Here are Howard’s comments on his personal success of melding his own life experience into his novel The Mystery of Thunderbolt Mansion:
I could even see the end of my book, the five of us trudging uphill with thousands of other refugees, with all we owned on our backs or in our arms, heading for open country to sleep by night under falling ashes and to watch by day a sun swinging across the sky like a blood-red moon through the smoke. I even had my theme to lie hidden behind the story’s action: “Wealth does not always bring happiness.”
My story would be an attempt to dramatize a struggle with human values, material vs. spiritual. My family would learn the difference between false values, fleeting values and basic values. At the end we would hold fast to the old enduring values, with my family once more closely knit.
While the Baxters learned to come down to earth before catastrophe struck them, my own family as usual would have to learn the hard way. Later, to my surprise, I realized that my father’s aunt Mary had left me a delightful inheritance, my own favorite of my twenty-two books of fiction.