Tuesday, April 26, 2022


Taylor Brown grew up on the Georgia coast. He has lived in Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and the mountains of western North Carolina. His books include In the Season of Blood and Gold (2014), Fallen Land (2016), The River of Kings (2017), Gods of Howl Mountain (2018), Pride of Eden (2020), and Wingwalkers (2022). You can find his work in The New York Times, The Rumpus, Garden & Gun, the North Carolina Literary Review, and many other publications. He is a recipient of the Montana Prize in Fiction and the founder of BikeBound.com. He lives in Savannah, GA.

Brown applied the Page 69 Test to Wingwalkers and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Now, let us make sure you meet the King’s requirements.”

Bill balked. These hated scales, his bane.

“Are you aware, sir, that the average height of a medieval knight, based on surviving suits of armour”—here he added the British u in his mind—“was but sixty-five inches from sole to crown?”

“Well, you had better be sixty-six to join the Royal Air Force. A man must reach the rudder pedals, after all. On the scale, please, and remove your shoes.”

Faulkner chewed the inside of his mouth, looking from the man to the scale. He had tried everything to grow taller. Milk and spinach and bunches of bananas, even ginseng powder purchased behind the glazed and dangling ducks of Chinatown. Now he snorted in disgust and pulled off his shoes, a sharp-toed pair of Johnston & Murphy derbies he’d bought in Memphis for twelve dollars and a half, and stepped onto the device with first one foot, then the other, testing the surface like pond ice. The needle wound lazily toward the 120-pound mark but lost momentum, hovering at 113 pounds. The one-legged lieutenant drew a ruler from his tunic and held it atop Faulkner’s head, tracing it toward the hash marks stamped into the measuring bar.

“You are standing on your toes, sir.”

“I can’t help it,” said Bill. “I have very tight tendons.” “Stand flat-footed, Mr. Faulkner, and now.”

His heels clapped down hard, jumping the needle, and the officer waited for the device to quit shaking before he took his measurement.

“Sixty-five and one-half inches,” he said. “Half an inch short. I’m sorry, Mr. Faulkner, but I’m afraid you don’t meet the minimum requirements of the Royal Air Force.”

Faulkner leapt off the scale. “You must be mistaken, sir.”

“All cadets must be at least five and one-half feet tall, or sixty-six inches.”

“So round up.”

“The RAF does not round.”

“So fudge it. Surely you fudge.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Faulkner, but we cannot use you.”
Does the Page 69 Test work in this case?

Absolutely! Crazily enough, this is not only one of my favorite scenes in Wingwalkers, it's one of the very best pages to introduce the reader to the book as a whole. In fact, it's one of the pages I plan to read in my live events to give folks a taste of the novel.

The scene takes place in New York City, 1918. Based on biographical and anecdotal information, it's a reimagining of the day that 20-year-old William "Bill" Faulkner traveled to the Fifth Avenue office of Wing Commander Lord George Wellesley of the Royal Air Force to enlist as a fighter pilot in the Great War. He was afraid that he needed to be a British citizen to serve in the RAF, so he affected an accent, forged a recommendation letter from a "Reverend Mr. Edward Twimberly-Thorndyke," and added the "u" to his surname -- he was actually born William Falkner!

Wingwalkers follows much of Faulkner's life from an aviation perspective -- a huge, largely unknown inspiration for him -- from his boyhood building model airplanes, to his time in the RAF, to his early aviation-influenced work, to the Flying Faulkners -- a barnstorming troupe he helped to create with his youngest brother, Dean Swift. Faulkner's story alternates with that of a husband-wife barnstorming duo, wingwalker Della the Daring and former WWI ace Zeno Marigold, as they attempt to coax their ailing biplane across the country during the Great Depression. As Faulkner is coming up in the world, Della and Zeno are heading west, and their lives will intersect at some point -- based on a true tidbit from Faulkner's biography.

Overall, I'd have a hard time choosing a better page than this one to introduce someone to the book!
Visit Taylor Brown's website.

Q&A with Taylor Brown.

My Book, The Movie: Wingwalkers.

--Marshal Zeringue