Reader's Frequently Asked Questions,

in no particular order

(also know as  TMI ... Too Much Information!)

1.      What inspired you to write this story?

a.      I stumbled across a little known and fascinating aspect of the Pan Am story.  I decided that it would make a great adventure novel for boys. I placed a run-a-way sixteen-year-old aboard the S. S. North Haven who is pursued by both his family, and a Japanese Intelligence Officer.

b.      Despite my love of reading, I never harbored any deep desire to author a novel. Perhaps one of the strangest occurrences in my life was turning my desire to learn about the Pan American flying boats into a novel. I am certain that my rhetoric teachers would be amazed if they somehow became aware.

2.      What books were important to you as a child and at other significant points in your life, and why?

a.      First, A. A. (Alan Alexander) Milne’s poems from When We Were Very Young: My mother read them my sister and me on cold winter days. We emigrated from the war ravaged England in the 1950’s and my mother missed everything that was English.  Pooh bear brought back all that was wonderful in pre-war Britain to her and filled my head with silly rhythms and exciting adventures in the 40 acre wood.  I have a vague recollection of playing Lines and Squares with my mother in London, before my sister was born.

b.      Next Robert A. Heinlein: Great stuff for a typical rambunctious boy who had little time for reading outside the classroom.  In seventh grade, my best buddy had just finished Tunnel in the Sky and he insisted I read it.  What a great premise, a group of high school students take a 48 hours survival test on an uninhabited planet. Something goes horribly wrong and they are stranded for years.  We spend endless hours discussing how to tackle the difficulties and the nature of man as a social animal.  I was hooked.  From that point on I carried books everywhere I went.

3.      Are there particular books and authors who have influenced your writing and imagination?  Why?

a.      Gary Paulsen:  His wilderness coming of age stories captivated my imagination as adult. I was a career Army officer and my family lived like gypsies.  Whether it was driving to a new duty station, a holiday drive to Grandma’s house, or en-route to a camping weekend, the Dodson family spent a great deal of time on the road.  My wife, Joan, came up with the idea of audio books to help entertain our young family. She found a number of Paulsen book in our Post library. First, we listened to was Canyons. It’s a story about a Native American Boy, spirits, and the U. S. Calvary.  My boys loved it and asked to hear it again on the trip home.

b.      As a Boy Scout leader, I took the audio book Hatchet along during the long road trip from Fort Huachuca, AZ to the Grand Canyon.  In subsequent trips, the Scouts would draw straws to determine who would ride in my van.  I always had stories.

4.      Which authors do you recommend to your bibliophile friends?

a.      Gary Paulsen: As above

b.      Garth Nix: Old Kingdom series.  Garth is an Aussie and I’ve exchanged a few emails with him.  He is a wonderful author and very supportive of new YA authors.

c.       Philip Pullman CBE:  His Dark Materials.  Pullman writing style is a lean and fast paced.  The story is compelling as his YA protagonists play pivotal roles in their worlds. Many young people want to read about children who hold the fate the worlds in their hands?

d.      John Flanagan: The Ranger’s Apprentice Series.  Flanagan writes a wonderful yarn set in the middle ages.  Rangers are the “Old West Marshals” of their world and are akin to today’s Special Operations Forces. 

e.      Homer Hadley Hickam, Jr:  Homer's classic memoir Rocket Boys and his three other Coalwood books.  I have become fan of the page-turning Josh Thurlow novels. Homer’s The Ambassador's Son even features a flying boat.

5.      How have your career and personal experiences affected your work?

a.      I’ve often heard authors say, “Write what you know.”  My quarter century as an intelligence officer and special operations has provided me with a base of knowledge about the murky world of espionage. My friends and colleagues have provided background on flying and naval operations.

b.      When I was ignorant of some aspect of the story, I would ask friends and acquaintances.  The people I met in my career and my travels have added immeasurability to the veracity of the story. I have interviewed early Pan Am flying captains, first officers, radio operators and stewards. I enjoyed the aviation research about as much as writing the story.

c.       Writing has to be enjoyable.  Why else would anyone lock themselves away from loved ones and the delights of ordinary life for hours each day?

6.      Where did you come up with your character’s name?

    Nick’s namesake is Brigadier General (Retired) Nick P. Grant Army ferret pilot, (Mohawks, RC-12 and alike), Paratrooper and former boss. Nick (actual) gave me permission to use his name and has even posted his review on

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Created ... June 1, 2008

Updated ... November 27, 2009

Copyright by Jamie Dodson 2007 - 2009