Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Bad Boy is finally released!

It has been a long journey but my book on Bert Hall (The Bad Boy, Fonthill Media) is out in hardcover. The digital version will be forthcoming shortly. This book was one of the more challenging ones for me to research and write given the colorful nature of Bert Hall. Hall was a chronic exaggerator and teller of tale tales, which made getting to the truth (or as close as you can get with Hall) a difficult exercise.  Difficult - but fun.

Hall was a member of the French Foreign Legion at the outbreak of the war and transferred into the French Air Service - eventually becoming one of the original members of the Lafayette Escadrille. Hall was at one point or another a movie star, producer, technical consultant, writer and director; an aviation mercenary in China; an arms dealer; a convicted felon; a race car driver; a gambler; a bigamist, and a few dozen other roles in his life. He had the distinction of being kicked out of the Lafayette Escadrille, yet was an accomplished aviator. Hall managed to find himself at the right place at the right time throughout his life. He was in Paris when WWI broke out. He was in Russia during the revolution. He was in China during the civil wars there.

I'll be doing a presentation on Hall's life at the semi-annual meeting of the League of WWI Aviation Historians in March and an event on May 11th at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo.

I was drawn to writing his life story after my work on Lost Eagles. He was a lifelong friend of Frederick Zinn, the subject of that book. I came to appreciate that Bert Hall was a force of nature. If I could sit and have a drink with any members of the Lafayette Escadrille, Hall would top my list (followed closely by Thaw and Luftbery). He was, by all accounts, a "bad boy," and there is something romantic and fascinating about such a man. A reprobate? Yes. Despicable? At times. A rogue? Of course! An adventurer? Definitely.

Writing about the Lafayette Escadrille is intimidating. It is the holy-of-holy's in terms of WWI squadrons if you are American. Putting my foot into that water was something I was excited about and dreaded. At the same time it was impossible to tell Bert's story without telling the story of the formation and early months of this unit. Over the decades some historians have diminished Bert's contributions, usually at the prodding of Paul Rockwell. I had to go back to source material and really reconstruct what truths I could find about Hall. In the end, I was pleased with my results.

People have asked me do I admire Hall? I certainly don't admire how he led his personal life. Professionally, Bert Hall was the Howard Stern of his day - the master of self promotion. He did remarkable things in remarkable times - which makes him interesting. I admit a tinge of envy at how he literally lived in the moment and changed his career with wild abandon. He was a man that did not perceive limits and lived his life accordingly. Bert lived his life by not dwelling on what others thought of him - how many of us could do the same?If he were alive today I have no doubt that he would have a reality TV show of some sort…and it would be a damned sight better than many of the other shows on.

I Invite you to read the book for yourself and form your own opinions.

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