Patrick Hicks explores ‘the stories that we bury’ in latest novel

Events in the past have led Americans to make great technological progress. However, those events wouldn’t exist without the ties of corruption coming before it.

The balance between scientific discovery and space explorations would not have been concurred if not first exploited in Nazi Germany. 

Patrick Hicks, professor of English at Augustana, addresses those topics in his latest novel, In the Shadow of Dora.

The book explores the achievements of the Apollo Program while diving into the impact Nazi Germany had on technology.

During WWII, there was a secret Nazi concentration camp known as Dora-Mittelbau that built rockets — rockets that would later be used by Americans to land on the moon. 

“One of the things I was interested in exploring in this particular novel was the idea of the stories that we bury,” Hicks said. 

Ruled under a strong sense of patriotism, Americans know the great achievements of the space race yet are not made aware of what made the technology so advanced. 

“The adventure to the moon is such a captivating narrative of bravery and scientific ingenuity, but it was only allowed because of Nazi technology, which helped create the rockets that got us there,” Hicks said.

Those taking class with Hicks are aware of his fondness for space exploration. Growing up in the ’70s, he was exposed to space exploration from his father and felt influenced by the media’s portrayal in films like Star Wars.

Hicks also had ties to WWII being that his mother is an immigrant from Northern Ireland and that his grandfather survived the Blitz on Belfast. 

“Whenever I asked him about that, he was very open and honest with me about what it was like to fight the Nazis.” 

Hicks started writing this novel back in 2015 and took two research trips to Germany as well as trips to the Kennedy Space Center, the Johnson Space Center and the Marshall Space Flight Center. 

“He did a lot of research, and it really brought you into the time frame,” Karie Frank, division coordinator for the humanities department, said.

Frank took the time to read Hicks’s new novel and called it a “fabulous book.” 

“A lot of concentration prisoners were very well accomplished and smart, but being Jewish they weren’t looked upon that way,” Frank said. “And yet, here they did these incredible things like building rockets.”

 Hicks found that one of his biggest difficulties when writing the lives of his characters was balancing the two time periods, 1969 and 1944.

“I was a bit naive in thinking writing about American history will be easier than writing about Nazi history, but when it came down to writing that part of the novel that is rooted in America, in 1969, I quickly realized that I had to think more deeply about what the year really looked like,” Hicks said.

Hicks said, the ’60s are known for racial unrest, the Vietnam war and hippy culture, but he wanted to look at what effect these things had on his characters, whether it be from patriarchy or the threat of nuclear war. In The Shadow of Dora is available online or can be ordered from any bookstore.

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