Harry Wright’s Mac and Cheese to Die For

I confess right here and right now — I love to eat. The aromas and flavors of meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit, grains, spices, herbs, cakes, pies, bread are as delightful as a walk through a scented flower garden. But not only do I love to eat, I also love to cook. Consequently, food appears in some shape or form in all of my novels and many times in my stories.

Undoubtedly, one telltale sign I’m a foodie is my cookbook collection — hardbacks, paperbacks, and ebooks. I also have bookmarks on a wide variety of internet recipe sites. Another indicator is the near ecstasy that is evident when I venture into a grocery store or a cooking supply store. When I write, a cookbook is always nearby.

Harry Wright is private detective Justinia Wright’s brother. He is also her majordomo, chef, and assistant. With the alacrity of a juggler, Harry turns out fabulous gourmet dishes on a daily basis. Dishes such as Porcini Parmesan, roasted veggie with goat cheese sandwiches, caramelized onion tartlets, ratatolha niça, and Cock-a-Leekie.

At times, though, Harry will take a walk down the comfort food aisle and then we see dishes like NuNus and Hot Dogs and Mac and Cheese. Sometimes Harry leaves the dish simple and sometimes he fancies it up.

Today I thought I’d give you his Mac and Cheese to Die For recipe, which appears in the forthcoming Justinia Wright, PI novel But Jesus Never Wept. He doesn’t call it that. For him it’s simply Mac and Swiss Cheese with Bacon Crumbles.

The recipe below is a composite, he tells me, of several recipes out there on the World Wide Web. Let me know if you think it is to die for. Enjoy!

Mac and Swiss Cheese with Bacon Crumbles


Macaroni – 1 pound (Harry uses elbows)

Butter – 5 tablespoons

Flour – 1/4 cup

Milk – 3 cups (Harry uses whole milk)

Salt – (Harry uses about a 1/2 teaspoon)

Black Pepper – (Harry uses fresh ground and about 3/4 teaspoon)

Mustard – 1/4 teaspoon dry (Harry prefers a good English mustard, such as Coleman’s)

Swiss Cheese – 3/4 pound shredded

Monterey Jack – 3/4 pound shredded

Bacon – 6 slices, cooked crisp and crumbled (Harry’s been known to add a couple more slices)

Parsley – for garnish

Basil – for garnish

Rosemary sprig – for garnish


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions and your liking. (Harry only cooks his pasta al dente.)
  2. Warm milk on stove or in microwave.
  3. Melt butter over medium high heat and whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk to make sure there are no lumps and to cook flour, about 2 or 3 minutes.
  4. Add the warm milk and whisk the mixture until smooth. Reduce heat and gently simmer for four minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. When the sauce has slightly thickened, add salt, pepper, and mustard.
  6. Add cheese and stir until sauce is smooth.
  7. When pasta is cooked, drain, and reserve a 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
  8. Add sauce to pasta. If sauce is too thick, add a little of the water to thin.
  9. Top with the bacon crumbles and parsley, basil, and rosemary sprig.

Good eating!

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The 10 Most Influential Fiction Writers of the Past 100 Years

From 1915 to the present, many writers have come and gone. Most of them are forgotten. Yet, a few linger in our memories. For some reason, the other day I was thinking about who would be considered the influential fiction writers of the past 100 years. That is, fiction writers who’ve had an impact on subsequent generations.

So I started kicking names around of those authors I’ve read and of those I hadn’t but who are considered by many to have had a profound impact. And out of my musing I came up with a list.

The list below is in the order the names came to me, which does not imply one is more important than the other. Without further ado, my list of the 10 most influential writers of fiction in the past 100 years.

1. Arthur Conan Doyle

Doyle makes the list because of Sherlock Holmes, who is undoubtedly the most iconic and imitated private detective ever created. Doyle’s influence reaches down to today’s writers of private eye fiction. We see his influence everywhere. We can watch modernized versions in Elementary and Sherlock. We can read innumerable pastiches. Without a doubt, Doyle’s creation is one of the most influential of all time.

