Interview with Soren Paul Petrek

Soren Paul Petrek, author of Cold Lonely Courage has very kindly agreed to an interview about his books and how he got there.

My review of the book can be found here.

1. Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?
I am a practicing trial attorney specializing in the areas of family and criminal law. I am married with 2 teenage sons and live in a rural area of central Minnesota.
I am an avid reader and writer. I've completed the sequel to Cold Lonely Courage, The Patience County War. I am writing, Je vois tous, The Angel of Death where Madeleine Toche revisits her skills during the time of the Yom Kippur War in the Middle East. Terrorists have kidnapped her godson. You can imagine her reaction!

2. Your book, Cold Lonely Courage, was inspired by a true story and I understand you also traveled around listening to people's stories of the time. How did that go?
A family friend, Madeleine Behren, was a member of the Belgian Resistance during World War Two. She helped countless Jewish children to escape from the Nazis. The penalty for discovery was death. She shared glimpses into that life with me and sparked my fascination with the role seemingly ordinary men and women had behind the scenes in their struggle against occupation and the horrors of the Nazi regime.

I lived and worked with many British World War Two vets, have known American paratroopers and rangers from the D-Day invasion and traveled to many of the battle grounds of World War One and World War Two. Listening to people who've lived history is much more compelling than reading about it in a book. Many of the people from the World War Two generation are gone now and it's important to remember their sacrifices for their countries, their families and future generations.

3. Having visited many of the KZ camps around Europe I know of the pain and horrors of the Second World War. What in your research for this book made the biggest impression on you?
I read several books about women in the French Resistance. Their true stories and their vital leadership roles where captivating. The courage that it takes to 'do the right thing' is often borne by the people that might seem the least suited. They find the strongest kind of courage in themselves. They are the real heroes, many of whom returned to their 'ordinary' lives once the Nazis were defeated. It is the moral courage of people that is the most impressive to me. It is so often forgotten with time and pushed aside by the focus given major battles and personalities of the war.

4. Is Madeleine, the Angel of Death, and her work fiction or fact?
Madeleine's story is fiction. However, she represents the character of many women who fought with the British Special Operations Executive in Europe. The SOE was known for its unconventional, controversial style of clandestine warfare, and their 'dirty tricks department'. The files, training manuals of the SOE and their activities were only recently declassified. I'm certain that we will never know the true extent and nature of their activities as time obscures them. Many of the female SOE agents assassinated and killed the enemy.

One of the more famous agents, Nancy Wake was known by the Gestapo as the White Mouse. Here is a quote:

One of her comrades in the Resistance, Henri Tardivat, later describes Wake as "the most feminine woman I know, until the fighting starts. Then, she is like five men."

Although petite, she killed at least one SS soldier with her bare hands. The Prince of Wales regards her as such a hero, that he personally provides her with a pension in her old age. She is still alive. Google her, you won't believe how incredible she is.

These are real people, as fierce, violent and deadly as the circumstances require.

5. Do you have more books in plan - about WW2 or will you move on to different genres?
Madeleine will be revisited in several novels at various stages of her life. One of the more important stories that I need to tell regards the characters Stenger and Willi during World War One. Many people think they 'steal the show' in Cold Lonely Courage. Their story, The other side of the Tunnel, will be completed as my 4th book. While I write in the action/adventure and historical novel genres, I will not limit myself. My hope is to write books with universal appeal. The kind of book that any reader, regardless of their tastes and preferences will enjoy. Cold Lonely Courage is exactly that and I am very pleased to have achieved such a difficult goal.

Thank you very much for your time! - personally I can't wait to read more about the whole cast, but especially Stenger and Willis' story will be great to read, I'm sure.

Interview by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2011


  1. Great interview. I just googled Nancy Wake, too. Pretty awesome! Makes my simple Sunday morning look pathetic. War stories, and the ensuing stories of recovery, have always had an impact in my life. The courage shown by those that fought for our freedom, anyone's freedom, is unfathomable.


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