Research for Authors

Sometimes an author’s research takes her to a place she’d rather not go. Still to ensure a book, a story, an article, or a blog post rings true, authors must delve deep behind the scenes, no matter how squeamish the subject matter.

As what I call a natural born researcher, I love to dig for the little details that bring a scene to life. For a work of historical fiction set in the first half of the 1900s, I remember perusing Vogue magazine for their treasure trove of fashions. In answer to my question about women’s hats, I found that cloches were popular. For what was the talk of the town, I read notices in the society pages of the Boston Globe and to mention the name of a prominent movie or movie star I searched Hollywood gossip magazine articles.

There is however the darker side. An author might have known the answer to the questions I posed above, but they likely did not know what the aftermath of an artillery shell explosion looked like or the scene from high above the ground in a B-17 or P-38. Thankfully for today’s writers detailed photographs of these scenes and just about anything else you might need to know are readily available on the internet.

The photographs of the last minutes of several bomber crews have, gratefully but horrifically been captured. They were mentioned recently on Blue Skies: Horrific Images Captured Last Moments of USAAF Bombers

While penning (or rather typing) my latest work (The Other Veterans of World War II), I spent hours (or rather days and weeks in some cases) perusing what’s known at the Green Books. For any serious WWII writer these volumes on the US Army are the Bible.

The Green Books cover the war from A to Z. From the establishment and responsibilities of the War Department to the divisions of the Army (the Ground Forces, for example, versus the Service Forces), the different theaters of war, and special studies that dive deeply into particular topics. They make life so easy, I can’t imagine having to ferret out the details any other way.

Oh, and assuming like me (a daughter of a WWII army airforces pilot–yes they called it army air corps and then army airforces, plural, at the time) you need more information on the air war, there is another series dedicated to that topic.

Men and Planes from the Office of Air Force History. This series of volumes also covers everything from the beginnings of flight in wartime to recruiting and training pilots and ground crews, to the various aircraft used during the war.

For anyone else with an inquiring mind and a need to know more about WWII I am sure you’ll find these as helpful as I did. If you have a favorite source, do let me know.

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