Book number: 91865 Product format: Paperback Author: WESLEY D. ARCHER

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Bibliophile price £4.00
Published price £12.99

Sub-titled 'The War Diary and Photographs of a Flying Corps Pilot', when first published in 1933 the book was considered the ultimate record of aerial combat in the First World War. Its extraordinary photographs showed men and machines apparently in their last moments, struggling for survival and victory over the skies of France. So remarkable were the photographs that their veracity was immediately questioned, and it was not until 1983 that the true origin of the book was finally discovered. The author was Wesley Archer, an American who served with the RFC, and the photographs and diary had been faked. The Introduction to this edition tells the fascinating story in detail and reveals the truth behind the mystery diarist. The origin of Death in the Air lies with a 1931 exhibition of aviation art which included 'The Cockburn-Lang Collection' which attracted enormous attention. Early on, doubt was cast about the authenticity of the photographs and it was only in 1983 that it was established that Cockburn-Lang was the pseudonym for the wife of Wesley Archer who had indeed been a WWI pilot, an American serving with the LRAFs (his parents were Canadian). On October 9th 1918 he was shot down by ground fire while strafing German infantry in his SE5. A bullet headed for his heart was deflected by his Colt automatic, the badly dented one now at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The book has a telegraphic style, understated heroics and flyers' slang and reading it you get to know the squadron - Jock, Canada, Mick, Chilli, Todd, Red, Kaffir and all the others. When one is missing after a run-in with the enemy, you suffer. When the author gets depressed and hits the bottle, you worry; when he meets a girl, you cheer. The daring hoax paid off well. We have a facsimile reprint of the 1985 edition with a new introduction 2016 and with very useful explanatory notes for such acronyms as A.A. = anti-aircraft batteries. 166pp, paperback.

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ISBN 9781848328785

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