This week, we talked with Chris Glatte about his upcoming release, Dark Valley, the fifth installment in his Tark’s Ticks: WWII Novels. Lieutenant Clay Tarkington and his squad (“Tark’s Ticks”) have been on the ground fighting through the Pacific Theater in World War II. In Dark Valley, historical fiction readers and military thriller fans will find themselves deep in the valleys of New Guinea, fighting to protect a vital airstrip.
SRP: Your Tark’s Ticks: WWII Novels Series puts readers in the boots of a fictional squad of soldiers battling through the Pacific during World War II. What made you want to write about this period and the Pacific theater specifically?
Chris: The first book (Tark’s Ticks) starts on the Bataan Peninsula during the battle which led to an Allied defeat and the Bataan Death March. The Allies fought valiantly with dwindling supplies and constant attacks from veteran Japanese soldiers, for four months. I wanted to start this series there because it’s not a battle that gets much attention and it fascinates me. I write books set in the Pacific theater for the same reason.
SRP: Tark’s Ticks have been through a lot throughout the series. In Dark Valley, Lieutenant Tarkington and his men are tasked with defending Wau Airfield. Can you tell us a bit more about the plot?
Chris: Right after the Allies overran the Japanese at Buna/Gona in New Guinea, the next obvious target lay to north in the Lae/Salamaua region. Because New Guinea is mountainous and choked with jungles and swamps, traveling overland was nearly impossible. Airfields set between towering mountains became extremely important. The Wau region had such an airfield, and the Allies owned it. They needed to hold it in order to bring in troops and supplies and keep the pressure on Lae, only fifty air miles away. The Japanese saw the value of the airfield and sent a large force to take it from the Allies. An epic battle ensued.
SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing Dark Valley?
Chris: The Battle of Wau was primarily fought by Australians. Americans contributed the aircraft and the pilots, but few if any American infantrymen fought on the ground. I wanted to write about the battle, so I had to figure out a reason for Tark’s Ticks to be there. I think I achieved that and was still able to tell the story of the Australian’s incredible fighting spirit and bravery.
SRP: We know how incredibly important it is to adhere to events as they happened when writing historical fiction. How do you stay true to facts, while also creating a compelling story and believable characters?
Chris: It’s like walking a tightrope. I read everything I can find about the battle and highlight the really pivotal moments. I put my characters into those moments and try to imagine what it would be like for them.
Most of these campaigns in New Guinea occurred over months with lots of downtime between any real fighting. I condense the events to make it more exciting and readable.
SRP: What’s next for Tark’s Ticks?
Chris: Book six has already been written and I’m in the final editing phase right now. It begins a few weeks after the end of the events in book 5 and involves the Lae/Salamaua region of New Guinea, but doesn’t end there. New missions will put all of Tark’s Ticks skills to the test.
SRP: What books have stuck with you/had the most influence on you throughout your life?
Chris: My all-time favorite book is: A Soldier of the Great War, by Mark Helprin. He’s a great writer, and I re-read the book every couple of years and literally can’t get anything else done until I’ve finished.
SRP: What’s one tool you couldn’t write without?
Chris: That’s a tough one. I doubt I could get much writing done without my trusty Macbook Air. I had an electric typewriter in high school and tried writing stories on it, but it’s a brutal process, although at the time I didn’t know any better. Also, Google Earth is pretty indispensable. Travelling to New Guinea or the South Pacific, isn’t really feasible for me, so Google Earth helps immensely.
Some missions are FUBAR from the very beginning.
Tarkington and his men are tasked with a long-range reconnaissance mission deep behind enemy lines. But when their C-47 is shot down, Tark’s team must make the perilous trek through the jungle to a besieged Wau airfield. The airfield is vital to both the Allies and the Japanese, and soon Tarkington and his men are embroiled in its defense. To make matters worse, an American airman has been captured by the nearby Japanese forces.
Can Tark’s Ticks defend the airfield and rescue the downed aviator? Or will a hostile jungle and determined enemy prove to be too much?
Dark Valley by Chris Glatte launches November 2.