My Great American Life-Sustaining Novel Influenced by the Film Ship of Fools Is Born

Of course, when one is in Columbus, Ohio, and is an Ohio native, one goes as The Ohio State University Buckeyes go!


Students walk the Oval on The Ohio State University campus in Columbus, Ohio, 1966.

When I decided to start my after-high school life in Columbus, I had a brother attending The Ohio State University, so I was assured of help to adjust to city life if I needed it.

Actually, I did, a few weeks into my first apartment. I had adopted a dog from an area rescue shelter, and he became unwelcomed, so to speak, where I lived in sort of an OSU student housing building off campus.

I bunked with brother and his wife for about a week until I found another, single apartment to move into. It was at 1 East Lane Avenue, at the northeast corner across from the north end of campus, close to where I had quickly found employment as a Clerk-Typist II at the OSU College of Education. The apartment, half of a duplex, has long since become the location for a gas station.

However, before I left the duplex, something very important happened in my writing life. There was a movie theatre just down the block from 1 East Lane Avenue. The theatre, too, is long gone. But it was easy to walk to the theatre, then, in 1966, and the price was right.

One evening, after work, I went to the theatre and became mesmerized by the German actor Oskar Werner in the 1965 film “Ship of Fools”. Also in the cast were Lee Marvin, Vivien Leigh, Simone Signoret, Jose Ferrer, Elizabeth Ashley, George Segal, all stars of the era. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards and was based on the book by the same name written by Katherine Anne Porter.

I walked home, under stars, with ships and doctors and captains and lovers on my mind. Pencil and paper, with my typewriter nearby, were at once in my hand when I arrived back at my apartment. I barely took time to let Mick relieve himself outside.


Mick, my Columbus companion, a ballplayer like his owner, enjoys time near Mirror Lake, his favorite water-fetching source at The Ohio State University.

In “Ship of Fools”, Werner plays the ship’s doctor on a German ocean liner. He has a life-threatening illness. His best friend is the ship’s captain, and the woman who becomes the doctor’s lover is an addicted Countess who boards with the fate of a deportee.

As my life-long sustaining, Great American novel was being born, influenced by the themes of “Ship of Fools”, I returned to see the movie night after night until it was no longer running at that theatre.

“Ship of Fools” had a number of other provoking storylines born of and important to the times — 1930s Nazi Germany — played out by the other stars. The entire story took place on board the ship, from boarding to debarkation at Boston Harbor.

My fascination, however, was with the doctor’s easy, legitimate friendship with the captain and his relationship (as a married man) with the Countess (Signoret.) The doctor had a wife and two teenage sons waiting for him in Boston.

I hadn’t arrived in Columbus with first-hand knowledge of married men taking lovers, even though, of course, it was already a world-wide practice. I was the farm girl daughter of a faithful family couple.

My erupting novel centered on a ship’s doctor and captain friendship, but my non-Countess woman became a lover of both men at different times, and my story began to evolve into espionage and double-crossing on dry land, as well. As time went on, I ran through the alphabet with it, from Venezuela to Boston, to murder and mayhem, from sky’s the limit to known villains, to surprise hero, enjoying every inventive moment.

And as time goes on, here, at “My Writing Life Xposed”, you’ll hear more about it, as well!


My apartment building in 1966 Columbus




About bahelberg1

Since I first touched a pencil to paper, I've been writing. Where that passion has taken me as I lived life is explored in my Primary blog, . I love animals, including race horses, about whom I have written much, and I've always had a dog in my life. Shouldn't animals have their say? In my Second Primary blog, , I give them a chance to speak. In the Composite blog , I explore my life's journey and observations. Other interests -- poetry, sports, photography, thankfulness, story ideas, self-publishing, story art, fiction, and more -- get their due in my other (17) blogs. I'm from a rural community in Ohio, lived nine years in Vermont, then returned to my native Henry County in 1980. I've worked for various local newspapers and attended classes in writing over the years before retiring to free-lancing in 2008. It was after my migration back to Ohio that I began BAT Publishing in earnest. It is strictly a self-publishing enterprise in that I publish my own works -- novels, novelettes, short stories with my Roughcraft Art -- in my own softcover, or loose-leaf notebook, designs. My photos and artwork are also incorporated in the books. Prior to this endeavor, I produced a periodic story booklet for young writers only entitled "Connections". Its success sparked my interest in self-publishing my own titles.
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