(pulp) fiction about adventure aviation
June 30, 2016 6:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations for fiction, perhaps pulp fiction, about aviation, specifically the golden age of aviation in the '20s and '30s. I really enjoyed reading the Doc Savage novels, especially the ones with more of an aviation focus, but now I'd like to branch out beyond the Man of Bronze to other fast paced books that feature lots of flying in fantastic machines. Non-golden age aviation fiction recommendations welcome as well, if they capture the same sense of open mouthed wonder about flight that came through so strongly during the golden age.
posted by ChrisHartley to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
If you are open to other types of media in addition to books, you'll want to watch Miyazaki's Porco Rosso. Yes it's an anime movie, and yes the main character is an anthropomorphic pig, but Miyazaki loves aviation and it really shows.
posted by Alterscape at 6:40 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is most famous for his other book, but 'Night Flight' and 'Southern Mail' are vivid descriptions old-style aviation.
posted by ovvl at 6:40 PM on June 30, 2016

Lots of good stuff by Nevil Shute.
posted by Bruce H. at 6:53 PM on June 30, 2016

a tad later, but Teenage Aviation Stories was one of dad's faves from his youth.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:20 PM on June 30, 2016

As you are no doubt aware, a lot of the pulps are quite problematic with regard to sexism, racism, etc, and the two series below are no exception. With that in mind:

G-8 and his Battle Aces occupies the border between aviation and espionage pulps, and it's mostly WWI, not 20s/30s. There's an archive.org copy of the December '43 issue here, which should give you the general idea.
Out of the caverns of the lost came the deathless beast-men of Herr Goulon, Hunland's Master-mind of Murder—and to save the world he was fighting for, the Ace American Flying Spy had to undertake a solo flight—beyond the grave!
Another longer running series is Biggles, decidedly less fantastic, and more in the Boy's Own Imperial Adventure category than the frothy pulp of G-8. Chronologically superannuated, it ran all the way from WWI Sopwith Camels to Cold War shenanigans.
posted by zamboni at 7:59 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to consider a memoir, I'd recommend Beryl Markam's "West with the Night."
posted by FencingGal at 8:18 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Not fiction (and I'm not certain it's actually the book I remember from my grandparents attic) but consider The Flying Carpet by Richard Halliburton - an early adventure to Timbuktu in an open bi-plane.
posted by sammyo at 8:19 PM on June 30, 2016

agree 100% with Markham's West with the Night. If you want openmouthed wonder, the romance of early aviation, and flying in fantastic machines, that'll do ya.

You could also check out Rudyard Kiplings 1905 "With the Night Mail: a Story of 2000 AD." The flying machine in question is a zeppelin and the writing is a bit techno-wonky (for 1905) but the full text is available at that link so it won't cost you anything but a few minutes of time.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:47 PM on June 30, 2016

It's a small part of the book, but in Dorothy L. Sayer's Clouds of Witness (1929) it's a huge dramatic moment when Lord Peter takes a trans-Atlantic flight. In the same vein, Hercule Poirot solves an airplane-based mystery in Death in the Clouds.

Tintin had ripping adventures with air travel.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:17 PM on June 30, 2016

There are some books (I haven't read) in the Crimson Skies universe which probably fit the bill. CS is an alternate universe in which the USA fragmented into a dozen squabbling nations in the 1910s, and, as ground transportation fell to pieces, zeppelins became the big cargo haulers, which lead to piracy and counter-piracy, not to mention air-centric warfare in general. "The Road Warrior" on wings, kinda.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:04 PM on June 30, 2016

Fate Is The Hunter is a memoir you might like.
posted by actionstations at 11:11 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's an SFF series by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham called "Order of the Air", where the main characters own a tiny aviation company in Colorado Springs in the 1920s. It starts in the 20s, anyway -- the latest book is set in the late 30s and they're clearly going to run it all the way up into WWII.

The official plot has to do with magic and secret histories and whatnot, but the setting is pure golden age of aviation, coupled with lashings of feminism (the owner of the company and lead pilot is a woman). They compete in cross-country races, they test new kinds of planes, etc. etc. It's great fun.

[It also very clearly started as a Stargate SG-1 alternate universe, but we don't talk about that.]
posted by suelac at 9:56 AM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

To agree with actionstations, Fate Is The Hunter is terrific. I thought it was so great I bought it for a friend that's a pilot. It is not exactly a memoir, and not exactly fiction, but the author was a pilot in the early days of the airlines and I believe most of the incidents are based on real ones.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 4:25 PM on July 1, 2016

Seconding Nevil Shute, esp. The Rainbow and the Rose
posted by Rash at 11:04 PM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another recommendation for Neville Shute. As I recall he's fairly enlightened for his time. There's no racism and lots of jolly good aviation adventure.

Try Round the Bend for an interesting take on race, religion and aviation!
posted by monotreme at 11:22 PM on July 1, 2016

There were lots of aviation pulps because the heyday of pulp publishing (late 1920s/30s) coincides almost perfectly with the heyday of popular interest in early aviation, resulting in tons of mags like Hugo Gernsback's Air Wonder Stories, Air Stories, Flying Stories, War Aces, Wings, etc. If the cover art interests you, do an image search for "aviation pulps" or "flying pulps" and you'll get lots of great illustrations. There are also small-press publishers who specialize in relatively affordable pulp reprints, some of which, like Age of Aces Books, specialize in the flying pulps. I've seen many reprints of the G-8 Battle Aces stuff, for instance.
posted by mediareport at 5:25 AM on July 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

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