Check out a Q&A with the author... Code Name Edelweiss by Stephanie Landsem (Interview) #newbooks #booktwitter #suspense #books #christfic #christianfiction @tyndalehouse

Welcome! I've been looking forward to this release and hope to review it soon. In the
meantime, I'm sharing a Q&A with the author from the publisher. Read that below...

Code Name Edelweiss
By Stephanie Landsem
Christian Historical Fiction, Suspense
Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook & eBook, 423 Pages
March 7, 2023 by Tyndale House Publishers


“What I am looking for—what I desperately need, Mrs. Weiss—is a spy.”

Adolf Hitler is still a distant rumble on the horizon, but a Jewish spymaster and his courageous spies uncover a storm of Nazi terror in their own backyard.

In the summer of 1933, a man named Adolf Hitler is the new and powerful anti-Semitic chancellor of Germany. But in Los Angeles, no-nonsense secretary Liesl Weiss has concerns much closer to home. The Great Depression is tightening its grip and Liesl is the sole supporter of two children, an opinionated mother, and a troubled brother.

Leon Lewis is a Jewish lawyer who has watched Adolf Hitler’s rise to power—and the increase in anti-Semitism in America—with growing alarm. He believes Nazi agents are working to seize control of Hollywood, the greatest propaganda machine the world has ever known. The trouble is, authorities scoff at his dire warnings.

When Liesl loses her job at MGM, her only choice is to work with Leon Lewis and the mysterious Agent Thirteen to spy on her friends and neighbors in her German American community. What Leon Lewis and his spies find is more chilling—and more dangerous—than any of them suspected.

Code Name Edelweiss is based on a true story, unknown until recent years: How a lone Jewish lawyer and a handful of amateur spies discovered and foiled Adolf Hitler’s plan to take over Hollywood.

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Author Interview

Code Name Edelweiss is based on true events—what led you to explore Hitler’s
secret efforts to influence Hollywood?

I stumbled upon the story of Leon Lewis and his spy network when I was researching my last novel, In a Far-Off Land. As I read about Hitlerites infiltrating Hollywood and Nazis taking over German American groups in Los Angeles, I was incredulous. Why hadn’t I heard of this before? How could something like this happen in America? I knew I had to find out more and write about this unknown moment in history.

Why was Hollywood a target for Hitler? What do we know about his plans during the 1930s?

Adolf Hitler was a master at propaganda. He knew Hollywood films were the best way to reach not only the American people, but people throughout the world. If he could control them, he could sway public opinion toward his beliefs in a way that nothing else could. His plan was to infiltrate the Hollywood studio system with German Americans and Nazis— without Leon Lewis and his spies, he may have succeeded.

How did you go about researching this time and place in history?

Much of what we know about Leon Lewis and his spy operation is housed in the University of Southern California archives, so there were plenty of primary sources that were both a treasure of information and one of inspiration. I also credit an excellent book by Steven Ross, Hitler in Los Angeles, with telling this chilling and little-known story and as a treasure trove of details about the people involved.

What was Hollywood like during the Great Depression?

Hollywood was very much a land of the haves and the have-nots during the 1930s. While the majority of the population of Los Angeles and the rest of the country were struggling with rampant unemployment, hunger, and homelessness, the film executives and film stars of the era were flush with the kind of wealth that led to decadent lifestyles. While many of the have-nots loved to watch the films and dream of stardom, plenty of others were outraged and bitter at the social divide.

How did the German government control Hollywood filmmaking in the 1930s?

The German vice-consul to Los Angeles, Georg Gyssling, exerted immense control over the content of films produced by all the major Hollywood studios. He was referred to as “Hitler’s Hollywood Consul” and his task was clearly defined: to ensure that no films portrayed Jews or Jewish life in a positive way and that no films were critical of the German people or the Nazi government.

Tell us a little about your main character, Liesl. What challenges is she facing as the story opens?

Liesl is a single mother who is responsible for her aging mother and younger brother in the dark years of the Great Depression. As the story opens, she loses her job as a stenographer at MGM studios and is desperate to find a way to pay the rent and buy food for her family. She’s offered a job by Leon Lewis, a Jewish lawyer who claims Adolf Hitler’s Nazis are infiltrating the German American community. She agrees to work for Lewis although she doesn’t believe his preposterous notion. What she finds is shocking and far more dangerous than either she or Lewis expected.

Are any of the novel’s characters based on real people? How did you go about representing them faithfully and creatively?

Code Name Edelweiss is filled with real-life heroes and villains. Leon Lewis and his spies were real men and women who took a stand against evil and risked their lives to stop the spread of Naziism in America. The Nazis of the Friends of New Germany—Hermann Schwinn, his wife, Thekla, and the bookstore owner Paul Themlitz—were all-too real and posed a legitimate threat to the Jewish population of Los Angeles. The primary documents collected by Leon Lewis and preserved in the archives were a great help in both researching these real people and inspiring a creative approach to the story.

How was writing a spy story different from your previous work? Was it more challenging?

I read widely and that includes spy novels, so I was thrilled to try my hand at writing one. I found it was far more complicated and challenging than my previous books, but also a lot of fun! I especially enjoyed writing in a way that let the reader in on some secrets that neither Liesl nor Agent Thirteen knew. To see the characters figure out what the reader already knows is a satisfying part of reading this genre.

What did you learn from writing this fascinating story?

Over and over again, I was surprised by what Leon Lewis and his spies faced as they battled against anti-Semitism and the Nazi regime. The chilling accounts of plots against Jewish leaders and film stars, the propaganda spread by the Friends of New Germany, and the armed paramilitary groups were real and yet hard to believe. That such a vicious movement like Naziism almost gained ground in America—but for one man and his intrepid spies—is still hard for me to believe.

What is your hope for readers of Code Name Edelweiss?

Leon Lewis’s decades-long fight against the Nazi threat to Los Angeles is well-documented and yet virtually unknown. I am eager to show the world the heroes and heroines who saved Los Angeles—and America—from Hitler and his Nazi regime.

About the Author

Stephanie Landsem writes historical fiction for women, about women. She's traveled the world in real life and traveled through time in her research and imagination. As she's learned about women of the past, she's come to realize that these long-ago women were very much like us. They loved, dreamed, and made mistakes. They struggled, failed, and triumphed. She writes to honor their lives and to bring today's women hope and encouragement.

Stephanie makes her home in Minnesota with her husband, two cats and a dog, and frequent visits from her four adult children. Along with reading, writing, and research, she dreams about her next travel adventure—whether it be in person or on the page.

Do you enjoy historical novels like this one? What connected with you in the interview?

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