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“Mushing Down the Air Trail” by Frank Richardson Pierce

Link - Posted by David on January 7, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another exciting air adventure with Rusty Wade from the pen of Frank Richardson Pierce. Pierce is probably best remembered for his prolific career in the Western Pulps. Writing under his own name as well as two pen names—Erle Stanly Pierce and Seth Ranger—Pierce’s career spanned fifty years and produced over 1,500 short stories, with over a thousand of these appearing in the pages of Argosy and the Saturday Evening Post.

This time around, gold has been found at an old claim up north and Rusty’s in a race with an unscrupulous pilot to reach the site and stake the claim and get back first to register said claim. Can Rusty outwit and outfly Pratt and get Old Man Dorsey back to the registrar’s off first. From the pages of the February 1929 Air Trails, it’s Frank Richardson Pierce’s “Mushing Down the Air Trail!”

High-powered planes and battling pilots above the snow fields of Alaska!


And as a bonus, here’s “The Landing Field” column from the January 1930 number of Air Trails where we get to know more about Frank Richardson Pierce, Rusty Wade, Alaska and the Air Musher!


AIR TRAILS • January 1930 v3n4

IN THESE crisp winter days with snow streaking through the sky, it seems right and proper to introduce Frank Richardson Pierce to you folks. Pierce lives up in the Northwest, up in Seattle, Washington—and he spends a good deal of his time hopping around Alaska. He is an outdoor man in every sense of the word. There are few writers in America who can catch the spirit of the frozen North as he can. His interests lie out under the open sky, with snow fields, fir forests, Canyons and great rivers. It was natural, therefore, that he took to flying.

For the past year you’ve been reading the “Rusty” Wade stories by Pierce. They’ve made a hit with Air Trails readers all over the country. The reason is that they ring as true as the roar of a Whirlwind motor on the nose of a new sport model ship. Pierce knows all about the Rusty Wade country.

He just recently came back from a trip over Alaska. Here’s what he says: “I get a great kick out of flying over some place I’ve walked. It gives me a chance to laugh at myself in comfort. But mostly I prefer flying in Alaska—the walking is tougher there.

“Alaskans lead the nation in air-mindedness. They have been flying for years—not for sport, but for business reasons. Why should a miner pole a boat for days up a river and fight mountains and glaciers when he can fly there with his outfit for a few dollars and still have the whole season ahead of him in which to prospect? Where in previous years it required weeks and months to bring out a load of fur, now it comes out in hours.

“An Eskimo may be popeyed when he arrives in Seattle and sees street cars, automobiles and skyscrapers, but he’ll not even blink at an airplane. He’s seen them before and probably has ridden in one.

“Rusty Wade is a typical Alaskan pilot. Landing fields are few and far between. If a pilot is forced down he has to walk out and it may take him days. And yet, right now, I can’t recall a single crash in which any one was killed. There may have been some, you understand, but I can’t recall them.

“At times, in Rusty Wade stories, I have tried to describe Alaska from the air. Thus far I have failed utterly. I doubt if there is in the whole world, anything more beautiful than flying over ice fields and glaciers studded with mighty peaks and set with lakes of the rarest blue. If any of the readers make a trip next summer, cable ahead to Juneau and make arrangements to see a bit of Alaska from the air while the steamer is lying over.

“At the present time a surveying party is working out of Juneau in planes. They are surveying a waterpower project discovered by the Alaskan air-mappers—a navy outfit. The lake is two thousand three hundred feet above the sea in a rough country. It would take many hours of the hardest work to reach the spot with equipment. The plane leaves Juneau and is on the lake within twenty minutes. It has even taken up a fourteen-foot skiff to the lake.”

A NUMBER of readers have written in, wanting to know what type of plane the Air Musher that Rusty Wade uses is. Well, that’s easy, and it gives us a chance to do a little “ground flying” here in front of the hangars. There’s nothing that a pilot likes so much as to talk about different types of ships.

The Air Musher is a Fokker Universal Monoplane equipped with ski landing gear. It is a type of plane that has stood the test of time. Ask any flyer what he thinks about the Fokker Universal. It has been used for prospecting, forest fire patrol, exploring, crop dusting, and for mail and passenger transportation on most of the air routes of this country and Canada.

