaden (across from the IG Farben works, a subsidiary of which produced the Zyklon B gas used in the death camps). He was also the information education officer for the Biarritz campus of the US Army University, a program that brought professors from America and elsewhere to conduct classes for servicemen and women stationed in Europe. Flight Officer Solomon returned to the US on July 17, 1946, and was relieved from active duty on September 11, 1946.

It would take many more paragraphs to list the activities I was privileged to participate in as a UEA American Scholar over the last two years. Highlights include the honor of laying the wreaths on behalf of the Second Air Division for Remembrance Week in 2021 and on Memorial Day this year at the Cambridge American Cemetery; attending the Remembrance service and Evensong at the American Chapel in St. Paul’s Cathedral; staffing the long-anticipated Library launch with colleagues in May and seeing our 2nd AD veterans movingly address us from across the pond through the magic of Zoom (yes, I cried); organizing a resoundingly successful talk by my academic supervisor at UEA, crime fiction writer and scholar Henry Sutton; engaging with the public as an ambassador of American literature and culture; and furthering the Library’s memorial mission by educating visitors about the Second Air Division’s history in East Anglia.

The US Army Air Forces monument at Cambridge American Cemetery
A B-17 flyover at Cambridge American Cemetery
The author, right, with Professor Henry Sutton at his April talk

The American Library and the Second Air Division Memorial Trust have been an invaluable resource, both in my family research as well as in supporting work on my PhD thesis with the UEA American Library Scholarship. My boundless gratitude goes out to Trust Chairman Richard Middleton, Professor Jaqueline Fear-Segal and the other Trust Governors, their American counterparts in the Heritage League, the veterans of the 2nd AD and their families, Trust Librarian Orla Kennelly, fellow Scholars and library colleagues, the Millennium Library and Norfolk County Council Library system, the Norfolk Record Office and the East Anglian community.

And here’s to you, our Scholars’ Blog readers, who commented on and shared my musings on a range of American topics.

Thank you all—but let’s not say goodbye, rather: We’ll Meet Again

—post by Suzanne Solomon

[1] His service record indicates that when he was discharged, he was attached to the 368th Bombardment Squad, 306th Bomb Group, 1st AD, which ‘engaged in special photographic mapping duty in western Europe and North Africa.’ However, there may still be more to discover about his Occupation service.


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If you’re thinking about attending one of our upcoming #WritingTimes workshops, the free, archive-inspired classes led by UEA tutor Dr. Jake Barrett-Mills, or just want to know more about the craft of creative writing, here are a few suggestions to get started:

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is a classic in the field, packed with practical tips, notes on structure, and suggested writing exercises, all related in a lively and anecdotal style.
Crime fiction fans will love Patricia Highsmith’s Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, in which the queen of suspense shares her secrets of the craft, including pointers on character, setting, and plot development.
This Year You Write Your Novel, from the legendary crime writer Walter Mosley, is the bootcamp of creative writing manuals, providing aspiring writers of any genre with the tools to create a daily writing regimen and produce a first draft of their novel.
In Writing Intersectional Identities, Janelle Adsit and Renee M. Byrd offer a practical guide to writing characters of different social identities, inviting a ‘more explicit discussion of race, class, gender, sexuality and disability in the creative writing workshop.’
For horror fans, Stephen King’s On Writing needs no introduction. King delivers a no-holds-barred memoir of the writing life, along with a ‘toolbox’ to get you started.
Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is both a primer on the craft and a memoir about becoming a writer and teacher. Don’t miss the chapter ‘100 Things About Writing a Novel’.
If these recommendations have inspired you to fire up your laptop or break out your favorite notebook and pen, why not head over to our Eventbrite page and book your place in #WritingTimes?

— post by Suzanne Solomon

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Love, betrayal, jealousy, greed … and family: Cracking Crime Fiction

Henry Sutton makes the personal criminal in a riveting talk about his journey to the genre and the craft of crime fiction. 

photo by Lauren Cortese

On Wednesday, 27 April, Professor Henry Sutton from the University of East Anglia spoke to an engaged and enthusiastic audience about the craft of crime fiction. One of the roles of a UEA American Library Scholar is to bring the gown to the town (as we say in the States), to foster the connection between the university and the American Library with a series of public lectures. Since my area of research is crime fiction and Henry is a professor of creative writing specializing in this popular genre (and also my academic supervisor), it was a natural fit.

Henry billed his talk, ‘Cracking Crime Fiction:  On Craft and My Journey as a Writer of Non-genre Literary Fiction to Crime Writer’ and we soon learned why. In an engaging and witty hourlong chat (with time for questions), he charted his path from an upbringing in a Norfolk seaside town, complete with eccentric relatives, to successful author and respected scholar. Along the way, he gave us a thumbnail history on the birth of noir and hardboiled fiction (the American connection) and spoke about how incorporating those genre elements into his writing helped him make the shift to a literary life of crime.

