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Pilots as authors and vice versa

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Pilots as authors and vice versa

Old 20th May 2013, 12:13
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Pilots as authors and vice versa

Just got a book from the wife:
Ten Stories of Flyers and Flying by Roal Dahl. Mr. Dahl was a WWII pilot but is famous today for writing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach as well as other books.

I also have a collection of short stories from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who is famous for writing The Little Prince. He was also a pilot during WWII.

This got me thinking. Are there other "famous" authors out there who have a less-known past as aviators? If there is a field that gets people writing it's aviation, but I am asking about those authors who many of us know and love for their non-aviation works foremost and who may have flown some interesting missions in life.

I guess us pilots are just children at heart...considering that Roal and Antoine are both known for their childrens books.

Last edited by Trolle; 20th May 2013 at 12:13.
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Old 20th May 2013, 12:20
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Mightn't be a bad idea if you got the name right for a start.

His memoirs Boy and Going Solo are in a sense priceless.
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Old 20th May 2013, 15:06
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James Salter springs to mind. He flew the F-86 during the Korean War. For starters, read "The Hunters"..
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Old 20th May 2013, 21:24
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One of the best written books I ever read was 'Spirit of St Louis' by Charles Lindbergh

Last edited by longer ron; 20th May 2013 at 21:24.
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Old 20th May 2013, 22:55
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Mr E Gann comes to mind.
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Old 21st May 2013, 09:17
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Are there other "famous" authors out there who have a less-known past as aviators?
I don't think Charles Lindbergh or E.K.Gann fit into this category.
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Old 21st May 2013, 09:30
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Again, not someone with a lesser-known past as an aviator, but Brian Lecomber's 'Dead Weight' is a cracking thriller... Very much in the Dick Francis vein, and with the attraction that the flying elements of the book are not impossible works of a fiction author's mind, but very credible.

He also wrote 'Turn Killer' and 'Talk Down' which I enjoyed. I thnk it's rather a shame he hasn't written more...
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Old 21st May 2013, 09:46
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Richard Bach "Stranger To The Ground" about F-84,also wrote "Jonathan Liivingston Seagull" and "Gift of Wings".
Bert Stiles "Serenade To The Big Bird" flew B-17's and was killed in a P-51D.
Joseph Heller "Catch 22" served on B-25's in Corsica 340BG.

Agree Brian Lecomber's "Dead Weight" is a great read for aviation people, I was lucky to get my copy signed by him.

Last edited by T-21; 21st May 2013 at 09:49.
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Old 21st May 2013, 10:12
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Old 21st May 2013, 11:08
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David Beaty.
Wartime Coastal Command pilot (206 Sqn. Liberators) awarded 2 D.F.C.s. Flew for B.O.A.C post war.
Many aviation novels, "Cone of Silence" probably the best known, "Call me Captain" a very funny book about getting on the command course in civvy street.
He had been friendly with the Squadron medical officer and became interested in what made aircrew "tick". As a result he went on to write about what was then "pilot error", now human factors. He become a highly respected authority on the subject
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Old 21st May 2013, 11:11
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Stranger to the Ground - great book - nearly as good as Fate is the Hunter.
This is a really good book:
My secret war - Richard S. Drury - Google Books

Don's books are a good read also.

Last edited by albatross; 21st May 2013 at 11:14.
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Old 21st May 2013, 17:51
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Pilot Authors

Frederick Forsyth comes to my mind. 'The Shepherd' is a classic.

