If I were to pick up the thread that eventually led to River of January and retrace the steps, the book actually began with a blind date.
A good friend of mine, a fellow teacher, introduced me to my husband. She was originally from Miami and had moved west to get away from the crime and congestion. My husband-to-be had followed them out on a visit and it was during that visit that we got together.
He came to my house with stories of his parents and their adventures. Mostly he talked of his father, Mont Chumbley and “Chum’s” exploits in flight. From his wallet my gentleman caller produced a couple of pictures proving his claims. Next he told of his mother and her career as a dancer before and during WWII. He knew less of her story, but shared it with the same enthusiasm as Chum’s. My beau was careful to add that his father was still alive and that I would enjoy meeting him. (And that part was true, I did meet him and was charmed.)
Each time we met, following that first date, he brought more and more mementos to show me. Photo stills of a handsome man posing proudly before his airplane, and of a girl with smoky mascara-smudged eyes, smoking a cigarette. I grew increasingly curious with each new find.
Eventually, we married and his father, Chum, died. By that time I had a large closet filled to capacity with his family mementos. All of those letters, pictures, playbills, air show programs, were saved, in my opinion, for a reason, and perhaps that was to piece them all together into a book.
My husband courted me, a history teacher with historic materials, and sifting through those stacks made the decision to write obvious. The responsibility fell to me and hopefully I have done their fascinating lives justice.