Basil Trustcott, 70, is originally from Baltimore and currently lives in Connecticut. He said that Jewish Baltimore set the template for his life. He calls himself a product of his Jewish family, neighborhoods and synagogue.
Truscott is the pseudonym for the author of “Baltimore Logic,” a historical/techno espionage thriller set in Baltimore between 1939-1941. He even used the JT’s archives to conduct research for this new book.
What drew you to write?
“Baltimore Logic” is my first novel. The passing of my father in 2015 moved me to create an enduring expression of gratitude both to him and to his older brother, who predeceased him in 1975. Both men grew up, were educated and practiced law together in the City of Baltimore. These two intensely serious and hard men taught me to value courage above all things and appreciate the humor and irony of daily life.
I am presently researching my sequel to “Baltimore Logic.” I enjoy writing historical fiction/techno-thriller novels because it affords me the opportunity to tell my story the way that I want to tell it, unencumbered by strictures of managers, co-workers and clients. Having sold automobiles, worked in the legal departments of two major U.S. corporations, provided economic consulting services to firms in the defense and aerospace industry and taught economics and history in a public high school in Connecticut, this newfound freedom to create refreshes my soul.
What did your research into the JT’s archives do to help with writing “Baltimore Logic”?
I spent days scouring the table of contents from each edition of the Baltimore Jewish Times from the 1939-1941 timeframe for background articles about the Baltimore Jewish community. I immersed myself in stories regarding the activities and members of our community’s religious, secular, academic, social, cultural and economic institutions during that era. From this background research, key characters emerged, as well as what I discerned as the Baltimore Jewish community’s diverse, complex and nuanced perspectives and attitudes regarding America and the world at that time.
What parts of Baltimore can readers recognize in your thriller?
“Baltimore Logic” chronicles the saga of Martin Victor, who is a Jewish teacher of history at Baltimore City College High School, a night school student at the University of Maryland School of Law and a U.S. Naval Reserve officer. In September of 1939, he is drafted into a uniquely diverse counterintelligence unit composed of FBI, Office of Naval Intelligence and Baltimore City Police Department personnel. Tasked with protecting local aerospace and electronics enterprises (e.g. Bendix Radio Division of Bendix Corporation and Glenn L. Martin Company) from sophisticated and highly motivated Axis spies, Martin and his colleagues play a complex zero-sum game of espionage within Baltimore’s pressure-cooker context of ethnic, religious and racial communities. Heroic (in a classical Greek sense) and poignant, this novel is a paen to pre-World War II Baltimore. As such, “Baltimore Logic” explores just about every neighborhood and discrete community in the Baltimore metropolitan area from the Patapsco River in the south to Roland Park, Towson and Garrison in the north to Patterson Park, Essex, Middle River in the east and Lafayette Square in the west.
What is your favorite story of your own?
As “Baltimore Logic” is the first fictional work I have ever written, I would have to “Baltimore Logic.” While I revel in every page of my novel, my favorite theme within the work is that every character matters. I devoted considerable effort crafting each character and the role that they play in the ever-expanding espionage universe. Regardless of their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, level of academic attainment, career path or economic status, the reader will understand each character’s motivation for his or her deeds. In this sense, every character is treated with dignity and respect.
What is your favorite work that you have read?
“The Crossing” by Cormac McCarthy. Technically, McCarthy’s command of words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters is dauntingly perfect. In terms of emotion, I wept as I finished “The Crossing” while landing at JFK airport on my way home from Brussels. McCarthy simply crushed me with his unblinking portrayal of mortality.