"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
Coming next week - Carla Eatherington

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Night We Danced with Rommel - Mary Ann Bernal meets Elisabeth Marrion

From the main Nottingham McDonalds, it's my pleasure today to welcome my friend and brilliant editor of all my novels Mary Ann Bernal a writer and interviewer who needs no introduction at all...and here she is, all the way from Nebraska. A big friend of the Wizard's Cauldron, here's her original interview with me from way back when...


Oh, and I didn't tell her to dress up like Capt.Kirk's wife! Mary Ann did it all of her own volition.


Greetings Wizardwatchers - it is my pleasure to host this week’s interview with Elisabeth Marrion.

For the Wizard’s followers on the UK side of the pond, there is a six hour difference from the central time zone neck of the woods in  Omaha, Nebraska - yes, the mid west - land of the wide open spaces - Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill - and let’s not forget the ladies - Belle Starr, Stagecoach Mary, Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane - but then, I digress.  

Besides, what does a city slicker, that’s right, a New York transplant, know about the great outdoors, and growing corn and supporting the Cornhuskers - well, now that you ask - resistance is futile - I have been assimilated - RED ALERT - we are now off course.  

An American Star-Trek version with unknown characters which
doesn't star Capt. Kirk and Mr Spock and therefore cannot
be a real Star Trek. Spot the famous character in the right hand bottom
But fear not, my communication channel is open, so let’s welcome Elisabeth.

Chichester's Elizabeth Marrion

Mary Ann:   Hi Liz, welcome to The Wizard’s Cauldron.

Liz: Hi Mary Ann, it is a pleasure to be invited

Mary Ann:  It’s such a delight to have you featured today, but before we forge ahead, perhaps you could tell the Wizardwatchers a little bit about yourself. 

Liz: I was born in Germany in 1948. We lived in the North of Germany, which was occupied by the British, after WWII . My father was a corporal in the RAF ( Royal Air Force ) and was stationed in our town, Hildesheim . There he met my mother, who had lost her husband on the Russian front, during the last days of the War. 

I have 2 half brothers and 3 half sisters all older than myself. I moved to England in 1969, intending to stay for one year, but loved it and stayed. There I met my husband, David. Together, we formed an importing clothing Company. Through this company we worked many years in the Far East and the Sub Continent.

 Mary Ann:  Since I am an avid history buff, and am not limited to the 9th Century, please tell us about your fascination with Rommel and way you chose to write a book about this intriguing personality.

Liz; My mother’s husband, Karl, was a young officer serving under Rommel during WWII. After Rommel’s death, Karl was sent to the Russian front at the end of the War, but he did not return. My mother kept his memories, and the memory of Rommel alive, by telling us about their lives and showed us the photos she had kept. I was the youngest, and after moving to England, my mother stayed with me every year for up to two months, and during those weeks together, she told me her story.

The Desert Fox

Mary Ann  It is my understanding that “The Night I Danced with Rommel” is a fictionalized account of what happened when your mother met the infamous German Field Marshal aka The Desert Fox.  Are there any insights handed down by your mother that were not included in the book?

Liz: The account in the book is as my mother told it to me. I changed only some of the names and some places. Most of my brothers and sisters still do not know some of the things my mother trusted me with. So I wanted to write this book that my extended family would realize, and what made my mother the strong woman that she was. 

But then, I realized that not many people know what life was like for families in Germany during that period. I now want share her story with a wider audience.

Mary Ann:  You are also translating the book into German.  How is that project coming along?

Liz: I am half way through. I would like the first translation to be finished by the end of May 2013. After I do the initial translation, I forward each chapter to my School friend, Waltraut. From there, it goes to my niece Susanne. Later, we print it out and read it again, but after that, I will have to find a German proof reader. I would like to have it ready at Christmas, to give to my brothers and sisters, whose English is limited.

Mary Ann:  You are also writing the sequel, “The Liverpool Connection.”   Tell us a little about this second installment.

