King of the Air
The Turbulent Life of Charles Kingsford Smith
A revealing portrait of a brilliant and troubled figure – a daredevil of the sky
Charles Kingsford Smith was the most commanding flyer of the golden age of aviation. In three short years, he broke records with his astounding and daring voyages: the first trans-Pacific flight from America to Australia, the first circumnavigation around the equator, the first non-stop crossing of the Australian mainland. He did it all with such courage, modesty and charm that Australia and the world fell in love with him. He became a national hero, ‘Our Smithy’.
Yet his achievements belied a traumatic past. He had witnessed the horror of World War I – first as a soldier at Gallipoli, later as a combat pilot with the Royal Flying Corps – and, like so many of his generation, he bore physical and emotional scars. The public saw the derring-do; only those close to him knew the anxious man who pushed himself to the edge of health and sanity. In November 1935, Kingsford Smith’s plane crashed and he was lost at sea near Burma, his body never to be recovered.
This brilliant work from one of Australia’s foremost biographers reveals the complicated, tumultuous life of a fascinating figure, who pursued his obsession to the greatest heights of fame and catastrophe
Ann Blainey is the author of the acclaimed I Am Melba, which won the 2009 National Biography Award and was the most popular book in the 2009 State Library of Victoria Summer Reads program. Her other books include biographies of Leigh Hunt and the Kemble sisters.
‘Brilliant … Blainey’s fascinating book focuses on the inner as well as the outer man. While Smithy’s career highlights may be well known, his ambiguous relationship with fame, his drinking, and his doubts and fears were not. In this beautifully written, scrupulously researched and meticulously indexed work, Blainey has filled this gap to perfection.’ —Ross Fitzgerald, The Weekend Australian
'Crisply written ... Even people not particularly interested in the feats of aviators will find this book an engrossing read.' —Jim Davidson, The Sydney Morning Herald
‘Blainey is a pleasure to read and this biography is superbly researched’ —Michael McGirr, Australian Book Review