Jack D. Hunter's Blog

April 25, 2007

Ever since Tin Lizzies and five-cent ice cream cones, I’ve been addicted to aircraft. The love affair began with a Spad, when, in Buster Brown knee pants, I saw film star Buddy Rogers pretending to fly one in the epic Wings. I’d graduated to knickers and knee socks when I was absolutely totaled by the Fokker D-7, that black-and-white bruiser flown by the Germans in Howard Hughes’s smash hit, “Hell’s Angels.” By the time I’d acquired long pants, I’d seen the local airport progress from Jennies, through Standards and Eaglerocks, to Wacos and Pitcairns. As a highschooler, I spent my Saturdays washing airplanes in return for flight lessons in a creaky, lackadaisical Travelaire 2000. Then came The Big War, when the sky above me filled with Stukas and ME-109s and Spitfires and Mustangs. Through it all, I never outgrew the passion. Today, after all those years, I can barely manage to crawl up an airliner’s steps, but I’m still writing about and painting those old crates with undiminished zeal.

Jets? Rocket ships? Space vehicles? They ain’t flyin’ machines. They’re projectiles. People-carrying bullets. I don’t do them.

Much to my delight, I’ve learned that I’m not alone in my addiction. Every click on my web site tells me there’s still another someone out there who feels the lure. So I’ve decided to launch this newsletter for those who are simply looking for another place to feed their habit and, maybe, are plain old curious about what’s going on behind the scenes at Ye Olde St. Augustine Stujo. Whatever your reason for tuning in, you’re among friends and truly most welcome.

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Currently on my drawing board is a work commissioned by a client who has a deep interest in the history of Alaska — especially those early years when the entire territory was inhabited by no more than a handful of trappers and back-country miners whose supplies were brought in by a tiny corps of hell-for-leather bush pilots flying antique antiques. I’m depicting a ski-fitted Bellanca Pacemaker — a single-engine high-wing monoplane much favored in the North Country due to its reliability, endurance, and big payload — preparing to land at a two-man mining camp on the rim of a frozen lake.

In a way, it’s a kind of sentimental journey. My wife and I befriended Augie Bellanca, son of the great designer, Guiseppi, when we lived on Maryland’s Eastern Shore some years ago. Augie and his wife and kids lived on a beautiful estate not too far from our digs. He would fly his personal planes out of a fully equipped airstrip he maintained there, and often dipped his wings in a salute when he passed over our house. Other times the four of us would sit on their shady patio and do a lot of hangar-flying. Truly lovely people, and painting the Alaskan Pacemaker has given me some heavy-duty memory pangs.

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I’m back to my other love — the novel. I’m writing a new one, my seventeenth. The working title: The Ace, which, after reading the proposal, my agent dubbed “The American Blue Max.” Actually, it’s a lot broader in scope than the original Blue Max, which was a character study of a young German pilot who struggled to overcome his sense of worthlessness and self-doubt by ruthless manipulation of the aristocrats with whom he flew.

The Ace is a broad-scale study of the humongous turmoil that attended America’s attempt to build an air force from scratch in World War I, and the central character is a 20-year-old nobody from Buffalo, NY, who reaches the pinnacle of fame as a fighter pilot a la Frank Luke — not just because his combat record is superb but also because he’s a foil for congressional schemers and nefarious aircraft manufactures. I’ll keep you updated.

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A lot of people (nine — is that “a lot”?) wanted to know what I thought of the recently released mainstream movie, Flyboys, a factional (spelling correct) work based on the exploits of the famed Lafayette Escadrille in World War I. Among them was the features editor of a daily newspaper, who interviewed me on the matter. And among the questions he asked (I’m forced to paraphrase because I don’t have the clipping at hand) was this: “What would Bruno Stachel (a German WWW I fighter pilot who served as the main character in my novel, The Blue Max) say if he were to sit in the cockpit of a modern jet fighter?”

Now I don’t think anybody knows Bruno Stachel better than I do, but I was stumped for moment, not so much by the question itself but by its obvious and somewhat absurd outreach to his younger movie-buff readers who think nothing is relevant unless it has some high tech in it. Okay, I thought. It’s a weird question. So weird calls for weird. My answer: “Stachel would have exclaimed, ‘Ach du lieber! Was ein grossen buntcha blinken und gebleepen Dingervonbobs, yedt!’”

The features editor told me later that the paper got a lot of favorable reader reaction to his interview. Ach, du lieber!

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This newsletter isn’t the only addition to the website we’re working on. Coming up soon will be our “Bargain Basement Gift Shop,” which will feature 8"x10" prints of pen-and-ink vignettes of early aircraft in action. They’ll be suitable for framing and display in dens, kids’ rooms, offices, and the like, and will be priced at a level attractive to the most modest gift budget.

Copyright © 2007 by Jack D. Hunter.  All rights reserved.  No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.