Last edited by Boyington; 21st May 2013 at 17:53.
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Old 21st May 2013, 17:52
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re: David Beaty, read his 'The wind off the sea' when I was 17 and trying to join the RAF as a pilot. I found it quite thought provoking and an influence both during my flying training - left/right conflicts, and later when conducting training myself - conscience and application of human factors (although in the '70s the term was unknown....to me at least!)
Re-read it a few months ago and found it still relevant.
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Old 21st May 2013, 20:52
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I also read 'Wind off the sea' just before joining - reinforced my wish to be a navigator and not a pilot, particularly as I'm left-handed but not for everything.Similarly the thought of being CO of a Thor missile station or even a lowly junior officer on one, filled me with dread. In fact our course commander at No2 ANS Gaydon had spent 5 years on a Thor unit before becoming a nav' instructor. Poor sod!
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Old 22nd May 2013, 11:36
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This is where some of the world's best airmen writers can be found -


The Westland test pilot, Harald Penrose, is in there with his 'Adventure with Fate'. Also his incomparably lyrical two works 'Airymouse' and 'Cloud Cuckooland'.

An example of
his style from the latter -

When there was opportunity I still sailed my small yacht, and the unhurrying sea gave seclusion from the fevered pageant men call progress. The wind's throb, and the smooth, unflagging lift and fall as the
bows crunched through the water sometimes reminded me of the gull-like, engineless flight I used to enjoy.
I would watch, with ghost of old longing, the sunlit wings of the seabirds serenely soaring the white cliffs of Dorset. It seemed that the great open expanse of the seas gave a different and more intimate sense of freedom than in the sun-white blaze of heights I achieved with powerful aeroplanes far above the filmy cloud puffs veiling the world of men. The oceans spoke of the globe's genesis and continuity; the heights echoed the eternity which has gone and the shadow of endless aeons that will come. With both there was the peace that many seek - free from the brazen blare that is civilisation's traversty of life. Yet always, when I descended from the heights, the unfolding world from which I had fled swiftly linked me once more with its intimacy, and I felt profoundly happy to walk the earth again and be among its people.

But the magic of a softly sighing sailplane can be greater than the immensities disclosed by a high-flying aeroplane, for it has much the same direct communion with the elements as a sailing ship. In the summer sky, the tide sailed by my open-cockpit glider had been time itself,
flowing with smooth continuity from the far world of yesterday to the almost visible coming of tomorrow. There was deep content in sailing the hilltops, beating to and fro, and sometimes lifting high on a bubble of rising air and setting course from one glowing cumulus to another. I seemed to be winging across seas of music, uplifted by the spirits delight.

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Old 22nd May 2013, 12:02
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Frederick Forsyth comes to my mind. 'The Shepherd' is a classic.
... recently had the privilege of chatting with FF in a club. Another National Service Vampire/Venom pilot, absolutely fascinating man to talk to.
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Old 22nd May 2013, 16:42
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I too have a copy of "Call me Captain", and I agree it is one of the best, and most enjoyable, books about civil aviation in the immediate post-war world.

Only thing is, my copy is by Paul Stanton, with an endpiece review by, among others, Douglas Bader.

The author's biography does sound very like David Beaty's though.
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Old 22nd May 2013, 19:13
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A must read for those interested in the early days of aviation in the North.

Bent Props & Blow Pots/Rex Terpening.

My Life In The North/Jack Lamb.
Jack once bought a DC-3 from Ariana Afghan Airlines in Kabul and ferried it to Winnipeg MB. The leg from Kabul to Teheran was with his wife as co-pilot. The fact she didn't have a pilot's license didn't stop him.

Both Wess McIntosh and the late Don McVicar tell the story of Ferry Command in WWII from personal experience. Don's books are out of print, but his daughter is beginning to re-release them in an electronic version. Don's daughter is on PPRuNe, I can't remember her handle.

Last edited by pigboat; 22nd May 2013 at 19:16.
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Old 22nd May 2013, 19:14
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Pikiwedia lists Call me Captain as one of Beaty's, but also lists Village of Stars as his, writing as Paul Stanton. If he wrote Call me Captain while still working for B.O.A.C. I can well imagine why he would have used a nom de plume.
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Old 22nd May 2013, 19:29
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Nobody has mentioned Gavin Lyall yet. Some of his earlier works have aviation themes in them but I find all of his books very enjoyable to read.
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