Meet Bruce Henderson
Q: What inspired you to write Rescue at Los Baños?
BH: Many people are familiar with the brutal treatment of U.S. military POWs in the Pacific during WWII by the Japanese, thanks in large measure to the bestselling book and film, Unbroken. We hear less about the plight of American civilians who happened to be living and working in the Philippines when war broke out. Within weeks of their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded the Philippines, and rounded up these innocents — men, women and children — and placed them in internment camps for the duration of the war. I wanted to tell this story because I thought it deserved to be told at last.
Q: Inside of this spectacular nonfiction story of the historical events that occurred during WWII of the Japanese War Camp where many were starved, beaten, and killed, you have captured the personal interviews, memoirs, and correspondence. What was it like going through each one of these and intertwining them into your book?
BH: I felt honored to be interviewing these members in good standing of the Greatest Generation, nearly all of them in their 90s. Many of them had gone through life without talking a lot about their wartime experiences, and doing so could be quite emotional for them. But to a person, they wanted their stories chronicled and not lost in history.
Q: As a best-selling and international best-selling author, what advice would give to other nonfiction writers waiting to achieve that dream of writing the best-selling book?
BH: Keep writing and keep dreaming. With a great story, a measure of talent developed through experience and exercise, and a ton of persistence and hard work, it can happen. That was my own path to success, and it’s the advice I’ve given many writing students over the years at USC School of Journalism and Stanford University.
Q: What is like being an award winning journalist? Where are some places where you have published your work?
BH: I suggest you check out my website (BruceHendersonBooks.com) re my other published books. As for winning awards and having previous bestsellers, that’s all great. Everyone likes kudos and success. But I am much more keenly interested in what I am working on today. In other words: What’s next? Any writer who rests on his or her laurels for more than a nanosecond won’t last long in this profession.
Q: For those young journalists out there what advice would you give them?
BH: See response to the above question.
Q: What inspires you to write books such as the Rescue at Los Baños, Hero Found: The Greatest POW Escape of the Vietnam War?
BH: I am inspired by people who, in the face of danger and adversity and from a position of weakness, display great courage and self-sacrifice for the greater good. That happened on both “sides” of the story I tell in Rescue at Los Baños: from both the internees being held prisoner and the military personnel who risked their lives to try to rescue them.
Q: Did you always know that you wanted to become a journalist and author?
BH: I worked for students newspapers in high school. After military service during Vietnam, I return to college on the G.I. Bill, taking lots of journalism and history courses. I became a newspaper reporter at age 22, and haven’t stopped reporting and writing since.
Q: Can you tell us readers a little bit about your number one best-seller, And the Sea Will Tell? “Grips you by the throat from beginning to end.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
BH: Alone with her new husband on a tiny Pacific atoll, a young woman, combing the beach, finds an odd aluminum container washed up out of the lagoon, and beside it on the sand something glitters: a gold tooth in a scorched human skull. The investigation that follows uncovers an extraordinarily complex and puzzling true-crime story. I co-authored this book with Vincent Bugliosi, who had recounted the successful prosecution of mass murderer Charles Manson in the bestseller Helter Skelter. We were able to draw together hundreds of conflicting details of the mystery, and reconstruct what really happened when four people found hell in a tropical paradise. And the Sea Will Tell reconstructed the events of this riveting true-murder mystery. And the Sea Will Tell was only my second hardcover book, and it went #1 on the New York Times bestseller list — a heady experience, indeed. It was also the basis of a highly-rated four-hour CBS miniseries starring Rachel Ward and Richard Crenna.
Q: What would say was the most powerful thing that you found out about the WWII Japanese War Camps while doing your research?
BH: In the Philippines, there was at least one mass execution of U.S. military POWs forced into a wooden bunker which was then saturated with gasoline and set ablaze. This was done when the Japanese thought the prisoners were about to be freed. At Los Baños, the situation involved the purposeful withholding of food, which caused more than 2,000 people to suffer mightily and unnecessarily, with many starving to death before they could be rescued. That — and other things that went on in and around the camp — were later judged to be war crimes.
Q: What’s like balancing both jobs as a journalist and author?
BH: I have been a full-time book author since the mid-1980s.
Q: What are your other hobbies beside writing?
BH: Travelling to first-world cities and countries, among them New York and London, France and Italy. I am an inveterate cocktailer and foodie, and am always on the lookout for dark bars and fabulous restaurants.
Q: Where can readers find you and your books online?
BH: My website is BruceHendersonBooks.com, which has a complete list of all my books, with additional information — including buying options — about each one. Also, photographs, maps, etc. My Facebook author page is BruceHendersonBooks.