With a pilot, four passengers and eighty pounds of mail or baggage, the Fokker Universal can carry enough gas to cruise for six hundred miles. It is generally powered with a Whirlwind motor, and, carrying a fair load, can reach a ceiling of sixteen thousand feet. Fully loaded, the landing speed is forty-five miles per hour and the high speed one hundred and eighteen m.p.h. One of the good things about this crate is the perfect vision provided for the pilot. He sits ahead of the leading edge of the wing and can look forward, right, left, overhead and downward. This is a big feature when you have to set down in rough Alaska country, where landing fields are not made to order.

The Fokker Universal will almost never spin or nose dive when stalled. It glides downward on an even keel while remaining under full control. With its wings of semi-cantilever construction and its strong cabin the Fokker Universal is just the type of ship for work in rough country where flights are made in all kinds of weather. There are bigger ships, more powerful ones, and faster ones; but there are few that can stand up under all conditions like the type of which Rusty’s Air Musher is representative.

If the Air Musher ever cracks up against the side of a glacier, Rusty Wade will probably be getting one of the Fokker Super-Universals to take its place. They are slightly larger ships, with a wing span of fifty feet seven inches, and powered with a Pratt & Whitney four hundred h.p. motor. They can carry as many as eight passengers, and, with a fair load, can reach a service ceiling of eighteen thousand feet. Their top speed is one hundred and thirty-eight miles per hour.

“The Sunrise Pilot” by Frank Richardson Pierce

Link - Posted by David on May 22, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another exciting air adventure with Rusty Wade from the pen of Frank Richardson Pierce. Pierce is probably best remembered for his prolific career in the Western Pulps. Writing under his own name as well as two pen names—Erle Stanly Pierce and Seth Ranger—Pierce’s career spanned fifty years and produced over 1,500 short stories, with over a thousand of these appearing in the pages of Argosy and the Saturday Evening Post.

This time around, it looks like Rusty’s half-brother, Bert Procter, has gotten himself into a bit of trouble—he’s being charged with fish piracy and air deputy Marshall Rusty who has to serve the arrest warrant! Bust Rusty knows Bert, and although he’s gotten in over his head on some bad deals, Rusty believes he’s turned his life around and is being framed—but can he prove it? From the pages of the July 1929 Air Trails, it’s Frank Richardson Pierce’s “The Sunrise Pilot!”

Gangster guns spit flame as “Rusty” Wade rides the air trails.

“Golden Wings” by Jackson Scholz

Link - Posted by David on April 3, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story from the prolific pen of Jackson Scholz. Scholz originally shot to prominence in the world of sports as a record holding sprinter, taking a gold medal in the 4×100m Relay at the Antwerp Olympics in 1920 and Gold in the 200m and Silver in the 100m at the Paris Olympics in 1924—the Olympics depicted in the movie Chariots of Fire (1981) in which Brad Davis portrayed Scholz. Scholz even appeared in an American Express commercial with Ben Cross at the time.

Knowing you can’t run forever, Scholz started writing stories and submitting them to the magazines. He drew upon his own experiences, which is probably why most of his pulp stories are sports stories, but he did find time to pen some detective stories, a few westerns, and a couple dozen aviation tales—including four for Air Trails with Jiggs Neely. Neely is a young Pensacola graduate just as Scholz himself had been. In “Golden Wings,” Jiggs Neely tries to play it cool and keep in line after being told his actions could jeopardize his chances of earning his wings in the coming week. From the pages of the July 1929 Air Trails, it’s Jackson Scholz’ “Golden Wings!”

A high-speed story of naval aviation by a pilot-writer who won his wings at Pensacola.


And as a bonus, here’s an article from The Lincoln Sunday Star about how Jackson Scholz keeps busy between running and writing!


Writing and Running Keep Jackson Scholz Busy

The Lincoln Sunday Star, Lincoln, NB • 3 July 1927

Jackson V. Scholz, Olympic sprint champion of ’24, who is running for the New York A.C. in Lincoln this week end, is a writer of sports stories. Mr. Scholz published a book of track stories early in the spring and is a frequent contributor to sports magazines.

He likes to dance—two or three dances with good dancers—and stop.

He’s devoted to golf, and would play ail the time If he had a portable course.

He doesn’t care for night clubs.

He enjoys reading—a lot. He won a cup in tennis one bright day.

He’s a modest soul, and given to beating himself lightly. He’s unspoiled by many newspaper columns of laudatory acclaim.

