Daily Archives: February 14, 2018

Book Spotlight – Fighter Pilot’s Daughter

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FIGHTER’S PILOT DAUGHTER by Mary Lawyor, Memoir, 336 pp., $18.95
(Kindle edition) $20.50 (paperback)


Title: Fighter Pilot’s Daughter: Growing Up in the Sixties and the Cold War

Author: Mary Lawlor

Publisher: Rowman and Littlefield

Pages: 336

Genre: Memoir

Format: Hardcover/Kindle

tells the story of the author as a young woman coming of age in an Irish
Catholic, military family during the Cold War. Her father, an aviator
in the Marines and later the Army, was transferred more than a dozen
times to posts from Miami to California and Germany as the government’s
Cold War policies demanded. For the pilot’s wife and daughters, each
move meant a complete upheaval of ordinary life. The car was sold, bank
accounts closed, and of course one school after another was left behind.
Friends and later boyfriends lined up in memory as a series of
temporary attachments. The book describes the dramas of this traveling
household during the middle years of the Cold War. In the process,
FIGHTER PILOT’S DAUGHTER shows how the larger turmoil of American
foreign policy and the effects of Cold War politics permeated the
domestic universe. The climactic moment of the story takes place in the
spring of 1968, when the author’s father was stationed in Vietnam and
she was attending college in Paris. Having left the family’s quarters in
Heidelberg, Germany the previous fall, she was still an ingénue; but
her strict upbringing had not gone deep enough to keep her anchored to
her parents’ world. When the May riots broke out in the Latin quarter,
she attached myself to the student leftists and American draft resisters
who were throwing cobblestones at the French police. Getting word of
her activities via a Red Cross telegram delivered on the airfield in Da
Nang, Vietnam, her father came to Paris to find her. The book narrates
their dramatically contentious meeting and return to the American
military community of Heidelberg. The book concludes many years later,
as the Cold War came to a close. After decades of tension that made
communication all but impossible, the author and her father reunited. As
the chill subsided in the world at large, so it did in the relationship
between the pilot and his daughter. When he died a few years later, the
hard edge between them, like the Cold War stand-off, had become a
distant memory.

For More Information

  • Fighter Pilot’s Daughter: Growing Up in the Sixties and the Cold War is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.


The pilot’s house where I grew up was mostly a
women’s world.  There were five of us.  We had the place to ourselves
most of the time.  My mother made the big decisions–where we went to
school, which bank to keep our money in.  She had to decide these things
often because we moved every couple of years.  The house is thus a figure
of speech, a way of thinking about a long series of small, cement dwellings we
occupied as one fictional home.

It was my father, however,
who turned the wheel, his job that rotated us to so many different
places.  He was an aviator, first in the Marines, later in the Army.
When he came home from his extended absences–missions, they were called–the rooms
shrank around him.  There wasn’t enough air.  We didn’t breathe as
freely as we did when he was gone, not because he was mean or demanding but
because we worshipped him.  Like satellites my sisters and I orbited him
at a distance, waiting for the chance to come closer, to show him things we’d
made, accept gifts, hear his stories.  My mother wasn’t at the center of
things anymore.  She hovered, maneuvered, arranged, corrected.  She
was first lady, the dame in waiting.  He was the center point of our circle,
a flier, a winged sentry who spent most of his time far up over our
heads.  When he was home, the house was definitely his.

