A Q&A with Adam Makos

May 16, 2024


Adam Makos answers some of our questions about A Higher Call—and other books—in our latest author Q&A.

HigherCall.jpgDecember, 1943: A badly damaged American bomber struggles to fly over wartime Germany. At the controls is twenty-one-year-old Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown. Half his crew lay wounded or dead on this, their first mission. Suddenly, a Messerschmitt fighter pulls up on the bomber’s tail. The pilot is German ace Franz Stigler—and he can destroy the young American crew with the squeeze of a trigger...

What happened next would defy imagination and later be called “the most incredible encounter between enemies in World War II.”

The U.S. 8th Air Force would later classify what happened between them as “top secret.” It was an act that Franz could never mention for fear of facing a firing squad. It was the encounter that would haunt both Charlie and Franz for forty years until, as old men, they would search the world for each other, a last mission that could change their lives forever.

This is the story Adam Makos relays in his book, A Higher Call. Adam recently took some time to to sign some bookplates and answer some of our questions about the book. If you order a copy by June 1st, you'll receive a signed bookplate copy of the book before Father's Day.


Porchlight Book Company: Writing a book is no small undertaking. What compelled you to write this one? 

Adam Makos: Writing A Higher Call, was, to me, about doing justice to a story that had to be told. Here was this incredible event that happened long ago, an encounter between enemies that was so remarkable it sounded like fiction: a German fighter pilot decided to spare a wounded American bomber, and escorted it to safety, then decades later the American pilot searched the world for the German who saved his life, and found him, and they became fishing buddies. It was almost too good to be true. But it really happened and to see a story like that vanish to time with the passing of the participants would be a tragedy.  

So, I got on a plane back in 2003 and flew to Vancouver and then to Miami to begin interviewing Franz Stigler and Charlie Brown, the heroes at the center of the story. Sometimes you go into writing a book not knowing how hard it would be, but being driven by the power of the story. 

PBC: Writing (and reading) always prompts as many new questions as it offers answers. What is one unanswered question you encountered as you wrote the book that you are most interested in answering? 

AM: Most war books over the past 80 years haven’t gone deep enough into exploring the indelicate aspects of WWII in Europe, namely: Were there good Germans on the other side? And how do good people get caught up in an evil war of aggression? When I first met Franz Stigler, he was the first German I had ever interviewed. I had purposely steered away from them as a young journalist because I saw them as universally evil, the guys who brought nothing but misery to the world. I didn’t realize that sometimes even the bad guys can be victims. Franz was born at the wrong time and the wrong place in history. He was just a kid when Hitler came to power and he had no say in the actions of his country. He would, however, have to pay its cost, and that meant fighting when he didn’t want to fight and losing his father, his brother, and many friends to a war he never asked for or wanted. 

When I started writing the book, I wondered if a good man could be found on the wrong side of a war and the answer I came away with was emphatically “yes.” Stigler’s actions that form the basis of the story, and his act of chivalry in sparing Charlie Brown, and his ensuing friendship with his enemy speak volumes. He was a good man. 

PBC: If there is only one thing a reader takes away from reading this book, what would you hope it to be?  

AM: I hope that by seeing both sides of the same battle through the eyes of Franz and Charlie, the reader will come away changed, having seen World War II in an entirely new light. When you root for both protagonists to survive, and you realize they’re on opposite sides, it represents the true human cost of war. For this reason, this is a story packed with emotion. I wasn’t expecting that when I started, but when you see World War III from both sides, it hits you in a different way. 

PBC: One of the great things about books is that they tend to lead readers to other books. What other books related to this topic would you recommend people read after (or perhaps even before) reading your book?  

AM: After reading A Higher Call, I have a shameless recommendation: a reader should check out my subsequent book, Spearhead. Spearhead is again about two enemies who faced each other in World War II, only this time it’s Clarence and Gustav and this time they were two men who faced each other in tanks. I never thought lightning would strike twice, and that it would be possible to find two men, more than 70 years later, who had faced each other on some forgotten battlefield. But when I first went to interview Clarence Smoyer in Allentown, Pennsylvania about his remarkable story as an American tank gunner, he surprised me by pulling out a letter and saying “By the way, I’m in touch with the German I fought against. He wants to meet me and I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it but I’d like to try.” Several months later, Clarence and I were on a plane to Cologne, Germany, where I’d stand in front of a massive magnificent cathedral with my tape recorder and my camera and watch as Clarence and Gustav approached each other, shook hands, hugged and began to put the war behind them. Lightning can strike twice.  

PBC: What is your personal favorite book? 

AM: My personal favorite book that I’ll go to many times for inspiration is called Going Solo by Roald Dahl. Not many people know that the famous children’s author was a British fighter pilot in World War II, and he tells the story in the same cheerful tone as his children’s books. 

PBC: What are you reading now? 

AM: At the moment I’m immersed in World War II nonfiction, once again. With events that big and impactful, I always go for the true stories. 

PBC: Do you have any future projects in the works that we can look forward to?   

AM: I’ve been led to an incredible story about an American bomber crew that crash-landed on the estate of a princess, set during WWII in Europe, and it’s another true story that sounds too good to be possible. I’m aiming to have the book done and on shelves in 2026. Let’s just say lightning may have struck again—for a third time! 

About the Author

Hailed as “a masterful storyteller” by the Associated PressAdam Makos is the author of the New York Times bestsellers A Higher CallSpearhead, and Devotion, the subject of the major motion picture. Inspired by his grandfathers’ service, Makos chronicles the stories of American veterans in his trademark fusion of intense human drama and fast-paced military action, securing his place “in the top ranks of military writers,” according to the Los Angeles Times. In the course of his research, Makos has flown a World War II bomber, accompanied a Special Forces raid in Iraq, and journeyed into North Korea in search of an MIA American airman.  

We have updated our privacy policy. Click here to read our full policy.