2. H.P. Lovecraft

Lovecraft was a most uneven writer. When he was good, he was very, very good. And when he was bad, he was horrid. Nor was he a prolific writer. Yet, next to Poe, he is the single most influential writer of horror and the macabre. The best of his stories are models to learn from. His emphasis on atmosphere has had a lasting impact. Many writers have looked to Lovecraft as a source of inspiration. Writers such as Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King, to name but three.

Cosmicism, through his Cthulhu Mythos, is perhaps his most well-known contribution to the modern horror story, where terror is evoked upon the realization that this reality is but a thin veneer of that which is truly alien and not our friend.

But Lovecraft also wrote some very fine tales of dark fantasy and made frequent use of the dreamscape. He also contributed to science fiction. His “The Colour Out Of Space” is one of the all-time great stories of science fiction.

HPL is clearly a giant and yet the irony is that were it not for the efforts of Donald Wandrei and August Derleth to preserve his name and work, Lovecraft would most likely have disappeared with the pulp magazines that published his work.

3. J.R.R. Tolkien

Where would epic fantasy be without Tolkien? It is as though he single handedly created the genre. He didn’t, but it certainly seems like it. And his imitators are legion.

4. George Orwell

Orwell’s portrayal of the horror that is totalitarianism and how technology in the hands of government is not a good thing for us reaches all the way down to folks like Snowden, who blew the lid on the US government’s spying on its own people. And just about everyone else.

I read 1984 when I was in my 50s. I found the book totally terrifying. The most impactful horror novel I’ve ever read. And the book isn’t even classed as horror.

5. Isaac Asimov

The last 100 years have seen many great writers of science fiction. Asimov, to my mind, is clearly one of the most imaginative and influential of the multitude of science fiction writers. From style to writing practice, Asimov has had an impact upon many young writers. For myself, I can say I learned much from him.

6-7. Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E Howard

Where would adventure fantasy be without Burroughs and Howard? Clearly Tarzan can stand right next to Holmes as one of the most memorable characters ever created. And Howard’s Conan, King Kull, Solomon Kane, Cormac Mac Art, and others are a tough act to follow. Anyone writing adventure fantasy today needs to start with these two.

8-9. Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges

Magical realism is not hugely popular in English. Yet the impact of these writers cannot be underestimated. In many ways, Magical realism is that a literary offshoot of surrealism and the genre tends to appeal to a more literary reader. Nevertheless the works of Márquez, Toni Morrison, and Salman Rushdie are hugely popular and Stephen King’s The Green Mile demonstrates that magical realism has a broad appeal amongst many different writers in many different genres.

10. J.D. Salinger

Few modern novels have so captured teenage angst as has The Catcher in the Rye. Present day writers draw from Salinger in their attempt to address the issues of identity, belonging, loss, and connection and the none have improved upon what he wrote in 1951. And because these issues are even more in the forefront today, Salinger still speaks to us.

That’s my list of 10 of the most influential Fiction writers in the past 100 years. And it should be noted that this is how the list stands today. It might be different tomorrow.

Let us know who you think are the most influential writers of fiction for you in the past 100 years.

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Justinia Wright and the Maltese Falcon

Who doesn’t enjoy working a puzzle to a satisfying ending? That written, I have to confess I’m not a big fan of puzzles. I enjoy mahjong and I play chess and that is about the extent of my puzzle solving endeavors. So why do I enjoy reading mysteries? A good question that.

I have to confess, when it comes to mysteries, I’m pretty fussy. They pretty much need to be private detective stories told in the first person by the “Watson”. Third person narrative puts me right off. I’ll accept a story told by the detective in the first person. It’s just that it bugs the life out of me when he or she says he or she knows who did it but it won’t tell us.