He’s “keen” about bus riding-on top of a Fifth avenue bus, from Washington arch out to the drive. He likes to be with people, to watch them, to study them psychologically, but he does not claim to be a student of or to comprehend human nature.

He’s stimulated by an intelligent conversationalist—one whose mind, as he says, is sharper than his, and can turn his “inside out.”

He’s traveled everywhere—the Orient, Asia, the continent, and any number of “see America first” tours, but he’s not a collector. If he brings anything back to his apartment near Riverside drive, it’s different from anything else that has been in that apartment.

Scholz Not Blatant.

You can see him. A normal sort of young man. Jackson Scholz, with a college degree and nice blue eyes and dark gray spring suit with just the right cut. Not especially tall, very quiet, walking softly, not at all the blatant athletic type of young man who adorns the posters.

Yet Jackson Scholz has the fastest legs In the world, legs as famous as “we,” and that have made his name known round the world for their performances on half its continents.

He’s Olympic champion in the 200 metres, having run this event in the Paris Olympics in 21 6-10 seconds in 1924. the only American to come through with a sprint championship In those Olympics. He has been national A.A.U. champion in the sprint, and formerly was holder of the sprint championship—for the century and the 220 yard dash—in the Missouri valley conference for three years.

The winged-foot sprinter, here for the A.A.U. meet, was developed by Coach H.F. Schulte in his University of Missouri days, of which university Jackson Scholz is a graduate. He thinks a lot of his former coach, and gives much of the credit for his success to his training. Jackson Scholz knew in his high school days that many were destined to gaze at his fleeting heela, but it was Coach Schulte who developed him and taught him the fine points of the running game.

Writing Sport Stories

Jackson Scholz is one of sparkling names in Lincoln this weekend, but he hasn’t earned all the sparkles with his feet. Some are due to his mind, and his fingers.

When he isn’t running, he’s writing. Writing with a purpose.

The first story he wrote, he sold, which was happy news for him and sad for those ambitious souls who send their manuscripts on a world tour in hope of a sale. Since that day, he’s been a regular contributor to sport story magazines.

When the legs refuse to speed longer, writing is to be his profession. Possibly a little coaching on the side, for he thinks he would like to pass on to the newcomers the knowledge he has gained in his years of sprinting, but most of the hours to be devoted to writing. Some sport stories, but largely fiction.

It’s not an ambition without foundation, because Jackson Scholz is the writing runner.

He has just published a book of short stories, “Split Seconds,” tales of the cinder track. The stories are told by an old coach, and it is Coach Schulte upon whom Mr. Scholz has modeled his coach, who solves the manv problems of his young athletes. Grantland Rice, sport feature writer for the New York Herald-Tribune. wrote the introduction

Keeps Detailed Diary.

On his trips hither and yon. Mr. Scholz keeps a detailed diary. It has some 50.000 words, sans notes, at the moment, and some day it is probable it will appear for public perusal. He has just sold a 30,000 word autobiography.

Jackson V. Scholz isn’t a writer because he hasn’t a knowledge of other jobs.

The high boots and the broad hat of the landed squire appealed to him, and for three years he perused agricultural lore in college. A couple of years of milking cows and cultivating corn convinced him of the error of his thoughts.

During the late unpleasantness, he was a pilot in the navy flying corps, that occupied him in 1918 and 1919. He returned to graduate in journalism at Missouri.

Followed the 1920 Olympics, when he was a member of the winning relay team at Antwerp, and on an exhibition tour of the Scandinavian countries.

Real estate in Detroit intrigued him for a time, but for a brief time. With dreams of becoming a merchant prince he attached himself to a hosiery concern in New York City. Fifteen or twenty dollars every Saturday night does not make affluent living in the metropolis.

Became Newspaperman.

His journalism certificate came to hand and he was with the United Press, a newspaper wire service, for a year and one-half, most of the time in New York. Editing wires—making 2,500 words into twenty-five lines—lost its thrill after a time and Mr. Scholz returned to more creative lines of endeavor.

During his U.P. days, he wrote and sold his story, the first one. That aided and abetted his later decision.

In the fall of ‘23. he decided he wanted to make the Olympics at Paris, and he trained for eight months. In the final tryouts. be made a new world’s record for the 200 metres, a record that still stands. He went to Paris, winning honors of which the world knows.

