The new edition of Dan Wakefield's classic, Under the Apple Tree, marks the 70th anniversary of WWII 

We caught up with him at the Red Key to hear about how the story began

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The waitress had just come over to check on us.

"Mr. Wakefield, is there anything else I can get you?"

He got another glass of cabernet before heading over to the "best jukebox in the world" to play some music from the 1940s. The airplanes above the Red Key bar were swaying overhead. When he returned, he pointed to a few as hailing from the same decade as the song playing.

We had been discussing the new edition of his book Under the Apple Tree, the story that is set on the home front of WWII. The main character, Artie, is a 10-year-old boy whose brother goes into the Marines. Artie stays home watching the love affair that commences when his brother's girlfriend finds another in his absence.

Wakefield remembers so vividly when the idea for the book came to him.

"I was living in Boston, and I was walking down Charles Street — the main street in my neighborhood," says Wakefield. "And in my mind I had this memory, a picture of me when I was a kid sitting on the porch at 61st and Winthrop. And I had a pair of binoculars and I was looking for enemy airplanes."

The porch he referred to has been made into apartments, and the 10-year-old boy with binoculars is now an 85-year-old New York Times bestseller at 83. He went on to explain what life was like in Indy during his childhood.

"I did in fact collect scrap metal and scrap paper and all that stuff," says Wakefield. "I was in the Boy Scouts ... I really thought that Indianapolis might be bombed. I thought that would just ruin morale for the whole country. I thought this was the most important place in the whole country.

"I later learned that Indianapolis manufactured the Norden bombsight."

click to enlarge Dan at the jukebox - MICHAEL THIERWECHTER
  • Dan at the jukebox
  • Michael Thierwechter

All of the headlines and facts in the book are true and have been carefully fact- checked by Wakefield.

He took another sip of wine and explained the memory that became the affair in the book.

"When my cousin — poor guy was called Junior all his life — and he was a very good-looking guy," says Wakefield. "Anyway he had a girlfriend before he left and my mother had met this girl. So after he goes off to the Air Force, my mother invited her to have dinner with us. And that was all fine. Then later — I don't know, maybe it was a year later — my mother came home one night and she was all upset because she had seen Joann at the Vogue with another man."

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Emily Taylor

Emily Taylor

Emily is the arts editor at NUVO, where she covers everything from visual art to comedy. In fact she is probably at a theater production right now. Before joining the ranks here, she worked for Indianapolis Monthly and Gannett. You can find her thoughts about Indy scattered throughout the NUVO arts section and... more

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