The other thing I’m fussy about when it comes to mysteries, is that I don’t care a fig about the mystery. We all know the detective is going to solve the crime. So big deal. No matter how puzzling, the detective will undo Gordian Knot.

What I find fascinating is the detective him or herself. If he or she isn’t an interesting person, then the author has lost me. That’s because any story I read must have interesting characters who deal with the nitty-gritty of life. Machinations of plot hold no interest for me. It’s the people. After all, isn’t it people who make life interesting? And if people make life interesting, it is also people who make fiction interesting as well.

So if I don’t particularly like puzzles, why do I write mysteries? After all mysteries are considered to be literary puzzles. I write mysteries because crime and murder are part of life. The dark side of people interacting with people. Macbeth murders the king and sets off a chain of events. We know he won’t get away with it. What interests us is how his life falls apart.

We know Sherlock Holmes will solve the problem. What’s interesting is his interaction with Watson, the suspects, and how he goes about collecting clues.

When I watch a movie directed by Yasujiro Ozu, there is barely any plot to speak of. What’s of interest is the interaction of the characters and how they go about attempting to solve whatever is the problem in the story. And the problem is usually rather mundane.

For me, writing a mystery is no different than writing any other novel. I either start out with the characters or I start out with a scene and then people it. Then, as Ray Bradbury advised, I let my characters do their thing and the result is the story.

In writing my forthcoming Justinia Wright mystery, But Jesus Never Wept, I started with a scene: Tina and Harry’s client has just been murdered by seppuku, Japanese ritual suicide. That is what I started with. Along the way my daughter told me about the Yakuza, Japanese organized crime, I liked the color it could provide, and it entered into the story. How the Yakuza fit in I wasn’t sure, but figured that’s Tina’s job. She’s the detective, after all. I was over halfway through the book and had pretty much exhausted my list of characters before I figured out who did the murder and why. I was on pins and needles wondering if I’d finish the tale without solving the murder. Not really. Because Tina gets the culprit. It’s what detectives do.

Near the end of my short story “Minneapolis’ Finest”, Tina tells Harry:

“First off, Harry, you read too many mystery novels. Every case in those books is a complex puzzle and things blow up and people are being murdered left and right. Real detective work is, for the most part, dull routine. Boring even. If mystery writers wrote what really happened, they wouldn’t sell a damn thing. Cozies are the worst. I pray to God you don’t read cozies.”

“I don’t.”

“Good. Detective work is dull routine mostly because criminals are dull and boring twits with big egos.”

And I think that is very much the case. Real crime is boring. Therefore mysteries, to be interesting, are for the most part fantasy. Fictional murders are complicated, done by a mastermind for nefarious ends. No mystery writer writes about a normal murder. If they did, who’d read it?

Because most mystery readers are looking for the puzzle aspect, I don’t specifically call my mysteries “mysteries”. Justinia Wright is a private detective. The books are subtitled “A Justinia Wright, PI Novel”. The focus is on her as a person, not the puzzle. I think of it as I’m writing character-driven private eye stories.

In some ways I see The Maltese Falcon as the model. The Maltese Falcon is full of interesting characters, none of them, including Spade, are particularly likable. I think the mystery itself is weak, overshadowed by the MacGuffin. Did Brigid really kill Spade’s partner? Or did Spade just throw her under the bus? The story is a classic not because of the plot, the puzzle, in my opinion, but due to the interesting characters. And that’s why I read mysteries. And write them, too.

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One Year

A year ago I self-published four novels. That act was the fulfillment of a dream I’d had ever since I can remember. Now, on my one year anniversary as a published writer, I have seven novels, five novellas (three collected into one book), and a short story in digital print. Two more short stories will be out this month and next month I will publish my third book in the Justinia Wright, PI series.

How Did I Get Here?

