I met David Lincoln at the annual Association of Rhode Island Authors conference in December 2019, where sat in his booth amid stacks of Vogel. I’d been away from our Fictional Café booth for half an hour or so, walking up and down the aisles lined with people selling their books. Lots of authors. Lots of publishers. Lots and lots of books.
Sometimes you choose a book to read for logical, decision-based reasons. Or the eight-second rule: in the trade, we refer to those eight seconds you spend deciding to buy a book based upon cover art, first page, author bio, flipping a few pages pages, the heroic quotes on the back cover, etc. I tend not to think of a book as an impulse purchase, except for those times you’re in the airport bookstore and need to grab something, right now, for your upcoming flight. Then again, perhaps you choose with an intuitive, gut-level feeling. And yeah, sometimes it’s (d) all the above.
Vogel was one of the latter. I might have been intrigued by the cover painting of a World War II German SS officer. Hmmm? It was a big book, over 300 pages, but I found myself eager to read it.
Cover illustration by Tatiana Villa
Vogel is indeed the story of a German soldier, stationed in France near the end of World War II. Germany is about to lose the war and knows it. In retribution, Paris is in danger of being sacked and burned to the ground.
Even though this sets up a great, tension-filled plot, what makes the story burn bright is the relationships between the characters. It is here where Lincoln fleshes out just another war story into a full-fledged work of literature and lasting value.
The author creates vivid scenes of war-torn people with many different agendas: the German military and their incessant politicking (and, of course, Herr Hitler), the common French people, trying to stay alive (although some don’t), the French Underground, attempting to keep their country from being ravaged by the occupying German Wehrmacht, and the communists, who apparently cared not a hoot for either side. From the postmaster Jeannette to the barkeep Lucas to Genevieve, wife of a freedom fighter to the nurse Michelle, each has a story to tell, and they and the many other characters leap vividly into one’s imagination.
I don’t care for war stories, whether in print or film, but David Lincoln’s novel Vogel is a cut above most. The war is the backdrop against which the characters strive to live, to love, to survive another day until they are liberated from oppression. Not a new story, to be sure—it’s playing out in Hong Kong right now—but it’s a good story, and well told.