Liz  Again, this is based on facts, and tells about life in Liverpool at the same period as “The Night I Danced With Rommel,” between 1926 – 1945.  David, my husband comes from Liverpool and so did my father. My father’s aircraft bombed and flattened my hometown a month before the end of WWII. After the War, it was my father who kept my mother and siblings alive.

A flattened Liverpool during the blitz

 Mary Ann:  Have you come up with a title for the third installment of this series?

Liz: Yes the Cuckoo Clock. It is the story of Jewish emigrants from my home town going to America.

Mary Ann:   Your father was a Corporal in the RAF and stationed in the British occupied Zone in Western Germany after World War II where he met and married your mother.   What was it like growing up in an occupied country?

Liz:   We were lucky . we lived in the British Zone. Germany was divided into  four parts. British, American , French and  Russian . The Russian zone was totally enclosed. This was where most of my mother’s family lived. We could never visit there. And if one of my aunts or uncles would get permission to come and see us, they would have to come alone, without any other family member. This confirmed to the Communist party over there that they would return. Also, they would come as they stood, no money or clothes, just with one bag and just for a few days. Originally, movements were also restricted in the other zones. You could not travel from the British  to the American or French zones. But over the years, we managed to live side by side .
The zones still exist today and American and British Armies still have their bases over there.

A divided and colonised Germany in 1945

Mary Ann:  You were also fortunate to work on the sub-continent and Far East.  Would you be willing to share a few of your stories with us?

Liz: Yes, through our work, David and I spent a lot of time abroad. This strengthened our love and understanding for different cultures . That is actually where I fell I love with my husband, in India, Mumbai, and at that time, was still called Bombay. 

The best of India

We worked for different companies back then. I was working for an importing company as their expert in India, and David was a director at a large men’s clothing chain. It was hate at first sight! We could not stand each other. See where it got us! Later we worked a lot in Bangladesh, and there, together with our manufacturer, we built a school in the rural part of the Country.

A Bangladeshi garment factory

Mary Ann  Your mother instilled your love of theater, and it is my understanding that both of  you have performed on stage.  This is quite an exciting reference on a resume.  Theater stories are the best; what insights might you divulge?

Liz:  My mother performed back in East Prussia and myself in the Theater in Hildesheim until I left in 1969. I was in a couple of Ballet performances in West London. If memories can be measured on the Richter scale, Theater memories would get a 10! Even today, when I go to see a show, in my mind, I am up there with the performers. The best smell in the world is when the curtains open, and a warm sweaty smell hits you, sitting in the audience. Sorry!  In ‘The Night I Danced With Rommel’, my mother meets a famous German Actress, Lil Dagover. I also met her later on stage back in Hildesheim.

Work in a theater was different then. Everybody was employed  by the theater, and you would be in many performances during the year. It would range from Opera, Musical, Plays, Christmas, pantomime. Say each show had about 20 – 30 performances a year. These would be staggered.
Like a musical tomorrow, a play the next day, and so on. Quite often, I would be in a Christmas Pantomime, with shows on weekends, at 11 am and 3 pm. 

Heartbeat's That Nick Berry - coming soon to a panto
near you
At 8 pm, I would be in a Musical. No wonder I got on so well with my mother, she never saw me. In between, I had to go to school, and later, college. On other occasions, if the Musical group played in the home town, the acting group would be a guest performance somewhere else. There was constant juggling around.

Big friend of mine, racehorse breeder and
Newark punter, TV's Frazer Hines plays the indolent Jack in "Jack and the Beanstalk"
I've no idea who the rest are. A personalised 100 word
sonnet to the first person to tell me who any of these people might be.

Mary Ann:  Can you list five fun facts that people don’t know about you?

Liz  I can only lists things my husband knows about , otherwise that would be telling! (Oooer, missus - Ed!)

