Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Heavenly Review of "William 'Bill' Walton: A Charmed Life" by Glenda A. Bixler

What an incredible, awesome, breathtaking review by Glenda A. Bixler of William ‘Bill’ Walton: A Charmed Life, which it was my privilege to transform in 2012-2013, landing the publisher to boot!  (Probably my friend Redd Griffin’s intervention from heaven—both the publisher and this, ahem, heavenly review. Redd was the one who introduced me to the author, Mary Hackett, married to Bill’s nephew Jack, who was such a delight to work with.)  In fact, Bixler’s blog is dubbed “Book Reader’s Heaven.” That nails it. This was ALL Redd’s doing. Thank you, Redd! Below is a portion of her review... 

William "Bill" Walton: A Charmed Life - Fascinating Historical Bio on WWII Journalist!

World Battlefronts: Parachute Landing in Normandy

The night before D-Day, few of the paratrooper comrades of TIME Correspondent William Walton tried to sleep. After midnight they turned out, climbed into EUR-475. They were the spear head; some of them would not live to see that day's dawn. Walton, a qualified parachutist attached to the outfit, crawled in with them, was soon over France. He cabled: I plunged out of the plane door happy to be leaving a ship that was heading toward flak and more Germans. The jump was from such low altitude...                                                                                             

William "Bill" Walton: A Charmed Life
By Mary Hackett
Edited by Mary Claire Kendall

London was teeming with fascinating people such
as attractive and self-assured Martha Gellhorn, the
third and current wife of Ernest Hemingway, who
would also become a close friend of Bill.
A writer will always write and when William Walton went to report on many activities in Europe, he also wrote letters home to his family. He had always thought of writing his own biography, but thankfully, the family, and, in particular his sister-in-law Mary Hackett saw that his letters could be turned into one of the most interesting books sharing American history from a journalist's viewpoint...
Those who will want to travel with him into the war years will certainly have the opportunity. I think the thing that made the
As he stood, he surveyed the once peaceful
and picturesque rural area of Normandy,
looking in horror at the blight that blanketed
the land: houses and barns now riddled with
holes; trees reduced to scattered fragments;
equipment smashed to pieces. Bill said the
fate of the dairy herds, one of the war's
signature images, was even worse--stinking
black and white cows, sometimes one lonely
cow, often scores, lying lifeless in fields.
It was a disheartening scene, one that he
could not have imagined...Most of Bill's
exposure to war had been viewed from an
aircraft flying high over a city, not on the
ground where up-close images of
extensive carnage and flattened structures
were forever seared in his memory.
most impression on me regarding his desire to do all that he could to keep America informed
English: Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway ...
English: Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway with unidentified Chinese military officers, Chungking, China, 1941. Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
was to accept an invitation to train as a paratrooper. He jumped so that he was already there by the time the ground troops showed up!

But not all was about the war... Bill became close friends with Ernest Hemingway and his wife Martha Gellhorn, shown at the left...Hemingway even saved Bill's life, but there were many times for social gatherings as well.

One personal interest caught my attention--Bill was there when the most wanted gangster, John Dillinger was killed, and rode with his body to the Cook County morgue. {Me, I'm related to the Dillingers and had a John Dillinger in my family who always got picked on--LOL} Bill..."noticed that Dillinger must, at some point, have attempted to fie or burn his hands in an effort to eliminate identifying fingerprints...This reporting coup gave Bill his first national recognition. His byline, "by William Walton," would soon begin to appear in many more publications..."

Another little tidbit I enjoyed was that when, in June 1946, Bill stood to receive an honorary degree he gave a little [payback] speech... "he noticed that most of the faculty seated before him were those who had voted to kick him out almost 20 years earlier...At the end of his speech, to express his displeasure with the school's heavy-handed discipline so many years before, he turned his backside to the assembled crowd and bowed. Later, he commented to his family, "There was a very nice shape to that!"  To me, that's why we enjoy reading about people's lives, don't we?!

The body of John F. Kennedy in repose
 in the White House on November 23, 1963.
William Walton helped research the funerary
decorations for the room and the dressing
 for the catafalque.

I became fascinated with Walton's love of the outdoors and his painting activities, which became a little more well known when Bill became friends with John F. Kennedy and his family to carry through even to helping with the arrangements for his burial. There is quite a bit covering that time and his friendship with Jackie afterward Kennedy's death. "(1949-1960)"

Life, for whom he had also worked, took his friendship with Kennedy to write an article about his paintings. in "Life" in 1961. At first when you read somebody is an artist and a friend of Ernest Hemingway, et. al., don't you just wonder where somebody gets all that talent, LOL! I don't know about you, but you must begin to admire this man, don't you think?!

AND LATER in the review, Bixler writes:

On the other hand, of course, there are not too many Americans who cannot cite Kennedy's last line: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." That night the overture "From Sea to Shining Sea" was played for the first time in public...