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Supersonic Thunder: A Novel of the Jet Age Mass Market Paperback – January 3, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“A first-rate story of the jet age from our foremost aviation writer.”
—Stephen Coonts, New York Times bestselling author of The Disciple

“The aviation history and tech talk are sparkling.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Boyne packs the novel with historically accurate detail. Aviation fans will gulp this one down in one long, satisfied swallow.”
—Booklist on Roaring Thunder: A Novel of the Jet Age

About the Author

WALTER J. BOYNE is the former director of the National Air & Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Boyne's books have made both the fiction and the nonfiction bestseller lists of the New York Times. His novels Roaring Thunder and Supersonic Thunder cover the first forty-four years of jet aviation. His critically acclaimed nonfiction book, Dawn Over Kitty Hawk, recounts the story of the Wright Brothers. A retired Air Force Colonel, Boyne was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame class of 2007.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; Reprint edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765347474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765347473
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.1 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,786,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Walter J. Boyne was the Director of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution from 1983 to 1986, and Acting Director from 1981 to 1983. He retired in August, 1986 to pursue a career as a novelist, nonfiction author and consultant. He is one of the few writers to have both fiction and nonfiction books on the New York Times Best Seller lists. An inventor, he has been awarded a patent on an advanced information retrieval system. He is currently chairman of the board of the National Aeronautics Association, and on July 21, 2007 was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. He has served twice as an expert witness for Lockheed Martin, once in 1999 and once in 2003. He is currently Chairman of the Board of the National Aeronautic Association.
A career Air Force officer, Boyne entered the Aviation Cadet program in 1951, and won his wings and commission in 1952. He has flown over 5,000 hours in a score of different aircraft, from a Piper Cub to a B 1B, and is a Command Pilot. Boyne retired as a Colonel on June 1, 1974 after 23 years of service. In November, 1989, he returned for familiarization flights in the B 1B bomber.
He began writing articles on aviation subjects in 1962, and has since then completed more than 1,000 articles, forty-four non-fiction books and eight novels. His books have been published in England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia, Japan and China. He is the author of aviation sections in the Encyclopedia Britannica, as well as in three other encyclopedias, including Encarta. He is the editor of the (2002) Encyclopedia of Air Warfare, by ABC-Clio.
His latest novel Hypersonic Thunder is the third of a trilogy on the history of jet aviation. In 2007, he published "Soaring to Glory, The Air Force Memorial" and "Beyond the Wild Blue, A History of the United States Air Force, 1947-2007. In 2003, Dawn Over Kitty Hawk was published by Tor/Forge, part of St. Martin's Press, It was followed by The Influence of Air Power on History, published in July, 2003, by Pelican Publishing. His Chronicle of Flight, a 95,000 word, 1,000 photograph history of flight appeared from Publications International in August, 2003. His Operation Iraqi Freedom: What Went Right, What Went Wrong and Why was published by TOR/Forge (St. Martins Press) in that same month. In October, 2003, Rising Tide, the story of the Russian and Soviet submarine force was published, co-authored with Gary Weir. In December, two works were published that Boyne edited, Aviation 100, Volume III, and The Alpha Guide to the Military
His first novel The Wild Blue (co-authored with Steven L. Thompson) was published by Crown Publishers. It was a national best seller on the New York Times list in both hard cover and paperback editions, and won the Aviation/Space Writers Association Award for best Fiction Book of 1986. His second novel, Trophy for Eagles, a solo effort, was published by Crown in May, 1989, and received strong critical acclaim. The second novel in the trilogy, Eagles at War was published in May, 1991, to similar reviews. In January, 1991, he published Weapons of Desert Storm and Gulf War. Weapons of Desert Storm made the New York Time's nonfiction best seller's list. The third novel of his trilogy, Air Force Eagles was published in June, 1992.