Well, the following is true, albeit embarrassing: When we moved house, the time before last. into a small village west off London, I was slightly confused about my new surroundings.  On my first day at the new house, I took the dog out for a walk, and as luck would have it, I met several of our new neighbors. I stopped and introduced myself, and made small talk. Later, in the bedroom back home, some items of clothing were on the bed. I went  to my husband and said, “I am definitely going mad now, I cannot remember having taken my running shorts off.” He shrugged his shoulders and said,: “That is because you never had them on.”Yes, I went through the village, introducing myself to people in my underwear and a t-shirt.  Don’t worry, years later, I became chair person of the Village Committee, I guess they forgave me.

Elisabeth's rediscovered shorts

Because of our business, we travelled a fair amount. On one occasion, when David went to Bangladesh without me, upon returning, he asked me whether everything was alright at the office. I told him I bought a travel agency. “What do we know about the travel agency business?”  Told him that we did not need to know since it came with staff of 12 people.

Now these are stories I can freely tell, can you imagine what my others story would be like. Are you sure you want five ?

Mary Ann:   These are sufficient, Liz.  Am still chuckling from envisioning the running shorts, or lack thereof, confession. If you could have dinner with anyone who ever lived, who would you invite, and what would you serve?

Liz : I would invite Margaret Thatcher. (Boooooooooooooo...Ed! ) When I was still working and trying to sell our latest ranges to big departmental stores in the 80’s , people would refer to me as ‘Maggie’. There could have not been a greater compliment. I would cook an East Prussian Dish ‘ Kohlrouladen’ Cabbage leaves, stuffed with meat, rolled together and cooked in the oven. I would serve it with a small portion of mashed potatoes. It is delicious and I am quite sure, she would have appreciated some simple home cooking.

Vegetable based German delicacy

Mary Ann  Oh dear, there is a time warp in Federation space, the Nexus will soon whisk you into its extra-dimensional realm.  As you are swept away, you will be able to bring with you 3 books, 2 CDs and 1 DVD.  What will you choose?

Liz:  I assume, wherever I am whisked  off  to, I would have plenty of time to read. In this case I would take ; 

The complete Works of William Shakespeare.  

Oscar Wilde : The importance of being earnest and other Plays

Brilliant Cerebus cycle featuring Sebastian Melmoth,
Wilde's post-gaol personae, an identity who refused to write for profit after
his treatment by the vicious homophobe and bully, the Marquis of Queensberry

Rabbit proof fence by Doris Pilkington.
CD: I would take songs by Hildegard Knef; many of her songs have real meanings and there is truth and conviction in her songs. Again, survival against all odds.

The other CD I would take is Ultimate Hits, by Garth Brooks. This would remind me of happy stays in the USA.

DVD: I would take the Erich Kaestner Collection.  Erich Kaestner was one of the banned authors during the Nazi regime.  Most of his children stories were made into film during the 50’s, and are loved by  most adults . They have an underlying message.

Mary Ann:  Elisabeth, we have run out of time on tonight's show, but I'd just like to say that I found all this fascinating and I am sure other's will too. The very best of luck to you!

Liz:  Mary Ann, thank you for the opportunity. It's been a pleasure.

Mary Ann: Wizardwatchers can contact Elisabeth on:


Mary Ann: Buy:

The Night I Danced With Rommel



Mary Ann can be contacted on her brilliant magazine style blog...



Mary Ann's wide range of historical fiction

Proper Star Trek...with Tribbles...

TJ Hooker - a smash hit in the UK


  1. Wizardwatchers - CLARIFICATION - I have not dressed up as Captain Kirk's wife - I am a Captain in my own right, having graduated from StarFleet Academy, and I have my school ring to prove it!!!

    That being said, oh, great wizard, I will obtain your coordinates and beam you to....


    Captain Mary Ann Bernal
    USS Intrepid

    1. Great interview with Elisabeth Marrion ... interesting insight into Elisabeth's book, especially loved the funny story about the lack of shorts! n x

  2. A BIG THANK YOU to Mary Ann Bernal and Wizard Cauldron.

    I so enjoyed my interview. And now everybody knows about my missing shorts, That is just spiffing X

  3. You're welcome Liz - we'll definitely have to have you back when your second book is released :-)

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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