Before I stumbled onto "Hitler Stopped by Franco" while browsing Smashwords, I confess that I had never heard of Burt Boyar. Only a few pages into the free sample convinced me to return and buy the whole book. It was one of those "I couldn't put it down" experiences. As is my habit, I wrote a review giving high and genuine praise, and I made a list of a few typos and eBook formatting errors. From the front material I surmised that he had a publisher and editor, but I assumed he would want to see the little issues I thought I saw in the text. Since I've been in the habit of doing this, only one author has taken offense. So, I published the review on this blog and elsewhere, I found Burt Boyar's email address and sent him the review with the list of errata. Within minutes I got a reply thanking me warmly. His email signature gives his address and phone number and I noticed from the address that he lived only about forty miles from me which I mentioned when I replied to let him know he was welcome. He suggested that we should meet.
Now, as previously stated, I am a bit of a hermit, and going to West Los Angeles is to me tantamount to going to the moon, only worse. However, it happens that the young son of a friend has leukemia which has confined him to the Los Angeles Children's Hospital for months where he has been receiving copious doses of blood platelets. My wife—fondly known as Hurricane Sandy—and I wanted to donate blood on his behalf because if the blood is replaced, the family avoids having to pay for the transfusions. So with two reasons to make the painful crawl into the City of Angeles, I set a time for the meeting with Burt.
The Wilshire Boulevard address was obviously an exclusive neighborhood, but I failed to comprehend that the 'PH E' after the street number meant Penthouse East. In the elevator I began get nervous. When the doors slid open one of the most charming and gracious men we ever met greeted us.
In his lovely apartment, filled with books, orchids and memorabilia, we had a fascinating chat about Spain, publishing, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen Franco. Burt Boyar ghostwrote the autobiography of his friend, Sammy Davis, Jr., which became a bestseller. Foolish me, I had not known that I was entering the rarified air of celebrity.
Burt Boyar's other extraordinary access to priceless primary source material was having the daughter of the Spanish dictator, Generalísimo Francisco Franco, for a landlady. This remarkable coincidence gave him the opportunity to interview on an intimate level people who were present when Franco played his deadly cat and mouse game with Hitler. This, of course, is the story told in "Hitler Stopped by Franco".
He told us an anecdote that I can't resist sharing. He was with Carmen Franco when she was asked to sign a church register and give her Spanish national ID number. She signed and wrote the number three. The priest, who was accustomed to identification numbers containing eight digits, said, "No, señora, I'm afraid you must give the whole number." She said, "I did." As daughter of the man who ran the place for four decades, she was numero tres. You've gotta love Spain.
One amusing little incident that happened during our hour together: Hurricane Sandy got to flaunt her tech savvy by showing Burt how to use Siri to operate his Iphone. The woman upstages me wherever we go.
Burt did not rush us out the door at the end of an hour. The Hurricane had an appointment to get a haircut and we knew that at least an hour and a half of LA traffic stood before us. It was the most delightful hour I've passed in a great while, and as we left, I was further delighted when Burt gave me an autographed copy of each of his books. I plan to lock them in a glass case and download them as eBooks to read them. When we said goodbye he suggested that we stay in touch and I certainly intend to do so. Burt Boyar is a great writer and terrific person. I'm sure glad I took the time to write that review.