Author Interview: Bringing History to Life with Robert Macomber

Peter Wake has an exciting life. As an American Naval Intelligence Officer, he finds himself operating in the shadowy world of espionage during some of the greatest events in American history. Time and travel are of no consequence to him, because he is the central character in Robert Macomber’s novels, centered around events that changed not only American history, but also the world at large.

Macomber’s most recent novel, Honoring the Enemy, has been eagerly awaited by his fans, who call themselves Wakians. Macomber said his readers are extremely enthusiastic, often assisting him with research and frequently contacting him about their travels to locations in his books. He’s written 14 about Wake and his adventures and exploits; the last eight have been written in the style of Wake’s memoirs. And as far as memoirs go, Honoring the Enemy sounds like a pretty hot read.

“It’s the story of a great love affair, a spy story, a war story…” said Macomber as we were chatting about his anthology and why this most recent book is his favorite so far. “This one was really, really personal to me.”

Normally, Macomber works in 4-5 books per year, and each project takes a few years to complete; Honoring the Enemy took nearly a decade. Part of this was due to the extensive research that went into the project, which is set in Cuba and tells the story of how America became a continental power after the Spanish American war in the late 1800s. Macomber said he wanted to tell the story of the age-old bond between Americans and Cubans and introduce readers to important figures in American history in a more personal way. Take Teddy Roosevelt, for example: he served heroically in the Spanish American War, which catapulted him into the political spotlight and later, into the White House. These types of historical origin stories are exactly what Macomber likes to focus on, explaining the reasons for why certain events took place the way they did.

Perhaps what makes Macomber’s novels so special is his dedication to research. He employs two types: academic first, then “eyeball recon,” or immersive trips in order to experience details firsthand to better bring them to life for his readers. It’s not always an easy process, though. His eyeball recon for an earlier novel set in Vietnam presented significant challenges, as have his novels set in Cuba. At first, the Cuban government was very wary of him, and he said he underwent a fair amount of harassment. And then his readers came to his rescue in an interesting way.

“Many of my readers are Freemasons,” he said. “So they reached out and connected me with the Freemasons in Cuba, two of whom received the first two published copies of the book in the world. Sharing that with them was incredibly special.”

Macomber’s enthusiasm is contagious – whether he’s talking about history, Peter Wake, his readers or independent bookstores, his passion radiates through. And to say he’s excited about his second visit to the Midtown Reader is an understatement.

“Most authors love independent bookstores; we have a better time at their events and our readers have a far better time,” he said. “It’s a party for people who already love books, at a place run by true bibliophiles who know and love books. I can’t wait.”

This article was first published by Midtown Reader.