Discussion Guide for Trial and Tribulation

Trial and Tribulation—‘T&T’—continues to follow the wartime careers of Johnnie and Eleanor Shaux, now in the year 1943.

The Dynamics and Morality of Bombing

One of T&T’s themes is the morality of the bombing campaign.

A B17 survives a direct hit

A neighborhood in Hamburg does not
Suppose you had been a senior USAAF General or RAF Air Marshall in charge of the Allied bombing campaigns over Europe in 1943. You know that every time you send a fleet of bombers off to Germany, on average 5% will not come back, and, typically, 150 to 200 airmen in die. You know that the average crew and aircraft will only survive 10 missions. You know that far less than 1% of the bombs dropped on Germany will hit their targets. You know that almost all the people who die on the ground will be civilians.

Q: Will you keep sending off the missions? Why or why not?

The Anglo-American Alliance

T&T traces the evolution of the Anglo-American alliance in 1943. It is widely assumed (and historically accurate) that Britain could not have won World War Two without the USA.

But here is a seldom-asked question: could the USA have won without Britain? Why or why not?

Roosevelt and Churchill in Casablanca, 1943

Fact and Fiction

This series mixes actual and imaginary events and characters. Here’s a quick test: which of these is historically true and which are imaginary? (No Googling or looking at the Author’s Notes, just use your judgment!)

1. A pilot named ‘Eric Winkle Brown’ landing a Mosquito—which stalls at 110 mph—on an aircraft carrier with a maximum landing speed of 80 mph?
2. The top-secret detailed plans for D-Day being found by an office cleaner?
3. Mosquitos dropping bombs that could bounce on water?
4. An RAF bomber station named ‘RAF Spitalgate?’
5. In contemplating the horrors of intensive bombing, did Churchill ask: ‘Are we savages?’

Answers at the end.

The Protagonists


Eleanor returns to her role as a confidential intermediary planning Allied conferences and coordinating Allied strategies. She has become, without wishing it, something of a role model for women entering traditional male domains. She performs none of the stereotypical roles that society traditionally assigned to women. She is living in a time only 20 years after women were finally allowed to vote—but only when they were over 30 years old; 30 years before the Civil Rights Act and all its equivalents around the democratic world; and 30 years before Golda Meir proved she didn’t have to be able to type to hold a job.

Golda Meir led Israel to a decisive victory in the Yom Kippur War

Imagine you are a woman working in NATO Headquarters in Brussels today. In what ways have women’s workplace conditions improved since Eleanor’s day, and in what ways do women still struggle with the same issues?


Johnnie has moved from flying fighters to flying bombers. He has been in almost continuous combat for 4 years.
If you were Johnnie’s commanding officer, would you keep him in combat or ground him permanently? Why or why not?


T&T is dedicated to ‘two very special dogs, Charlie and Remy,’ and one of the main characters in the story is a Belgian Bouvier named Charlie. (In real life the author lost a wonderful 15-year-old King Charles Cavalier named Charlie while he was writing this novel, and a close friend’s Bouvier named Remy Martin is the inspiration for the character ‘Charlie’ in the book. Rem’s birthday, by happy coincidence, is June 6th, D-Day.
John concedes that Remy has a larger tongue but insists that his own nose and ears are bigger than Remy’s. Do you agree?)

In T&T, is ‘Charlie’ a protagonist in his own right or just a literary device?

If he is a protagonist, how?

Series trivia question: Why does Charlie wear a white silk scarf?

Answers to Trivia Questions

The 5 historical facts are all true, although Churchill is reported to have said ‘beasts’ rather than ‘savages.’

Charlie’s scarf belong to his second owner, Froggie Potter, who was killed on Battle of Britain Day. September 15th, 1940, in ‘Infinite Stakes.’ Potter is fictional.

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