The only woman ever to have served as a French Foreign Legionnaire.
Susan soon warmed to the idea of writing a book about her life, in particular revealing her secret love affair with her French Foreign Legion boss, General Koenig. The first task was to find a writer. I didn’t want to attempt it myself because, frankly, I wasn’t remotely good enough to do her story justice. This was a woman’s story and it needed a woman’s touch and understanding. After a couple of failed attempts to find the right author, with the help of our Los Angeles literary agency, we finally found Wendy Holden. I gave Wendy a teaser over the phone and, eager to know the rest of the story she travelled to Paris to meet me. Wendy agreed there and then to write the book with Susan and I introduced them to each other.
A few months later Wendy produced the first chapter and our agent used it to set about finding publishers around the world. We had no problem getting interest in the book and it was eventually picked up by more than a dozen territories. The book is called Tomorrow To Be Brave by Susan Travers and Wendy Holden.
After the book was published I visited Susan on several occasions. I always arrived in time to take her to lunch because Susan thoroughly enjoyed a glass of champagne and foie gras de canard which was not available at the nursing home. One day I arrived there was an ambulance outside. I went up to her apartment to find her being attended to by a medic. She’d had a heart attack. She was conscious and quite aware. The medic gave me a look and shook his head as if to say she wasn’t going to make it. They wheeled her downstairs and into the ambulance. Susan was her usual stoic self and we said goodbye to each other as if for the last time. She’d told me more than once over the years that she was tired of living and was quite happy to die. I believed I’d never see her again.
Susan was to be disappointed that day, as far as dying was concerned, because she was soon back in her apartment, cleared to continue living as normal. She was a lot weaker though and the head nurse told me I would not be able to take her out to lunch anymore. The next time I arrived she was sleeping and I left without seeing her.
The last time I saw Susan was in hospital. She’d been transferred to a ward after another heart attack. I brought her flowers and we chatted for a bit. After so many years of getting to know her, when talking about her life, I came to recognise a particular sadness that often came over her. I put it down to nostalgia but I don’t think it was. Years later I got to spend some time with one of her sons, Tom, and after hearing his particular take on aspects of her life I think I understood the meaning behind those sad looks. I don’t believe she had the happiest of years after the war for reasons that were complex and quite personal.
She hung onto life for another year after our last meeting. I kept meaning to see her again but Paris was a long way to go for what would have been a brief visit and she was very frail. I learned of her death from Wendy Holden. Much to Susan’s consternation, she had made it to 94.
The day that Susan agreed to write the book I told her I wanted to make an epic movie of her war story and love affair. I was disappointed I had not achieved that before she died. It certainly isn’t easy getting a movie made, no matter how great a story it is.
I can report that I recently signed a deal with a huge Hollywood player to make Susan’s movie. But agreeing to make it and actually getting it on the silver screen are not the same thing. Fingers crossed.