Warning: If you go to Amazon and check out the first few pages of Robert Rubenstein's book, Ghost Runners, you'll be hooked. It is immediately clear that this writer's words are backed by passion. Here's his interview:
How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
When I was in my teens, I met a girl whom I loved. In her house, at night, I discovered some of the secrets of a kiss. I also heard the sounds of her father moaning loudly in his sleep. Laughing, my girlfriend told me it was just the war and the camps and the memories of death. So, as a teenager, I was introduced to Nazis. Almost thirty years ago, I learned of the story of two American Jewish Olympic runners who were not allowed to compete in the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Had it been German anti-Semitism, it would have been understandable. But it was Americans, not Germans, who took their only Jewish Olympians off the team. The questions plagued me: Why? Could history have been changed, the ensuing Holocaust halted even for one day if these Americans ran? What happened to that twenty-one year old runner who seemed to just disappear?
So slowly did truth emerge: the complicity of American corporations: IBM, Chase, GE-the lists kept growing. Whom had they been serving? After all the years, I saw the vehicle that could answer those questions. The theme that had escaped me had reappeared like a ghostrunner.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
I have a tendency to imagine too strongly and to follow an extraneous thought to distraction. If left to my own, I would write fantastic gibberish. But Historical Fiction sets the measured tones I need to stay on track. It allows me to write within a timed and known setting. I also love the possibilities of history, to wonder about the ‘Butterfly Effect,’ to see if I could blow my breath into the known and change, by the winds or celestial flows, the way things were to the way things might have been.
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
When I was younger, I didn’t have many toys. I was a prolific reader. Like other kids, I liked to read whole series of books. I had intimate encounters with Tarzan in the jungle. I tried cases with Perry Mason. I was smitten with the Hardy boys. But even earlier, I loved when my father came home with the newspaper. The written word, for me, has always reminded me of a happy home.
How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?
No matter the path, the spirit cannot avoid suffering. How two young men deal with misfortune is a lesson for us all. It is not the sorrow but the existential choice to give that woe a greater meaning, a far reaching implication. In my story, Joshua Sellers is transformed by the process of his separation from an American dream betrayed by his own countrymen. He finds redemption in the alien surroundings of our indigenous natives and in the joy he has in passing on the gifts he had, but could not use, to disabled children.
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
In GHOSTRUNNERS I wanted to address a wrong that does not go away. It has stayed in the public debate without modern challenge. The complicity of American corporations and certain names whose lineage is well known has still not been brought to American justice. I wanted to create controversy and bring the deplorable adoration by many Americans to Adolf Hitler under the light of dialogue and public scrutiny.
I also wanted to give body to an American hero, Sam Stoller. Sometimes, it is not the successful that should be remembered, but the ones who had the promise, but were not ever given the chance for glory.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Good, good question. Even fictionalizing with good intentions, people who have lived and died, the author owes a great debt to their memories and must be cautious before attaching one extraneous word. In GHOSTRUNNERS I could never be certain how to portray brave, decent men like Frank Wycoff or Foy Draper, Jesse Owens or even Charles Lindbergh. When I thought about their descendants, I did not want to trespass even lightly on a memory. One of the two protagonists was a beloved figure in sports, Marty Glickman. I would have wanted to contact his family for permission. I hope I portrayed his likeness with humility and love. Lastly, Sam Stoller was the forgotten Olympian, his life’s journey still unknown. I hope I put some flesh around him. I hope my words may find his descendants well.
Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book?
My book is about the possibilities of what diversity could have done in sports to vanquish Hitler and his ideas of racial supremacy during the infancy of the evil of Nazism. Blacks and Jews and Native Americans: no master race could subjugate them for too long.
What projects are you working on at the present?Presently, I am working on a story of thwarted desires amid the beauty and violent history of New Mexico. Can one truly find happiness in a land of unsettled accounts? When the harmony of the mountains is disturbed, a secret group of Natives must extend their old influence on young, wayward braves. OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY is just that: a love story of the permanence of forgotten events or shallow passions, shifting with the sands of unremorseful times.
What's your most memorable childhood memory?
Ducking for cover under my desk to escape nuclear war in a fifth grade fire drill. I was not going to let the Russians get me. I held my head and did as I was told: I didn’t talk to my neighbor. I didn’t look at the glass windows. And I was saved.
What do you do for fun?I love to visit the National Parks and the southwest. I love to swim in the ocean.
What did your character do that totally shocked and surprised you and caused you to revisit your book?
When Joshua Sellers walked over to the Fuhrer’s Loge and raised his fist to deck Hitler out, I was as shocked as anyone. But I bought Joshua’s explanation. He really didn’t want to hit Hitler. He just wanted to give him a love tap from the Jewish nation.