by Elise Coop­er

The Dark­est Hour is an alter­nate his­to­ry, a psy­cho­log­i­cal study, and a thriller all rolled into one fan­tas­tic book. It begins with Ger­many hav­ing defeat­ed Europe and now the occu­pi­er of Great Britain in 1946. The pro­tag­o­nist is a Lon­don police sergeant, John Hen­ry Ros­sett, a high­ly dec­o­rat­ed British war vet­er­an, who is assigned to the Office of Jew­ish Affairs, a branch of the SS. He fools him­self into believ­ing the false pro­pa­gan­da that his job is to round Jews up for depor­ta­tion to France as farm labor­ers. He is a good man who assists evil until he finds a young Jew­ish child, Jacob, hid­ing in an aban­doned build­ing. Hop­ing to sal­vage his soul and gain redemp­tion, Ros­sett becomes deter­mined to save this inno­cent boy. The nov­el takes off from here where the read­er is exposed to a moral­is­tic thread in a plot that is action-packed and gripping.

Elise Coop­er: This book is a pow­er­ful reminder of how eas­i­ly peo­ple will do ter­ri­ble things to sur­vive. Do you agree?

Tony Schu­mach­er: I got the idea from a doc­u­men­tary on tele­vi­sion. It showed a pho­to­graph from World War II of an Eng­lish police­man in the Chan­nel Islands, just off the coast of France, occu­pied by the Ger­mans. This police­man was hold­ing a car door open for a Ger­man offi­cer, and both he and the Ger­man offi­cer were smil­ing. It was a pro­pa­gan­da pic­ture tak­en by the Ger­mans to show they weren’t such bad guys. When I saw the pho­to, I was momen­tar­i­ly angry with the police­man. I’d been a police­man for ten years, and to me, this offi­cer had dis­graced the uni­form. But almost imme­di­ate­ly, I real­ized I could­n’t think like that. This guy was prob­a­bly told Open that door and smile. If you don’t, you’ll get shot. So, open the door.” And to stay alive, he’d done what he was told to do. After all, he might have a fam­i­ly at home and want­ed to live. So I began won­der­ing what I would have done in that cir­cum­stance. Once you cross that line, it begins to recede. Each time you’re told to do some­thing abhor­rent, that line moves back a bit more. You com­pro­mise your val­ues, your integri­ty. And you have to weigh how much you want to stay alive against doing some­thing you find despicable.

EC: Is Kate, your female main char­ac­ter, based on the above analogy?

TS: Yes. She was a dou­ble spy, who did work for the Nazis, and gave them infor­ma­tion. Actu­al­ly, I think she worked for her­self. She was inter­est­ed in her own sit­u­a­tion until the boy Jacob came into her life. He affect­ed her with his inno­cence and pure trust. 

EC: Would you clas­si­fy The Dark­est Hour as an alter­nate history?

TS: I did base it on real­i­ty: the Ger­man occu­pa­tion of France dur­ing World War II. Many French did not rise up and went along to get along. I want­ed to explore that from the Eng­lish point of view. There is the main char­ac­ter, Ros­sett, say­ing he was just doing his job and didn’t know. I played off the state­ments made by many Ger­mans after the war that said they nev­er knew what was hap­pen­ing. They just pre­tend­ed that they didn’t know, and lied to them­selves. How could they not know, liv­ing just beyond the trees of the con­cen­tra­tion camps?

EC: Can you dis­cuss Ros­sett and Jacob’s relationship?

TS: I had a num­ber of scenes where Jacob takes John Hen­ry Rossett’s hand. The read­ers know it is dirty,” but Jacob believes John will do the right thing by him. I get the sense read­ers want to hate John, but might not because of Jacob’s view of him. Jacob becomes Rossett’s guardian angel, giv­ing him some of his soul back, forc­ing him to explore with­in him­self. Although Jacob is a char­ac­ter who does not speak a lot in the book, he is a thread through the whole sto­ry. Jacob made John rec­og­nize and con­front that mon­ster inside of him­self. John car­ried a lot of guilt and was tor­tured by his own actions of doing nothing.

EC: Did you base the Ger­man SS Offi­cer, Ernst Koehler, on any­one you knew?

TS: I had a lot of dif­fer­ent jobs in my life. One in par­tic­u­lar influ­enced me with this char­ac­ter. When I worked on a cruise ship in the 1960s, in the gift shop there was this Japan­ese guy who would come in almost every day, speak­ing bro­ken Eng­lish. I asked him where he learned Eng­lish and he told me he was a guard on the Bur­ma Rail­way, called The Death Rail­way.” The British POWs were forced to build it and were beat­en, starved, and tor­tured. This guy poked me in the chest because I thought of him as such a nice guy. His “‘nice­ness’” made me think of Koehler. Peo­ple might like him on the sur­face and think of him as charm­ing, but in real­i­ty he is a killer, a nightmare. 

EC: Did you draw upon any of your oth­er job experiences?

TS: Being a cop was def­i­nite­ly one. It’s easy to write about how peo­ple react to a police­man when you’ve been one. I dipped heav­i­ly into those expe­ri­ences. I worked at a garbage dump for a while, and met an eclec­tic group of peo­ple there. Actu­al­ly, I think I’ve drawn from every job I’ve ever had. I’ve had jobs that are looked down upon, and oth­ers that are respect­ed. I’ve tried to take some­thing from every one of them for my writ­ing. The main thing is, I’ve tried to make my char­ac­ters real people.

EC: What do you want the read­ers to get out of the book?

TS: Obvi­ous­ly good enter­tain­ment. But also, I want them to explore them­selves as much as the char­ac­ters in the book did, to look with­in. They should ask them­selves what would they have done? If some­one does one good action does that nul­li­fy all the bad things they have done before? Per­son­al­ly, I do not think so, since they are still stained. 

EC: Can you give a heads-up about your next book?

TS: It is a sequel. The theme is what would you do for a friend even though they are evil. It is more about the strug­gles of indi­vid­u­als. A lot of ques­tions will be answered. Unfor­tu­nate­ly that is all I can say with­out giv­ing up more of the plot of this book.

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.

Relat­ed Content:

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.