Douglas Cavanaugh is an American expat who grew up in the state of Iowa. After several trips abroad in the early 1990s, he arrived in Croatia in 1996, not long after the country’s Homeland War had ended, and just after the final shots in the neighboring country of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been fired.
It was his first memories of Croatia’s war-ravaged countryside that inspired the background for Douglas’s novel, Into Hell’s Fire. During his initial tour, he quickly realized that it was one thing to imagine such destruction while reading about it in newspapers and magazines or viewing it on television, but it was quite another to witness it firsthand. He was struck by the fact that everyone there seemed to be affected in one way or another, whether physically, mentally, or economically. Subsequent visits to Sarajevo and Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed his decision to set the novel in this emotionally charged atmosphere.
Douglas’s daily contact with many combat-hardened veterans and happy-to-be-alive civilians brought to light other ramifications of war that might have otherwise remained unrealized. “By the end of that decade,” he remarked in an interview, “post-traumatic stress syndrome in Croatia was epidemic. Many people I knew well had immediate family members who had been killed. Countless others had been separated from their families and friends who had relocated to other parts of the world as refugees. That sort of forced separation can be brutal on an individual. And more than a few people told me how they had lost everything they owned, and how it all seemed to have happened overnight.”
Thankfully, a state of normalcy has returned to Croatia in recent years, though its economy is still on the rebound. Time seems to have healed most of the other wounds. “I was quite naïve as to how the world really works when I first came here. Living abroad has been a fantastic, eye-opening experience for me that I would recommend to anyone who is contemplating it. A word of caution though – it’s not for everyone,” Douglas noted.
Douglas has lived in Croatia for more than seventeen years. He enjoys the outdoors and all the activities Croatia’s wonderful nature provides, such as fly-fishing, mushroom hunting, hiking, and weekend island getaways. He is a gardener, has recently started a fruit tree orchard, and is helping to renovate an old farmstead.