These were the early years
of the Cold War.  It was a time of vivid fears, pictured nowadays in
photos of kids hunkered under their school desks.  My sisters and I did
that.  The phrase ‘air raid drill’ rang hard–the double-a sound a cold,
metallic twang, ending with ill.  It meant rehearsal for a time when you
might get burnt by the air you breathed.  
Every day we heard
practice rounds of artillery fire and ordinance on the near horizon.  We
knew what all this training was for.  It was to keep the world from
ending.  Our father was one of many Dads who sweat at soldierly labor,
part of an arsenal kept at the ready to scare off nuclear annihilation of life
on earth.  When we lived on post, my sisters and I saw uniformed men
marching in straight lines everywhere.  This was readiness, the soldiers
rehearsing against Armageddon.  The rectangular buildings where the
commissary, the PX, the bowling alley and beauty shop were housed had fall out
shelters in the basements, marked with black and yellow wheels, the civil
defense insignia.  Our Dad would often leave home for several days on
maneuvers, readiness exercises in which he and other men played war games
designed to match the visions of big generals and political men.  Visions
of how a Russian air and ground attack would happen.  They had to be ready
for it.
A clipped, nervous rhythm
kept time on military bases.  It was as if you needed to move efficiently
to keep up with things, to be ready yourself, even if you were just a
kid.  We were chased by the feeling that life as we knew it could change
in an hour.
Mary Lawlor grew up in an Army family during the Cold War. Her father
was a decorated fighter pilot who fought in the Pacific during World
War II, flew missions in Korea, and did two combat tours in Vietnam. His
family followed him from base to base and country to country during his
years of service. Every two or three years, Mary, her three sisters,
and her mother packed up their household and moved. By the time she
graduated from high school, she had attended fourteen different schools.
These displacements, plus her father?s frequent absences and brief,
dramatic returns, were part of the fabric of her childhood, as were the
rituals of base life and the adventures of life abroad.
As Mary came of age, tensions between the patriotic, Catholic culture
of her upbringing and the values of the sixties counterculture set
family life on fire. While attending the American College in Paris, she
became involved in the famous student uprisings of May 1968. Facing her
father, then posted in Vietnam, across a deep political divide, she
fought as he had taught her to for a way of life completely different
from his and her mother’s.
Years of turbulence followed. After working in Germany, Spain and
Japan, Mary went on to graduate school at NYU, earned a Ph.D. and became
a professor of literature and American Studies at Muhlenberg College.
She has published three books, Recalling the Wild (Rutgers UP, 2000),
Public Native America (Rutgers UP, 2006), and most recently Fighter Pilot’s Daughter: Growing Up in the Sixties and the Cold War (Rowman and Littlefield, September 2013).
She and her husband spend part of each year on a small farm in the mountains of southern Spain.

For More Information



VBT – The Long Lost

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About the Author

 Tom Nixon

Tom Nixon is an author and entrepreneur with writing credits to his name that span artistic genres. He has written multiple novels, two screenplays, several short stories, a children’s story, and has five music albums in his catalogue, for which he wrote both music and lyrics. He discovered his passion for writing and reading at an early age, going on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Michigan. He resides in Michigan with his wife and children, along with a couple of the canine variety.

His latest book is the suspense novel, The Long Lost.



About the Book:

 The Long Lost

Author: Tom Nixon
Publisher: CreateSpace
Pages: 418
Genre: Suspense


The sudden and strange disappearance of Joel Thomas brings together his ex-wife and best friend in a search for answers. As Mary and Jason seek out the truth, their quest consistently turns up more questions than clues. In another time, the story of a long-time group of college friends plays out across 30 years of history, revealing the highs and lows of a group that vowed to maintain their friendship until death. Is the answer to Joel’s mysterious departure found in a simple note sent to Mary, or is it locked somewhere back in time? Told in alternating voices and timelines, Nixon’s The Long Lost tells a story of both intrigue and suspense — along with sentimentality and introspection — as he examines the painful discoveries realized when childhood friends grow up…and grow apart.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Excerpt:

EVERYBODY knows someone like Joel Thomas.

I once heard someone describe him as the man who was friendly with everyone…but friends with no one. Which isn’t exactly true. It’s not that he was particularly at odds with any one person, or even that he was standoffish. It’s just that, when it came to having meaningful, deep friendships or relationships, there was nobody you could point to and say, “Those two are very close.”

But yet, there he was. Joel was at every party…every night out…every group outing. He seemed to like sports, the arts, movies, TV, pop culture. He knew a little bit about everything, so he always seemed to fit in, no matter what the occasion. But you were hard-pressed to say why, if asked.