Even though I wanted to be a writer, I never actually did a lot of writing when young. Those early years saw a few poems, stories, and plays. A couple things were published and my high school drama class performed one of my plays. The early and middle decades of my life, however, are littered with far more abandoned then completed projects.

Lack of encouragement is a dreadful thing and harsh words are destructive. I had yet to read Rainer Maria Rilke’s first letter to the young poet. I looked without and not within. Encouragement and support are important, and I seek to be so to others, but looking within and knowing one must write in spite of what others say is vital. When I did so, I knew I had to write.

In 1989 I wrote a novel in the span of one year. The novel, however, was not good and after a couple rejected queries I put it away and turned to poetry. Poetry, I found, was something I could much better sandwich in and amongst my other responsibilities and day job on a regular basis. And I’m proud to say I achieved something of a name in certain poetry circles.

Ultimately, I found I wanted a bigger canvas. Painting miniatures was fun and fulfilling to a point. I wanted bigger worlds. I wanted to create worlds.

Consequently, I returned to my first love: fiction. I wrote and wrote and wrote one abortion after another. I always got hung up on plot. I’d never plotted a poem. I just wrote them. For some reason, I thought I had to plot fiction. Once I disabused myself of that idea, the stories and books have flowed out of my pen and pencil. I had found what worked for me — just write the story. I found I was in good company, as well. Ray Bradbury didn’t believe in intentional plotting. Create your characters, let them do their thing, and that’s the plot. Works for me.

Why Self-Publish?

Why self publish indeed? Doesn’t that smack of the old vanity press? Didn’t I need an editor’s approval? Someone to put that imprimatur on my work that signified it was “good”?

I thought long and hard about going the traditional route or to self publish. I’m old enough to be permanently scarred with the fear of the vanity press.

Yet the publishing industry as we know it is no more then two hundred years old. Thoreau’s book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers was self-published after he couldn’t find a publisher in 1849. Anthony Trollope commented in his Autobiography that a publisher of one of his early books was willing to publish the book at his own expense. That Trollope notes this is significant. It means even in the middle 1800s publishers weren’t overly generous or willing to take risks on novice authors and that the author might have to defray the costs of publishing in part or in whole.

The world of publishing I grew up with was gone. Dozens and dozens of publishers no longer exist. One is left with the small press or the Big 5. The slush pile and its editor has been replaced by the agent taking on a new role — that of the editor.

Dean Wesley Smith challenges the myths that surround the publishing industry and agents. Every writer needs to read to his article on agents.

My personal experience with the writers I have known is that the publisher does not hold your hand, the publisher does not provide you advertising dollars, and if you do not sell and make them money — you are kicked to the curb. Publishing is a business. And too often a cruel business. Today a new author, even to be looked at by an agent, needs to have a platform (social media presence and blog or website, hopefully with lots of traffic) in place so that the agent can tell the publisher this person might be able to sell a book.

However, not only does an author have to have a platform in place — but the author’s novel must conform to arbitrary publisher and bookseller norms. A friend tried to interest an agent in her 100,000 word YA fantasy novel. The prospective agent she had queried flat out told her no one will buy a YA book of that length from an unknown author. The agent then suggested various ways to mutilate the novel to fit the norms.

Then there is the money. A lousy 10% at best from the publishing house versus a minimum of 35% and a maximum of 70% when self-publishing. I asked myself, Why if I have to do all the work myself do I want 10% instead of 35% or 70% and then give an agent 15% of that measly 10%? Why indeed?

And then there is Rilke’s advice to the young poet:

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

And if out of this turning within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it.

My decision seemed easy. Why ask some agent or editor if my work is good? If I have to build my own audience, do my own editing, buy my own advertising, and hold my own hand — then why not self-publish and at least have a shot at making a pile of money?

So I did. I kicked the rules to the curb and took advantage of modern technology. Gutenberg is dead. Brick and mortar stores are dying. The Kindle and iPad are everywhere. I haven’t made piles of money. At least not yet. Then again I haven’t paid a dime for advertising either. Nevertheless, I am making some money. My marketing plan is this: when I have at least four titles in a series, then I’ll start looking at marketing on a big scale.