While competing in the Irish Olympics at Dublin, he received an invitation from Japan for a series of meets. Three Americana and one Finn toured Japan for two and one-half months. Competing races, which, upon insistence, Mr. Scholz admits he won all of the dozen, and speeches, many speeches, filled the days.

Traveled With Hahn.

In 1925, Jackson Scholz and Lloyd Hahn, Nebraska’s fleet footed boy, were in New Zealand. “Fifteen meets and twice that many speeches,” Mr. Scholz characterizes the seventy-five days.

Nor are all his records sprint records.

He was the oldest runner in the last Olympics. He is the oldest runner actively participating in sprint circles today. Yet, he only won his first gold medal in the eighty-five pound championship of southern California in 1911, so yet thirty or forty years before he loses his speed and spryness.

If this man, whose record shows that he has outsprinted Charley Paddock in seven out of ten races in which they have been matched makes the Olympic team in 1927, he will be the first sprinter to make the trip three times. Charles Paddock and Loren Murchison are also entering the tryouts for the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, and if all three enter it will be the first trio to make the three contests.

In August, Mr. Schole sails for Germany to enter a meet there. The first one will be held September 4.

But the end will come, of course Mr. Scholz knows it.

“Of course, some day some youngster is going to get to the tape first. I know it. It’s inevitable.

“If I had it all to do over again, I’d do just as I’ve done. I wouldn’t have missed the fun and the competition for a couple of life times.”

Children’s Applause Pleasing.

“The sincere adulation of the children means as much as anything. The cries of the crowd, the back slapping, and hand wringing of people is pleasant, we iiKe it, but there’s something fine in this worship of the children.

“I like to’ think that possibly we mean something real to them, that we are passing on some worthwhile spirit to these youngsters.”

The holder of the 200 metres record has his sense of humor. He has seen funny moments in his dashing about the world.

It was at Histon, near Cambridge, and Jackson Scholz and Cyril Coatee, a Canadian sprinter, shared honors that day with an English country fair. The whistles and the bells and the shrill music of the carnival rent the air, and the two sprinters did their best as athletes of honor on a grassy track that tipped perilously down hill.

Throngs Left for Tea.

In the midst of the meet, the throngs disappeared. The noise stopped. The two looked dismayed as they trotted back up the track to peer about.

It was tea time. That was all, but suffient.

The two sprinters were taken into the midst of the crowds who had gathered in the gardens of this estate of some of England’s nobility, where the joint entertainment was being held.

“Can you see us.” exclaimed Mr. Scholz.

“The two of us-in our sweat suits, hair on end, faces partially lost under England’s dust-in the center of these chiffoned ladies and men dressed for tea-and Englishmen are most meticulous in their dress-balancing our tea cups on our knee. I shall never forget it.

“When the hour was over, we went back to the track, and the meet continued.”

Mr. Scholz is also the holder of the mid-Atlantic championship.

“As tar as I know no one else has ever aspired to it.”

Raced on Berengaria.

It was on the Berengaria returning to America that some persons arranged an entertainment. Mr Scholz gained the championship of the 70-yard dash, and still holds it.

Of all those with whom he has competed. Mr. Scholz enjoys the English most.

“The English are the finest sports,” he declares. “They are better winners, and better losers, and they play the game for itself.”

Mr. Scholz knows of no reason, why athletes should not enter professional circles. He does not believe that sprinting will ever be a professional sport, but he does believe in the policy of those who give up their amateur standing.

“I know of no reason why a person should not capitalize his natural talent, in this case his athletic ability, as same as would a person with a voice or the ability to play the violin. I believe they should a11 be considered from the same viewpoint.”

“The Boomerang Pilot” by Frank Richardson Pierce

Link - Posted by David on June 1, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another exciting air adventure with Rusty Wade from the pen of Frank Richardson Pierce. Pierce is probably best remembered for his prolific career in the Western Pulps. Writing under his own name as well as two pen names—Erle Stanly Pierce and Seth Ranger—Pierce’s career spanned fifty years and produced over 1,500 short stories, with over a thousand of these appearing in the pages of Argosy and the Saturday Evening Post.

This time around, Rusty is faced with a choice—fly to Seattle to help his good friend Bid McCord win a government contract to develop long lasting airplane motors, or head off into the Alaskan wilds to save his nemesis, Hawk Breed, who’s had a bad accident and needs prompt medical assistance. From the pages of the November 1929 Air Trails, it’s Frank Richardson Pierce’s “The Boomerang Pilot!”

