Thursday, September 14, 2006

Interview with Pyle Biographer

Ray E. Boomhower, managing editor of the Indiana Historical Society's popular history magazine Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, is the author of a new youth biography on Ernie Pyle published by the IHS Press. He answered a few questions about writing the book for the Press's blog.

Before starting the project, how much did you know about Pyle's life?

Ernie Pyle has been a part of my life since my college days at Indiana University in Bloomington. I majored in jouralism at IU and spent much of my time in Ernie Pyle Hall, going to classes and, as Ernie did, working on the student newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student. There was something this small, quite man that drew my attention from the first. I marvled at how a kid from small-town Indiana could become so famous and admired him for his devotion to the ordinary GI during World War II.

In doing research on Pyle's life, did you find anything that surprised you?

I knew that Pyle had been a household name in America because of his work during the war, but I was unaware of how popular he had been before World War II. His "Hoosier Vagabond" column for the Scripps-Howard chain reached a wide readership and proved to be one of the most popular features for countless newspapers across the country.

I also did not realize how well Pyle wrote. Like other journalists, he faced enormous deadlines pressures in writing a syndicated column, especially because of his constant traveling. Despite this, he produced quality pieces that stand the test of time.

This is the second youth biography you've written for the Press. [Boomhower also wrote a children's biography of Lew Wallace for the Press.] Do you enjoy writing for a young audience?

It's been a pleasure to research and write these biographies. I've discovered that there's not much difference in writing for young people as compared to writing for an adult audience. Both audiences seem to desire concise biographies of famous Hoosiers that explore the key points of a subject's life. I've also enjoyed ferreting out illustrations for both books in repositories around the state and working with the staff at historic sites devoted to the lives of Wallace and Pyle. They've been a great help in making these books possible.

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