During your research, did you learn anything new or surprising about your father that you might not have learned had you not compiled his memoirs?
Christina: I learned many new things - far too many to mention. One of the things that stunned me was how much he accomplished in each year and during every assignment. The biggest surprise was learning that as the Commander of the 81st TFW in England, he was in charge of "delivering" nukes to Russia 1963-1965 if ordered. I thought he was "just" a fighter pilot while I was a Beatlemaniac.
Robin Olds is beloved by many people. Who are some of the men and women who supported your book? Who did you speak with while writing it?
Christina: I spoke to dozens of people before, during and after the writing of the book, most of whom I had met during previous years traveling with my dad to reunions, speeches and aviation events. The outpouring of support really started when I was planning the funeral. People contacted me from all over the world. Most have stayed in contact since. I have the experience of being cradled by the entire fighter pilot and civilian air show pilot communities. Notably, those who greatly influenced the actual writing of the book (named in the Acknowledgments) are: Bill Kirk, JB Stone, Bob Pardo, Doc Broadway, Morgan Olds, Gerald Finton, Dave Waldrop, Susan Olds, Joe Kittinger, Cynthia Harrison, Bob Titus, Ed Eberhart and Ben Cassiday, among many others. Ed Rasimus was my guiding light. I call him "Sensei". The solid leadership of Marc Resnick at St. Martin's Press, followed by support through various individuals on his team, has been nothing short of astounding. My dad's story could not possibly have been borne on the wings of better angels.
What has been the biggest surprise for you since having the book published? Have any of Robin's long-lost friends contacted you?
Christina: The contacts from long-lost friends and admirers of Robin's have increased exponentially over the past two years and are now in after-burner and almost out of control! People have found me through fighter pilot channels and Facebook as the word has spread through channels around the world. It's an extreme challenge and distinct privilege to keep up with personal responses to each person.
The biggest surprise from the publication of the book is not really a surprise at all. I've known for decades how beloved Robin was, and have believed in his legacy so strongly that support for the book was inevitable. Rather than a surprise, it's been a continuously and increasingly joyful journey to be around his gang of friends and admirers.
How do you think your father would feel about the book?
Christina: He is thrilled. I feel it. He's celebrating with his buddies up at that fighter pilot bar in the sky. Everywhere I go, we all raise a toast to him.
How much did you know about Robin Olds before you began working with Christina?
Ed: I knew of Robin when I was back from my first F-105 tour. He had arrived at Ubon about the time I was leaving Korat. The F-105 community had a love/hate relationship with Robin, the sort of thing addressed in the book where Robin discusses the brotherhood of those who fly a particular airplane and the banter/competition with those who fly "the other" kind. Respect coupled with competition.
Over the years, Robin became an icon in the fighter world. I met him finally at River Rat reunions and was impressed with how approachable he was and how sincere in his conversations. Over several years I had many chances to talk with him and when my first book was published I broached the question of his memoirs. "Could I help?" "Could I 'ghost' it for him?" "Could I talk to publishers or try to aid him in publication?"
He was adamant that no one would put words in his mouth and that he had most of his memoir done. He might have had chunks on paper and concepts of the total in mind, but it was a long way from done.
We talked over five or six years every time I had a moment one-on-one with him. The issue of his age and how long he might have to leave his memories for the future generations was always on the table. He still said he would do it himself.
When he passed away, I thought it was going to be the last we would hear of it, but I mentioned it in a brief contact with Christina at Robin's memorial service in Colo. Springs. I was very happy when she called and asked for my help several months later. It has been a very distinct privilege to be a part of the project.
You are the author of two other military books. How does co-writing a book compare to writing it by yourself?
Ed: Sort of like the difference between flying a single-seat fighter and a crew-
dependent airplane. With a good WSO in the F-4 a front-seat pilot could be much better. With a poor guy in the back seat, a front-seater was saddled with a significant handicap.
Or, maybe the joke about the foursome goes out for a round of golf. When they return to the clubhouse a friend asks, "how did it go today?" The golfer replies, "Terrible! Harry had a heart attack on the third hole and dropped dead. From that point on it was hit the ball and drag Harry, hit the ball and drag Harry."
Fortunately for me, it was easy to work with Christina. We would collaborate, share files, discuss reworks and then she would do it her way....
Seriously, we worked very well together and the project came together quite smoothly. The gang at St. Martin's made it still easier as they loved everything we submitted and supported us throughout.
I'd do it again for a Tom Clancy, Stephen King or Nelson DeMille sized contract!