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Rainy Horvath
The Able Queen
A tale of coming of age in World War II, this memoir follows a Hump Pilot with the 14th Airforce flying perilous transport missions over the Himalayan mountains. Dodging bullets, missing mountains and navigating one of the most dangerous air routes in the world he survives many dangerous missions only to be forced to bail out and become one in need of rescue himself.
Rainy Horvath's stirring first-person celebration of her father—Robert “Bob” Binzer—follows his wartime experiences as a pilot in the Army Air Corps Unit (the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force) during World War II. As a youngster, Binzer was enthralled by the sight of airplanes soaring above Chicago and did everything he could to pass training so he could enlist, including memorizing the eye chart with the help of his ophthalmologist father. Describing him as “a boy from Indiana who always dreamed of flying and one day got his wish,” Horvath presents in Binzer’s own words his time spent performing military missions over the Himalayas.

Binzer was thrilled to be assigned to China, despite it being one of the most dangerous areas to fly, on an aerial route known as “The Hump,” a passageway running through the Himalayas where topography, weather, and the occupying Japanese forces all posed constant threats. From his memory of trying to land at Chungking in difficult terrain to losing a rudder when flying through wires strung up to deter Japanese planes, Binzer’s straight-talking storytelling transports the readers d into the cockpit of his “Able Queen.” Expect to cringe at the vulnerability of Binzer and his crew as they traverse along the Aluminum Trail (the route between China and India strewn with crashed planes) and be mesmerized by their final flight—ending in parachuting from the plane after running out of fuel—that catapulted Binzer into his most dangerous adventure.

This unpretentious memoir also surveys Binzer’s memories of growing up during the hard times before the war. His admiration and gratitude for the Chinese peasants who aided Americans in the fight is inspirational, and essays by historians Carl W. Weidenburner and Dr. David T. Fletcher add welcome perspective. This well-researched memoir of a quiet hero is a gem for fans of World War II history.

Takeaway: This memoir of a World War II pilot offers a portrait of extraordinary courage.

Great for fans of: James M. Scott’s Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid That Avenged Pearl Harbor, John R. Bruning’s Race of Aces: WWII’s Elite Airmen and the Epic Battle to Become the Master of the Sky.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: B+
Illustrations: A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A