Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Okay, I admit it. I'm a collector. I collect things, I collect names, and I collect experiences. I haven't reached the pack rat stage of collecting, but I do collect. And it is the items that I collect that help me with my writing.  I like to have things around me that will let my mind wander and create the locales of a story, the people who inhabit the places in a story and even the conversations that they have.

My first attempt at writing was a published work about the experiences of a B-17 bombardier during WW II.  Because a fellow writer once told me, "you can't write about something you know nothing about," or words to that effect, I was stymied about the experience of flying in a Second World War bomber.  I had seen one up close and personal at air shows, and had even crawled through one at a museum. That wasn't enough.  I still didn't know what it was like to fly in one. Although I was perfectly happy to rely on the memories of Air Force veterans of that long ago conflict to share with me what it felt like to fly in a B-17 when it was being attacked by hordes of German fighter planes, I didn't know what it was like to be airborne in what was then called a Flying Fortress.

My opportunity came when a private foundation dedicated to preserving the war planes of the past brought a B-17 to town; a half hour ride, $425.00. I gulped at the price of collecting this experience, but my wife encouraged me knowing that I would forever regret it if I didn't take the available ride. I made a reservation, went to the airfield on the appointed day, signed a release form against accidental death and dismemberment, and climbed aboard.  Most of the other passengers got air sick and wouldn't leave their place on the floor of the plane. Once airborne, I wondered throughout the plane, crossing the eight inch catwalk over the bomb bay, sitting in the bombardier's seat and recording in my mind the sensations, the experience of flying in a sixty year old war plane for forty-five minutes; yes we were up more than the allotted time.
Afterwards, my wife asked, "Well, was it worth it?" "Oh yah." "How?"  "I now know what it smells like, what it sounds like on take-off, in the air, what it..."

Gary Best
Author, "Tink's Tank" to be released soon from Oak Tree Press!

Tink's Tank is a work of fiction with a prologue, epilogue and 24 chapters that chronicles the adventures of the crew members of a U.S. Eighth Air Force B17 during WW II. The characters who serve in the combat/flying positions of the plane are described through backstories of each. The narrator tells his tale in response to a request from his granddaughter who is enrolled in a college course about the history of WW II. He tells her about each of his fellow crew members, the people they meet during their war time experiences in England, the locale for most of the story. There is a love interest for the narrator that develops with a volunteer at the Red Cross canteen and an eight year old girl shares her knowledge about Peter Rabbit with the story teller, a friendship grows through the years as they develop a lifelong penpal relationship.

Crew members of Tink’s Tank find themselves involved in experiences in London and between themselves that shape and transform each as they fight to stay alive in air battles that test their courage and stamina as a crew. An assassination attempt, supported by the IRA, on the life of the famous English concert pianist Dame Myra Hess, bigotry directed towards the black ground crew chief, an emerging relationship between two of the crew members, sabotage, death and injury force their way into their lives as the crew of Tink’s Tank struggle to complete the thirty missions required for their tour of duty in the ETO. crew. It is more than a comingofage story and more than a story of the air war over Europe, for nothing happens in isolation of the people and events by which one is surrounded. It is the interactions and connections of events, people, fact and fiction that foment growth, change and deliverance from the past. Tink's Tank takes one on an adventure and returns the reader to postwar life through twists and turns in the epilogue.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Great post! I guess I'm a collector too, but your office looks far neater than mine. Good luck with the book.

Carolyn Niethammer said...

I'm finding I'm enjoying reading about WWII. I was born near the end of the war and didn't meet my dad until I was 18 mo. old. He never talked about the war although we have some home movies of him in New Guinea. I can just vaguely remember a little bit about the time and that bananas were a luxury.

Beryl Reichenberg said...

Great article. I too find the more immediate the story, the better the book.
I was born at the beginning of WWII, and all I remember is the ration book, the war bonds and fake butter that you had to kneed to make yellow. Yuck!
Thank you all for the memories, Beryl