A parcel just arrived; the result of a lengthy quest. The regular reader may recall the delights I encountered in discovering the whimsical world of Richard Halliburton, who died tragically young when the Chinese Junk he had made failed to appear in San Francisco after setting out from Hong Kong, lost somewhere in the Pacific.
A few years ago those good folks at Tauris Parke Paperbacks re-published Halliburton’s The Flying Carpet, his tale of the exploits he and pilot Moye Stephens had in traipsing the world in a bi-plane. Marvellous, marvellous stuff.
That led me on to reading just about everything Halliburton had written, and to sourcing the original volumes in addition to the recently published versions. I found a biography from Gerry Max and learnt more of our intrepid traveller, including what was known of that final voyage.
But one part of his life continued to elude me. When The Flying Carpet arrived at Timbuktu Halliburton heard of a young German flyer, a female flying solo, who had departed just ahead of him. But he met up with Elly Beinhorn as they hopped across Persia and India and onwards to Australia. His St Louis Blues was exchanged for her Falling In Love Again. Adventures were had.
Elly Beinhorn wrote about her adventures, and I discovered that there had been an English translation of Alleinflug, published by Geoffrey Bles in 1935. The Halliburton collection demanded that I track it down, besides I really wanted to read the tales of her flight round the world, as well as her thoughts on the bold Richard.
And so a quest began. The dealers at the book fair in York shrugged; even a German dealer who made the trip had not heard of his compatriot, heroine of the skies between the wars. Periodically, my favoured second-hand book search facilities chugged into life, but the name of Elly Beinhorn produced only nein, when tagged with English. EBay could offer lots of photographs, or volumes in German. Hopes rose when I posted a request and a few months later a link appeared.
But it was ex-libris, and thus plastered with all the usual stickers and stamps that confirmed a life in the library, and thus well and truly thumbed rather than cherished. Besides the price sought reflected that someone was looking for it, and not something I would pay for a volume soiled by library use, or even a pristine copy.
Today the postie brought a parcel, and at long last that sought-after volume can take a place on the shelf beside young Elly’s fellow flyer. According to Halliburton she mended motors as neatly as socks. I’ll get round to reading it one day soon, and might just tell you what she had to say. But for now I’m thrilled just to have Flying Girl in my hands, and to make a space on the shelf.
I had been passing a few idle hours on line the other night when I dipped into various book resources. On a whim I had a look at Oxfam Books, and there, to my astonishment, the name of Elly Beinhorn produced a response, donated, the English translation, and at a very acceptable price given the rarity of this book and my long search to find it. The Grasshopper grins, goofy, and with thanks to whoever passed it on to the charity.
Now Moye Stephens, there’s a book somewhere of his life in the cockpit…