By Joachim Jacob, Warthog News Editor
The "Warthog" and one of their (but fictional) Desert Storm A-10 pilots are featured in James Grady's newest novella "This Given Sky", published as an e-book yesterday.
James Grady is the award-winning, bestselling author of Six Days of the Condor, which became the Robert Redford movie THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, and more than a dozen critically acclaimed thrillers.
In early October 2011, James asked me via e-mail to get a digital "in-flight" A-10 Desert Storm photo free of charge and copyrights. He told me: One of my heroes flew an A-10 Warthog in the Persian Gulf War, and though that section of the small novella is brief, I interviewed a couple pilots and I think it would be cool to include a digital photo of a Warthog in the text of the novella so readers can see that amazing plane. I've been surprised by how difficult it is to go through DOD channels to get such a photo (and the costs, as well as time), so I'm going out to experts and fans of the Warthog like you, hoping to get a "close up" digital photo of an A-10 in flight and permission to use it in my novella.
James was very happy with the following official USAF A-10 Desert Storm shot:
Yesterday, James provided me the following essay, exclusively written for Warthog News:
Ugly Is Beautiful
Writing Fiction About The A-10 Warthog
by James Grady
Verisimilitude is the watchword of my fiction.
Make it 'feel real' even though fiction is un-real.
This watchword to get it right led me to the A-10 Warthog, to good and brave men who've flown that incredible aircraft, and to this great Warthog News website and Joachim Jacob.
What a lucky journey it's been.
When I was first seized by the inspiration of THIS GIVEN SKY, a noir novella set in my small Montana hometown of Shelby, when I realized one of my two male heroes fell in love with flying as a teenager and then served in the Air Force during the Gulf War, I knew I had to "get it right." Of course, fiction is also about getting a poetic essence that goes beyond – and thus sometimes must fudge – "just the facts" to create something "true." Good fiction is as magic as a great kiss.
As I researched our pilots of the Gulf War, I stumbled on an aircraft called "the Warthog," a remarkable work of avionic engineering and a lethal battle machine. The poetry of something called "ugly" being so beautiful for its function kissed my imagination: I knew my hero Jake had to have been a Warthog pilot.
And I had to make my fiction feel real.
I'd already been lucky in imaging Jake's early flying days.
My cousin, friend, and CEO of Alpine Air Express (and former boxing champion) Gene Mallette took me for a ride in his World War II Mustang P-51 two seat trainer airplane, a wondrous, heart-pounding surreal experience that left me, who makes his living from words, able to say only "Wow!" So when I put Jake in the backseat of a P-51, I had that sky-time experience to draw on.
But I'd never even seen a real Warthog.
Yet I felt creatively honor bound to "get it right."
How lucky I am to be writing in this Internet age!
Beyond the resources of this great website, like the activists of Arab Spring, I went on line, used Facebook, posted a "status update" announcing that I needed to talk to an A-10 pilot who'd served in the Gulf War.
Within days, one such pilot had talked to me a little, linked me to others, especially to a savvy and articulate man I'll call "Zack."
Why "Zack" and not his real name? Because like the investigative reporter I've been, I wanted to give my source the "on background" freedom to open up, to share with me – and to be free of being compared to my hero Jake. That was the commitment I made, that's the commitment I honor.
My veteran pilot Zack – now flying commercially – took the time out of his busy life to share his A-10 experiences. To talk with me over the phone about what it felt like to fly that plane, the jokes he and his fellow combat pilots exchanged, the life he lived in that war, the pain of his divorce, his fears, his dreams, his perspective.
Zack gave me so much detail that I had to compress it to make that section of my novella fit into the story, so yes: there are poetic license errors in my descriptions, yes some elements of flying the A-10 in combat are not like I portrayed them.
But I did my best to get "true" and "right" the essence and heart of my story, to honor Zack and his fellow pilots, to celebrate a plane that's so ugly it's beautiful.
James Grady's first novel became the Robert Redford movie THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR. Grady's published more than a dozen other novels and as many short stories. His literary awards include France's Grand Prix du Roman Noir, Italy's Raymond Chandler medal, Japan's Baku-Misu. His novella THIS GIVEN SKY is being published as an e-book by Open Road Media and Mysterious Press, along with three other Grady titles: his classic SIX DAYS OF THE CONDOR, it's post-9/11 re-imagining "condor.net" and a secret spy history of the Baby Boomer generation -- THE NATURE OF THE GAME.