With disaster staring him in the face, “Rusty” Wade hurls defiance at the high gods of the air.

“Flaming Skies” by Raoul Whitfield

Link - Posted by David on May 19, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another of Raoul Whitfield’s ‘Buck’ Kent stories from the pages of Air Trails magazine. Whitfield is primarily known for his hardboiled crime fiction published in the pages of Black Mask, but he was equally adept at lighter fair that might run in the pages of Breezy Stories. ‘Buck’ Kent, along with his pal Lou Parrish, is an adventurous pilot for hire. These stories, although more in the juvenile fiction vein, do feature some elements of his harder prose.

In the November 1928 issue of Air Trails, ‘Buck’ and his pal Lou have been called in to help rescue some errant Movie men lost in the woods as a raging wild fire bares down on them! Can Buck and Lou find them before the fire does? Find out in “Flaming Skies!”

A groundling’s life and an airman’s code—Fate held the whip and “Buck” Kent fought for both.

“The Sky Fool” by Frank Richardson Pierce

Link - Posted by David on February 17, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Frank Richardson Pierce is probably best remembered for his prolific career in the Western Pulps. Writing under his own name as well as two pen names—Erle Stanly Pierce and Seth Ranger—Pierce’s career spanned fifty years and produced over 1,500 short stories, with over a thousand of these appearing in the pages of Argosy and the Saturday Evening Post.

Pierce was born in 1881 in Greenfield, Massachusetts but raised on the west coast. A graduate of the University of Washington, he served for a year and a half in the US Navy as a boatswain’s mate and worked for the city of Seattle as a clerk stenographer. He began writing travel articles about the northwest for various motorcycle trade journals and later progressed to short story writing.

Pierce draws upon his knowledge of the Pacific Northwest from his reported fourteen different motorcycle trips to and through the Alaska territory for his story of rival news-reels services covering the first woman to fly over the North Pole. The story features Rusty Wade, Pierce’s rough and tumble red-headed pilot for hire looking for his big financial break.

A story of daring pilots and news-reel men on the far sky trails of the Northland.


And as a bonus, here’s an article from Mr. Pierce’s former home town paper, The San Bernardino Daily Sun, about his successful career in the pulps!


Graduate of Redlands School 25 Years Ago Now Writes Scores of Stories Yearly for Magazines

Thousands of Readers Know Frank Richardson Pierce Under Two Names; Spends Week-End Visiting Foothill City Home
San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, CA • 10 May 1932

When Frank Richardson Pierce graduated from Redlands’ old Kingsbury school, about 25 years ago, he didn’t know that some day he should have two names.

Thousands of readers of the so-called pulps—magazines printed on rough paper—know a writer named Seth Ranger, and eagerly follow his stories of the frontier days, the logging country, Alaska and the Orient. Some of them also know a writer named Frank Richardson Pierce, but the latter has his own distinct following, who watch for his stories Just as do the devotees of Seth Ranger.

Frank Richardson Pierce and Seth Ranger are the same writer. He lives now in Seattle, but he spent his boyhood in Redlands. Whenever—in one of his stories—he needs a small city setting, or a town just over the mountains from the desert, his mind goes back to the Redlands of his youth and under another name Redlands goes into the story.

He spent the last week-end here, at the home of his father, Martin F. Pierce, 24 East Fern avenue. He was taking a brief vacation after having completed “Timber War.”

Frank Pierce is one of those talented persons who turn out stories for the pulps In a seemingly endless stream, while at the same time producing an occasional yarn for the slicks—smooth paper magazines. Howard Marsh, a Redlands resident; Fred McIsaac and H. Redford Jones are others who have the faculty.

To those persons who spend months trying to fashion a readable story, revising and rewriting, the skill of Mr. Pierce and his co-workers is amazing. In one year this writer sold 121 stories, at the rate of about 10 each month: short stories, novelettes and serials of novel length.

Conversing with Mr. Pierce one learns that this extraordinary success, as in the case of most writers, has a basis of hard work and study. He had to learn his trade by practice and by examining the technique of those who were publishing their output.

“The first nine or 10 stories I wrote didn’t click,” said Mr. Pierce. “Then I received a lucky break.

“I had been in the naval reserve during the war, so that I know a good deal of naval procedure and the language of the navy. One day I picked up a magazine In which there was a sea story with the navy as a setting.

