We Love Your Books About Saints, Louis.
January 24th of this year would have been the 113th birthday of Catholic novelist, Louis de Wohl. Since he’s not here to celebrate, we’re going to do it for him. Why make a big deal about 113? Well…everybody else already does centenaries. Maybe we’ll start a new trend!
Louis de Wohl is an interesting fellow to think about any day of the year. His successful career in Catholic novels didn’t begin until he had completed 30-plus other novels, seen sixteen of those books turned into films and served as a World War II British intelligence operative.
From banker to book writer
Louis de Wohl was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1903. When he was seventeen, his mother steered him toward an apprenticeship with a banker. Fortunately, for the reading public, Louis was dismissed from his apprenticeship at 21. His natural talents soon brought him success as a writer who would go on to publish the aforementioned 30-plus novels in Germany before his distaste for Adolf Hitler inspired a move to England.
As a successful author, Louis wasn’t a cash-strapped émigré, but he still had difficulties, “I had built up a career as a writer in Germany…in England—to say nothing of the United States—I was totally unknown. What was worse, my English was only just good enough to get on in everyday life. It would take years before I could hope to write in English.”
After five years spent studying everything from children’s storybooks, to student textbooks, to popular fiction, newspapers, magazines, plays and poetry, de Wohl felt that he was finally ready to write in English. He reached that goal just as the conflict that would become World War II broke out.
From book writer to British operative
The foreign-born de Wohl found the British military less than enthusiastic about signing him on as a volunteer, “I was so angry that I decided…as they would not have me as a simple soldier, they would have me as an officer. For this I needed an idea. I looked for it, found it, and went into action.”
Within months, de Wohl was a captain with the Department of Psychological Warfare, using astrology—an important strategic tool for Hitler—to help thwart the plans of the infamous Third Reich.
Being stationed in London, air raids became a way of life for de Wohl. It was during that period, when the possibility of death loomed large, that this lifelong Catholic felt his lackluster faith being transformed, “I remembered the parable of the talents. What had I done with the talents God had given me? I had written ‘successful’ books, but to what was that success due? All my books were adventure stories, thrillers. People read them in trains or when they were too tired to read something really good. And they were written for just that purpose. They were not written in the service of God.”
A Catholic novelist is born
As he wrestled with his thoughts, de Wohl remembered how people were moved by what he called the “dynamic charlatanism” of Adolf Hitler. Louis saw in that a direct connection to the tradition of inspiring people through the dynamic truth found in the lives of the saints, “I began to read books about the saints…most of them were written by devout people—mostly priests and nuns—for devout people. I could not imagine that anyone living at the outer fringe of the faith, to say nothing of a non-religious person, would read them.”
And so, Louis de Wohl had his mission before him, “I had read enough…to know [the saints] were the most thrilling, the most interesting, the most courageous and even the most glamorous people of all. I decided to write historical novels whose heroes and heroines were saints.”
And write them he did—exciting, intriguing page-turners that are hard to put down once you’ve opened one. They’ve come back into print in recent years and you can get them right here at Aquinas & More. As is customary when celebrating an author’s 113th birthday, we’re offering Louis de Wohl’s books at a 20% discount through January 31st. (We are also offering all books in our literature department at 20% off).