I recently heard about Eric Houston’s memoir “The Lost Artist: Love Passion War (part 1)” and was immediately intrigued. While I couldn’t fit this book into my reading list, I decided instead to feature this work here, by asking him one question. Here’s his answer to:
What was one of the most interesting experiences you had when researching this book?
I was stunned by much of what I found while researching The Lost Artist: Love Passion War (Part 1). My father knew they were all going to die at El Alamein, Egypt. It was July 3, 1942, the first two lines were wiped out, and his third line, the last line of defense, was out of ammo. But they all stood firm. If Rommel had broken through there was nothing to stop the Nazis. In Berlin, they were celebrating having won the war, and the Grand Mufti was setting plans to murder every Jew in Palestine and the Arab nations.
My father always thought that it was a miracle for Rommel, at that last moment, to lose his ‘Fingertip feel.’ In truth, it was. But my dad never knew the astounding series of events leading up to that, including the unbelievable blunder of US and British intelligence responsible for the death of over 100,000 allied soldiers and nearly costing us the war. The victors write history, and the cover-up was so important, history had to be rewritten. Even Churchill would perpetuate the Rommel myth. I hope someday we can honor the German resistance, working side by side with Joseph Goebbels at a Berlin radio station, who appear to have given their lives to stop the Nazis. Undoubtedly, they were erased from history.
Still, for me, the most interesting experience was discovering the popularity of the little children’s book that my father had illustrated before leaving Israel for New York City in 1948. I had known And There Was Evening (Vayehi Erev) (ויהי ערב) because he brought it back from his one trip to Israel in the early 90’s. When he showed it to me he said in disbelief, “It’s a miracle. The book was actually published, and this one little bookstore that I happened to walk into somehow got the leftover copies from the 1950’s printing.” It never occurred to him that the book could have had more than one printing.
After my father died in 2006, I started researching his remarkable story. I like to write what I know about, and this seemed overwhelming. Besides what he told me, what did I know of growing up through the rise of the Nazi Party, Palestine before the State of Israel, WWII’s North African Campaign, the No. 2 Commando, etc.?
Then in 2010, I received an email from Einat Amitay, a top computer scientist with a chair at IBM Israel saying, “You may not know this, but your father is very famous in Israel.” I assumed it was a scam, but as I read on, instead of offering millions of dollars, she talked about a timeless, classic children’s book. After a sixty-year ongoing search for the artist, Einat, while dying of breast cancer, had joined the mission and against all odds solved the mystery.
During our first Skype conversation I told Einat about my father thinking that it was a miracle to find a leftover copy in that little bookstore. She just laughed, saying, “He could’ve walked into any bookstore. It’s everywhere.”
The story was now too much for me to resist. Very moved by Einat’s story of finding my dad, I wanted to tell it as a present-day backdrop to telling his story of escaping Nazi Germany in 1934 at the age of 13 by going alone to Palestine, entering the Haganah at age 14, where he helped to save countless illegal Jewish immigrants, befriending many Arabs, including King Abdullah of Jordan, in an attempt to unite Jews and Arabs so that they could build a great nation together, and WW II’s North Africa Campaign.
Though Einat made it clear that her chances of survival were slight, she was so vital and such an amazing person that it was hard for me to accept. How many people dying of breast cancer would have the determination to join a 60-year search for a lost artist of a favorite children’s book and be the one to succeed?! I can’t say how grateful I am to her. She did so much for so many. Without Einat, I never would have written The Lost Artist. I wish my father could have known her, but she felt his spirit was guiding her on the mission. So who knows… Maybe they know each other now.
About the book and the author:
The Lost Artist: Love Passion War (Part 1) utilizes the Israeli researcher’s quest to find her favorite illustrator as a present-day backdrop to tell Fred Hausman’s incredible story of escaping Nazi Germany at age thirteen and going alone to Palestine. There, he befriended an untamable horse and King Abdullah of Jordan. He joined the Haganah where he helped save illegal Jewish immigrants. Young Hausman’s journey offers personal insight into the rise of the Nazi Party, Zionism, the Holocaust, British atrocities in Palestine, the Middle East conflict, and WWII. The target audience is college-educated adults and seniors with an interest in Jewish themes and World War II history.
Fred Hausman’s Distinguished Conduct Medal, Israel’s most important WWII medal, was unlawfully sold to a British lord under false terms. All proceeds from The Lost Artist will go to returning medals stolen from within the British Ministry of Defense to their rightful owners.
Author Eric Houston is a Grammy-award-winning concert pianist, produced playwright, professional ghost writer, and memoirist. His concert piano albums include Beethoven Sonatas: Moonlight Pathetique Appassionata and Tonight and Forever. His play, Becoming Adele, the recipient of the Key West Theater Festival Award, was performed at the Court Theatre, produced Off-Broadway by the Gotham Stage Company, and optioned by Warner Bros. Television. Playing with Fire was represented by Graham Agency and optioned for Off-Broadway. Sweet Deliverance had an extended run at the Hudson Theatre and was the last play optioned by legendary Broadway producer, Alexander Cohen.