Monday, June 30, 2014

Two Evenings of Reading and Music

Author Lance Ringel read from his World War I novel, Flower of Iowa at two readings this past week, one in New York's Hudson Valley and the other in New York City.

An enthusiastic capacity crowd came to the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center in Kingston, NY, last week for "Gay in the Great War," a presentation by author Lance Ringel. Ringel, joined by his spouse, veteran actor-singer Chuck Muckle, read passages from his acclaimed war novel Flower of Iowa and Muckle performed several songs sung by Doughboys on the front lines during World War I.

In a reprise of their Kingston, New York event, Lance and Chuck enchanted a crowd of lesbian and gay history buffs at the Bureau of General Services — Queer Division in New York's Lower East Side this past Friday.

Here are photos from both events:

Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center

Photos by: Michele Johnston

Bureau of General Services — Queer Division

Photos by: Andrew Beaver

Friday, June 27, 2014

'18 With a Bullet

Every war fought by Americans in the 20th century had its own soundtrack. Think of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "White Cliffs of Dover" in World War II, "The Ballad of the Green Berets" and "Eve of Destruction" in Vietnam, "Get Here" and "From a Distance" in the Gulf War. Radio has played a pivotal role in providing soldiers in those conflicts the aural background to their war experiences. 

In terms of popular music, the Great War was the last 19th-century war, because WWI soldiers had to do the singing themselves. In order to truly conjure the feeling of the era in my novel, Flower of Iowa includes snippets of lyrics from more than half a dozen songs that were popular during World War I.  

For Americans, no song quite equaled the impact of George M. Cohan's "Over There," which appears in the very first chapter of Flower of Iowa. The unbridled optimism in the lyrics "the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming" reflected not only a young nation's self-confidence, but also the hope the Doughboys represented to the war-weary Allies of Europe.

In one of the novel's most evocative scenes, British soldier David Pearson teaches his American buddy Tommy Flowers "It's a Long Way to Tipperary." This pre-war drinking tune from the British music hall tradition unexpectedly became the most poignant of marching songs, iconic of the Great War. The same scene also features "Roses of Picardy," a lovely ballad, tremendously popular at the time but less well-known to Americans today.  

The war continued to influence songwriting long after the cannons fell silent. One of the more memorable and amusing WWI tunes is "How Ya' Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm? (After They've Seen Paree)" from 1919. In addition, a poem written in 1915 by a soldier drafted into the German Army eventually became a song beloved on both sides of the lines in the next war. It was "Lili Marlene," one of Dietrich's signature numbers.

Because music is so important to the experience of World War I – and because the love of my own life happens to be a terrific singer – my readings from Flower of Iowa are often accompanied by renditions of some of these songs by Chuck Muckle. The music and lyrics help bring to life the era that my book seeks to evoke.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Flower of Iowa in the Windy City Times

Author Lance Ringel talks about the experience of writing his World War I saga Flower of Iowa with Terri-Lynne Waldron, reporter for the long-running LGBT newspaper Windy City Times from Chicago.

Please click on the image below to enlarge:

Please click here to view the article on the Windy City Times' website.

Lance on Finding Out with Pete and Ellen

Author Lance Ringel was interviewed on the long-running talk show "Finding Out with Pete and Ellen" on June 1st and June 8th, broadcast over several Clear Channel radio stations in the Hudson Valley: WJIP 1370 AM; WKIP 1450 AM; WRWB 99.3 FM; and WRNQ Lite 92.1 FM. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A WWI Story for Juneteenth

While in London, Tommy Flowers encounters an African-American soldier named Ralph Manton. This meeting represents a relatively unusual experience for Doughboys serving in Europe during World War I, because the U.S. Army did not allow black soldiers to fight side by side with white soldiers

Ironically, many Americans of African heritage had volunteered to serve in the Armed Forces during the First World War because they believed doing so would help bring an end to discrimination at home in the U.S. Like Ralph in my novel, most found themselves put into support service jobs.

But the French had no such racist compunctions. They were appalled by the attitude of the Yanks, so those African-Americans who were allowed to fight did so as part of the French Army – most famously the 369th Infantry Regiment (formerly the 15th New York National Guard Regiment), who were nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters. Members of the Harlem Hellfighters distinguished themselves on the battlefield, earning many Croix de Guerre medals from France and, in one case, the Medal of Honor from the United States. For the first time in their lives, these men received equal treatment, from French military and civilians alike.

Sadly, when these black Doughboys returned home, they found the situation worse than ever. In the “Red Summer” of 1919, race riots broke out in three dozen American cities, with returning African-American soldiers frequently the targets. Another World War would pass before the baneful policy of racial segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces was overturned.

