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Interview with Allen Malnak, author of ‘Hitler’s Silver Box’ (and review)

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After completing his medical residency and liver disease fellowship, Dr. Malnak practiced as a board certified internist. He served as Chief of Internal Medicine at the US Army Hospital, Fort Sill, OK., and was medical director of several organizations. Dr. Malnak was also a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Stritch School of Medicine of Loyola University.

Dr. Malnak’s father emigrated to the US from Lithuania when he was sixteen, leaving behind a large family. They were all subsequently sent to a Nazi death camp during World War II and were exterminated. As a result of that tragic familial history, Dr. Malnak developed a keen interest in the Holocaust and has read widely on the subject. He and his wife, Patricia, live in Florida with their whippet, Paige, and parakeet, Kiwi. Hitler’s Silver Box is his first novel.

Purchase the book on Amazon and B&N.

Q: What’s inside the mind of a historical thriller author?

A: While keeping your reader on the edge at all times, it’s vital that the historical facts be accurate. Readers will immediately pick up on historical errors, and this will cause them to lose confidence in the story line.

Q: Why do you write?

A: It’s therapeutic for me. When I focus on the empty page, it pushes all negative thoughts out of my mind. I look forward to the writing like an addict looks forward to an addicting drug.

Q: How picky are you with language?

A: Every word, phrase and sentence must be as close to perfect as possible. My mantra is “write, rewrite, get it right.”

Q: Do you get the feeling you’re playing God when you write fiction?

A: Sometimes, I do, especially when I change an ending dramatically.

Q: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?

A: Occasionally, I feel as if I’m being manipulated by the characters as well as the circumstances the characters find themselves.

Q: What is your worst time as a writer?

A: When I hit a writers’ block and can’t get going.

Q: Your best?

A: When the scene just seems to flow as though it’s writing itself.

Q: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?

A: Only illness.

Q: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?

A: Holding the freshly printed edition in my hands.

Q: Is writing an obsession to you?

A: No, it’s a pleasure. My medical profession was an obsession to me.

Q: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?

A: Most are. Much of the medical scenes in my novel Hitler’s Silver Box is based on events in my life as a physician.

Q: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?

A: Absolutely. Reality manipulates us, often cruelly. Writing puts us on a more level playing field.

My review of Hitler's Silver Box:

Hitler’s Silver Box is a compelling, exciting thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end.

In a two-story Georgian house in one of Chicago’s affluent suburbs, Max Bloomberg, an old bookseller, is brutally killed. Before murdering him, the killers burn his holy books and ask him for ‘the box.’ The old man refuses to give them any information. However, unbeknown to them, he’s left his secret journal to his nephew.

Enters Dr. Bruce Starkman, Chief ER Resident at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital. Bruce is crushed when he learns about his beloved uncle’s unexpected murder. Although Bruce would like to accept the murder as an unfortunate turn of fate, he soon becomes suspicious. Why was Uncle Max, an orthodox Jew, cremated? Uncle Max would never have allowed cremation. Why was his bookstore vandalized? And why is a black Chevy following Bruce lately? The situation gets more complicated when he inherits a large sum of money and property from his uncle, suddenly making him a suspect.

Thus begins Bruce’s search for the journal, and once he discovers it, the reader is transported to 1945 when Max was 23 years old and a prisoner at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Tension escalates, innocent people are killed, and together with Miriam, a beautiful and extremely smart Israeli woman with military training, Bruce travels to Paris and the Czech Republic. It quickly becomes evident to Bruce that he must outwit the neo-Nazis and find the silver box his uncle built—and the secret document hidden within it—if he is to save the world from an imminent Nazi resurgence.

The premise is ambitious, the stakes are high. Hitler’s Silver Box is a well-written novel full of non-stop action and suspense. The story is written from multiple points of view separated by chapters. From the beginning, I was hooked. The pace is quick and the scenes full of tension. There’s a lot of dialogue and little exposition, thus propelling the action further. I especially found Max’s journal engrossing and compelling, distressing and shocking. The horror of Max’s story touched me at a profound level. It is one of those tales not easily forgotten. The journal adds depth and another dimension to the book. I also liked how the voice, pace and tone in the journal are different from the rest of the novel. The protagonist, Bruce Starkman, is sympathetic and I really enjoyed all his ‘medical’ insights; it’s obvious the author is a medical doctor himself. Miriam, with her quick tongue, adds a lot of color and spunk to the scenes and I wish she had appeared much earlier in the story. I didn’t care much about Bruce’s ex-girlfriend, who’s quite active in the beginning, though keeping in mind what happens to her, I suspect why the author didn’t make her too likable.

In short, Hitler’s Silver Box is a fast-moving, entertaining read and one of those books that would make a good film. Recommended.

Purchase the book on Amazon and B&N.

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