MARCO ISLAND — Some people know Darrell Loan as a fall and winter resident of Marco Island, an 83-year old whose body and brain are active and motivated to stay that way.
Many people in Iowa know Darrell as a vigorous farmer who plants two hundred acres of corn and soybeans by himself. Others, here and there, who know Darrell Loan are aware of his life during America’s turbulent times as a “Rocket Man.”
Our friend and author Tom Williams knows Loan as a curious man who for years traded queries and theories with some of the best known scientists ever. And Tom Williams has written a powerful book about this Marco man whose exploits helped change history.
The title is “Surrounded by Thunder: The Story of Darrell Loan and the Rocket Men.”
The writing is fast-paced and dramatic. How could it not be, chronicling as Tom does so well, a flesh, blood and brains rocket ride at warp speed through the space program, from a grey factory building near Detroit to the moon.
Tom’s style in this tale is known as historical narrative. In lay terms, it has the pace, focus and riveting action of a novel with the documentarian’s eye for detail and dialogue that rings true. In short, Tom turns facts into a story. And both elements are the better for it.
Tom and Darrell spent hours together and Tom was a good listener.
“He’d tell me stories,” Tom relates, “things you don’t know about the space program, funny stories about the astronauts. They actually were the best of the best of the best.
“It was only twelve years from Sputnik to boots on the moon. Darrell was one of the top engineers at NASA from the 1950s, when Sputnik was launched and the space race started. He was on the main team and was in the front row when you see the engineers during Apollo 13. He was there all the way.
“He worked side by side with the German-American rocket scientists, men such as Wernher von Braun and Kurt Debus. If it hadn’t been for them, we never would have gone to the moon. Those two Germans figured out how to lift one hundred twenty five tons into a hundred mile orbit and fifty tons to the moon.”
Tom spent a lot of time researching, double-checking, making sure the facts of his historical narrative are correct.
“The mission dates, the astronauts named, and many of the unforgettable characters that make up this account of America’s race for space and then to the moon are accurate.“
At our deadline, this book, “Surrounded by Thunder,” is just out or about to be, available in all the usual places, including Sunshine Booksellers, at 677 South Collier Boulevard on Marco Island. His email: email@example.com.
Tom already has another successful book on his resume, a novel titled, “Lost and Found.” It’s about a maritime treasure hunt that reeks of credibility.
That’s because Tom is a master merchant marine officer, licensed by the US Coast Guard for more than twenty-two years. He specializes in shipwrecks and salvage diving, just the ticket for writing the adventure that is “Lost and Found.”
Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. Email: email@example.com.