Monday, January 25, 2016

Amelia Earhart: Beyond The Grave by W. C. Jameson

Amelia Earhart: Beyond The Grave by W. C. Jameson
Published by Taylor Trade Publishing January 2016
Source: egalley courtesy of the publisher

Publisher's Summary:
This well-researched book is a biography of the life—and disappearance—of Amelia Earhart, the pioneering aviator who was the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic in 1928. But did Amelia’s plane really crash and sink in 1937, or was her fate entirely different?

My Thoughts:
I've had an interest in Amelia Earhart since I was a young girl, buying the official story of the mystery of her disappearance in 1937. It wasn't until I got much older before I became aware of the many theories of what might really have happened to Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan. But what I had been aware of, before this book, was the idea that Earhart and Noonan had survived for some time after their plane initially crashed and the so-called discoveries of the crash site based on recovered airplane pieces.

What I was not aware of was the enormous number of theories as to why Earhart was actually making that fateful flight, whether or not she and Noonan survived the crash, and what became of them if they did survive. Jameson is not only well aware of the many theories but has collected research on many of them and determined that the most feasible of the theories is that Earhart's flight was a ruse to allow her to spy on Japanese activities on the Marshall Islands, that she and Noonan survived the crash of their plan, that they were taken prisoner by the Japanese, and that both returned to the U.S. where they lived the remainder of their lives under aliases.

Earhart certainly was not the aviatrix we were all lead to believe she was.
"Earhart possessed a set of skills and accomplishments related to flying and was fearless, to be sure, but not necessarily any more so than a number of other female pilots of the time. She was no better or worse than the rest, but as a result of fearlessness and a desire to break down certain social barriers along with a clever publicity and marketing campaign, she managed better breaks than her contemporaries. She was, without a doubt, the most famous."
I'm okay with the idea that Earhart wasn't the greatest female pilot; I don't think that takes anything away from what she was able accomplish for women.

Other researchers have latched on to Earhart's weaknesses as a pilot, her recklessness (rather than fearlessness), and her willingness to rely on her husband and promoter G. P. Putnam as reasons that her flight was doomed every step of the way. Other researchers have also floated a number of theories as to what happened on that flight and what became of Earhart and Noonan. Jameson seems to rely entirely on those researchers in determining which of the theories he believes is true.

While he does advance a number of the theories, Jameson often seems to dismiss theories and evidence that don't advance the theory he supports. He also seems to accept as fact a number of things that seemed, at best, suspicious to me.

For example, he relies heavily on the "evidence" presented by a yman named Robert Myers who was a very young man who was allowed to spend a lot of time around Earhart and her crew as they prepared for her final flight. The problem with this, for me, is that the stories Myers told were the recollections of a man many years after he purportedly overheard conversations, the recollections are the interpretations of a young man of parts of conversation he overheard rather than conversations he was a part of, and that Jameson believes Myers' recollections to be fact based on Myers passing a lie detector test decades after the events occurred. I would think a person that has been telling himself the same stories for decades would have come to believe them to be fact, making a lie detector test pointless.

Jameson certainly raises some questions for me, and I don't entirely rule out the possibility that Jameson may be correct. There are just so many questions raised by everything he relies on. The woman many believed was Earhart, for example, Irene Craigmile Bolam, seemed to run with a group of people involved in aviation. I can't help but think that if Earhart were trying to escape her past, she wouldn't put herself in a position where questions might be raised.

My biggest problem with this book, though, is the fact that it is one of a number of "Beyond The Grave" books that Jameson has written. I'm lead to believe that Jameson has picked historical mysteries, done research into the research on each, and grabbed onto a conclusion that would create the biggest buzz. I haven't read any of Jameson's other books so this is just a feeling I have and I may way off base about his body of work.

Too many questions, not enough answers for me to really enjoy this one.


  1. Hmmm...I've always been fascinated with the women pilots and read several books in the past (fiction) about the women who ferried planes during WWII. Always enjoyed them. This one seems interesting, but not sure I would pick it up. Thanks for sharing about your experience with it.

  2. That is too bad. This sounds like it could have been great, but there is always a danger when someone presents all of the theories behind a mystery without substantiating them more fully. I would be curious if you are correct in his M.O. when it comes to such historical mysteries.

    I hope you enjoy your next book much better!

  3. Thanks for this review, Lisa. I have always been interested in Amelia Earhart, but also know she is one of several female pilots during those early years. They all fascinate me, really.

  4. I've always been fascinated by the Earhart story as well and for awhile read and watched everything I could find on the subject. This style of historical research tends to annoy me and I tend to dismiss the theory because I don't like the writing! I think I'll take a pass on this one though it does sound interesting.

  5. Her disappearance has always fascinated me. The spying theory is a new one to me.

  6. Thanks for the review. I love reading about Amelia,and find it difficult to really find anything new. Sounds like this author has a very defined point of view!