Saturday, March 23, 2013

The League of WWI Aviation Historians and a few days researching murder

A Nieuport used in the film Flyboys

Last weekend was a research and writer’s weekend for me.  I started out Friday and Saturday at the annual meeting of the League of WWI Aviation Historians.  Our local chapter meets at the Smithsonian throughout the year and this was my first time going to the full national meeting.  Better yet, I was asked to be the first speaker on the subject of my new book, Bert Hall (The Bad Boy – Fonthill Media). 

Now I was in the room with guys that I considered legends in WWI historical writing and research.  Alan Toole was there, as was Jon Guttman, Russell Smith, and Greg Vanwyngarde and others.  I know Jon pretty well but I have never met the other members face-to-face.  Carl Bobrow did a presentation on the technological advancements and I was impressed with the format of his presentation almost as much as the material.  This wasn’t just lectures – we had films (the first full viewing of A Romance of the Air in 90 years) and exhibits. 

What a great bunch of guys.  Oh sure, the discussions could get a little geeky – let’s face it, we’re historians.  At the same time everyone was very warm and welcoming.  If you’ve ever considered going to one of these events, I strongly encourage you to. I made some new friends who are already corresponding with me.  

When I was encouraged by a member to join the League I was hesitant.  I believe it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. 

We had some world-class presentations.  I have to admit, I enjoyed Russell Smith’s discussions on how he does his paintings on WWI aircraft and personnel.  I can barely draw a stick-person, but Smith’s works put you right there – at that time.  His process as a painter is deep and highly structured.  I found there was a lot of common ground with how I approach writing. 

Russell Smith's Discussion

We got to visit Flights of Fantasy and see Kermit Week’s collection of antique aircraft.  I felt like we had rock-star access to the aircraft and it was a special treat to see Kermit fly his P-51 Mustang for us. 

Up close and personal with an Albatros

After that I headed to Michigan to visit my mother and to do the final tid-bits of research on the Daisy Zick book.  I got to meet with one of the few surviving investigators on the case, a former State Trooper, who talked to me for two hours about his experiences and memories of the case.   I swung by Willard Library and ran into Mary Butler from the Battle Creek Historical Society and George Livingston from the local history section of the library.  I culled the library computers for the last few nuggets of information I was looking for. 

Then I returned to home and my day job.  After a few days reliving WWI aerial battles and working on an open murder case, I have to admit – the day job seemed a little boring.  

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