He began his career as a journalist, finding banging out news stories and features to be good training for crime fiction. But, as a young writer, he didn’t yet know that’s where he was going. He worked his way there gradually, publishing a number of well-received novels, starting with one set in his hometown that was an immediate hit. Gorleston—the book, the place and its people, stayed with him as he continued on his creative path. He called his earlier novels realism with the potential to be crime fiction. He was getting closer.

More than British Golden Age mystery writers like Agatha Christie, however, Henry was influenced by the American hardboiled and noir writers of the early to mid-20th century: Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Highsmith, Jim Thompson. He defined ‘noir’—a notoriously slippery term—as thematic, a story that is dark or ends on a grim note. Hardboiled, he said, is more a style, a certain hardness and street vernacular. But, he noted, the two can—and do—overlap. James M. Cain may have been inventing a new genre in 1932 with The Postman Always Rings Twice, but he claimed to be writing love stories.

Under contract to write a police procedural, Henry found himself immersed in the nuts and bolts of crime fiction—the technical parts of the craft—and gaining a new appreciation for the elements in Golden Age detective fiction with its mantra, ‘stay one step ahead of the reader.’ His years of teaching also had him thinking deeply about the genre. Coming full circle, Henry arrived at his signature seaside noir, a series set in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston about an organised crime family, the Goodwins, led by a female crime boss: a younger version of his eccentric grandmother. Like James M. Cain, he’s writing love stories, with an ample helping of betrayal, jealousy, greed … and family.

Henry Sutton is Professor of Creative Writing and Crime Fiction, and the convenor of the Creative Writing MA Crime Fiction at UEA. He is the author of 15 novels and a collection of short stories, including My Criminal WorldKids’ Stuff (which was adapted for the stage, and received an Arts Council Writer’s Award), First Frost (co-written under the pseudonym James Henry) and Get Me Out of Here. His latest novel in English, Good Dark Night, was published by Little, Brown in 2019 (under the pseudonym Harry Brett), and is the third in The Goodwin crime family series. He is also writing a critical and practical approach to crime fiction for Manchester University Press, under the title: Cracking Crime Fiction. He co-edited, with Dr. Laura Joyce, a collection of essays, Domestic Noir: The New Face of 21st Century Crime Fiction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), and is now co-editing a series of crime narrative critical studies for Cambridge University Press. He has been a literary critic for many years and has judged numerous awards. He is the co-founder of the Noirwich Crime Writing Festival.

— post by Suzanne Solomon

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Celebrating Black History Month

Members of the 99th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Forces pose for a picture at the Anzio beachhead, 1944. Image courtesy of National Archives

February is Black History Month, ‘a celebration and a powerful reminder that Black history is American history, Black culture is American culture, and Black stories are essential to the ongoing story of America — our faults, our struggles, our progress, and our aspirations’, as President Joe Biden’s proclamation for 2022 affirms. The Biden/Harris administration became part of that history in 2021, with Kamala Harris serving as the first Black female Vice President. 

The American Library also recognizes the contributions of Black Americans in WWII, with over 2.5 million Black men registering for the draft, many going on to serve in the Army, Army Air Forces, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, despite continuing racial discrimination and segregation. Black women also served as nurses and in the Women’s Army Corps, as well as contributing to the war effort in large numbers as volunteers.

Below are some selections from our collection as well as links to online resources to learn more about Black American history and culture. Visit the American Library to check out these books, get more recommendations and browse additional titles! You can also check out ebooks from our online collection of titles by African American authors.

The Warmth of Other Suns : the Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
An award-winning account of the mass exodus, from 1915-1970, of Black Americans from the Southern United States, seen through the eyes of three individuals who made the journey in search of opportunity and a better life.

Beneath a Ruthless Sun : a True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found by Gilbert King
A gripping true story of unequal justice in small town Florida by the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Devil in the Grove.

When They Call You a Terrorist : a Black Lives Matter memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, foreword by Angela Davis
A memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement that reignited the American civil rights struggle in the 21st century.

A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry
‘A vibrant and empowering history that emphasizes the perspectives and stories of African American women to show how they are—and have always been—instrumental in shaping our country.’

Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II by Farah Jasmine Griffin
The stories of Black women artists in the WWII era, spotlighting choreographer and dancer Pearl Primus, composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams and novelist Ann Petry.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
An ‘African American feminist classic’ from one of the celebrated authors of the Harlem Renaissance.

Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance by Mia Bay
A history of segregated travel that ‘helps explain why the long, unfinished journey to racial equality so often takes place on the road.’

Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
Essays on American life and letters from the celebrated poet and writer.

Passing by Nella Larsen
Two Black women, childhood friends, one of whom has chosen to pass as white, are reunited, upending both their lives, in this groundbreaking 1929 novel, now a critically acclaimed film adaptation.

The National Archives has extensive material documenting the Black experience:  

This database has resources on the Black freedom struggle in the United States:

— post by Suzanne Solomon

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