A legendary WWII airlift mission cuts through the snaggletoothed Himalaya Mountains—the Hump—where both the terrain and weather prove uncommonly savage. And American airmen leave a trail of blood and mangled aircraft across northern Burma.
Major Rod Shepherd, a C-46 pilot and Army Air Forces weather officer, flings his aircraft into the tumultuous skies to fly critical missions over the Hump. He braves not only the extreme—even impossible—flying conditions, but commanders who believe weather support is useless and a flight nurse who, for reasons unknown to Rod, dislikes him intensely.
Rod risks incredible danger with every flight. But when a mission of grave importance is imperiled at high altitude, Rod faces an unthinkable dilemma.
H. W. “Buzz” Bernard recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest thriller, WHEN HEROES FLEW: THE ROOF OF THE WORLD:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I want readers to gain a sense of the bravery, dedication, and resourcefulness of the young WWII pilots who flew transports over the Himalaya Mountains and Burmese jungles in so-called “non-combat” roles. In prop-driven aircraft they flew at altitudes the planes were never designed for, and they battled the ruggedest terrain and worst weather in the world. Their losses were horrendous, their stories astounding.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
From WWII, there is an endless supply of stunning tales and monstrous villains. The young men and women who went to war in 1941 rightfully earned the title of “The Greatest Generation.” Ordinary people became legendary heroes, not by design but out of necessity. Their stories have earned the right to be preserved.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
While there are numerous WWII historical fiction books, few, if any, are based on the tales of the pilots who flew the “Hump,” as the route over the Himalayas was known. ROOF OF THE WORLD is set in the China-Burma-India Theater and focuses on the virtually impossible challenge of airlifting supplies from India to China over the ruggedest terrain in the world. It’s an aspect of WWII that few people are aware of. I hope the novel, in whatever tiny way it can, corrects that.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
The novels of James Lee Burke have long been my North Star in terms of me navigating the thickets of learning the craft of writing novels. P. T. Deutermann’s WWII historical novels have also provided me superb inspiration. Other writers on my list: Reed Farrel Coleman, Michael Wiley, Tom Young, Alan Furst, Herman Wouk, and Gregg Hurwitz.
H. W. “Buzz” Bernard is a best-selling, award-winning novelist.
His debut novel, Eyewall, which one reviewer called a “perfect summer beach read,” was published in May 2011 and went on to become a number-one bestseller in Amazon’s Kindle Store.
Three of his next four novels won EPIC eBook awards in the suspense/thriller category. In 2020, with the publication of WHEN HEROES FLEW, Buzz switched from writing suspense/thriller novels to WWII historical fiction. WHEN HEROES FLEW was awarded a gold medal by the Military Writers Society of America.
His next two books, When Heroes Flew: The Shangri-La Raiders (2021) and When Heroes Flew: The Roof of the World (2022) completed the When Heroes Flew trilogy.
He is currently at work on his fourth WWII historical fiction novel. It’s scheduled to be released in mid-2023.
Buzz is a past president of the Southeastern Writers Association as well as a member of the Military Writers Society of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the Atlanta Writers Club.
Although a native Oregonian, Buzz lived for 35 years in Atlanta, Georgia, and now resides in Kennewick, Washington, with his wife Barbara and their fuzzy shih tzu, Stormy . . . who doesn’t live up to his name.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.