If Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades is “a rather curious book”, as Aeroplane Monthly‘s Philip Jarrett proclaims in AM December 2009, his own effort certainly amounts to “a rather curious book review”.
To begin, PJ boils down the entire book to being nothing more than “a vehicle” (yuk) for my views “on pioneer priorities”, apparently an attack on the Wright brothers, and some bogus sort of case regarding Gustave Whitehead. His first claim is close enough, the others are childish, especially as the Wright-Whitehead mention takes one half of a page in a book of 176 pages. What gets into a fellow’s head, one wonders! Right off the top, he’s wandered away and is no longer a book reviewer.
A “rather” dopey comment from PJ is that the entire book “leans heavily on the researches and writings of previous chroniclers”. Hog wash. The record of CANAV Books is nothing if not about originality. Since 1981 it has published 30 titles, all of which have been praised for (of all things, PJ) originality. Many of our titles were the first to cover their subjects: The Avro CF-100, The Canadair North Star, Woody:A Fighter Pilot’s Album, The De Havilland Canada Story, Canada’s Air Forces on Exchange, etc., so from whom might CANAV have been filching info regarding those books?
Meanwhile, one wonders where PJ obtained the information for his own books The Colour Encyclopedia of Incredible Aeroplanes and Leading Edge Technology Since 1945. Guaranteed … 99% of his info was filched from “the researches and writings of previous chroniclers”. Had to have been! So judge not, old boy, lest ye also be judged. (One hopes that PJ’s research standards were a bit higher for his biography of Percy Pilcher.)
It’s the CANAV style to deal with new subject matter using original sources; or with well-known general topics giving fresh insights derived from solid sources not previously used in any book. Failing all else, for a very general book such as ACPD, the object is to provide accurate information in an enjoyable-to-read, good-looking format, making sure to recognize sources as per bibliography, photo credits, etc. The Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945 or Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story are other typical such CANAV titles — old topics newly treated from start to finish. For PJ (who appears never before to have heard of CANAV or me) to make such a criticism shows ignorance and suggests a disconnect with the history process. And how poor for a fellow to make blanket criticisms without giving clear, irrefutable cases. Talk about a disconnect with professionalism.
PJ also might consider that ACPD was created as an unpretentious, general, little Canadian aviation history. It’s for the enjoyment of children, young adults and any ordinary grown-ups who have a simple curiosity about aviation history. How could a reviewer not see that from Page 1? Where in the Preface do I claim that this book is for the PJs of this world or their cronies, whom he alludes to as “hardcore” enthusiasts. (We have those out here in the colonies, too — a strange little crowd of what I call “PhD Wannabees” who are giving a book bad reviews before it’s even in print.)
PJ reviews a book considering himself hardcore, so why did he choose an obviously non-hardcore book upon which to pour his sarcasm, bile and innuendo? Why not review Dick and Jane next? One also might wonder about how the editor at AM went along with this goofy “review”, elevating it to Book of the Month status. Can you believe that! Surely there must have been some decent book to review for the edification of AM’s first-class supporters? Why waste ink, Mr. Editor? It can’t have been that slow a month, that some simple little book from the colonies required an air strike to liven things up on your “Navigator” page.
PJ roars about ACPD including colour photos of airplanes he disapproves of, and of having insufficient treatment of Billy Bishop. Doesn’t he know that all the Bishop books have been written? That controversy went on for 40 solid years, but it is dead and buried at long last. PJ/AM are the only ones in aviation who don’t seem to realize this. Space in ACPD is much better used getting something new into print (such as some photos of the marvellous WWI flying replicas at the Great War Flying Museum).
Oh well, since 1981 CANAV has never had a negative book review from any of the world’s great (or not so great) journals and magazines. Never until Aeroplane Monthly of December 2009. Meanwhile, ACPD has been beautifully reviewed across Canada and the world (by nincompoops, PJ likely will complain). AM, coming in about a year late, is the sole dissenter. Well, failing all else, AM certainly now has it book review “attack dog” ticket. Parting suggestion … before he gets into his next book, perhaps PJ should try a good, strong laxative. Might improve his disposition and the quality of reading material in that otherwise ace of a read — Aeroplane Monthly.
Cheers … Larry Milberry