Tuesday, May 14, 2019

"Once More Unto the Breach"

Meghan Holloway found her first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at the age of eight and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. She flew an airplane before she learned how to drive a car, did her undergrad work in Creative Writing in the sweltering south, and finished a Masters of Library and Information Science in the blustery north. She spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, traveled the world for a few years, and did a stint fighting crime in the records section of a police department.​​

She now lives in the foothills of the Appalachians with her standard poodle and spends her days as a scientist with the requisite glasses but minus the lab coat.

Holloway applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Once More Unto the Breach, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The apse was laden with hulking shadows, squared edges sharp under the canvas drapery protecting what lay beneath. I holstered the Luger and approached the curved recess, my footfall muffled by the carpet of moss. I grasped the edge of the canvas and pulled. The heavy protective fabric unfurled like a wave, eddies of dust drifting upwards to catch in the sunlight like a spray of sea foam. I stepped back, coughing into my elbow, and took in the storehouse that had been unveiled.

Dozens of crates were stacked shoulder to shoulder in the space. The sizes were varying—some taller than me, others no larger than a child’s height. All were tightly slatted and nailed shut. I could find no identifying markings on the crates, but I could hazard a guess at their contents.

I retreated from the chapel. “Bring the crowbar from the ambulance.”

“What did you find?”

“Bring it and see.”

I watched Charlotte’s face carefully as she took in the crates, noting the excitement that lit her eyes and the satisfied curve of her lips. I took the crowbar from her and slipped the edge into the seam of the crate, leaning down on the tool to pry the nails loose.

As soon as the top was ajar, Charlotte lifted it and carefully eased aside the fabric wrapped around the contents. Her breath caught as she unveiled the sculpture within the crate.

I set the crowbar aside and knelt beside her. “Is it from the Louvre?” I could not see much detail about the piece looking at it from such an angle. It was bronze, the figure of a man clasping a woman to him with his face tucked into the curve of her neck.

“No.” Charlotte’s voice was but a whisper. A sheen of moisture glinted in her eyes.
I have always loved the story of the Monuments Men, the Allied Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section. The MFAA was tasked with finding and saving pieces of art and other cultural items before the Nazis could confiscate or destroy them during the Second World War.

I have a deep love of France and an unfailing appreciation for Paris’s museums and galleries. I first visited the Louvre at the age of eleven. At that tender age, I recall standing at the base of the Daru staircase, head tilted back to take in the statue at its pinnacle. The goddess Nike is hewn out of marble, windswept and powerful and victorious. To this day, decades later, I would still swear to you that standing there in awe, captivated by the Winged Victory of Samothrace, I heard orchestral music swell through the Denon wing. And when my mother asked me why I was crying, I had no answer for her.

I knew of the overarching effort of the Monuments Men before I began my research for Once More Unto the Breach, but I did not know of the mission at the Louvre. Efforts began in 1938 as collections from the Louvre were moved to a number of the châteaux outside of Paris. The museum was practically empty by the time the Germans marched into the city. But soon the Near Eastern antiquities galleries were full, not with museum pieces but with the collections plundered from prominent Jewish families and dealers. The Louvre was used as storage for these stolen collections and as a showcase for the high-ranking officials to pick over. Resistance efforts, led by Rose Valland and Jacques Jaujard, secretly catalogued and tracked as many of the stolen pieces as possible.

These quiet, scholarly, dedicated heroes have largely gone unsung, but it was through their efforts that the heart of history and culture was not entirely destroyed by the tide of evil that swept across the continent. As soon as I began digging further into this movement, I knew art would play a pivotal role in Once More Unto the Breach. It is a story about love, family, home, and the regrets we carry with us. But it is also about beauty, sacrifice, and the enduring power of art.
Visit Meghan Holloway's website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Istagram.

My Book, The Movie: Once More Unto the Breach.

--Marshal Zeringue