The Barnstormer


Frankie Howard grew up on the poor side of town in the South, but it did not keep him from following his dream of being a pilot. Learning by the seat of his pants, he became a “barnstormer,” the term used in the early 20th century for daredevil stunt pilots. He went on to secure his career of airplane mechanic, flight instructor, and air taxi. He has been in love with Ruth Ann Douglas, his boss’s sister, since he first laid eyes on her. Problem is, Ruth Ann is spoiled, cocky, and flippant—especially with Frankie.

Ruthie’s dream is to become an actress, so she convinces her father to send her to acting school in Atlanta. It is here she meets Ronald Douglas, a fellow actor who woos her. She agrees to be his “best girl” until she goes home for a visit and realizes how much she misses her small-town life and the handsome barnstormer.

"The Barnstormer" is a classic love-triangle story. The details of Frankie’s talents as a pilot and his love for flying make it enticingly fresh. Much of the story is dialogue, however, and the lack of setting and character description leave the reader with a feeling of “talking heads.” Ruth Ann’s character is unlikable. She is shallow and deceitful, and she leads both men on for too long. Frankie’s character is well-developed, endearing, and very human. This disparity makes it difficult for the reader to hope the romance between the two will succeed. The flying scenes are spectacular and obviously well researched for the time.

FS Brown