To pay for advertising on one or two books is the big mistake, in my opinion. With 3000 new books a day being published, one is easily lost in a sea of virtual ink. To market one book, with no follow up for the reader to buy, it is to my mind paying to be forgotten. At least in the indie publishing world.

But what about the traditional world? It takes a publisher two years to get your book in print. Perhaps less for a small press, but then they have little clout. If you don’t have something to follow-up right away, you’ll be lost in the traditional world too. Because it will take years for your next book to see print. And if your book isn’t a good seller, it will get remainder. A sure fire way to be forgotten. In addition, publishers don’t want to publish a follow-up novel in less than a year. They are afraid of you competing with yourself. All these rules. And who do they benefit?

As a self published author, I can publish as many books as I want in a year. They are never remaindered. After all, I’m the publisher as well as the writer. Robert E Howard once wrote to H. P. Lovecraft the reason he wanted to be a writer was for the freedom it gave him. I think Howard would have loved today’s self-publishing world — it is the ultimate freedom.

What’s Next?

I’m having a blast. I write every day. I write the best story I can. I put many hours into editing and proofing so I can put out a quality product. I am learning every day new aspects of writing and publishing. All I can say is I’m having the time of my life. And I’m my own boss.

During this next year I’m building inventory. More novels. More stories. Then I will get serious about marketing and develop a comprehensive strategy. I continue to read and learn what works for writers and what doesn’t.

I confess I have a golden parachute. I’m retired. Sure, I’d like to make piles of money from my writing. But if I don’t, I’m still a full-time writer. I write because I have to. I’ve gone deep into myself and found out I must write. I must create. My books have been born out of necessity. “A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity.” It’s the only way Rilke could judge a work and it’s the only way I can judge. No editor or agent say otherwise.

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Justinia Wright, PI

I don’t know how it is for other writers. I can only speak for myself. However, I’d like to think other writers would feel the same. When I create a character the process is very human: a baby is born and he or she slowly matures to adulthood. In other instances, he or she springs forth from my head — as did Athena from the forehead of Zeus. In either case, one thing is clear: I love my children.

The child I have lived with the longest and who I confess I love dearly is Justinia Wright, private eye extraordinaire. Her origins go back to 1982 and Raleigh Bond’s short story “Meet Athalia Goode”. You can read about all that in my post “Out of Thin Air”.

Tina runs Wright Investigations in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her older brother, Harry, is her “Watson” and majordomo. I first chronicled their exploits in 1989 in the novel Festival of Death. Being my first novel, I garnered a couple of rejections, realized it wasn’t very good, and put it back in the drawer where it quietly lay for some 25 years.

Last year I looked at the novel after completing The Rocheport Saga. A lot had changed in 25 years. Technology, society, and me. The novel was hopelessly out of date. Chapter 1 was about all I could salvage intact. So I set the book aside and wrote three novellas to get my head back into Tina and Harry’s world. Those stories form Book 2 in the series, Trio in Death-Sharp Minor. With the novellas completed, I re-wrote Festival of Death. The re-write is far and away better than the original. I published Festival last November and Trio last December.

Sad to say, sales have been poor. Then again readers have a gazillion mysteries to choose from and I’ve done very little marketing. That will come, however.

This month I’m publishing two short stories which chronologically predate Festival of Death. The first I offer free starting today for a week or so: “Minneapolis’s Finest”. Tina solves a mysterious break in for an old friend.

The second story will appear around Thanksgiving. “Sauerkraut Days” has Tina helping the local sheriff with the murder while attempting to set a world record in the sauerkraut eating contest.

Come December, writing time for Christmas, But Jesus Never Wept, number three in the series, will be published. I have the book back from my Beta reader and the cover art is ready to go. All it needs is a couple more read throughs to catch those nasty typos.