A nonfiction book, Classic Aircraft was published in the summer of 1992. Art in Flight , a book on the magnificent work of sculptor John Safer, was published in October of 1992..Silver Wings, a nonfiction history of the Air Force appeared in October, 1993, while Clash of Wings, a nonfiction history of the great air campaigns of World War II, appeared in June, 1994. It was a main selection of the History Book of the Month Club for July, 1994. Both of the latter two books are published by Simon & Schuster, as is Clash of Titans a non-fiction history of the great sea campaigns of World War II, which was published in June, 1995.
Beyond the Wild Blue, A History of the United States Air Force, 1947-1997 was published in 1997 for St. Martin's Press. It is on the USAF's Chief of Staff's required reading list for Air Force personnel. The Air Force Association presented Boyne the Gill Robb Wilson Award in recognition of what has been called the definitive history of the United States Air Force. In 1998, St. Martin's Press published his "Beyond the Horizons" a history of the Lockheed Company from 1913 to 1995. It has received unanimous critical acclaim . His next work was co-editing an anthology with Philip Handleman . It is titled Brassey's Air Combat Reader , and was published by Brassey in 1999.
An earlier nonfiction book, The Smithsonian Book of Flight published in June, 1987, was a Book of the Month Club Premium selection, won the New York Public Library Prize, and sold some 400,000 copies. In 1986, The Leading Edge was also a Book of the Month Club Premium Selection. It won the Best Non Fiction Book of 1986 Award by the Aviation/Space Writers Association. It was also published in England and Germany. In 1987 another nonfiction book, Power Behind the Wheel traced the evolution of the automobile in technical and cultural terms, and was awarded the Thomas McKean Cup by the Antique Automobile Association of America for best book of the year.
Both The Leading Edge and The Power Behind the Wheel were republished in hardcover in the Spring of 1991 by Abbeyville Press, and both have been published in German and English foreign editions. Boeing B-52, Phantom in Combat and Messerschmitt Me 262 were all republished in 1994. Boyne's books have been published in England, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Germany, Italy and Japan. The novel The Wild BLue was republished in 1998 year by Wind Canyon publishing. Simon & Schuster republished Clash of Titans and Clash of Wings as trade paperbacks in 1997. Both books have been placed on audio and have been published in Poland, Italy and Czechoslovakia.
His later books include Aces in Command, Classic Aircraft, and Best of Wings, all three published in 2001, along with ABC-Clio's Encyclopedia of Air Warfare, and The Two O'Clock War: the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the American Airlift that Saved Israel, published in September, 2002, by St. Martin's Press.
He published five books in 2003, including the novel "Dawn Over Kitty Hawk" the story of the Wright brothers; "Rising Tide" with Gary Weir, covering the Soviet Union's submarine experience;.
Boyne is the editor of the Walter J. Boyne Military Aircraft Series for McGraw Hill. Boyne serves as Associate Editor on two national aviation magazines and contributes a articles to several national newspapers. He is a consultant to four publishers, several museums and several aerospace firms. His aviation interests are wide ranging, and he serves as an advisor to a number of national and international organizations.
Boyne became involved in television in 1991, writing scripts and directing production of the highly successful series of Wings television program that appeared on the Discovery Channel. This led to his co-founding of the cable television channel Wingspan the Air and Space Channel, went on the air in April 1998 and was bought out by the Discovery Channel a year later. Boyne consults for the Discovery Military Channel, and has been designated "Aerospace Expert in Residence" by Discovery.
Boyne is a familiar figure on television, appearing as a commentator on aviation and military events on all the major networks, including PBS, CNN and C-Span, as well as the History, A&E, Discovery and Speedvision cable channels. He has hosted and narrated three television programs. The first of these is a five-part series made from his book Beyond the Wild Blue, A History of the Air Force, 1947-1997. It appears on the History Channel. The second is the thirteen part series made from his book Clash of Wings, and appears on Speedvision and PBS. The third is a program on John Safer's sculpture, entitled Flight in Art.
