The Siren of Paris...Secrets

Book Description

Publication Date: June 1, 2012

In German occupied Paris, a group of unlikely people join in collaboration to smuggle Allied airman south to Spain. One of those intrepid heroes happens to be American. The Siren of Paris, the debut work of historical fiction by David LeRoy, tells a searing story of love, betrayal, forgiveness, and war that brings to vivid life the shimmering City of Lights during its darkest hours during World War II.

The story starts in 1939, when Marc Tolbert, the French-born son of a prominent American family, takes off for Paris to follow his dream of becoming an artist. Marc’s life soon sparkles in the ex-pat scene in Paris. His new friend Dora introduces him to a circle that includes the famous Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare & Company; and he accepts a job with William Bullitt, US ambassador to France. At art school, he finds himself further enchanted by the alluring model Marie.

Marc’s Parisian reverie, however, is soon clouded over by the increasing threat from Germany. As Americans scramble to escape Paris, he finds himself trapped by the war, and nearly meets his fate on the disastrous day of June 17, 1940, aboard the RMS Lancastria. Upon returning to Paris, his fate grows more troubled still, as he smuggles Allied airman through the American Hospital to the Paris Resistance underground, until a profound betrayal leads him into the hands of the Gestapo and onto Buchenwald.

Rigorously researched and vibrant in historical detail, The Siren of Paris reimagines one of history’s most turbulent times through the prism of an American abroad in Europe’s most harrowing days. Poignant, gripping, and thought-provoking, The Siren of Paris mines the human dilemma of revenge versus forgiveness, and vividly captures the conflicted state of survival.

Author: In writing his first novel, The Siren of Paris, David LeRoy drew upon his longtime interest in philosophy, the visual arts, myth, storytelling, psychology, and Ocean Liner travel. During a visit to France to study art in the fall of 2012, LeRoy was increasingly intrigued by the French Resistance, particularly when his research revealed the role of Americans in the Resistance, as well as the limited means of escape from Europe as the war escalated. LeRoy holds a bachelor of arts in philosophy and religion.

Book excerpt

Just then, the screen went bright white and the sound cut off. “Film, film,” called out several voices in the crowded theater as the lights flashed on.

“The film must have broken,” Marc said, as he looked back at the projector room. He could hear the film reel slapping against the projector. The lamp then went dark as an usher came to the front of the theater.

“It will be just a minute,” he said in both English and French.

The crowd stopped their chorus of complaints and the usher walked to the back of the theater. The screen came alive again. A cannon fired. “S.” A second fired, “C.” Then a third fired, “A.” “Service Cinémathèque Agencier” flashed over the screen. The newsreel was French.

“Eleventh of May, morning in France: Our civilian population count is already 150 deaths and almost 400 wounded from that dumping of bombs from planes as systematic as blind in its rage on a number of our cities and villages having no military value,” the voice spoke with a frantic speed.

A car rushed down a street. Men held a hose of water on the rubble of a burning building. A baby carriage rested on the edge of a second-floor flat where the wall had fallen away. A total silence fell over the theater. The film had sound but there was no narration. The sound of distant rifle shots rang out through the speakers.

A single woman with a cart walked past a burned-out storefront. An old man stared aimlessly at an overturned truck crashed into a building. A cabinet full of dishes was open to the street and the wallpaper blew in the wind where the edge gave way. The filmed spanned house after house where walls had been blown apart, revealing the personal items of the people who once called them homes. People shifted from side to side as they studied the screen in a trance. The wind was the only sound on the film, then the noise of a plane passing overhead. Marie let go of Marc’s hand and put it in her lap. Marc looked straight ahead and did not turn to her. A young child began to cry a few rows in front of them, complaining that she wanted to see the cartoon.

On the screen, young school boys in uniform searched through the broken walls of their school. A man grabbed bicycles out of the wreckage of his business. An old woman and her daughter loaded a cart outside of a two-story building with pock holes all across the front. The screen flashed scenes of young and old men, women, and children picking through their houses, loading what they could carry.

Two minutes passed before there was a single voice on the film. The room felt like it was holding its breath. Marie’s hand covered her mouth. Marc grew uncomfortable with the silence. A mother got up with her son and made for the rear of the theater. By now, a few of the children in the theater had become upset.

A man sat outside his house with a bandaged foot. Another man pulled on the jacket of someone dead in the street. A woman with a head bandage wandered through the wreckage. Policemen pulled at bricks, trying to free a trapped person. Others carried a man down the street on a stretcher. It was too much for another woman and her two children sitting near the front. They got up and walked down the aisle. A second person followed her as she cried, pulling the children who complained bitterly of not staying to see the film.

Marc studied the screen as a church appeared with part of the roof gone. In the pews was a briefcase and purse left in a haste. The wall collapsed into the pews until it reached the lectern, like an ocean wave rising upon a beach. Marie could not look away from the screen. Another man near them got up and left the theater, pushing through the crowed back rows of standing people. The newsreel continued without a single voice. Marc wondered if the projectionist would check the film to make sure it had fed correctly. He was puzzled by the lack of voiceover. Rapid gunfire barked out in the distance. The wind whispered through the speakers.

A sign outside a building said “no school today.” People swept the floor of a building clearing debris. “May 10, eating too much will make you ill,” flashed as it was left scrolled in French on a school chalkboard, followed by “5689 divided by 23…” A woman got up from the center aisle with a crying young girl. Marie whispered, “My God,” under her hand as the shock of the scene overtook her. A child’s bag hung on a peg. Another student’s bag rested on the top of a desk dusted with shattered glass.

A child with an eye bandage cried on a hospital bed. A young boy with a head and nose bandage smiled to the camera. Nurses cared for another bandaged woman covered in a bed. She was wearing smart clothes, as if she had been at the bombed-out church.

Five eternal minutes passed before a single voice was heard over the speakers. The march of raw footage across the screen had become too much for many of the parents and children in the theater. A few tried to calm down their children, but even some of the adults struggled to hold back their emotions. Marie got up
and started for the aisle. Marc followed her out through the people standing three deep at the rear doors.

"They lied to us,” Marie said to Marc in the lobby. “They lied in the papers. They tell us what we want to hear.” She started to cry.

LeRoy, David. The Siren Of Paris

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