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Airdrie author combines fact and fiction to write World War II spy thriller

A debut novelist from Airdrie has utilized her primary research skills to craft a story that combines fictional characters with historical Second World War accuracy.
Jensen-based writer Elizabeth Gordanier recently published her first novel, titled Family Love and Betrayal.

A debut novelist from Airdrie has utilized her primary research skills to craft a story that combines fictional characters with historical World War II accuracy.

Elizabeth Gordanier, a Jensen-based author, recently published her first novel – Family Love and Betrayal. The 212-page book, which is the first in a trilogy, is set in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam during the Second World War.

According to Gordanier, the plot follows the story of Helga, a young Dutch woman who is forced to work in the Amsterdam Central Registry for the Nazis, due to her multi-lingual skills. While working there, Helga becomes curious about a secret room, and strives to find out what is happening behind the closed door. After being promoted, she uses her knowledge of the inner workings of the registry to undermine the Nazi regime.

Gordanier said while the plot and characters are fictitious, the story contains plenty of historical accuracy.

“I’ve always had an interest in history because my dad was a history buff,” she said. “He always taught me that when you read a book, you should research the facts, and that’s what I started doing.”

As an example of the story’s historical accuracy, Gordanier explained the Amsterdam Central Registry was a real place, where residents and refugees had to apply for identification cards that outlined their name, age, religion, occupation, and other personal details, as a way for the Nazis to keep tabs on people. 

Gordanier said she conducted months of primary research before she began the writing process, studying historical archives from museums in the Netherlands, Germany and other places.

“It’s a lot of neat digging,” she said, adding her primary research skills were honed by working at the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for two years.

“I got a hold of the archives and museums in Amsterdam. I could translate the information and find out more and more. I’d dig into the Nazi stuff, get into [Heinrich Himmler’s] documents and I’d be piecing it together, going, ‘My gosh, that’s a good story.’”

After spending eight months conducting research, the writing and editing process for Family Love and Betrayal took approximately four months, according to Gordanier. She said the hardest part of writing her novel was piecing together all of her research and getting it all onto the page.

“It’s easy getting the research,” she said. “Some people may find that hard, but I had piles of research. It was just fine-tuning everything.”

The sequel to Gordanier’s first novel is called Love and Betrayal, while the third is called Betrayal From Within. According to Gordanier, the two follow-up novels continue the story of Helga, and will follow the theme of containing historical fact to support the fictitious tale.

Without giving up too much away in terms of plot, Gordanier said her second novel features espionage involving the Soviet KGB in East Berlin, while the third is set in the future, after Helga has had a daughter and immigrated to the United States.

“I want people to get a sense of what really happened,” she said. “It can be sugar-coated, but I don’t work that way. To me, [historical accuracy] brings the character and the timeframe to life, so people can get a taste of what really happened.”

Those interested in reading Family Love and Betrayal can find the book on Amazon. Gordanier said people can also email her personally to get a hold of the book at

She said the second novel’s release date is slated for November or December 2021.

Scott Strasser,
Follow me on Twitter @scottstrasser19