After complaining in my first blog that book covers too seldom accurately reflect content, I'm faced that problem myself. Red Star Down (working title) centers around a wrecked plane. With some little trouble, I found an un-wrecked C-47 and toured it to get my facts straight on overall descriptions. The owning agency was quite reluctant to allow me to crash it for the sake of an accurate cover photo. (Some folks just don't appreciate what an aspiring author must undergo for the sake of accuracy.)
'Well,' I thought, 'I reckon I'll just have to build my own C-47, then crash it for the sake of art.'
That's pretty well what happened-- if I ever learn to transfer images on the blog machine, I'll show the first attempt.
Well, it's about time I learned how to work this Blog thing. Let's try to show what I've been up to.
PROLOGUE TO "RED STAR DOWN"
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain traced tight circles in the northern sky, or as tight as could be maintained without losing precious altitude. The pilot, one Lieutenant Dmitry Pavlovich, stared into the grey murk beyond. He sincerely hoped that his circles were high above any stony mountain peak that might threaten to rip the guts out of his airplane. If fate decreed otherwise, there was still the slim chance that he might see the threat in time to avoid it.
The Navigator, Viktor Popov, knelt beside his pilot, navigation charts across his knee, straining his eyes for any landmark which might help locate the aircraft on its journey over the poorly mapped terrain of Alaska. He knew there was little hope-- the C-47 had departed Great Falls, Montana on route to Ladd Field, near Fairbanks, Alaska. There, it would refuel and continue on over Siberia to Mother Russia. But it had plunged into thick overcast just hours from its destination at Ladd Field. The pilot had first climbed, then descended in an attempt to find clearer skies. The changes in altitude and direction, and a compass that seemed ambivalent concerning nthe direction of north, combined to befuddle Popov. With no landmark visible through the grey milk that the plane seemed to be swimming through, and with only fragmented radio contact with Ladd Field, he was completely lost.
Boris Evanovich, the flight engineer, ignored the goings on in the flight cabin. His only concern was the continued smooth operation of the twin Pratt and Whitney radials hammering away in the wing nacelles-- and with the fuel consumption of these same thirsty engines.
A tall officer standing in the door of the cargo bay showed obvious concern as he observed the stress on the faces of the pilot and navigator. He had a leather briefcase manacled to his left wrist, and he frequently touched it with his free hand as though to reassure himself that it was still there.
The crew had no idea that a strong wind from the north was moving the entire front, their aircraft included, southward. The circles, intended to keep them over a single, supposedly peak-free area were whirling them toward the southeast, toward a largely uncharted mountain mass east of the Gerstle River.
The officer with the briefcase stepped forward and touched the pilot on the shoulder.
"Lieutenant Pavlovich, what is our situation?"
The pilot opened his mouth to respond, but if he said anything, it went unheard.
There was a crash of sound and the shriek of tearing metal as the right wing was ripped off just outboard of the engine. The fuselage with its remaining wing spun downward into a narrow gorge that was now visible through the overcast, had there been anyone to see it. The plane, still more or less upright, lost its left wing against the left wall of the canyon and dropped belly-first into the narrow cleft which formed the banks and bed of the rocky stream at the bottom of the gorge. There it remained, wedged in the cleft 30 feet above the stream, hanging by its wing stubs.
Historical Alaskan mystery with non-stop suspense.
In Don Neal’s fourth installment of the Ben Hunnicutt series, The Last Kill, we find Ben having left “Operation Washtub” in Alaska to fight on the Korean battlefields in 1953. After a brief interlude in Japan, Ben sustains a battle wound that sends him back to the states near the end of the Korean war, where he serves the remainder of his military years never making it back to Alaska until his retirement in 1967 when he keeps his promise to himself and moves to Anchorage. In the midst of his retirement, and the middle of the Vietnam War, Ben is mysteriously contacted by an intelligence operative he met while in Japan. The South Vietnamese treasury has been sacked and the gold is allegedly being smuggled to mining operations in Alaska where it can be converted into cash. If Ben can find out who the rogue miners are, he can help to re-stabilize the South Vietnamese government. But nothing is as simple as it seems.
History, mystery, and thrills are at the heart of the latest addition to the intriguing Ben Hunnicutt series. The novel is broken into two parts: Korea and Alaska. Both parts to this book are extremely realistic and insightful, providing detail that can only come from an author who has first-hand experience in war and a knowledge of Alaska as both a territory and a newly inducted state. The author’s notes section at the end of the book is a helpful addition as well, providing background information for readers who may not be familiar with some of the military terminology, Japanese/Korean culture, and Alaskan geography throughout the book. In addition to the murder mystery and historical aspects of this novel, Neal incorporates adventure, stunning scenery, and a slight dusting of romance for a story that will keep any reader captivated to the surprise ending.
The Last Kill is a historically rich and realistic narrative that will leave readers ready to book a trip to Alaska.
About the author: Don Neal, His hobbies include military history and the research and study of antique and historical firearms—with an occasional foray into drag racing. His four novels reflect Alaska as a Territory, then as a raw new state before it was transformed and modernized by the discovery of oil and the building of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline.
The book has been reviewed over 10x. Cover art has been awarded a 5 star rating by Mobius. Goodreads rating avg. of 4.5, Amazon rating 5 stars. Comparative title: The Frozen Hours, by Jeff Shaara.
Abstract terms: Historic, Korea, Alaska, Vietnamese, Japan, Military, Action, Geography, Smuggle, Gold, Warhead, CrossKill, Washtub Gold, The Last Kill
Published by First Edition Design Publishing, in paperback and eBook formats. The book contains approximately 220 pages. Genre: Historical Fiction Military, ISBN PBK, 9781506907970, ISBN EBK, 9781506908250.
Comes the time when an author feels the urge to start a new book. The urge may be powerful if he or she writes for a living. For those of us who write for the love of it, or because there's something that needs to be said, the urge is just a nagging something that demands attention. Perhaps, like a chicken that knows an egg must be laid but isn't sure why.
So number 5, tentatively titled "Red Star Down", is 14,000 or so words into Ben Hunnicutt's next adventure-- or disaster, as the case may be. Ben stumbles on the wreck of a WW2 C-47 aircraft which has been lying undisturbed for 30 years. Turns out it was a lend-lease cargo plane given to the Russians, who sent it toward Siberia with a cargo they would just as soon U.S. authorities never knew about. And, since they still feel that way, Ben and friends are likely to encounter serious opposition in their attempt to salvage the plane and its cargo. I'll attempt to show the prologue below.