Joel was married for a little more than 16 years to Mary, a woman he met in college during his study abroad program. They never had kids, but they did acquire the obligatory dog and 2,500-square-foot ranch in the suburbs. It was a normal life, if unspectacular. But that was Joel. Normal, sure. But unspectacular. A man that was seemingly liked by all…but loved by nobody in particular.

It would be a shock, then, when Joel suddenly disappeared.

I got the call around 7:30 that night. Mary seemed put off, but not frantic. I can’t tell you why I remember her demeanor in that way, only that it seemed significant at the time. Was I expecting the reaction an actress might have on a bad primetime cop show? I don’t know. Then again, Mary was Joel’s mirror image in some ways, so a subdued (though, certainly distraught) state of mind wasn’t entirely out of character. Still, it just seemed…different. Different than what I’d suspect, but I wasn’t sure if it was meaningfully different, or just different.

And I can’t claim to have been in the proper state of mind to be a judge of such things. Not that night. It’s a strange thing when you get “the call.” Or, in the movies, it’s the knock on the door. If you’ve never been so unfortunate, you’ll know when it happens. I’ll never forget watching my dad get the call when grandpa died. I’d never seen my old man cry before. It was jarring. It was a shock, to be sure…but grandpa was 84, and with a history of heart problems.

There’s a part of you that expects it…one that has been waiting for such a call. There’s another part of you in paralyzing shock. And there’s this weird part of you that starts immediately and reflexively having the sort of reaction others might expect you to have. Like you’re the one on the TV show. Call it, macabre exhilaration? This is happening. It’s horrible. But it’s excitement, in a sick sort of way. All of those parts of you begin an instant quarrel inside of you for supremacy, and it’s not until several hours, days or weeks later that reality sets in, and you hate yourself for feeling anything other than grief.

“Jason? Hi, it’s Mary. Sorry for calling so late.” A long, pregnant pause. “It’s Joel.”

Shit. Those words rang out like a shotgun in the open prairie air. It’s Joel. Whatever came next, I knew it wasn’t good. I immediately hunched down into a chair at the kitchen table. I’m not sure if I said anything, let out a self-defeated groan, or just waited in stunned silence for Mary to continue.

“It’s Joel. He’s not answering.”

“Not answering what?” I asked, now grasping to a lifeline of hope. Maybe I got ahead of myself with needless worry.

“Anything,” Mary responded, immediately sucking the wind out of my hopeful sails. “The phone, texts, the door. Normally I wouldn’t worry. We sometimes go weeks — maybe months — without talking. In fact, we usually do.”

“So what’s the worry?”

Mary paused. I could tell there was a “next part” that she didn’t want to get to. But she gave in. “It’s not normal.”

“What’s not?” I pressed.

“To get something in the mail.”

“What something? Something in the mail? From who? What was it?”

Another long pause.

“From Joel.”

“Mary, what are you saying? What the hell happened? Spit it out.”

Mary started slowly and softly, building both pace and volume as she continued. “I’ve been trying to get ahold of Joel for a few days. We got a strange tax thing in the mail, and it didn’t seem to make any sense, so I scanned it over to Joel last week. Followed up with a phone call. No answer. Then the texts. Nothing.”

“Yeah…” I needed her to get to the point.

“So I stopped by a couple days ago. No answer at his place. His car was there, though. I kinda poked around a bit, peeked in some windows…nothing. So I called the office. They said he’s on vacation. So I started to calm down…didn’t think much of it.”

“There ya go,” I reassured her. “He’s probably just out of the country or something. No cell service, ignoring emails and stuff.”

“That’s what I thought,” she continued. “Then I got this in the mail.”


“A note. In a box. Like a cardboard shipping box. It looked more like a parcel at first, with no return address. But it was light…like a letter, you know? I opened the box, and there was just this note in there.”


“Jason. It was Joel’s handwriting.”

“So? What did it say?”

And now, the longest, most silent, pause.

“Mary, what did the letter say? Read it to me.”

“Read it to you?”

“Yes! Read it to me!”

“No need to read it…I have it memorized…it was only two words.”

“Mary, what the hell did the letter say?”

A shorter pause. A softer voice. A slower pace. Finally, Mary got to the point.

“Tell Jason.”



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