Today's visitor is attorney-turned-author Leon H. Gildin, whose book, The Polski Affair is ... He swings by and shares his journey with us. Read on!
From attorney to author, life is fortuitous
by Leon H. Gildin
How can we ever say that which we plan and work towards will ultimately be achieved? Life is fortuitous. Stuff happens and we are swept off in a totally new direction.
I was drafted into the army thirty days after I graduated from law school. When I was discharged, two years later the only job I could get, as a law clerk, paid $25 a week. To hell with it; I opened my own office in the Bronx and if I was lucky made $35 a week.
But things got better. I moved from my first office to a bigger suite and my accountant was in the office next door. One day he came in and said to me, "Give me three thousand dollars. We're going into the nightclub business." Other clients of his whom I knew were also going in with him so I wrote him a check. This was in the mid 60's when three thousand dollars was a lot of money.
To make a long story short, the French singers and dancers came to Canada where we had a booking in a night club. William Morris was our agent. The owner of the Latin Quarter in New York came up to see the show and booked it into New York. For reasons I still don't understand, the cast fired the producer of the show and said they would only work if I became the producer. Lo and behold, I had a show in the Latin Quarter. Unbelievable; I knew as much about producing a night club show as I did about being an astronaut.
But that got me into show biz. I then had a show at the Playboy Club and, at the insistence of my agent at William Morris, went to France to see an Israeli review which I bought and produced on Broadway in 1970. I lost a bundle but got more show biz clients.
While all of this was going on, a story that I had lived through when I was in Europe kept going through my mind. I worked for the Provost Marshal at Seventh Army Headquarters in Germany. In 1948, President Truman integrated the Armed Forces but there was still not one black officer or enlisted man in Army Headquarters in 1951. Suddenly, a black Lt. Colonel appeared. He was an infantry officer but was assigned to the Judge Advocate. Who was he and why was he there?
Through a friend who had been the chief court reporter for the Seventh Army, I learned that the Lt. Col. was there to face a disciplinary hearing based upon his failure to command. I wrote a short story about this and called it "The Third Step."
Practicing law intervened and I got involved in other matters. I then met a playwright who read my short story, found it fascinating and with my assistance, wrote a play based on the incident. We changed the name to "Appear and Show Cause." The play was done in a workshop performance at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, went on to open the 1982 season at the Cleveland Playhouse, went on to Detroit and ultimately, I co-produced it in New York off-Broadway with the New Federal Theatre. I am proud to say that the play won the Adelco Award which is a prestigious black theatre award.
During those years I wrote a number of stage plays since that was the medium with which I was most familiar. And again a fortuitous happening. A former client who had become a prominent literary agent called me asked if I could write a dirty book in English about Yiddish. I considered it and told him it was not the kind of book I wanted to write, made some other suggestions which were rejected and the matter ultimately was dropped.
It was also during this period that I got involved in the motion picture business. This came about through a client who was a producer of films and stage plays as well as a professor of religious studies. He, in turn, introduced me to a friend of his by the name of Abraham Shulman. Shulman was a writer in both English and Yiddish, was a pain-in-the-ass, but was very bright. One day he came to my office with his latest book, "The Case of the Hotel Polski." It was a fascinating piece of research which I read, and reread and thought it would make a good stage play. I started to write one and found after the first two scenes there were so many characters it just wouldn't work. I put it away.
I retired in 1996 and left New York the day after Thanksgiving of that year and headed to Sedona where I had a house built. Now I had time and now I could write.
I still had my original notes for a book about the amount of Yiddish spoken by Jews and non-Jews alike, both of whom, in many cases, not knowing the derivation of the expressions that they were using. These notes were an off-shoot of my former client who wanted a dirty book on Yiddish.
Ultimately I put the book together, found an agent and a publisher, Hippocrene Books, NY. In 2000, "You Can't Do Business (or Most Anything Else) Without Yiddish" came out in hard cover. The next year, it came out in soft cover and when it was sold out, I continued to have it printed because I continued to lecture about the book.
But what took place at the Hotel Polski stayed with me. It necessitated reading Shulman's book again, underlining important passages and deciding how much would be fiction and how much would come from Shulman's research. The story poured out of me. I was originally called "The Reunion." All the physical aspects of the story were historically true; the characters and their lives were fiction. An early, potential publisher suggested changing the name since there were many prior novels entitled "The Reunion" and we decided on "The Polski Affair." It was published in 2009 and won the 2010 International Book Awards for historical fiction.
I have spoken about the book and how I came to write it on many occasions and have been asked by readers to continue the story. As a result of these many inquiries, I have recently completed a sequel with the working title, "The Family Affair" and am seeking a good literary agent/new publisher.
So that is how life took me from being a single practitioner in New York to being an author in Arizona. Would you not say that life is fortuitous?
Wow. What a journey. I'd say life is fortuitous, indeed. Thank you so very much for sharing with us, Leon.
Author: Leon H. Gildin
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Diamond River Books, 2009
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: On Point Communications, LLC
I admit, I am intimidated by WWII history. There's so much that went on, so many lives that were impacted, that I feel like everyone should know--at the very least--the major events that occurred. And me being the geek that I am (both feet first!), I signed up for a history class while in college, to learn more. It was a course that covered the Holocaust, and it was haunting, unforgettable.
Everyone's read Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl, right? And Elie Wiesel's Night? The words on the pages haunt me. How cruel we are to our fellow human beings... Anyway, that's neither here nor there. But every once in a while, I try to read something set during those years. Because while I'm not Jewish, and I do not know what it's like to be persecuted because of my race or religion, I do know that each and every person affected had a family--a father, mother, brothers or sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents--and friends, and their story deserves to be remembered. And not the least to remind us what can happen when we turn a blind eye on evil taking root in our midst.
Leon H. Gildin's The Polski Affair is a story set in the Warsaw ghetto in Poland, and in Tel Aviv as Rosa's past comes back to haunt her. Based on a true story, it pulls you in as it slowly reveals the purpose behind the Hotel Polski. Capricious fate grants Rosa life, when it was not so kind to her husband or children. Unsure of where to go, she hides out in the woods with the partisans until she goes to investigate rumors that there may be safe haven at the Hotel Polski. Rosa is so very brave and so unflinching in the face of all she's been dealt. Everything she does, she does to try to survive, even while knowing that it may not be enough. And when she thinks it's all over, and she's built a new life, fate comes knocking on her door again.
My emotions were all over as I inhaled The Polski Affair, first to see if she makes it, then to find out how she resolves the unfinished business. I am still in awe of her strength and courage.
Like historical fiction set in WWII? Then give this one a try.
drey's rating: 3/5 Good
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