GOLD MOUNTAIN EXPRESS
West County Investments (2020)
Born in Chicago and having lived in California for 50 years, Gene Lassers has been writing on a variety of subjects with aviation the core element. Today he has 5 books on Amazon.
He has earned both a BS and MBA degree from the University of Arizona and was commissioned in the U.S. Army as an Officer. He holds a commercial pilot’s license with ratings, was Producer of the Touch of Travel television program for 10 years. During this time, he traveled to 196 countries which has helped him to picture venues for his storylines. Gene and his wife have 4 sons and 7 grandchildren. He is always pleased to hear from his readers.
Hi Gene, Welcome to Reader Views! To start, give us a bit of background information – What does your writing journey look like?
Demanding, moments of hope and despair as I chase agents and publishers. Wonderful when upon entering book contests I get something out of it with an award or finishing just out of the money with good reviews.
What is Gold Mountain Express about?
During World War II the Nazis plundered the countries that they vanquished. The valuables of gold and silver, some of it coming from the teeth of holocaust victims; as well as jewels, priceless paintings of the masters, antiques, and collectables all became victims of warfare. Much of it was sold to help finance the country‘s extensive and costly war effort, while the rest was stored in the vaults of existing banks throughout the country.
With the tide of the war turning against the Third Reich in 1944, they started to transfer the pilfered treasure to underground salt mines in Austria. It was said that a ghost train laden with treasure left for the Owl Mountains in Lower Saliscia of eastern Germany in the spring of 1945 and was entombed in a secret labyrinth of underground tunnels within the mountain and sealed by detonated falling rocks and boulders.
The enclosure was excavated by slave labor, much of it dispatched from the infamous concentration camps located in and around the capital city of Warsaw. This story reveals the hard life in the Ghetto, and how a young Jewish girl, the fictional center piece of this historically true story, survived.
The Ghost Train tale gains traction when in 2015 two people came forward and convinced the Polish government (area is now part of Poland) that they had identified the location of the train through the use of ground-penetrating radar and that they would reveal it for a payment of a 10% bounty fee from the Polish Government.
What was your inspiration for the story behind Gold Mountain Express?
When the mythical treasure train once again surfaced in 2015, and two men came forward with proof that they knew where it was buried it caused an international sensation and they convinced the Polish Government (railroads) to license the dig at the expense of the applicants with a 10% bounty for them on anything discovered. This was a gripping historical event in World War II still alive today, thus having been advised that WWII sells I built a fictional story around it including the Warsaw Ghetto, much of which is factual in the story.
World War II is a popular subject for historical fiction. How does Gold Mountain Express stand out from the pack?
Good question. I have always tried to take a different approach to my stories, to make them unique with events that take place during this time period and always the endings. This has been true in the work Corinth, and Passage from Stockholm. To my knowledge the event, the existence of the train in the first place, and the potential discovery of it has received little acknowledgement with other authors so I felt that this interesting story could sneak between the cracks and was mine to capture with enhancement by fictional characters, yet based upon fact.
I love that the story is told from two entirely different perspectives. What can you tell us about each narrator – what motivates them and how do their unique outlooks enhance the plot?
I have always been a WWII buff. I start with we are all human – we have our good and bad cards but most of us come fortified with the same equipment. So fictional characters should be presented in the same way. Hans, the Nazi officer in charge of the train has his soft side but can be ruthless. He is a product of the German war machine and is not afraid to act in its best interest. If there was any affection for his character it is gone by the end.
The young Jewish girl of the Warsaw Ghetto is the most complex. She loses her family to the Holocaust, and by chance finishes up working with the Colonel. In the climax they meet up again under different circumstances. In the end their lives take different directions.
Can you share your research process? What was the most challenging part of your story in terms of research?
Without the internet I would have to go to the library which I still occasionally do. I actually was in Israel this past spring and bought a book about the Jewish -Warsaw uprising. The most challenging part of writing is getting the time frame correct, the historical facts accurate, and remembering the names of my fictious characters and where they are at the moment in the story.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned during the process?
That such a train existed at one time and the secrecy surrounding it. The wealth was to support the rise of Germany in the post war period. In addition, the excitement caused by the search. The mayor of the nearby town said that the train had already arrived, with the extra revenue accumulated during the digs.
Why do you write historical fiction?
I love history and read other works frequently. It is an easy way to get direction, a plot for the story and build it out from there blending the characters appropriately that they fit in.
What part of the author’s life do you enjoy most?
Whether I am actually writing or just out and about it keeps my mind engaged. I am constantly changing things until I say enough already, it’s time to let it go to press. I am out of the country 3 times a year and I take my laptop with me so many parts of my stories are written on planes or cruise ships.
What is the most difficult part of the writing/publishing process?
Patience, especially when you do everything yourself. Of course, coming up with an interesting subject and creating a story out of it is always the foremost concern. Marketing your book remains a challenge. I have been with Amazon Books/Kindle for a period of time with fair results.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, as it relates to writing or regarding life in general?
Accomplish as much as you can and never give up.
What advice can you give to aspiring authors based on your own experience?
When I lecture on writing the ancestry of one’s family the first thing I tell the audience is just start! I hear many people say, I would like to do it, but never got around to it. Writing a book, just start and put the first pages aside for a week. When you reread the effort you probably will want to tear them up-don’t just keep writing. The work will grow and through many rewrites it will morph into a book.
So, what comes next? Are you plotting another story?
I am 5,000 words into my next effort called Code Named Aida. Because I write haphazardly it will take 30 months for it to be considered more than a work in progress. Broad brush it concerns the German occupation of Paris during WWII with some unique twists.
Where can readers connect with you?
Thank you Gene, for joining us today on Reader Views and sharing a bit about yourself and your writing!