Author(s): Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
On 6 April 1945, a Japanese kamikaze pilot breaks cloud at 3,000 feet, near the island of Ishigaki. He plunges his Suisei divebomber into a fatal dive at the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. On the signals deck, Chief Petty Officer W. T. Holman sees him coming - he has just seconds to react. Intense and accurate fire from the ship blows the plane off course; it crashes into the sea. Its 1,000-pound bomb explodes beside the great ship in the nearest of near-misses. Later in life, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman begins to ask questions: Why did his father live and that pilot die? Who was the pilot and did he have any family who survived him? What was the meaning of such an odds-against moment of war? The answers lead Jeffrey into the heart of a troubled relationship with his father, combat veteran, alcoholic and problem gambler; into his past and his wartime marriage; to the names and faces of the six kamikaze who died that day in 1945; and, in 2011, to miraculous and deeply moving meetings with Japanese brothers of those aircrew, old men who welcome him into their homes like a long-lost family member. A unique and beautifully written book - part memoir, part history, part travelogue - The Lost Pilot charts a gripping journey of discovery and reconciliation.
A unique and beautifully written book – part memoir, part history, part travelogue – The Lost Pilot charts a gripping journey of discovery and reconciliation.
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman was born in London in 1947 and immigrated to New Zealand in 1950, living out his early years mostly on the South Island's West Coast. His colourful career path has taken him to sawmills, shearing gangs, social work, bookselling and, since 1997, study at the University of Canterbury. He is currently a Senior Adjunct Fellow in the School of Humanities at Canterbury.
Holman is an award-winning poet; the most recent of his seven volumes is Shaken Down 6.3, poems of the post-2010 Christchurch earthquakes. His critically acclaimed history, Best of Both Worlds: The Story of Elsdon Best and Tutakangahau, was shortlisted for the 2011 Ernest Scott Prize. His poetry, articles and reviews have appeared in the New Zealand Listener, Landfall, The Press and other periodicals.
Holman was the 2011 Writer-in-Residence at the University of Waikato; in autumn 2012, he was the New Zealand representative at the University of Iowa's International Writing Program.