I found out that this young woman had gone missing in July 1937 on a flight around the world after a mercurial nine year career in aviation, and since I love a good mystery, I was hooked. But I was also chagrined that the educational system of the fifties and sixties had failed to make me more aware of this unique person. For the next thirty-five years, I read everything I could get about Earhart and her disappearance, becoming more and more fascinated with her, her career and her disappearance, which increasingly seemed to me to be more of a political mystery than an aviation mystery.
Years went by and in the spring of 1991, I retired from the U.S. Navy Reserve after two years of active duty in the Vietnam War and twenty-three years of reserve service, ten years of which had been in Naval Reserve Intelligence. I now had the time to pursue my lifelong interest in writing and films, and began writing research articles on old-time film actors and actresses. I hadn't a thought about writing a book about Amelia Earhart. Eleven years and almost as many articles rolled by, and on New Year's Eve 2002, I retired after a career of over thirty-one years with the State of Washington. By then, I was a widower, having lost my significant other years before, and there was even more free time. At the time, I felt I would someday write a book, but still there was no thought of the subject being the enigmatic Amelia Earhart.
Then, a strange process began in January 2003. I found myself surfing the web every day and ordering books about Amelia Earhart. I also began visiting auctions at Amazon.com and eBay, bidding on and buying Earhart-related memorabilia, a pursuit that continues to this day, partly as a matter of research, partly for the fun of it. Over the next eight months, interest mounted and continued, although to this day I don't why. For, who among us knows why certain things happen to us. By late March, I had moved in with my ailing mother, one of my favorite people, and joyfully cared for her during the next three and a half years, during which my apartment in Seattle was sold and another in Auburn purchased.
By the beginning of the summer, synchronistic things began to happen, one of the most interesting of which occurred when I bid on, won and bought a 1938 postal cover issued by the USS Cachalot in memoriam of Amelia Earhart. This occurred in May 2003. I immediately forgot the purchase, as I was involved in caring for my mother and selling my apartment. And then exactly on the anniversary of Earhart's loss, July 2, 2003, the cover arrived in the mail. The cover itself was postmarked July 2, 1938, with a cachet captioned "July 2, 1937".
It is reproduced below:
Later in the summer, I purchased an old Compaq notebook computer off of eBay, because I didn't want to over monopolize my mother's PC. A month or so later, I was bidding on a couple of postcards of Earhart standing in front of her plane in the pose that was used by the post office for her commemorative stamp, when I received an odd email through eBay's system. It was one that was technically not kosher with eBay. The sender announced that he had been bidding against me for the cards, but would cease bidding if I would sell him one. He gave me his name and phone number.
I immediately phoned him and we talked for a moment and I agreed that I would sell him one postcard after I won them. He then asked me if I knew who he was and repeated his name, David Bellarts. I told I didn't know who he was and then he started that he was the son of Coast Guard chief Leo Bellarts, who had monitored Amelia Earhart's transmissions aboard the cutter Itascaoff of Howland Island on July 2, 1937. After a moment of stammering, I made a date for lunch with Dave a short time later. Dave and I have had lunch once a month since then, later adding researchers Ronald Bright and Don Treco to a group we now call KHAQQ, after Amelia Earhart's radio call letters. It has been a pleasant and productive association.
In early 2004 I was accepted into the Amelia Earhart Society, an organization which is dedicated to solving the mystery of Amelia Earhart and is comprised almost mainly of writers and researchers. Many of my colleagues are the authors of well-known books about Earhart, which still amazes me since I still feel as though I'm just a workaday Middle American Joe. A very short time later, Dave was accepted. By then, I had almost completed a first draft of Legerdemain.
Legerdemain is a unique book in several ways. First, it is not a theory book. It reviews all past investigations and discloses the results of my own ongoing investigation, taking no strong position, but offering a possible solution. Another main difference is that about half of Legerdemain is reference material which I developed during the writing of the book. Also, the illustrations are all fresh, not the same old ones you see in most books about Amelia Earhart. And finally, Legerdemain contains a new revelation in the form of a document I reviewed from a documentary filmmaker friend. Legerdemainis, in summary, a complete compendium on the mystery of Amelia Earhart.
The following year in May, I self-published the first edition of Legerdemain through Author House, which is probably the Cadillac of self-publishers. Below are some of the comments I have gotten from readers:
One important thing I have gotten from my experience with Legerdemain is that initially self-publishing served a valuable purpose, because of the modest reputation I was able to build up for the book and nice reviews that it garnered. Legerdemain's track record when self-published helped me to find a conventional publisher. In short, although this may seem like an oxymoron, the best way to get published is to start by publishing! And although I have made little money from my book, over the years, between the fun of visits to Atchison, presentations, and the many interesting people I have met in both in Kansas and Washington, my overall experience has been very rewarding.
I recently published a film history book, The Forgotten Stars, on Amazon.com in Kindle format, and hope to have Tales of Westpac, a book about my experiences on active duty out in Kindle format in a month or so.
My website address is www.davidkbowman.com.
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