For this weeks Wednesday with the Author, we got in contact with John Gebhart, author of LBJ’s Hired Gun: A Marine Corps Helicopter Gunner and the War in Vietnam.
When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?
In fifth grade I wrote an English composition entitled “Fishing is Fun When You Catch a Big One.” The Catholic School Nuns thought it was so good that I was forced to read it to other classes. I became famous and was soon reading other well written compositions on a regularly scheduled basis.
What is it about writing that appeals to you?
Stories, stories, stories, all we hear all day, but only a few, very special precious few are graced by the Gods to become the keeper of these tales. We, the story tellers, from the dawn of time, have weaved the words that create the very fabric of life and love, and finally – death, into twisted, tangled, comedies and mangled tragedies that enrich and sadden at the same time. I love to weave words into sentences.
Do you have any advice for budding military history authors wanting to get published?
Tenacity – don’t give up! One hundred and eight seven publishing companies told me to go pound the sand and die. Ten publishing companies told me my book was a great read. I kept trying and finally two wanted it. Remember “there are no great people only great challenges that ordinary people are forced by circumstances to overcome.” Each day, before I start writing, I look at a quote I wrote on my wall “A man may write at any time if he will set himself dutifully to it!” by James Boswell, “Life of Johnson”.
What fascinates you about revisiting the past and bringing it to life in a book?
Most teenagers today couldn’t find Vietnam on a world atlas or even tell you more than a sentence or two about the war. I wrote “LBJ’s Hired Gun” to show the world what a Huey door gunner had to contend with on a daily basis. You had angry green tracers trying to kill you, 51 caliber anti-aircraft guns trying to make a Swiss cheese sandwich out of your gun-bird, friends getting killed or wounded, not to mention the heat, mud, endless monsoon rains, bread infested with bugs, drunkenness, lost loves, black killer ants, endless sandbag detail and finally boring night guard duty where the enemy seldom attacked.
Have you always been interested in history?
My father read a history book about every week. Whenever we went hunting or even walking my dog he would give me a synopsis of his current book. I learned about wars I never heard of and I think I know about every major civil war battle that happened. We even drove to a lot of Civil War battle sites. I must have been to Gettysburg, PA twenty times. I received a 97 in history when I was a senior in high school. It was the highest grade they ever gave out at Monsignor Bonner High School.