I had great fun writing But Jesus Never Wept. Tina is forced to face the demons lingering from her life before she became a private detective. We learn more, too, of Tina’s and Harry’s childhood. Philosophical, ethical, and theological questions abound. And on top of it all, true love takes a left jab and a body punch and is down for the count.

Early next year, the fourth of in the series should make its debut. And just in time for the political season. Campaign espionage and blackmail, with a dash of murder, have Tina and Harry scratching their heads.

I love the private eye novels. I suppose I have Conan Doyle to blame for that. My modest collection of Sherlockiana, Victorian sleuths, and Holmesian pastiches looks over my shoulder as I write this. Perhaps it’s what I want to hear, but I hear those sleuths saying, “Forget the sales. You love her. Tell her story.” And I suppose I shall.

Checkout where you can get the Justinia Wright books on my Novels page!

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The Wonderful Machine Age: The Daring Young Men in Their Flying Machines #3

The time period between World War I and World War II was the heyday of the rigid airship. Those two decades were filled with the exploits of what the great airships did and the dreams of what the future might hold for air travel.

1919 was an auspicious year. The war to end all wars was over. The airplane had developed in technological leaps and bounds. The airship as well had been refined. And whereas the airplane was mostly still a toy or of use for short distance flights, the airship was viewed as a machine of great commercial and military value.

On the 6th of March 1919, the British rigid airship, R33, took its first flight. Eight days later, her sister ship, R34, made it’s inaugural flight. Both airships were based on the design of German zeppelins in 1916. It is interesting to note, these were the most successful of any British rigid airship. The R33’s career lasted for nine years before she was scrapped in 1928 due to severe metal fatigue in her frame.

The R33 near her hanger:


The R34 made the first east to west crossing of the Atlantic by air (the more difficult crossing due to the prevailing westerly winds) in July 1919, flying from England to Canada. Hot meals were even served on board, courtesy of a hotplate welded to an engine exhaust manifold. On the 13th of July 1919, the R34 returned to England; completing the first ever round trip across the Atlantic by air.

The flight of the R34 in 1919 fueled speculation of the possibilities for commercial airship flights across the Atlantic on a grand scale.

August 20, 1919 saw the first flight of the LZ-120, Bodensee, the Zeppelin company’s new commercial airship for the DELAG airline. She flew over 100 flights, carrying 2,322 passengers over 31,000 miles (50,000 km). Unfortunately, the Allied powers forced the Germans to turn over the Bodensee to the Italian government as a war reparations in July 1921. As the Esperia, she made flights for the Italian government, including a 1,500 mile long distance flight, before being scrapped in July 1928.

The Bodensee:


The LZ-121, Nordstern, never served the DELAG and was turned over to France on 13 July 1921 as war reparations. The French Government never made much use of the ship and she was scrapped in 1926.

A substantial book could be written chronicling just the airships of the interwar period. To exemplify The Wonderful Machine Age, I’ll focus on the triumphs and the dreams.

The short two year life of the R100 was a dream come true. The world’s first luxury commercial airship. Her first flight was on 16 December 1929. She and her sister ship, the R101, were, at the time, the largest airships ever built. She was meant to carry 100 passengers in elegance for an envisioned transatlantic passenger service. In 1930, she flew from England to Canada and back again; repeating the R34’s flight and proving once again the feasibility of such a transatlantic service. Below are pictures of the R100:

R100 at St Hubert

Below the lounge on the R100:


The Grand Staircase in the R100:


Unfortunately, with the crash and subsequent fire which destroyed the R101 on 5 October 1930, the R100 was grounded and then scrapped the following year. The British were no longer interested in rigid airships.

This left but three rigid airships flying: the German-built USS Los Angeles, the newly launched USS Akron, built by Goodyear-Zeppelin for the US Navy, and the Zeppelin Company’s LZ-127, Graf Zeppelin.

