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October 30, 2005 - The War with the Blank Page

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Book Wrangler

October 31, 2005

By Bob Patterson 


Recently, while reading Beyond The Wild Blue: A History Of The U. S. Air Force 1947-1997, by Walter J. Boyne, I was skimming along when I found an interesting fact.  Henry H. "Hap" Arnold wrote children's books while he was being ostracized by being stationed at a remote post in the mid-west. 


A retired Army officer, who is a friend from high school days, had mentioned that he harbored intentions to try writing a novel and so I made a mental note to use that fact to encourage him in his efforts.


Next, while doing some fact checking about the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for reporting in 1932, I stumbled across the fact that the 1932 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for a history book was General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing for My Experiences In The World War.


Given the fact that some of my favorite mystery writers used their spare time in WWII to polish their skills I decided that not only would I collect relevant information for my buddy, I could throw all of the information into a column and accomplish two things at once!


The image of a soldier who described his WWII experiences in a book, is perhaps best exemplified by Norman Mailer.


Famed filmmaker, Ed Wood, also wrote some novels and was a former Marine who had fought on Tarawa.


James M. Cain, who wrote several novels that became famous films, served in WWI and had captured the experience in a short story titled "The Taking Of Montfaucon."


James Thurber, who is perhaps best known for the cartoons he drew which appeared in the New Yorker, had served in Europe right after WWI ended. 


Including all the information about writers from WWI would be too much work, so we decided to limit the scope of our collection of facts to those who served in WWII and later.


As WWII was approaching, the US Navy hired a historian to chronicle the events for them.  Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison's History of United States Naval Operations in WWII, (15 volume set) was the result.  This series was republished a few years back in paperback. 


Growing up in Scranton, I had an aunt who had an extensive library on Navy history (see the previous paragraph) and one of her very favorites was Condition Red: Destroyer Action In The South Pacific by Frederick J. Bell. 


John D. Macdonald, who became famous for his mysteries about detective Travis McGee, was stationed in WWII in India.  An online biography reports that while there "MacDonald sent his wife short stories instead of letters (which were censorable), and Dorothy submitted these to umpteen magazines. 'Interlude in India' sold for $25 to the well-respected Story Magazine."


Ross Macdonald, who wrote the Lew Archer series of private detective mysteries after he served in the Navy during WWII.  An online biography reports that "In 1938 he married a Canadian who is now well known as the novelist Margaret Millar.  Mr. Macdonald (Kenneth Millar in private life) taught school and later college, and served as communications officer aboard an escort carrier in the Pacific."  It also notes:  "After writing four novels under his real name, Kenneth Millar, Macdonald turned out his first private-eye novel in 1949. He published the book under the name John Macdonald so as to avoid confusion with his wife, Margaret Millar, who was writing mysteries under her own name.  Later he changed his name to John Ross Macdonald to avoid confusion with John D. MacDonald."  (So you followed all that, eh?)


There are so many books written about military subjects that we will simply refer our readers to a site devoted to books of/for/by/and about the military.  [Apparently they are looking for book reviewers according to an item recently posted on their home page.  Obviously a qualified reviewer would have to be familiar with military matters and retired officers would be considered likely candidates for such a task.]


One of America's best living mystery writers, James Crumley, wrote his first novel about his experiences serving in the military in the Philippine Islands in the early Sixties.


Walter J. Boyne, mentioned in the first paragraph of this column, is a retired US Air Force colonel, who has written many fiction and non-fiction books.


Charles Willeford was a tanker (with Patton's Third Army) before he became a published author.  (Welleford's book Burnt Orange Heresy is recommended for non-mystery fans that like "art.")


When, the work for writing this column was begun, we figured it would be a quick easy job that we could write "off the top of our head."  The more we got into it, the tougher the fact checking got and the more possibilities turned up.


Ike wrote Crusade In Europe.


The subject of writers who served in the military is beginning to overwhelm the columnist as deadline time approaches.  The topic is so vast that perhaps someone might even want to do all the work necessary to produce a definitive book on the subject. (?)


Anyone who wants to write a book (retired military or not) will want to become acquainted with the online support group that encourages writing a novel in the month of November.


Dwight D. Eisenhower has said:  "An atheist is a man who watches a Notre Dame-SMU football game and doesn't care who wins."


Now, if the disk jockey will play the song Snoopy vs. The Red Barron (Snoopy's novel was titled It Was A Dark And Stormy Night) we'll fly on out of here for this week.  Until the next column, have a week that includes taking notes so that you can accurately portray it in your novel or memoirs.




Copyright 2005 – Robert Patterson

Email the author at worldslaziestjournalist@yahoo.com



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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