Exclusive Interview: “The Long March Home” Co-Authors Marcus Brotherton & Tosca Lee


In a war notable for its brutality, The Bataan Death March during World War II stands out as a particularly horrific event. In their new historical novel The Long March Home (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook), writers Marcus Brotherton and Tosca Lee tell the story of the march from the perspective of three best friends. In the following email interview, Marcus and Tosca discuss what inspired this story, as well as how they came to write it together.

Marcus Brotherton Tosca Lee The Long March Home

I know people have written whole books about it, but what was The Bataan Death March, and when and where did it happen?

Marcus: Ten hours after Pearl Harbor was attacked, December 7, 1941, the nation of Imperial Japan attacked the Philippines, which was then an American protectorate. Allied troops fought back for four and a half months, but they were outgunned and outmanned, plagued by tropical diseases and lack of food. Since most of the American fleet was destroyed at Pearl Harbor, there was no hope of getting replacements or resupplied.

At last the unthinkable order came. On April 9, 1942, approximately ten thousand American and sixty-two thousand Filipino soldiers laid down their arms on Bataan and became prisoners of war. Allied troops were rounded up and marched sixty miles up the Bataan Peninsula en route to prison camps.

Conditions on the march were atrocious. Imperial soldiers had been indoctrinated not to show mercy for enemy soldiers, particularly those who surrendered. If a man stepped out of line or paused to help a fallen friend, he was bayonetted or shot. Although the exact death count is difficult to determine, historians estimate some six to ten thousand men died on the Bataan Death March alone.

And then what is The Long March Home about, and when and where does it take place in relation to The Bataan Death March?

Tosca: Three best friends from Mobile, Alabama, must survive the march. The vow to all come home alive. Main character Jimmy Propfield is sustained by friendship with his friends Hank and Billy — and memories of Claire, the girl he loved and left behind at home.

Who came up with the idea for The Long March Home?

Marcus: I began the manuscript in 2010, and chipped away at it little by little. It was unfunded at the start, a passion project. After seven years, I had a good working manuscript that I sent to early readers. The feedback I got was good. But I wanted it to be great. This project honors the WWII veterans who were there, so I wanted it to be as perfect as it could be. I called my agent. He suggested I was too close to the canvas, and that I bring in a co-author to help take it further. That’s when I called Tosca.

Tosca: I added five years to the project, researching the war in the Philippines, adding to the story there, and building up the backstory (our novel has a dual timeline) of the friends’ youth together in Mobile, Alabama.

So, Marcus, did you set out to tell a story set during The Bataan Death March and The Long March Home is what you came up with, or did you have the story in mind first and then realize it would work well if set during The Bataan Death March?

Marcus: I wanted to give readers an immersive experience into that time period. So I started with the setting. The story was developed from there.

And when your agent suggested bringing in a co-author, what made you think of Tosca?

Marcus: I had read a number of her books over the years, and I loved her writing style. Tosca writes lyrically. She’s a strong researcher. And she has perfected the art of writing in layers, where a story could say more than one thing at the same time.

It sounds like The Long March Home is a work of historical fiction….

Tosca: Definitely. But inspired by true stories.

So, are there any writers, or specific stories, that you think had a big influence on The Long March Home but not on anything else you’ve written?

Marcus: I’ve written out long portions of Hemingway, just to let the words of a master craftsman flow through my fingers. I read everything Cormac McCarthy writes. I’ve studied the early Western short stories of Elmore Leonard, where he perfected writing with a pop and a sizzle. Though I wouldn’t say these influences solely went into The Long March Home and nothing else I’ve written. They emerge in many of my books.

Hollywood loves making movies about World War II. Do you think The Long March Home could work as a movie?

Marcus. Yes. Brian Grazer, please give me a call.

Tosca: Yes. Steven Spielberg, give me a call.

Uh, oh, I smell a bidding war brewing… Anyway, is there anything else you think people should know about The Long March Home?

Marcus: It’s received rare starred reviews from three distinct trade publications, which is almost unheard of. Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review, called the book a “tour de force.” Library Journal, in a starred review, called the book “A great read.” Booklist, in a starred review, called the book a “literary triumph.”

Tosca: It’s been such an honor to shine a light on these too-oft unsung heroes of the Philippines.

Marcus Brotherton Tosca Lee The Long March Home

Finally, if people enjoy The Long March Home, what book of each other’s would you suggest they check out?

Marcus: Check out Tosca’s The Legend of Sheba. It’s fantastic.

Tosca: Marcus’ A Bright And Blinding Sun, about real Bataan survivor Joe Johnson, who lied about his age and enlisted at 14 and was a POW in the Philippines at 15.



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