“As I read it, I said to myself that here was something right down my alley, and if that was the kind of thing the editors of that particular magazine wanted, I could write it. I turned out a story and sent It to New York.

“It happened that as the editor of the magazine was reading my manuscript a naval officer, a friend of his, came into the office. The editor tossed the script to this officer and asked him his opinion.

“Men in certain trades and professions are very critical of stories dealing with their crafts, and the writer who tries to draw on his imagination for facts and atmosphere is likely to bring down on his head a storm of derisive letters. But when the naval officer read this story of mine he was pleased.

“It might not have been a particularly good story, but he was reading it with an eye for flaws in detail. When he found the language of the characters was authentic navy talk, and the method of abandoning ship, which I had described, was accurately detailed, he thought It was a great yarn. He told the editor so. The story sold, and I was able to turn out a series of them along the same lines.”

Seattle is a very advantageous place in which to live, for one who writes. To that city come the ships of the Orient, men from far places in the North, returning to civilization. There is a cattle country and a mountain country nearby. Fisheries, canneries, logging camps and timber locales all are available. The city is the home of persons who have lived through the Klondike days of Alaska.

When the writer is balked by some perilous piece of detail or atmosphere, he knows where he can get assistance, if he had made friends with the old-timers.

Mr. Pierce wrote a story in which a character was found frozen stiff squatting on his haunches in front of a fireplace, with his hands extended as if warming them at a blaze.

This scene brought a flood of letters, starting with one from a man who sarcastically averred that a freezing man would relax and fall over; that it was sheer impossibility that he should be frozen in the squatting position.

A loyal fan of Seth Ranger came to his rescue with an even more sarcastic letter. He enclosed a photograph of a man frozen while standing upright, and suggested to the writer that he “show this to that so-and-so who thinks he knows so much.” A Seattle friend of Mr. Pierce settled the matter for him. Jake the Musher, veteran of many trails, not only vouched for the accuracy of the frozen man detail, but also related similar instances out of his vast fund of experiences in the North.

The stumbling writer who fashions a line, then pauses to improve it, would be amazed to see Mr. Pierce at work. He usually makes but one draft of a story, turning it out at high speed, and shooting it, without revision, at the magazine for which it was “slanted.” There was a time, during an illness, when he talked his stories into a dictating machine, and depended upon a typist to transcribe them. It was difficult and discouraging, but because he had to do it, he kept at it until he could dictate as well as he could write.

Writing for the pulps is Mr. Pierce’s livelihood, but he is not content only to do that. He studies meanwhile, constantly striving for improvement; not trying to write literature, because the boundaries of literature are very vague and nobody living can say certainly what of the present day writing shall be called literature 100 years from now; but so long as folk are entertained by what he writes, striving to give them the best in the field.

“Free Air is Right!” by Raoul Whitfield

Link - Posted by David on October 14, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another of Raoul Whitfield’s ‘Buck’ Kent stories from the pages of Air Trails magazine. Whitfield is primarily known for his hardboiled crime fiction published in the pages of Black Mask, but he was equally adept at lighter fair that might run in the pages of Breezy Stories. ‘Buck’ Kent, along with his pal Lou Parrish, is an adventurous pilot for hire. These stories, although more in the juvenile fiction vein, do feature some elements of his harder prose.

In the December 1928 issue of Air Trails, ‘Buck’ and his pal Lou find themselves in Mississippi down along the Gulf of Mexico low on fuel and looking for a place to land in their two-place plane. Before long they find themselves embroiled in local carnival politics and trying to rescue a girl doing a trapeze act from a hot air balloon that is about to be ripped apart by an approaching tornado!

A balloon broken loose—a Mississippi tornado! Buck Kent and Lou Parrish find perilous action.

“Sky Lines” by Raoul Whitfield

Link - Posted by David on July 24, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Raoul Falconia Whitfield (1896-1945) is probably best remembered for his hardboiled crime fiction published in Black Mask such as the Jo Gar stories about a Filipino detective in an inter-war Manila. But Whitfield also wrote fiction for titles like Adventure, Blue Book, Breezy Stories, Everybody’s Magazine, as well as Battle Stories, War Stories, Boy’s Life and Air Trails. Frequently his stories in Air Trails featured “Buck” Kent, an adventurous pilot for hire. The stories, although more in the juvenile fiction vein, do feature some elements of his harder prose.

