Meet the author: Jean-Denis Lepage

On the blog today we have an exclusive interview with Jean-Denis Lepage, in which he tells us about his new release Torpedo Bombers, 1900-1950.

What is the book about?

Torpedo Bombers in the period 1900-1950

What inspired you to write it?

A personal interest for military history, a kind of fascination for WWII, and an excellent book by Peter C. Smith purchased (if I can remember) in the 1990s  in a second hand bookshop.

Who will the book appeal to?

Anyone interested in history, WWII,  aviation, and military airplanes: I guess students, collectors and modellers etc…

What interesting facts have you uncovered during your research?

Several contradictive things have stuck me notably:

The extraordinary talent and ingenuity of engineers, manufacturers and technocrats to design, create and produce excellent, sometimes beautiful to see, and wonderful machines intended to fly like birds in the sky… but also intended to kill other people.

The foolish ease with which governments and military authorities use public funds from tax money for purchasing again and again enormously expensive machines, which (often) become obsolete and useless within a rather short time . A disgraceful process that still goes on today.

The immense luck that I have not to be born before WWII, and thus never to have known real fear, total unjustice, propaganda lies and misinformations, real horror, violent death, repression, oppression, deep hatred, hunger, cold, arbitrary government, extreme violence at any moment, and loathsome contempt for human life, and human feelings. War and civil war are the worst things that can happen. “Honni soit qui mal y pense … de la société de consommation actuelle!”

What research have you done?

I had already a lot of books about the subject, I have bought a lot, and I have read everything they had in the municipal public library (because I am a bit old-fashioned). I also cautiously consulted the Internet (because I am a bit modern too) -yet with extreme caution because there everything is not always right.

Have you been able to access any primary source material?

No, only second source. I am not an historian. See further in my book “Acknowlegements” and “Bibliography”

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Selecting amongst thousands of informations the ones that were relevant and essential, and once this was done checking, ordering and developing them.

If you have used illustrations where did they come from?

I made all the illustrations, which are all based on photographs gleaned Here, There, and Everywhere -to paraphrase Paul McCartney. I am originally an illustrator and an artist, not a writer.

Is there a unique angle to this book and if so, what is it?

The focus is on the airplanes themselves with a the addition of bit of serious background infos and historical data placing them in a technical and historical perspective without which the book would only be a boring catalogue.

How long is the book? Why that length?

The book has 394 pages. This length is apparently the amount I needed.

Why do you think you were qualified to write the book?

Well. A difficult question… In the first place: Am I really qualified? And who really is? A good and  successful author (or a good artist or a good musician) is someone who has a bit of talent, a certain feeling with the topic,  a lot of good fortune, and who is passionate with his subject. Talent, intuition, luck and passion are however not enough. The good author (at least in non-fiction book) must also know everything (at least a lot) about the subject he is dealing with. That means work, seriously work and work hard again… and learn, read, verify, counter-check, better, re-write, correct, improve, edit, doubt and start all over again, and work again.

Am I such a person? I certainly humbly try to be… But it is not to me to say but to the publisher who decides taking the risk to produce my work, and ultimately to the reader who at the end of the line is the final judge.  

What has researching this book taught you?

A lot of things of course, particularly in the technical and historical aspects. And in the end the satisfaction of a good job done. Every book I write and illustrate is the book that I would have liked to read. I confess this is cliché but it is true.

What part of the book are you most proud of?

I quite like the whole book, but I must admit I have a particular preference for Part 5, and chapters 33 and 34. All those powerful, big, sturdy, and beefy American and Japanese airplanes are really incredible and beautiful machines -the more so when one thinks that most of them were carrier-borne. They were great fun to built in (Airfix or Revell) plastic kits when I was a child, and they were still a real pleasure to draw when I made this book.

You can order a copy here.