When Boyne left the Air Force, he joined the Air and Space Museum as an assistant curator on June 10th, 1974, and gained wide experience in every aspect of museum operations. He was successively Curator of Aeronautics, Chief of Preservation and Restoration, Chief of Exhibits and Production, Assistant Director, Deputy Director, Acting Director and Director. Boyne's career at the Museum was highlighted by a number of extraordinary achievements. One of the first of these was to transform the totally inadequate facility then existing at Silver Hill into the world's premier restoration facility. When the facility was up and running, and a new museum open to the public there, Boyne led the initiative to re-name the facility in honor of his good friend and mentor, Paul Garber.
While this was going on, Boyne was responsible for the movement, assembly, and installation of all of the precious artifacts in the new Museum, coordinating this with the rapid-paced exhibit installation. So effective was his work that the Museum was ready to open four days before its scheduled July 4th 1976 official opening.
Boyne founded the magazine Air & Space, and established the editorial policies which made it the best selling aviation magazine in the United States. He negotiated an agreement with NASA to fly an IMAX camera on the Space Shuttle, and directly supervised the production of two of the most successful IMAX films, "The Dream is Alive" and "On the Wing". The latter film included a close cooperative effort with Dr. Paul MacCready to create "QN" a radio-controlled flying pterodactyl. He spearheaded the planning of the huge new restaurant which rectified two of NASMs shortcomings, an inadequate restaurant and inadequate restrooms.
In one of the most far-seeing moves, he negotiated directly with Donald Engen, then the Adminstrator of the FAA, and created the agreements that provided the land upon which the new extension of the Museum at Dulles. To insure that the Smithsonian would act upon this concept, he arranged for the Space Shuttle Enterprise to be flown and stored there in 1985.
Boyne had a profound effect upon Museum operations, insisting that the staff realize that the public was their boss, and that they had to work hard to satisfy that responsibility. He also pioneered the Museum's well received video disc program, and patented the "Digitizer" automated storage and retrieval system.
Boyne infused the Museum's research and publication program with a new vigor, and personally supervised the upgrading of the Museum's exhibit program. He is generally recognized to have made the Museum the most popular in the world while at the same time providing a very high level of education content. In addition, his entrepreneurial success resulted in the Museum's shop operating at record profits, and the IMAX films paying for themselves and generating additional income.
In his capacity as Director, he served as pro bono consultant to dozens of museums in many different countries, a task he continued in a professional role after his retirement. He has acted as consultant for the Museum of Flying, in Santa Monica, the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, writing the complete exhibit scripts for both organizations. He also consulted for the Aerospace Education Center in Little Rock, and for many others. He often does pro bono work for governmental museums such as the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon.
He is a member of almost all of the major aeronautical associations, and is a fellow of the French National Academie de l'Air et l'Espace. He has a BSBA with honors from the University of California at Berkeley, and an MBA, with honors, from the University of Pittsburgh. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Aerospace Sciences from Salem College, West Virginia in 1984.
He was awarded the Cliff Henderson Trophy for lifetime achievement in aviation by the National Aviation Club, which recently also named him an "Elder Statesman of Aviation". Previous winners include famous test pilots Scott Crossfield and Tony Levier. In 1997 he received the Gil Robb Wilson Award from the Air Force Association, and in 1998 was given the Paul Tissandier Diploma by the F.A.I. In 2006 he won the Lyman Award for lifetime contributions to Aviation. In 2007 he was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame. His biography appears in both Who's Who in the World and Who's Who in America. He lives in Ashburn, Virginia, with his wife, Terri. .