The July 1929 issue of Air Trails featured two pieces by Whitfield. There was the monthly dose of the adventures of “Buck” Kent and in the back of the issue was a cheifly autobiographical piece from his time as an aviator in the first World War. The autobiographical article is presented below; while the “Buck” Kent story, “Sky Lines” can be downloaded at the bottom of the post.


Sky Seconds That Count

by Raoul Whitfield • Air Trails • July 1929 (vol.2 no.4)

Mr. Whitfield, famous pilot-writer, author of the “Buck” Kent stories, tells about some of his own exciting moments in the air.

THIS fellow Whitfield has had some sky seconds, that have counted—even if he has to interview himself in order to admit it. We have to go back a few years to the days when army pilots didn’t pack ‘chutes; when stabilizers and inertia starters were things to talk about and say: “Well, maybe. Ten years from now—maybe.”

We have to go back to the days when a lot of good chaps were getting into tail-spins and not getting out of them. Back to war days.

There was the time a De Haviland’s Liberty conked out, over the Gironde River in France. That wasn’t so good, even though Lieutenant Whitfield did stretch the ship’s glide and reach a sandy strip along the stream’s edge. There was the time a Nieuport got her nose down and went into a tight spin five hundred feet off the ground, near Issoudoun, France.

That wasn’t so good, even though she whipped out of it a hundred feet above the earth. And there was still another time when a gray wall of fog swept northward across Colombey-la-Belle, and sent the lieutenant down for a nose-over on a soggy stretch too close to the front for comfort. And there were the seconds when a J.N. 4’s wings scraped those of another Jenny—at Kelly Field, Texas.

But the sky seconds that counted most slipped by at St. Jean de Monts, on the Bay of Biscay, France. This fellow Whitfield was flying a dep-control S.A.E. She was a terrible crate, and he was testing her out for target towing.

In the rear cockpit of this two-place ship was a noncom who had never tossed out a wrapped target sleeve before. The lieutenant was flying over the beach, headed into the wind.

He got the ship’s nose up and nodded his head. The noncom stood up and the prop wash battered him off balance. Instead of tossing the packed silk out, he held it momentarily.

Whitfield shoved the wheel forward and the nose dropped. A down current dropped it a bit more. The noncom recovered his balance—and let the packed target sleeve go.

The tail assembly slanted up—and the silk lodged between the rudder and elevator fins. The wind pressure jambed it there, tight—very tight. The plane was going down with power on, her dive angle around thirty degrees. And the more Lieutenant Whitfield tugged on that wheel—the worse the silk sleeve jamb became!

Seconds were counting, and counting big!

THE lieutenant swore at the noncom, howled at him to jerk the pack loose. The lieutenant cut the throttle speed, and stared down at the white beach. The ship had less than two thousand feet, and her dive angle was just right for a sweet crash.

A crash in this particular plane meant that the pilot would rate the engine in his lap, and plenty of fire to top off. Whitfield was pretty scared.

But he worked the wheel forward and backward, perhaps an inch. That would have meant something in a Nieuport or a Sop. But this crate didn’t notice the movement. And the target sleeve stuck like Bishop on a Boche’s tail.

The noncom was pulling at the rope coil—methods were crude in those days—but it was no go. Five hundred feet above the sand, Lieutenant Whitfield cut the ignition switch and thought of a girl back in the States. (He married the other one later).

He was still tugging at the wheel control, a hundred feet off the sand. But the dive angle was still thirty degrees or better. It looked like he’d eaten his last Bay of Biscay lobster and partaken of his last bottle of Mumms’ champagne. Then the wheel pulled back an inch—two inches—three inches! That helped.

There was still plenty of crash. The undergear went first, then a wing ripped along and buckled. The plane nosed over and the prop splintered. The pilot and the sergeant crawled out of the wreckage. The ship didn’t burn. She sizzled, but she didn’t fry.

The silk sleeve was still lodged between the rudder and elevator fins, partially opened. As the lieutenant writes, he yawns and looks at a splinter of that ship’s prop, hanging on the wall.

A lot of seconds pass by in eleven years. But he didn’t yawn then—and every second counted when he tugged at that diving crate’s wheel.



AND now down to New Orleans where “Buck” Kent has been earning his keep with a little sky writting, and some favors on the side in Raoul Whitfield’s “Sky Lines.”

“Buck” Kent matches his airman’s wits with the snarling bullets of bandit guns.