Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Validated by Spencer Tracy

It’s been four months since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The USS Hornet sails from Alameda, CA toward Japan on a secret mission. The navy carrier has a special unit on board—Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle accompanied by his men and their planes. Their mission: bomb Tokyo in the first retaliation for what the Japanese did to America. 

When the Hornet came within 700 miles of Japan, Col. Doolittle and his raiders climbed into their planes and roared off the flight deck toward Tokyo. The carrier that aided the successful mission was kept secret for a year, known only as Shangri-La.

So why am I dredging up history? Because to me, it’s not history. It’s what I’m absorbed in every day as I write my latest novel, Saving Lou. I’ve done a lot of research to make my book as historically accurate as possible. Over the weekend, I watched a 1944 movie, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, with Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson, and Robert Mitchum. Spencer Tracy played the part of Col. Doolittle. As I watched the movie, entranced, I could see my book come alive on the screen. Like seeing your baby for the first time, after feeling it for nine months.

My main character Lou Dyson joins the Navy in January ’42 and, after boot camp, is assigned as an aviation mechanic on the Hornet. In April, Col. Doolittle comes aboard to prepare for his mission. I mention this in my book and take a bit of poetic license by having a brief encounter between Lou and Doolittle. I write about getting lost in the huge ship and voila, the movie shows three of the army airmen getting lost in the bowels of the ship. Watching the movie, I could almost see Lou on the deck of the Hornet mingling with the airmen. This movie, made while the war still raged on, validated my writing and my research, and that’s a mighty good feeling.

My book isn’t finished yet, it’ll be awhile before it is, but for now, Lou and I spend time together every day. I help him come to grips with the internal conflict he’s carried within him all his life and he helps me see World War II up close and personal. I hear the bombs burst and see the skies fill with smoke. I look into the fearful eyes of the young kamikaze pilot as his plane swoops toward Lou's carrier and then I feel the heat from the explosion.

Just as Willard Manor, Leaving Mark and Finding Gary, have a connection, Saving Lou carries on that connection. I’m having a good time populating the city of New Haven, CT with my characters. I’ll let you know when the book is published.

Quote of the Day: What air is to the body, to feel understood is to the heart. Stephen Covey