ALLEN BOYER is a former senior appellate counsel in the enforcement division of the New York Stock Exchange. Rocky Boyer’s War: An Unvarnished History of the Air Blitz That Won the War in the Southwest Pacific, to be published this year by Naval Institute Press, is his fifth book.
1. What inspired you to write this book?
Rocky Boyer’s War is my fifth book, but it is the first book I ever wanted to publish. During World War II my father served in New Guinea and the Philippines with a fighter-bomber unit. I first read his diary when I was a teenager and had just finished Catch-22. My father never told conventional war stories. His stories were about pilots who killed themselves trying to dip their wingtips in the tall kunai grass, or the night that the Japanese destroyers shelled the airstrip, or how he and his friends were swindled when buying ice cream. I wanted to get that side of the Pacific War into the historical record.
2. Where do you like to write?
My favorite place to write is on the outside deck of the Staten Island Ferry, on a sunny morning, facing across the harbor to Brooklyn. It is the broadest, brightest, cleanest, and coldest office any writer could ask for. My favorite place to write indoors is at the New York Public Library—at any branch, but particularly in the Wertheim Study at the Schwarzman Building, the main research library on 42nd Street.
3. What’s your favorite underappreciated nonfiction work?
The Steel Bonnets, by George MacDonald Fraser. It’s a history of the border country between England and Scotland during the 16th century, when families named Kerr and Collingwood and Graham lived by raiding and cattle-rustling. The region was as clannish and violent as Sicily, and just as peculiarly honor-bound. The Borders were Fraser’s own part of the world. He wrote with his customary sardonic humor, cutting through romantic myths about outlaws. His concern was not high-level Elizabethan diplomacy, he wrote; it was “how old Sir John Forster’s wife got the door shut in the nick of time as a band of reivers came up the stairs.
4. How did you become interested in military history?
I like to write, and I grew up in Oxford, Mississippi. In William Faulkner’s home town, you grow up aware of history. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading history, and much of it was military history. Books on knights and castles. American Heritage magazine articles on Wake Island and the USS Constitution. Big, heavy, blue-bound American Heritage books: The Civil War and The American Revolution and Flight. Life magazine’s special issue on the battle of Waterloo. Kenneth Roberts. Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote.
5. Does writing energize you or exhaust you?
My wife would tell you that I often fall asleep reading history books. That may be true, but I don’t fall asleep when I am writing. When you make a connection, it energizes you. When you get a phrase right, it energizes you.
6. How can readers learn more about you and your work?
On Facebook, I run a page on the 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group, the fighter-bomber unit with which my father served. I have posted material relating to Rocky Boyer’s War: photos of flyers and warplanes and bases, documents, comments. I am currently reviewing books online for the Phi Beta Kappa Key Reporter (including books on George Armstrong Custer, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Le Carré). As a lawyer, I have written on legal history—mostly American business law and the English common law, including Sir Edward Coke and the Elizabethan Age. Someone who enjoys doing legal research might track the cases I did as an enforcement lawyer for the New York Stock Exchange, my longtime day job. MHQ