I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get around to providing my review of the book: To Caress the Air – Augustus Herring and the Dawn of Flight; Books One & Two.
All I can say to the author, C. David Gierke, is “I’m sorry.”
Back in 2019, he sent me books one and two of his biographical novel, a writing endeavor that took him decades to complete.
After reading the 1,500 page tomes (total pages, including the vast reservoir of footnotes), I can truly state that the novel is worthy of his efforts.
For those of you who are unaware, Augustus Herring (Augustus Moore Herring, born in Covington, Georgia, United States of America, August 3, 1867 – died July 17, 1926, New York City, New York) is an American aviation pioneer – hence his inclusion in this blog:
Herring’s life story and his place in aviation has long been one of misunderstanding and controversial, but author Gierke via his long and detailed research attempts to set the record straight.
The story takes place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but rather merely inundating the reader with dull facts, Gierke has turned the life of Augustus Herring into an interesting and very readable story.
A true story, but with a caveat.
As with any good book, the story of Augustus Herring is rife with conversations between Herring and other real people. But how does anyone really know what conversations took place over 100 years ago?
Heck, most people have difficulty in repeating a conversation they had (word-for-word) a week ago or a day ago – or even several hours ago.
I asked author Gierke that question – and he candidly explained that yes, the words in the conversations that occur in his novel are made-up, but they are actually based on real facts – and Gierke provides substantial footnotes (or end notes) at the end of each volume of the story.
So, yes, the actual words are made up, but the facts remain true. This is key.
What I got out of it, besides a fascinating account of the trials and tribulations of Augustus Herring (and there are so many trials – litigious – and so many tribulations – oy vey), is that Gierke is one heck of a story-teller.
We’re talking about 1,500 pages over two books – and yet, despite the length, it was a very difficult story to put down. I read them both over a two-week period in 2019, and began re-reading it again a few days ago… and the fact remains – the story of August Herring… the book(s): To Caress the Air, is entertaining reading.
Now, entertainment is fine (I love to watch the show Supernatural, for example), but I like to learn things along the way. And I sure learned a thing or two about the men and women involved in the early days of pioneer aviation. Some of it good, some of it bad – all of it riveting.
Here… you want something from the book that will make you go, WTF?: “Most people believe that the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Not so,” said Augustus Herring.
Well, that’s true. The Wright Brothers may (or may not) have been the first to successfully launch, fly and land an aeroplane… but there is ample enough proof to show that others before them were attempting to create their own successful aeroplane.
Herring, was one of them. But, did he actually succeed BEFORE the Wright Brothers?
Author Gierke says Herring successfully flew an aeroplane five years before the Wright Brothers. Say wha – ?
Gierke’s tour de force To Caress the Air takes place in the New York State Supreme Court in 1921, where the Herring-Curtiss Company v. Glenn H. Curtiss takes place. The civil trial’s evidence is explained via flashback scenes and takes those present in the court (or those of us reading) back to the days before the first successful Wright Brothers flight – back… back… back to when folks were trying to resolve how to get something heavier than air into the air.
Gierke’s novel mentions many of the well-known and respected names involved in aviation, and via his novel wonders aloud just why Augustus Herring’s name isn’t part of that pantheon.
Learn about Herring’s place in the aerial pantheon of the demi-gods, and just what the heck happened to cause his fall from grace. Was it his own doing, was it the smear tactics of others? Sure.
While Gierke has littered the book(s) with factual accounts based on court documents, as well as a personal collection of letters and notes from and to Herring, himself, unlike a real court setting (not the ones on day-time TV) where everything is dry, the story is a highly entertaining, and factual read.
Holy crap – I learned something! A lotta somethings! You should too!
I have a couple of complaints, however… one: the cover art for both books is too similar. Book one shows a drawing of a man beginning to fly; and book two shows the man leaping into the air with his aircraft. I get it… but I didn’t get it until I looked at it about five times. It didn’t stand out. Also, the phrases “Book One” and “Book Two” need to be larger, or at least in bold.
Yeah… those are my biggest complaints.
There are a number of photos and diagrams in the book – and maybe I wish there were more… and larger… but how many pages are there now? 1,500?
Well… we are talking about a man’s life story here.
So… how do you buy a copy of the books, published by Write Associates, LLC?
Well, I got mine on Amazon (David Gierke fronted me the money to buy my copies – so he wouldn’t have to pay mail costs from his home to mine – across the U.S. – Canada border).
I just did a title search: To Caress the Air – and presto! A paperback version of both books can cost: US$74.68.
Yes, it may seem like a lot, but its a great book(s) of pioneer aviation history.
Now, according to author Gierke, who contacted me after the initial posting of this article, he is dismayed at the wide pricing of his books: “They are intended to retail for $21.95 (per volume) in softcover, and $32.95 in hardcover. Both versions can be obtained at these prices at Barnes & Noble and other reputable sellers.”
There… Barnes & Noble has the books at a more affordable rate! https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Caress+The+Air?_requestid=9596594
So… two thumbs up to Gierke and his wonderful To Caress the Air books on aviation pioneer Augustus Herring. Buy the books.
And to David Gierke… I’m sorry I didn’t do the write-up sooner. I lost my job after getting the books – and to be honest, I didn’t feel like doing ANY personal writing on my blogs. But I’m starting to get my groove back.