I used to work at Ramstein Air base in Germany for many years, but I had no clue what life in town was like when the base was being built. Years ago, on one of my trips to Germany, I found a book with the title “Air Base Ramstein: Bilder, Geschichten, Erinnerungen” in a bookstore.
As I was reading stories about the 1950s, I became more and more intrigued. Many concerts took place in the clubs to entertain the GIs: Count Basie, Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Caterina Valente, Conny Froboess, and Max Greger, to name a few. German youths loved the GIs’ rock ‘n’ roll records and cars. Bars sprang up in the villages around the base and romances began to blossom between the GIs and German girls. The base and other military installations provided employment for job seekers from near and far. Life in the Palatinate would never be the same again.
There is a novel in there, I thought as I was reading the book. I began to research the 1950s, pop culture, and history. Of course, I also relied heavily on my childhood memories. During my next visit, I interviewed a former police officer because I had decided to write a historical mystery. I also visited a new institution, the Docu Center Ramstein, http://dc-ramstein.de/en/, where I viewed negatives from their image files.
When I wrote Oktober Heat, I decided to give the base a fictitious name to avoid any misunderstandings and to allow myself creative freedom. Throughout the years, the village of Lauterbach, its people, and the air base have become real to me. Now it is time to share the story of Walter, his sister, and his friends with the world.