When I’m asked what’s my favorite among the 45+ books I’ve written, often I toss off a response “Whatever one I’m writing.” But the fact is that authors write for one of two reasons (or both): enjoyment and money. I’d have to say that I enjoy making money!
Here’s some thoughts on a few of my favorites.
Sentimental favorite: the first, of course. The Dauntless Dive Bomber of WW II (Naval Institute Press 1976.) It began when Dad and I were restoring then the world’s only airworthy SBD, and the book is still in print 33 years later.
Commercial favorite: my first novel, Warriors, (Bantam 1990) coauthored with my late-great friend, Cdr. John Nichols. Saddam Hussein became our chief publicist when he invaded Kuwait a few months later, and ours happened to be one of only two Mideast thrillers on the market at the time. It sold extremely well until Bush 41 called off the war.
Most influential book: a tossup between On Yankee Station (Naval Institute 1987), again with “Pirate” Nichols, and What We Need (Zenith 2007). OYS was adopted for the Air Force and Marine Corps reading lists (the Navy thought it was too critical) and WWN still generates discussion about our military priorities.
My best writing: “Flame on Tarawa,” in Steve Coonts’ Victory anthology (Forge, 2003).
Easiest long book to write: Dauntless: The Novel (Bantam 1992). I’d spent 20 years researching the Pacific War for other books and wrote 90,000 words in about four months. Of course, it helped that I had flight time in the airplane.
Hardest to write: Wildcats to Tomcats (Phalanx, 1995). Working with Wally Schirra, Zeke Cormier, and Phil Wood was downright fun. But they were fighter pilots—rugged individualists--and I think it took about eight years.
Closest to a definitive history: Clash of the Carriers (NAL 2005). The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot was the subject of only 3 or 4 previous books in 60 years, and the sources I used could not be duplicated today. That’s why I’m glad I wrote Clash when I did, while enough veterans were still living.
Shortest definitive treatment of any subject: TBD Devastator Units of the US Navy (Osprey, 2000). The much-maligned Douglas torpedo plane was a better machine than conventional wisdom allows, but its combat career was so brief that I had a hard time meeting the 35,000 word requirement.
Most overlooked: The Sixth Battle (Bantam, 1992), a techno-thriller postulating a clash with the post-Soviet navy in the Indian Ocean. I wrote it with my brother, who did most of the research. Wargamers absolutely love it but the novel received little promotion.
Some books that are so good I wish I’d written them:
Billy Gashade by Loren Estleman
Guadalcanal by Richard B. Frank
Taking Flight by Dick Hallion
Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by Jim Hornfischer
The First Team series by John Lundstrom