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Friday, December 07, 2012

Aviation author finds he has the right stuff

With a keen interest in World War II, Don Fink knows of what he pens in his semi-autobiography.

Photo by SHERESE GORE | Laker Weekly

"Escape to the Sky," a novel by Moneta resident Don Fink, is available online and at his book signing Dec. 14 at Westlake Library.

Armed with daydreams of what lay over the horizon, Michigan farmboy Ben Findlay longs to flee his tyrannical father and long-suffering mother. When an airplane sputters into the family's pasture one day, the event not only sparks a desire to fly within the teenager, but provides an outlet for escape.

In the 2012 novel "Escape to the Sky," the reader travels with Findlay as he gains his wings as a ramp monkey in the American Midwest to his recruitment as a volunteer pilot in the Spanish Civil War. Findlay later joins the fight against the German onslaught during World War II as a pilot in Britain's Royal Air Force and later in the U.S. Army Air Force.

"Escape to the Sky" is about a young man who grows up very quickly when thrust into world events, said author Don Fink of Moneta. The self-published novel is also a loose mirror of Fink's own life.

Like the protagonist, Fink was a Michigan farmboy who would look to the horizon to escape from a less-than-perfect home life. When an airplane flew low one day over his father's farm, it sparked a lifelong interest in aviation. Fink, like Findlay, took flying lessons from a "crusty old pilot," the prototype for Findlay's mentor in the book.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in journalism, Fink served in France in the United States Air Force. He later became a reporter for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and wrote for Aviation Week magazine, retiring from that publication as editor-in-chief in 1996.

Since his move to Moneta, Fink has held leadership positions in several lake-based community service organizations. He is a former president of the Smith Mountain Lake Association in addition to the Smith Mountain Arts Council and Center at the Lake, where he currently holds the position of vice-president.

A fascination with World War II prompted the backdrop for "Escape to the Sky," Fink said.

"I was coming of age at that point, and anything that has to do with World WarII, I would read," Fink said. "I felt, and still feel, I was a little left out that I wasn't old enough to participate."

Family and friends helped with the novel's completion. Fink's brother, Conrad, now deceased, a former deputy general manager of the Associated Press, contributed his "famous red pen" to the editing process. Chris Wheal, a friend and former pilot in Britain's Royal Navy helped with dialogue and accuracy. The cover depiction of a young man - Fink in 1952 - standing in a cornfield with a Steamer biplane looping overhead was designed by Fink's photographer son, Mark.

Fink began writing the 339-page novel in 2009, and became so ensconced with the characters that at times he would dream sections of dialogue during sleep, he said.

"It was a really intense experience, to get involved in the story that it was pretty much writing itself," he said.

"Escape to the Sky" can be purchased online in hardbound form for $29.99, softbound for $19.99 or as an e-book for $3.99. Fink said book signings at area libraries are in the planning stages, and a sequel is in the works.

Escape to the Sky"

Don Fink will have a book signing for his novel, "Escape to the Sky." He will make a brief presentation on the book and then sign copies, which will be for sale. The book also is available through Xlibris.com, amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.

Date: Dec. 14

Time: 4 p.m.

Where: Westlake Library

More information: donfinkescapetothesky.com, donfink@earthlink.net