Inspiration for The Special
My first novel is historical fiction based loosely on the life of my uncle, William Wade (Billy) Pendleton. I was the first child born to my parents. My father had been a Marine in WW II and after returning from Iwo Jima he was stationed in Corpus Christi on the coast of Texas awaiting his discharge. He was a member of the guard platoon for a Navy base there. He met a beautiful brown eyed brunette and shortly after his discharge they are married. They both worked and pursued the American dream. When I was born I stayed at my grandparent’s house during the day. My grandparents only had two children, both boys. My father was the youngest, his brother was two years his senior.
As I grew up in my grandparent’s house I was immersed in family stories. The preponderance of those stories involved my uncle Billy. One of those stories concerned Billy’s disappearance. Billy you see was in the Navy, the nose gunner on a B-24 Liberator that patrolled the Bay of Biscay in search of German submarines. One cold morning in February of 1944 two short radio messages were received from his airplane. The first reported their airplane under attack by German fighters. The second message received shortly after the first was a Mayday message. When friendly aircraft reached the last known position of Billy’s airplane, all they found were two oil slicks and two rubber boats, one of the type carried by Liberators and the other of the type carried by German JU-88s.
My grandparents received a telegram from the Navy listing Billy as missing in action (MIA). A year later when no word had been heard from Billy or the rest of his crew, their status was changed to killed in action (KIA). My grandparents and my father never could accept the idea that Billy was dead. He was missing, but without proof positive of his demise, to all of them he was still alive somewhere.
I grew up with these stories about my uncle. His picture stared down from the walls, I wore elements of his uniforms as I grew up. I wore his caps, I wore his shirts and I always wondered what he had been like. I played with the things he’d made as a boy, a crystal radio set, a hand carved walking stick, tiny pieces of B-24 bombers from when he’d worked at Consolidated Aircraft before WW II.
Sixty years after Billy’s death these stories ricocheted inside my head. I was just starting construction of a vintage race car. Everyone that saw the project wanted to know where it came from. I started thinking about what the history of the car might be. The story exploded in my mind. At times the words came faster than I could write them down as the characters told me their stories. Now Billy and his friends are real people to me. When I see his picture these days I’m sure he’s winking at me.
For more information please visit my website, http://jependleton.com/ where you can contact me, order signed books or read about new projects.