The USS Los Angeles was the US Navy’s most successful airship. She was a sturdy vessel, logging 4398 hours of flight time and flying 172,400 nautical miles (319,300 km) with no major incidents. She was a testimony to the superior engineering and craftsmanship of the Zeppelin Company. She was decommissioned in 1932, returned to service briefly after the crash of the USS Akron in 1933, and then once again mothballed. She was scrapped in 1940.

The USS Los Angeles over Washington Blvd in Detroit, 1926:

USS Los Angeles over Washington Blvd, Detroit, 1926

The greatest airship of all was the LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin. She was an experimental ship. To avoid valving off lift gas to compensate for fuel usage, the Graf’s engines burned Blau gas, which weighed about the same as air. This successfully innovative feature was not duplicated in any other airship.

The Graf was small compared to the R100 and R101. She only had room for 20 passengers. And while accommodations were pleasant, they were not sumptuous.

The Graf Zeppelin:


The combination lounge/dining room on the Graf:


A cabin on the Graf:

GrafZeppelin 007

The Graf Zeppelin‘s career from 1928 to 1932 primarily involved experimental and demonstration flights displaying the airship’s capabilities. These flights included a round trip across the Atlantic in 1928, the round the world flight in 1929, the Europe-Pan American flight of 1930 (Germany to South America to North America and back to Germany), the 1931 polar expedition, two round trips to the Middle East, and a variety of other European flights.

The round the world flight set a world record. The Graf completed the circumnavigation in 21 days and could have made an even faster flight, except part of the purpose was a goodwill tour which involved spending extra time in Japan.

You can read more about her polar flight at airships.net.

Beginning in 1932 until she was retired in 1937 after the Hindenburg tragedy, the Graf provided regular passenger, mail, and freight service between Germany and Brazil. Below is my favorite picture of the Graf Zeppelin coming flying into Rio de Janeiro.


The Graf Zeppelin was the first aircraft to fly over 1,000,000 miles (1,056,000). She made 590 flights, 144 transoceanic crossings, carried 13,110 passengers, and logged 17,177 hours of flying time. She did this without a single injury to passenger or crew. Keep in mind, her lift gas was hydrogen. Which I think proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, with the proper precautions, hydrogen is safe. She was scrapped in 1940.

The Hindenburg is well known and I won’t cover her story here. Her sister ship, the LZ-130 Graf Zeppelin (II) took her first flight on 14 September 1938. Like the Hindenburg, she was designed to fly using helium as her lift gas. However, the US government reneged on its promise to deliver helium to the Germans and the Graf Zeppelin II was inflated with hydrogen. She never entered commercial service and made but 30 flights. On 20 August 1939 she made her last flight. When she landed at 9:38 PM, the era of rigid airship flight came to an end.

The LZ-130 Graf Zeppelin (II):


More pictures of the LZ-130 can be seen at blimp info.Dining Room of LZ130

The rigid airships were the largest aircraft to fly. The success of the R33 and R34, the Graf Zeppelin, the USS Los Angeles, and the R100 excited the depression beleaguered public that good things were coming. Science and technology would make life better.

Lester Dent’s Zeppelin Tales and the fictional Doc Savage’s use of an airship were exciting fantasies reflective of this new hope that better times were coming.

The May 1930 issue of Modern Mechanics featured an airship with pontoons (to help cut hangar costs) and the July 1929 issue of Modern Mechanix, featuring an airship with wings and boat hull (to combine the best features of airships and seaplanes), were further examples of the possibilities that airships provided to improve intercontinental transportation.

zeppelin with wings Modern-Mechanics-May-1930-cover

There were even thoughts of an airship tuberculosis hospital. See airships.net for the article.


The airship has and continues to excite our imaginations as no other flying machine. Is it any wonder our retro-futurist fiction continues to make our dreams reality, even if only within the realities of our imaginations.

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