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Book Reviews

Milt Gross Book Review: "A World War I Adventure" by a group of the main character's relatives (The House of Harkness)
By Milt Gross
Jul 19, 2015 - 6:47:44 AM

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This book, A World War I Adventure, all 525 mostly boring pages is a good reason to not use a publisher you pay to have your book published. Milt Gross photo.
This may be the worst book I've ever read, and unlike that other awful one I didn't finish because of its awfulness, I did read all 525 irrelevant pages of A World War I Adventure.

"The Life and Times of RNA's Bomber Pilot Donald E. Harkness," reads part of the front cover.

I do have to say that I learned a lot in reading it about early aircraft and warfare, but too much about everyday life from a journal that I found totally boring and meaningless. I didn't care who Harkness met for supper in England nor a thousand other needless details.

I think that Harkness' five relatives simply copied the journal word for word and added some explanation. This could have taken 200 pages had they stretched the wordiness a bit.

I not only blame the five authors but also the publisher, Author-House, one of too many companies that will print whatever you give them -- for a price. I'd hate to guess that price, which Author-House, Bloomington, IL, charged, but a publisher representative wrote me the book's price is $26.95.

I didn't see the book at, where I often go to find their book prices.

From the hype in the book, the story should have been about Harkness' chores for the British -- he was from Australia -- during the First World War. But what I found were apparently unedited (unless for spelling) page after page of the fighter's journal, including only a minor part, of interesting reading.

I found the wartime stories credible, but I'm not sure I would use the word "adventures" to describe them. But as I read, I got the impression from that journal that it was an adventure -- even enjoyable at times -- Harkness enjoyed. I'm not sure how one can enjoy dropping bombs on the enemy, even if those individuals on which you dropped them are enemies.

The parts about the early aircraft, seeming to be somewhat like a modern day Piper Cub or a bit larger, were fascinating. Many of the wrecks were when a plane simply fell into trees or a field, by an aircraft traveling about 100 miles an hour at tops. At the end, Harkness was killed in a plane crash, which added a note of sadness to the tale.

I found out a lot about social events in Holland and England, more than I ever intended to learn. That had nothing to do with the War but took many, many pages.

I would guess about 60 old photos caught my interest.

Apparently some family member found Harkness' journal in an attic. And apparently the self-publishing publisher accepted good money from the family to have this non-book material published.

I can't imagine wartime pilots nowadays flying such crude aircraft as described in the book, and, thankfully they don't have to do that.

I was in the Air Force, but only faced real-duty when we were called up during the Cuban Missile Crises. I've known a fair number of men who were in World War II or Vietnam. None of them seemed like they had enjoyed an "adventure" but endured a terrible time.

It's not a book I'd recommend if you have only one lifetime to read a book, but if you send me the proper postage for all 525 pages, I'll mail it to you.

I feel badly about those relatives who typed all that material and paid to have it published.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014

A deeply personal and revealing eyewitness narrative of one airman's life as a bomber pilot in England's RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service) in WWI. It is a true story, an adventure, and a war memoir carefully constructed from Captain Donald E. Harkness's unpublished diaries, letters, sketches and photographs - only recently uncovered nearly a century later - that documented his remarkable experiences and military adventures over England, France and Belgium. The first book written by a highly decorated WWI flyer from New Zealand that captures the "behind the scenes" life of RNAS pilots, as well as the surprises, terrors, traumas, humor, and sheer excitement of an aerial form of combat never before experienced by anyone, anywhere - and only eleven short years after the Wright Brothers historic flight at Kitty Hawk. (Read more Overview at "AuthorHouse)

A World War I Adventure is the result of a collaborative effort by RNAS Bomber Pilot Donald E. Harkness, Sr.'s descendants. For more information, visit

"A World War I Adventure"
By House of Harkness
AuthorHouse Publishing
Published 6/26/2014
ISBN: 978-1-4969-1409-5
582 pages
Softcover $27
Hardcover $36
E-book $4

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