By Sheila Pursglove
Attorney Steven Mercatante, who has a passion for history and World War II, explores a fascinating premise in his new book, "Why Germany Nearly Won: A New History of the Second World War in Europe."
According to Mercatante, Germany came far closer to winning the war than has previously been recognized - and Hitler, through his invasion of the Soviet Union, came within a whisker of cementing a European-based empire that would have allowed the Third Reich to challenge the Anglo-American alliance.
This is not Mercatante's first foray into writing about World War II - "In sixth-grade, I won a young author's award for my book about a B-17 bomber crew fighting over Europe in the Second World War."
History has always held an appeal for this tax attorney, the owner and founder of TIR Consulting LLC in Brighton.
"It was really a combination of exposure to different people and things that came together all around the same age," he says.
His grandfather, a sergeant in the U.S. Army who served in the Philippines during WWII, gave Mercatante his medals and memorabilia. Mercatante's father, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Korea in the early 1960s, gave him similar memorabilia; and his great uncle was a Korean War U.S. Army veteran.
Mercatante read history books at a young age, including old WWII Bantam Paperback series he found at a local used bookstore, and he also loved to draw planes, tanks, and ships.
"I was hooked," he says. "I think history is absolutely fascinating."
He continued to study World War II, reading thousands of books, articles and other documents. Beginning in the 1990s he tracked the wealth of new documentation and information that emerged from Russian archives following the fall of the Soviet Union, and disagreed with the conventional wisdom that had evolved over time - one that seemed to place more of an emphasis on quantitative measures as key to deciding the war and not what his research had discovered - that qualitative elements would prove crucial to determining the war's outcome.
His interest in the war led to an interest in all things international - and after earning his undergrad degree from the University of Michigan, he chose Michigan State University College of Law because of its an international law program.
Between his first and second year, Mercatante worked for British international law firm Allen & Overy in their Rome, Italy office, gaining exposure to practice areas associated with conducting international business transactions such as securities, contracts, and mergers & acquisitions.
"I met a lot of interesting people and when I revealed that I'd been debating about writing a book even though the time commitments of law school were so great - they helped encourage me to push myself and do it," he says.
Returning to Michigan, he used the resources of the MSU and U of M libraries and collections to actively test and research his thesis for explaining the outcome of the war in Europe.
"The more I looked for evidence to disprove my theories, the more I realized I was on to something - and research turned to writing," he says.
During his third year of law school Mercatante clerked at a small local firm that specialized in probate matters. But when that didn't hold his interest, he moved on to a small firm in Detroit specializing in corporate matters before landing a job as an in-house attorney at a company in Ann Arbor that handled tax issues. He then launched his own business, where he specializes in international, federal, state, and local tax compliance matters.
Through all this time, he worked on his manuscript, submitted it to several publishers and in 2010 signed a contract with ABC-CLIO's Praeger imprint that led to the book's publication. It is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major retailers.
"The book has already generated quite a bit of buzz," Mercatante says.
Several international publishers are currently looking at the book, including from Italy, Norway, Sweden, and the U.K. The Economist recently asked to see a copy, as have scholarly journals including those published by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, The Journal of Military History, The Quarterly Journal of Military History, German Studies Review, and the Michigan War Studies Review.
Mercatante, whose website globeatwar.com draws hundreds of daily visitors, also has to date received numerous endorsements from military historians internationally recognized for their own work regarding World War II.
"I hope my book - written to be accessible or of interest to a wide range of people, from laypersons to professional historians - will positively contribute to what we know about World War II and leave readers with better insight into why the war in Europe ended as it did," he says.
Barnes & Noble, at 17111 Haggerty Rd. in Northville, will host a book launch party/signing from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, March 3 - complete with local World War II re-enactors, a raffle, and a brief presentation by Mercatante.
Published: Thu, Feb 23, 2012