Shadow Knights by Gary Kamiya
Well, actually, it didn’t have a title when we first met at the Bel-Air Hotel in Los Angeles. But the idea of the book would be to tell the story of the courageous men and women who fought a secret war against the Nazi’s and Adolf Hitler. People like Noor Inayat Khan, Harry Ree, Claus Helberg, Winston Churchill, Hugh Dalton, Brigadier Colin Gubbins, Selwyn Jepson, Jens Poulsson, Knut Haugland, and many more.
All of these brave souls volunteered to serve as members of Winston Churchill’s SOE (an acronym for Special Operations Executive.) Some were well suited for the job, some were reluctant, and others were as unlikely as a butterfly. But all of these courageous individuals risked life and limb to undermine Adolf Hitler’s fascist regime, and some paid the ultimate price. At Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France, you will see monuments to the French resistance fighters that will make you weep and cry. This in part, is their story.
The scope of this project was important enough to travel, so I decided to take a trip to Paris. I left on June 15th, 2009. I wanted to see some of the real places where Noor Inayat Khan lived, fought and died for freedom. Gary Kamiya, the writer for Shadow Knights, gave me addresses; places like 40 rue Erlanger in Auteuil, where Noor first arrived, No. 3 Boulevard Richard Wallace, mostly occupied by SS officers, 98 Rue de la Faisanderie, where Noor was arrested, Avenue Foch, 82 and 84, where the Gestapo headquarters were, and finally, Fazal Manzil, the house in Suresnes where Noor grew up as a child.
It’s funny what happens when you chase a ghost. While visiting all of these places, I took 300 photographs, and tried to feel the spirit of Noor Inayat Khan. Feel it I did, so much so, that I had to play George Jones, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash on my head phones to keep the ghosts of war at bay.
But I did it and I’m glad that I did. I perused the first chapter for this project on October 12th, 2009, and sent the last illustration on May 28th, 2010. Visiting these places gave me the grit to stay focused on a project that would take seven and a half months to complete, to research thousands of photographs from the internet, books, and magazines, to shoot 567 photographs of models and myself, produce 22 photographic comps, many more sketches, 22 full page paintings, and 2 covers for this wonderfully exhausting project.
In the end, I give myself an A for effort, and a C+ for the work. But this project was one for the ages, and I’ll never forget it.
A special thanks to Owen Freeman for the 170 photographs he provided me from the Imperial War Museum in London, England, and to Paul Rogers for his outstanding typographic design on the covers of Shadow Knights, and Devil Dog. Also, thanks to the Art Center students who helped with this project, and to Kem Turner for her many, many poses as Noor Inayat Khan.
Shadow Knights hits the book stands in the first week of October, 2010.