I recommend two good (if hard to find) books relating the experiences of black Americans in World War I: From Harlem to the Rhine: The Story of New York’s Colored Volunteers by Arthur W. Little, a white officer with the Harlem Hellfighters, and Two Colored Women with the American Expeditionary Forces by Addie W. Hunton and Kathryn M. Johnson.  Little’s language can be cringe-worthy at times, but that just serves to underscore all the more his ever-growing admiration for the men in his charge. Hunton and Johnson speak from a perspective rarely acknowledged, much less heard: that of African-American women who served as part of civilian support services behind the lines in World War I France.

For information about the history of Juneteenth and about this year's worldwide celebration, please click here.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Lance Ringel at the Provincetown Public Library

Author Lance Ringel will visit the Provincetown Public Library on Thursday, August 14th, from 6:00 PM until 7:00 PM, to present his new book Flower of Iowa in the Marc Jacobs Reading Room located at 356 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA 02657.

Flower of Iowa is the first published novel by veteran journalist and writer Lance Ringel. Long fascinated with The Great War, Ringel first began work on the book in 1992. He envisioned a saga that examined a relationship between two soldiers set against the backdrop of WWI. This idea launched Ringel into a five-year journey across America and through Europe in a quest to make sure that Flower of Iowa was as historically accurate as possible.

For more information about this event, please click here.

Lance Ringel on Neighborhood News

Author Lance Ringel spoke to Kerry Donovan on Memorial Day Weekend about the impact of World War I on America and why people should remember its veterans and their achievements.

Air Date: 5/26/14
Reporter/Producer: Kerry Donovan
Neighborhood News

(The fair use of a copyrighted work, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. This constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C., § 107 of the US Copyright Law.)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Foods of War

Napoleon famously said "An army marches on its stomach," and soldiers of The Great War were no exception. The quality of their rations occupied a considerable amount of their attention – and a disproportionate amount of their grousing.Early in my World War I novel, Flower of Iowa, David Pearson generously offers to share his rations with Tommy Flowers. However, the American from Iowa is horrified by what the British soldiers are fed.

First and foremost was bully beef, a kind of tinned corned beef. While less than appetizing, it was often the foundation of the diet of a Tommy (the nickname for a British soldier). The most common brand was Fray Bentos, which itself became a synonym for bully beef.

Likewise, for any British soldier of World War I, jam appeared with invariable monotony in their rations. Because the plum-and-apple variety was produced by a company called Ticklers, that word became shorthand for all jam served during the war.

David also mentions Machonochie's, a canned stew of turnips, carrots and potatoes named for the Scottish company that produced it. This dish also was widely unpopular with the troops.

Against the backdrop of a war that caused deprivations for civilians as well as soldiers, food is much on the minds of the characters in the novel. Wheat flour had become scarce during the conflict, prompting David's sister Betty to complain about the bread baked from potato flour that British civilians were forced to eat. David’s mother alludes to the Germans' "Turnip Winter" of 1916-17, when the combination of an Allied naval blockade, a poor harvest and priority given to the military meant that many civilians only had turnips to eat. Many ultimately died of starvation.

Small wonder, then, that Tommy savors the results of Madame's omelette-making prowess. Or consider this exchange between Tommy and Betty. Tommy: "I reckon you can’t wait 'til the war ends." Betty: "I s'pose I can't. I'd like having things like real bread again."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bureau of General Services — Queer Division

Please join us for a reception, reading, Q&A and the singing of songs from the Great War at the Bureau of General Services — Queer Division. This special event will take place on June 27th from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM at BGSQD located at 83A Hester St., New York, NY 10002 (Between Orchard and Allen Streets).

Flower of Iowa author Lance Ringel will read selections from his novel, a saga about World War I France in 1918 and two young soldiers — one from American, the other British — who unexpectedly find love together behind the battle lines. Chuck Muckle will sing songs from the period that appear in the book. In a Q&A afterwards, Ringel will examine the history of homosexuality in World War I.

For more information, please click here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hudson Valley Gay Life Expo

Lance Ringel appeared this past weekend at the first Hudson Valley Gay Life Expo, held in Poughkeepsie at the Cuneen-Hackett Arts Center. The event brought together gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses, as well as local writers, in a celebration of diversity. Lance spoke with attendees, sharing his expansive knowledge of World War I and discussed the extensive research he conducted to write his sprawling war novel Flower of Iowa

Lance shared his table with author Leslie L. Smith, whose new novel Sally Field Can Play the Transsexual, chronicles the history of the AIDS epidemic among the New York City gay community of the 80s and 90s – an era when Lance Ringel also lived in New York City and worked towards securing legal rights for gays, lesbians and people with AIDS. 

The day-long Expo concluded with a reading by both Lance and Leslie, and a question-and-answer session. Those eager to read Flower of Iowa can download the eBook by clicking here.

Here are some photos of the event (please click on the photos to see full-sized images):

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center Event

Please join us for a reading and reception – with a selection of World War I songs sung by actor Chuck Muckle. Refreshments will be served. 

The event will take place on Thursday, June 26th from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM at the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center Men's Group at Apuzzo Hall, 300 Wall Street, Kingston, NY 12401.

Please click here for more information.