WWII ‘murder’ inspires mystery novel by local author

Published 9:15 am Monday, November 27, 2023

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A new mystery novel, by local author Nancy C. Williams, tells of a possible murder during World War II – based on stories from a top-secret mission in Alaska.

Williams, who lives in Johnson City, has released her debut novel which begins with the death of a Russian naval officer during Project Hula, a covert military operation involving the lend-lease transfer of ships between the U.S. and Russia during the closing months of the war.

“My inspiration for writing the book came from my father-in-law, Arnold Williams, who served with the SeaBees in Cold Bay, Alaska,” Williams said. “He befriended a Russian who unexpectedly died – Arnold believed the officer was murdered, martyred for his faith.”

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Williams tells of her father-in-law’s account and presents a hypothetical situation…what if the officer had a fiancée back home in Siberia who was not notified of his death?

“Some 60 million people – civilians and military personnel – perished around the world during the conflicts, and many of the deaths were never documented,” Williams said. “So many loved ones were left behind without ever knowing what happened, left with the loss of those who never returned home.”

The book fictionalizes the plight of a young woman who, caught between hope and grief, waits faithfully for the return of her beloved officer. In the story, she works as an aircraft mechanic – in a role similar to “Rosie the Riveter” where women were called to perform jobs that had heretofore belonged to a male workforce. Against her will, the heroine is sent further into the Siberian wilderness to work on a brand-new aircraft – the first jet-powered MiG – and is thrust into the path of a test pilot who tests her resolutions.

“It’s part of a series of ‘Ever After Mysteries’ commissioned by Celebrate Lit Publishing,” Williams said. “The assignment was to write a mystery based on a fairy-tale plot, set in the 1940s. I chose a Russian fairy tale called ‘Finist the Bright Falcon,’ a Cinderella-like story involving a prince who flies by day as a falcon and the young maiden who falls in love with him.”

Williams has a personal interest in Siberia – she and her husband, Mark, adopted their son, Alexei, from there in 1999. The author’s experiences near Lake Baikal gave her an insight into life in the bitterly cold region. “It’s a mostly realistic novel,” Williams said, “but there are fairy tale elements to the story as well. Writing it was fun and challenging at the same time.”

Williams is a veteran writer and former public relations instructor at Milligan University whose work has appeared in national magazines, corporate communications, advertising, and local media over the years. She has previously published “A Crocus in the Desert: Devotions, Prayers, and Stories for Women Experiencing Infertility.” Her weekly devotional blogs are published on Crossmap.com. 

Williams will host a book-signing open house on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, at the Storytelling Resources Place, 115 Fox Street in Jonesborough. Refreshments will be served.

 “To Love a Falcon” is available for purchase online in e-book format and paperback version.