The Canvas Falcons by Stephen Longstreet
Non-Fiction. An enjoyable and educational read about the nuts and bolts of early fighter development during the Great War. Rich historical background and detailed portraits of many of the leading aces on both sides. Ballantine Books, 1972.
The Blue Max by Jack D. Hunter
Fiction. The book on which the 1966 film starring George Peppard, Ursula Andress and James Mason is based. Ambitious upstart Bruno Stachel, “common as dirt,” tests the comfort level of his aristocratic squadron mates in matters of love and war. An easy, entertaining read, portrays Stachel as a hard-core alcoholic of somewhat darker character than his film counterpart. Published 1964.
The Golden Age
Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Non-Fiction. Exploits of a French air mail pilot flying routes to Africa and South America in the 1920’s and ’30’s. Harcourt Inc., 1992. Originally published 1939.
The Aviator by Ernest K. Gann
Fiction. A Stearman air mail pilot and his 12-year old passenger struggle for survival following a crash in the Rockies in the dead of winter. Ballantine Books, 1982.
The Hindenburg Murders by Max Allan Collins
Fiction. Traveling aboard the Zeppelin Hindenburg during what would be its final voyage, author Leslie Charteris (creator of the Saint) is asked to investigate when an undercover Gestapo agent vanishes, and must delve into the dangerous secrets of his fellow passengers, one of whom holds the key to the explosion that doomed the airship. Berkley Publishing Group, 2000.
Night Over Water by Ken Follett
Fiction. Several tense days aboard a Boeing 314 Clipper bound for America from England as war breaks out in Europe. Great characters and intrigue, unpredictable plot, and detailed descriptions of seaplane operations. Includes schematic of the Pan Am Clipper passenger deck. William Morrow & Co., 1991.
Goodbye to Some by Gordon Forbes
Fiction. Vivid tale of the men of a Navy B-24 Liberator squadron in the Phillipine Islands pitted against the still fiercely determined and deadly Japanese in the closing months of WWII. Forbes writes amazingly realistic descriptions of people and events based on his experiences as a Ventura and later a Liberator pilot. W.W. Norton & Company, 1961.
Goodbye, Mickey Mouse by Len Deighton
Fiction. A riveting tale of the pilots of an American P-51 squadron in England, “overpaid, oversexed, and over here.” Breathtaking air combat writing that puts you in the cockpit. Gripping characters and a surprise ending. Alfred A. Knopf, 1982.
Fighter by Len Deighton
Non-Fiction. Perhaps the best historical reference ever published on the aircraft, tactics, and personalities of the Battle of Britain, both sides. A must for history buffs. Jonathan Cape Limited, 1977.
Tiger Ten by William D. Blankenship
Fiction. Exploits of the pilots of the American Volunteer Group, the Flying Tigers, in the China-Burma-India theater in the lead up to and opening weeks of the war in the Pacific. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1976.
Night Witches by Bruce Myles
Non-Fiction. “Night Witches” was the name the Germans gave to the Russian women who flew harassing night bomber missions behind their lines in obsolete but effective Po-2 biplanes — with the often accomplished goal of depriving the German invaders of a good night’s sleep. Although authored by Myles, this is really a series of memoirs of Russian women who saw combat as pilots during the war — women whom Myles traveled to the Soviet Union to interview about their exploits while serving in two air regiments, flying not only the Po-2 but front line fighters such as the Yak. A great addition to WWII history about a little known arm of the VVS and a prize for history buffs. Presidio Press, 1981.
The Survivor by Robb White
Fiction. Adam Land is a cocky naval aviator stationed at Pearl Harbor for whom the war is a series of inconvenient interruptions to his pleasure-seeking. Lt. Land gets a shock when he is suddenly ripped from his existence of sun, surf and women for a special assignment with a group of battle-hardened Marines. Their mission: Reconnoiter a Japanese-held island in preparation for an amphibious assault. A great yarn. Scholastic Book Services, 1964.
The Bridges at Toko-ri by James Michener
Fiction. Book on which the 1954 film starring William Holden, Grace Kelly and Frederick March is based. Brubaker, a naval reservist and WWII veteran, is called back into service for the Korean War. His squadron is assigned to destroy a group of the most heavily defended targets in North Korea at a place called Toko-ri. Random House, 1953.
The Hunters by James Salter
Fiction. Captain Cleve Connell, newly assigned to an F-86 Sabre squadron in Korea, is an accomplished World War II re-tread with a reputation for deadliness. But past glory doesn’t help him as he struggles to cope with Pell, an ambitious, mouthy, unscrupulous junior pilot who’s every bit as skillful and deadly as Cleve in the air, and a commanding officer who’s all too willing to bend the rules to rack up squadron kills. Memorable depiction of the early days of jet-on-jet combat and the men who made it happen. Harper & Brothers, 1956.
Modern Fighting Aircraft, Volume 4: F-4 by Doug Richardson and Mike Spick
Non-Fiction. One of the single best references on the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom ever published. Abundant color photos, schematics, and detailed history of the development, unique components, and deployment of the Phantom in its many variations. If you want only one Phantom reference book, this is it. Salamander Books, 1984.
Flight of Passage by Rinker Buck
Non-Fiction. In 1966, two teenage brothers restored a dilapidated Piper Cub to pristine condition — and flew it across the country. They overcome multiple obstacles along the way, including lack of money, bad weather, hostile strangers, and their own domineering father, with more than a little help from “Hank the Stearman man.” Hilarious and touching, a vivid depiction of light plane aviation. Hyperion Press, 1997.