By Fred “Crash” Blechman
I love to fly. As a Navy fighter pilot, I got to fly the F4U Corsair over 250 times, landed on at least 10 different aircraft carriers, and crashed five times, qualifying me as an “Honorary Japanese Ace!”
When my eyesight and depth perception fell below an acceptable level to retain fighter pilot status, I left the Navy, but have since flown many different aircraft, from the Goodyear Blimp to an autogyro.
I also enjoy writing, and have written over 800 magazine articles and eight books. My first five books, about electronics and microcomputers—a hobby run amuck—were written at a time when publishers were thirsty for these kinds of books, and interested in early home computers, like the Radio Shack TRS-80, the Timex Sinclair 2068, the Sanyo MBC 550/555, the Apple IIC and the Coleco ADAM. My books on these subjects, now out of print, were on programming, using pretty much the same programs for each machine, modified to run on that machine.
My sixth book was the easiest. “Simple Low-Cost Electronics Projects,” now in its second printing and available at Amazon.com, was a compilation of 22 of my articles that had already been published in “Nuts & Volts” magazine.
The genesis of the birth of my last two books should interest any of you that might also want to put a book together for family and friends. As computers and electronics became too complex for me to keep up with, I turned my interest to writing about flying, and strung a bunch of my flying articles into a book.
As a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot it was natural that I would start writing magazine articles about my Navy flight training and experiences flying the F4U Corsair. This led to my putting together 16 stories I had already written for various flying magazines, and adding stories from nine other former Corsair pilots I knew. This 376-page book, “Bent Wings – F4U Corsair Action & Accidents: True Tales of Trial & Terror!” has 43 stories, 20 photos and illustrations, 23 actual accident reports, and lots of aircraft carrier takeoff and landing descriptions. Print-on-demand digital publisher, Xlibris Corporation, published it in 2000. It has been one of Xlibris’ best sellers from among its almost 5,000 titles!
I continued writing, and when “Centennial Journal Publishing” (“Airport Journals”) allowed me to write articles and a monthly column called “True Tales From the Fred Baron,” I began hunting down friends with airplanes and flying with them. As these accumulated, I reasoned that I could arrange many of these already published articles and “Fred Baron” columns into a book.
That time, I wanted to use a photograph or illustration at the beginning of each of the stories, but Xlibris had certain limitations and extra costs for photos or illustrations. A friend told me about Booklocker, an Internet POD publisher, with no limit or extra charge for photos or illustrations.
I selected 30 stories and articles, making each a separate book chapter for “Flying With the Fred Baron.” I decided the book would have four parts. “True Tales From the Fred Baron” would have 16 of my personal columns. “Author! Author!” would have six stories about other aviation writers and artists. “Aviation History ” covered five stories, and “The Show Must Go On!” was about three aviation events.
I needed an eye-catching cover. Booklocker.com provided a cover designer, but I had to provide the text and illustrations for a custom color cover. I commissioned a caricature artist to make a cartoon drawing of a big helmeted head sticking up from the cockpit of a red Fokker tri-plane with American markings. I had another artist draw a similar illustration for the back cover, and added text and a photo. Then it was just a matter of assembling the text and photos in a Microsoft Word document and sending it off to Booklocker.com. The 202-page book was published in 2002—with minimum effort.
Many of these stories put you behind the controls of military or civilian aircraft. Others introduce pilots who have “been there, done that,” and have either written about it or have created prize-winning aviation paintings.
You can read about how I went up in simulated air combat in real planes against a guy who had never flown an airplane (and who “shot me down” three times out of six), my first Corsair flight (I almost jumped out!), the “Ten-Engine SNJ,” soaring, helicopter flights, night and dumb flying, and my flying with Webster Webfoot and the “Luftwaffe.”
Some of the chapters tell the stories of pilots who flew combat in World War II or Vietnam and wrote books about it, and organizations such as the “B-17 Combat Crewmen and Wingmen.” Included are stories about a whole Corsair squadron that lost 23 of 24 airplanes on a non-combat flight, how the aircraft carrier “U.S.S. Wasp” sank the destroyer “U.S.S. Hobson” in the mid-Atlantic and how a top Air Force general was lost in the Pacific Ocean during WWII because of a flight engineer going on leave.
For further information, visit [http://www.expage.com/bentwings] or [http://www.expage.com/fredbaron]. Information, excerpts and ordering for his two flying books are at [http://www.xlibris.com/bentwings.html] and [http://www.booklocker.com/fredbaron].