Tuesday 3 January 2017

Sketches of a Black Cat: Story of a Night Flying WWII Pilot and Artist - Ron Miner

This beautiful, new B&W second edition is now one hundred pages longer, filled with additional fresh stories, artwork, photos, and adventures. Since the release of the original, I’ve interviewed seven Black Cats and PBY crew members, discovered a host of new writing, over a hundred letters and documents, and had the pleasure of meeting and corresponding with an array of squadron family members. "Sketches of a Black Cat" will interest first time and repeat readers alike. 

Howard Miner was a student at a small Midwestern college when the War broke out. His journey through training and tours of duty as a PBY pilot in the South Pacific are skillfully captured in his art and narratives, framing a wartime drama with a personal coming of age story. This memoir has been reconstructed from a small library of unpublished artwork, journal entries, and writing, providing an enjoyable behind the scenes look at the Navy Black Cats. The descriptive verse from the artist’s viewpoint gives us a creatively told and intriguing portrayal of WWII’s Pacific Theater. 

What did I think?

I am a firm believer that we should never forget the history that our ancestors lived through, although I did admit to Ron Miner that every time my Grandad mentioned the war I appeared to develop selective deafness.  How I wish I had listened to him now, but when you are younger history is boring and it is through reading books such as this that we realise what danger these young men and women put themselves in to secure our freedom.  A freedom we often take for granted.

I am not terribly familiar with the war in the Pacific which is mainly where Sketches of a Black Cat is based, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Howie learning to fly and some of the scrapes he got himself into and out of.  There are photographs included at the end of each chapter to bring the story to life, along with some amazing sketches by the incredibly talented Howard Miner.  I felt completely honoured and humbled to read excerpts from his letters to his parents, and chuckled at the code they developed to get through the censors.

Sketches of a Black Cat is going to appeal to anyone with a love of history, especially World War II, as it gives us Brits a completely different perspective on this devastating war.  I even learnt something new about the Normandy landings when around 1000 personnel were killed during Operation Tiger, a D-Day practice, at Slapton Sands in Devon.  Ron Miner has ensured that these brave men and women are remembered by mentioning them in his book and I am ashamed that I had not heard of this before.

A refreshing and personal account of the war in the Pacific, Ron Miner has very kindly given us a glimpse into the life of a World War II pilot.  The sketches are outstanding and remind us that the war wasn't all about the fighting as Howie spent some time on remote Pacific islands.  Not just from the photos but from the writing itself, it was clear that these young men fought, lived and died together. The war was devastating for some families whose loved-one never returned home but for others who survived, life long friendships were forged.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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