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Real People in Steel Blues

A reader asked if any of the people that Alma, Jerry, Lewis and Mitch meet in Steel Blues are real people. Yes, some of them are. All the other contestants in the Great Passenger Derby are fictional, though they are loosely based on real aviators of the time. Henry, Lanier, and their respective families are also fictional, though again based to some extent on real people.

However, several of the people that our team meet at Henry's party in LA are real -- and will be back in future books! You may remember the pretty young woman Henry describes as a "hairdresser" turned aviatrix, Jackie Cochran, who hits it off with Alma at the party. Jackie isn't well known yet. In fact, she's not yet entered a single race. But in 1938, the first year women were allowed to compete, she'll leave forty men eating her smoke and win the Bendix race, the most famous race in the world!

Jacqueline Cochrane 1935

But that's not what she's famous for. Jackie Cochran is best known as the "the mother of the US Air Force," who first got women flying military planes in the US and organized the WASPs. But that's ten years in the future. In 1932 she's just a pretty girl with a determined chin. Her path and Alma's path will cross many times!

Likewise, Floyd Odlum of Transcontinental Airlines is a real person. He will become Jackie's husband, and as CEO of Transcontinental will be one of the pioneers of new aviation technology for the next two decades, a real life Howard Stark. He'll be back in future books as well.

Beatrice, Mitch's partner in discovering the cracked safe, will be back in Wind Raker and beyond. (Yes, this is Gull/Elza from the Numinous World. No, she hasn't "looted the Vatican or had a duel with Errol Flynn", but given Elza's track record that doesn't seem unlikely.) There will be a great deal more of her in Wind Raker as she teams up with Jerry in Hawaii. This is Bea in the summer of 1935.

Bea 1935

In Silver Bullet, the next book in the Order of the Air, which will be out in November, our visiting Real Person will be scientist Nikola Tesla. He did indeed have a lab in Colorado Springs around the turn of the century, where he certainly could have met Alma as a child. His activities in Colorado Springs are the key to Silver Bullet. This is Tesla as he appeared about the time of Silver Bullet.

Tesla in the 20s

And many more interesting people will make an appearance in forthcoming books!


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 19th, 2013 05:06 pm (UTC)
I'm ecstatic to hear that Beatrice will be returning. Ever since we saw her in "Steel Blues" I was fascinated with her character. We only see her for a very short time, but just from the brief snippet that we get her, I was hooked. I'm confused about your above comments. The picture implies she's a real person, but your comments seem to imply she's real only in our hearts. If she is in fact real, then I guess I can live with that, but her husband's comments about her "And that would be my wife" indicate that there's an amazing backstory to Beatrice. I know that Order of the Air is about our four loveable scamps, but would there be any chance for an offshoot book about her, hubby and maybe one of their Lodge members getting into trouble and out again? And I like that deflection comment you made above "No, she hasn't looted the Vatican". Of course not. It was the Tower of London! Waiting anxiously for Silver Bullet. Bring on Nicola!
Aug. 19th, 2013 05:33 pm (UTC)
You can never go wrong with Tesla! :)

Beatrice is definitely a real person. However, she's also in these books the 20th century incarnation of the protagonist of my Numinous World books. She does indeed have an amazing backstory! I've done five books with this protagonist, including most recently The Emperor's Agent which is a fine place to start if you'd like to see her with an earlier Lodge. It was fascinating writing the same style of magic only a century earlier and in very different circumstances. I think you'd like it!
Aug. 20th, 2013 09:24 am (UTC)
Speaking of real people and history, I meant to send you a link to this column a couple of months ago. It's about a barnstormer visiting New Bern, N.C., in 1914, and giving a ride to Bayard Wootten, possibly the first female aerial photographer:

More on pioneering Bayard here:
"She has been credited with being the state’s most significant photographer during the first half of the twentieth century."
(Not just the state's most significant female photographer, but the most significant photographer!)

A bit off topic, I know, but hey, N.C., and barnstorming, and neat people -- I hope you think this is cool, like I do. I've had some fun pondering how Mitch could bump into Bayard sometime.
Aug. 20th, 2013 01:05 pm (UTC)

What do you bet Mitch saw this? I bet he was there. That would be so cool to use in a flashback story. Wow. Thank you so much!
Aug. 21st, 2013 04:21 am (UTC)
Squeeeee! I would be so thrilled to see a reference to this in an Order of the Air story. I don't remember how far Mitch's family's farm was from New Bern, but maybe he was visiting a relative there at the time? Or could he have seen a newspaper account -- with one of Bayard's pictures -- and followed up on that? Regardless, I'm very happy that you're so interested.
Aug. 21st, 2013 11:25 am (UTC)
Mitch's family is a ways from New Bern, but this is in the summer after Mitch graduates from college, so he could very well be hanging around with friends in New Bern. A lot more fun than home on the farm with his mom mad at him for enlisting -- much nicer to hang out at the coast with his friends while waiting for the date he's supposed to report! And a plane. Which makes him think about learning to fly, so when it comes up that the Signal Corps needs pilots....

Oh this is perfect! Thank you!

I've written how Mitch found out about the Lodge, but that's three years later. This is really useful!
Aug. 21st, 2013 06:11 pm (UTC)
SO COOL! Yeah, I looked it up, and Salem is 5 hours from New Bern by car, but Durham is only 2 and a half (via modern cars and roads, though). OF COURSE he'd rather be with friends than home while he waits.

Happy dance!
Aug. 21st, 2013 10:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, two and a half now, but not then. (I live six miles from Durham.) The roads in Eastern NC were a mess until the 30s. What am I saying? They weren't great in the 70s when I was a kid!

But still, Mitch could go hang with college friends until it's time to report rather than have his mom lecture him the whole time. Much more fun! (We'll see Mitch back on the coast in Invisible War. With extra added submarines!)
Feb. 10th, 2015 05:40 am (UTC)
Re-reading all the Wind Raker entries now that I've read the book ... SquishyDish and I are from Wilmington, so we're familiar with the roads in Eastern NC being not-great through the 70's. We remember the phrase "I-40 to Benson" (from Raleigh to Benson ... I-40 took a long time to get completed to Wilmington!). :-)
Feb. 10th, 2015 11:50 am (UTC)
Oh yeah! When I was in college it was 421 to Wilmington! I was in college when they put 40 through RTP. Before that you took 70 from Durham to Raleigh.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )