Join us on Saturday, October 14th from 2-4PM at Elm Street Books for an author signing with Mark Perlman, author of The Reluctant Soldier.
Weaving fact and fiction, the author creates a novel of war, romance, murder, intrigue, and the challenges of racism that spans a century and gives us an unforgettable protagonist. Virgil Lincoln Carpenter (1891-1973), an African American, grows up in the segregated South in a loving but struggling family.
Fate smiles on Virgil when, as a young man, he saves the life of a White banker's daughter. The banker finances Virgil's college education, he moves to New York City, and becomes a professor. When many of his male students leave to join the army as America enters World War One, Virgil feels pressure to enlist and reluctantly joins the famous "Harlem Hellfighters" Regiment. The story follows Virgil and the Hellfighters through the challenges of war in France.
Returning home after the war, he is forced to flee the country after killing a man in self-defense while visiting his family in Virginia. Virgil takes a covert, circuitous route back to France. He is befriended by his French liaison officer from the war, Henri Le Van, a detective in Paris. While working as Le Van's confidant and chauffeur, he witnesses many murders Le Van must solve during the "Jazz Era" of interwar Paris. During this time, Virgil meets several historic personalities such as Josephine Baker, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene Bullard, Sylvia Beach and others.
Virgil marries a Corsican woman he met during the war. As political turmoil increases in Paris during the early 1930's, their growing family moves to the Champagne Region for a quieter life. This plan is disrupted as World War Two erupts in 1940. Both he and his wife join the French Resistance. It is a life-or-death situation for their family with many losses.
Several years after the war ends, Virgil suffers more personal losses. His life takes a turn for the worse due to his self-destructive behaviors. After confronting his demons, he decides to return to America. Shortly after he arrives, his alias is uncovered. He is extradited back to Virginia to stand trial for a death that occurred over three decades ago.
The factual characters and events interwoven with fictional ones bring Virgil's story to life in vivid details that speak to issues both racial and universal and will appeal to a multi-generational, multi-racial audience. The author spent over fifteen years doing research in both the U.S. and France to bring authenticity and a genuine historical perspective to The Reluctant Soldier.