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Berent on June 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
SUPERSONIC THUNDER is Book Two of retired USAF Col. Walter Boyne's "Thunder" trilogy. It opens in August 1955 with famous test pilot Tony LeVier arguing with Lockheed's Skunk Works Kelly Johnson on how best to land the prototype U-2 on the spy plane's first flight. Johnson insists on a main-gear-first touchdown of the tail-wheel plane. LeVier is equally adamant on a three-point landing. The first few pages dramatically illustrate who was correct and why.

Walter Boyne's book continues for eight years up to February 1973 covering not only all aspects of commercial and military aircraft development but the Vietnam war, development of smart bombs, aircraft simulators, the SST, avionics, and POWs in the Hanoi Hilton.

Boyne continues with the fictional Shannon family as the vehicle to convey his incredible knowledge of behind-the-headlines incidents ranging from how dangerous it was to be a Russian aircraft engineer to espionage in the aviation industry with tales of aviation luminaries in between.

Speaking of behind-the scenes, did you know: the SR-71 released spy drones over North Vietnam; the inside story of Tex Johnson rolling the Boeing 707; why the Brits destroyed an incredible fighter design; why the Soviet Tu-144 SST was called the Concordski? The answer to these questions and many others are in SUPERSONIC THUNDER.

By Mark Berent, a retired USAF fighter pilot.
See his five books on the Vietnam air and ground war in Amazon and Kindle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John R. Linnell on June 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If wings are in your makeup, whether in the past, present or future, you are or should be familiar with Col. Walter J. Boyne. This is the second book of a trilogy covering the world of aviation, which remarkably is only a bit over one hundred years old. The third, Hyeprsonic Thunder is promised to be out later this year.

Let's start out by acknowledging that no one is going to confuse Col. Boyne with Tom Clancy as a writer. However, what he has done is to try and give some understanding and insight into the development of aviation through the vehicle of a fictitious family by the name of Shannon. Vance is the patriarch. Tom and Harry are the sons. If you mistake Tom at one point in this book for Robin Olds, you can be forgiven, for this is what the author does. Takes real events and real people, calls a spade a spade and in doing so weaves a creditable and readable history of aviation that many of us have lived through.

Boyne also uses the book to make some telling points about choices that were made in the past and some yet to be made in the future.

Hauntingly, he reproduces the words of John F. Kennedy in a graduation address to the USAF Academy. "When there us a visable enemy to fight, the tide of patriotism runs high. But when there is a long, slow struggle with no immediate visible foe, your choice will seem hard, indeed. Your choice, ladies and gentlemen, to take on the problems and possibilities of this time, to engage the world, not to run from it, is the right choice." A little over five months later, Kennedy was dead.

As I said at the beginning; if wings are in your makeup, you most likely know of this author and you will want to get and read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Walter J. Boyne is a good, but far from great, writer. He turns out a serviceable product in the form of aviation-centric novels. In short, his books are of interest to the aviation buff, rather than a broader general audience.

In "Supersonic Thunder", the second in a trilogy about the development of jet aircraft, Boyne attempts to use the fictional Shannon family to span the years of the trilogy from roughly 1939 through the present date.

Vance Shannon, the patriarch, is supposed to be a top-notch aviation consultant who, ever so conveniently, is sought after by Boeing, Lockheed, Douglas and every other jet plane manufacturer. His sons, Tom and Harry, are following in dad's footsteps, which is necessary to provide continuity over the decades. "Supersonic Thunder" introduces Bob Rodriguez, whom Vance takes on as a junior partner, much to the irritation of his sons.

The book never quite takes off.

Boyne has taken, for the most part, historic events and tried to force Vance Shannon and the other fictional characters into them. The device doesn't work.

Instead, there is a very thin and mostly unbelievable story line connecting one event to another.

The reader who knows aviation history will find the book interesting because of the historical vignettes, not because of Vance Shannon and cast. For those with neither interest in or knowledge of the history of aviation, there's not much there to hold attention.

"Supersonic Thunder" is most certainly not a bad read. It is simply pedestrian. Boyne might have been better off writing either a strict history or not trying to insert his characters so deeply into real events.

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. Morris on September 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In arguing against the likelihood that the fictional Shannon family in 'Supersonic Thunder' would be involved in so many of the key moments in the history of jet aviation, the previous review entirely misses the point of this excellent piece of historical fiction.

What Mr. Boyne does--and does masterfully--in Supersonic Thunder is tell the story of the jet age using the fictional Shannon family as a story-telling vehicle. This has been done by historical fiction writers for decades, and some of our best historical fiction writers have employed this method (Herman Wouk's Winds of War and War and Rembrance, for example). Legendary test pilot and visionary engineer Vance Shannon and his two sons form the core of the narrative, much as Pug Henry and his sons did in the Winds of War series. Instead of being criticized for using this tried-and-true method of telling history, Mr. Boyne should be praised, for the story he tells is an important one, and he covers a lot of ground in the book. Reading the book is like reading history come to life.

Readers will get in a behind-the-scenes look at the history of the U-2 program, the quest for a jet fighter in Korea, the competition between Douglas and Boeing for the commercial aviation market, the race to develop the first supersonic transport, the development of the 747, the strategies and tactics of aerial warfare over Vietnam, the SR-71 Blackbird, and more. The story includes industrial espionage, excellent aerial combat scenes, the dramatic story of Russian engineers charged with flying a supersonic transport by the end of 1968 (or face death or imprisonment), and a sensitive analysis of what went wrong in Vietnam from an Air Force standpoint.
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