Dan and Patti Verin will present their novel “The Torch” at Urbana’s Art Affair on the Square on July 21. The Verins appeared at last year’s event with a pre-sale presentation.
“Our pre-sale presentation at the Urbana Art Affair was rather successful, considering our limited resources and impromptu appearance. It seems that the book’s title and topic raised the attention of many Authors’ Booth visitors. Now that the book is published on Amazon, we are further encouraged to pursue what we consider as a mission,” Dan said.
A historical novel, the book explores the effect past human rights violations had on shaping modern terrorism. The Verins explore this through a mix of their own personal experiences and the imaginative life of hero Henry Towers – gentleman, soldier, spy.
Patti, an Urbana native, was “keenly aware of the surrounding turmoil” during the beginning of the United States’ involvement in World War II, when she was a child. Her uncle was at Pearl Harbor, trains passed through town loaded with new recruits and the movie theater showed news reels mixing “patriotic enthusiasm and traumatizing gory war scenes.”
Daniel, now an American citizen, was born French and raised in the former colony of Algeria.
“French people there were forming a small minority within an awfully segregated racist society surrounded by a 10-to-1 harshly oppressed native majority. What is now called human rights violations were casually accepted as the law of the land,” he said.
The Americans landed in North Africa on Nov. 8, 1942, during Operation Torch.
“On that fateful November day, I was a 9-year-old kid quarantined in a military hospital. I did not know it then, but I was pretty close to death with a case of virulent diphtheria that had spread, altogether with typhus and typhoid epidemics, because of the lack of social services under the pro-Nazi French government. The doctor had kind of given up on me; he did not have any antidiphtheria vaccine,” Dan said.
Luckily, his grandfather was pro-American and lived in Oran where the Allied soldiers made land. Verin’s grandfather got the vaccine from the U.S. Army’s field hospital and passed it through the skirmish lines.
When Franklin Roosevelt died, it shocked both Patti, age 9, and Dan, age 12.
“She felt sad beyond words when hearing the bad news,” Dan said. “FDR had become her idol after her own beloved grandpa had passed. I got terrified when hearing about President Roosevelt’s death. Without their fearless leader, would the Americans lose their energy at the last minute? And then, would the Germans push them back and take us over again?”
War ends, violence continues
The war ended with an Allied victory nonetheless, and life went on in America and rural Ohio, with the nation thriving due to the war’s economic boom. Meanwhile, Europe was reforming itself, with a power vacuum left behind.
“Constant political turmoil in France was preventing its recovery. Tough living dragged on for more than a decade,” Verin said. “The situation was even worse in the many colonies of the French Empire. Already over-exploited for a century, those colonial lands – including Algeria – were even more impoverished by the absence of any job-generating industrial infrastructure and an unskilled labor force.
“President Franklin D. Roosevelt had foreseen the risks of global instability that could result from those severe inequalities. He had daringly expressed his visionary point of view in the Atlantic Charter that declared that all countries under Nazi or colonialist occupation should be given the opportunity to become free at the end of World War II,” Dan said. “Gracefully and democratically, the British eventually let go of their colonies, while giving them a chance to remain within the Commonwealth, a bonanza for all.
“France, under General de Gaulle, elected to keep her imperial colonies willynilly. Natives in Indochina revolted, leading to a war that America inherited at immense and still lingering costs. A war that could have been avoided if FDR’s international recommendations had been followed in 1945. Natives in Madagascar revolted, leading to fierce retribution by the French army. Natives in Algeria revolted, leading to further massacres, torture and civil war atrocities that then-Senator Jack Kennedy denounced at the United Nations, upon which France finally relented.”
Those experiences blend together after the Verins, married for more than 50 years, meet and fall in love. Now living at Green Hills as independent residents, the Verins often testify their gratitude to all the soldiers from that tumultuous time.
The Torch is available through Amazon.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1775) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.