cover image Wingwalkers


Taylor Brown. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-27459-5

Brown (Pride of Eden) returns with a boozy and nimble story of William Faulkner and two flying daredevils who meet by chance in 1934 at Mardi Gras. Faulkner grows up with a love for writing poetry and a fascination with airplanes, country barnstormers, and carnival balloonists in Oxford, Miss. At 13, he briefly pilots a homemade beanpole airplane before crashing, and later enlists with the RAF near the end of WWI and returns home with a limp and stories of dangerous escapades despite missing his chance at combat. A parallel narrative follows Zeno Marigold, a WWI ace pilot and student of the classics, and his wife, Della the Daring, who performs aerial stunts without a parachute in a skintight, silver lamé jumpsuit. Zeno and Della are poor, living hand-to-mouth as they dupe, hustle, and barnstorm their way through the South, working their way west to get into movies. Brown packs their vagabond lifestyle with plenty of trials and bootleg liquor, while Faulkner’s star as a script writer and novelist continues to rise, and, after a double jolt of heartbreak when both women he loves marry others, he marries Estelle. The final act features a life-changing, serendipitous encounter between Faulkner, Zeno, and Della. Brown crafts a heart-pounding plot, and his gorgeous descriptions of Southern terrain from the air resonate just as much. The result is both elegant and thrilling. (Apr.)