Robert J. Mrazek is a former five term U.S. Congressman who authored laws
to protect the Tongass National Forest in Alaska and the Manassas Civil
War battlefield in Virginia. He also wrote the Amerasian Homecoming act,
which brought home the children of American military personnel from Vietnam,
and the National Film Preservation Act, which established the National
Film Registry in the Library of Congress.
Since his retirement from Congress, he has served on the
boards of numerous charitable organizations. He is a cofounder of the
Alaska Wilderness League and served as its chairman for ten years.
In 1999, his novel Stonewall’s Gold won the
Michael Shaara prize for the best Civil War novel of the year. In 2007,
his third novel, The Deadly Embrace, earned the W.Y. Boyd prize for excellence
in military fiction. His books have been published in fourteen countries
around the world.
Robert is the father of two grown children, daughter Susannah Rose Mrazek and son James Nicholas Mrazek. He resides in Ithaca, NY with his wife Carolyn and their two terribly spoiled cats.
BOB ON BECOMING A WRITER
Very few former members of Congress have ever decided to
become working novelists after leaving public life. In fact, I may be
the only one. Looking back on my life, I believe I was a writer who became
a politician, rather than a Congressman who eventually turned to writing
fiction as a second profession.
I’ve been writing stories since I was ten years old,
and enjoyed pursuing this craft all through college. In 1968, I had just
gotten out of the Navy after being placed on the disabled-retired list
following a training accident at Officer’s Candidate School. I had
spent two months in Newport Naval Hospital, sharing a ward with badly
wounded Marines who had been evacuated from Vietnam.
After seeing first hand the human cost of the war in Vietnam, I was deeply
disheartened, and decided to leave the country to attend the London Film
School. Within five months, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy
had been assassinated. Suddenly, my goal of writing fiction and making
films abroad seemed trivial compared to the convulsive upheaval that was
taking place at home.
My anger over the Vietnam War and its aftermath carried
me a long way in politics. Yet, during my seventeen years in elective
office, I never stopped writing. With four novels and one non-fiction
book now completed since leaving public life, I’m as proud of the awards that my books have
received as the legislation I authored in Congress.
One thing I never expected to confront after leaving Congress
was the idea that my son James would end up volunteering to fight in a
war that was in some ways similar to the one I volunteered for in May
1967. But that’s what happened. The writing phase of A Dawn
Like Thunder took place during the fifteen months that he was deployed
at a forward operating base south of Baghdad.
A Dawn Like Thunder is dedicated to him.