An Interview with Justice H. Baldenbrach
author of The Crystal Harmonica
January 20, 2003
Justice H. Baldenbrach is perhaps one of this country's most distinguished authors, and yet his work remains relatively unknown outside of a small critical audience. His latest novel, The Crystal Harmonica, recently won the prestigious Golden Frond Award from the Greater Hoboken Book Circle. Mr. Baldenbrach graciously granted this exclusive interview to your correspondent backstage at the London revival of his 1952 musical drama, No Hands On Deck.
The Crystal Harmonica is a story of a young immigrant girl from Czechoslovakia who comes to the United States to live with her aunt and uncle and is forced into an arranged marriage with her cousin. What kind of research did you do before you began writing her story?
Well, I was in the Bridgeport Public Library recently, leafing through a copy of Czechoslovakian Immigrant Girl Weekly from 1906, when I came across this poignant excerpt from a girl's diary detailing her voyage from Prague to Boston, and her subsequent marriage to her cousin, who turned out to be something of a half-wit, and I thought, My God, you know. That's where it all began.
So you adapted the story...
...copied the story directly from this young woman's diary?
Yes, yes, and very exciting copying it was. I had my special copying pencil and my little notebook, and I copied her diary word for word, except with neater handwriting.
So the details in The Crystal Harmonica are more or less identical to the contents of this diary?
Yes, except that I updated some of the more obscure historical colloquialisms, and I actually added the section at the end with the floating pyramid that sucks her into the heavens and transforms her into a magical star spirit. It was more effective than her original ending, which was, you know, death.
You're an extremely prolific author, with more than 70 titles to your credit. Can you discuss your earlier work, which is now out of print?
I started as a ghost-writer for the famous Feral Wolf Twins series for children by Hopper Lee Grace Sloan. I wrote The Feral Wolf Twins Go To The Country, The Feral Wolf Twins Go To School, and The Feral Wolf Twins and the Magic Tunnel To France, which I finished during the war.
Which war was this?
The Great War, the one with the Kaiser.
How old were you then?
To what do you attribute your extraordinary longevity?
Electricity. I consume it in the form of a pudding, which is prepared for me by secret means by my manservant, The Mystic One. I also wear special shoes.
What is your next project?
I recently acquired a soiled copy of a young Icelandic girl's diary that details her voyage from Reykjavik to Chicago and her subsequent marriage to her best friend's bicycle, which turns out to be a kind of half-wit bicycle. I have my special copying pencil and my little notebook ready.
Thank you very much.
I can also turn myself into a bat.
Yes, thank you.