WWII Pilot Partners with the Son of a WWII Pilot to Produce an Autobiographical Audiobook

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Ed Larson, ninety-four-year-old author of Spear-Carrier in a Backwater War, and actor T. Anthony Quinn have partnered to produce a ten-and-a-half-hour audiobook telling the story of Larson’s experiences growing up during the golden age of aviation and serving as one of the youngest USAAF pilots during WWII.

Insightfully written by Larson and masterfully narrated by Quinn, Spear-Carrier in a Backwater War provides fascinating anecdotes on the history of aviation and the developments of aircraft during the first half of the twentieth century. Along the way, Larson and Quinn entertain their audience with back-stories on aviators like Amelia Earhart, Wrong-Way Corrigan, and Jimmy Doolittle, as well as compelling details about the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Doolittle Raid and Battle at Midway, D-Day, and the Battle of the Bulge. Spear-Carrier in a Backwater War offers a rare, first-hand glimpse into what it was like growing up during the Depression, listening to accounts of the Battle of Britain on a Hallicrafters shortwave radio, and the eagerness with which Larson and countless others enlisted for military service following America’s entry into the Second World War.

But how Ed Larson and Tony Quinn came to partner in this endeavor is a story in itself.

ACX, the audiobook marketplace for professional narrators, authors, agents, and producers, contacted Ed after he published the 524-page print and eBook versions of Spear-Carrier in 2015. It was then that Ed began searching for a narrator who could record his story.

And that is when Tony Quinn entered the scene. A seasoned narrator and actor who regularly produces audiobooks for ACX, he submitted an engaging audition that easily made him the best candidate for the project; and when offered the role, Quinn agreed to collaborate with Larson: a heady commitment—the audiobook totals fifty-two chapters—ten-and-a-half hours of recorded storytelling.

Through their partnership, a friendship has grown, and late in the production process, Larson learned that Quinn’s commitment has very personal significance. His dad, Lieutenant Donald J. Quinn, USAAF, not only followed Larson by a month throughout pilot training at bases in California and Arizona, but to Larson’s amazement, he learned that he and Quinn’s dad also served at the same time in the same theater of war. For acts of heroism or meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight, Larson was awarded the United States Armed Forces Air Medal. For his heroism and extraordinary service, Lieutenant Quinn received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart.

As we countdown to the seventieth-fifth anniversary of the conclusion of World War II, Ed Larson is one of an elite few remaining servicemen and heroes from what Tom Brokaw has called “the greatest generation.” The soon-to-be released audiobook, Spear-Carrier in a Backwater War, is a compassionate nod to those who never came home…and for those who survived, it is an eloquent testimony to their sacrifice and service. For many, it is also a story of learning how to live despite the burden of grief.


Photo of Ed Larson courtesy of Dave Presta

EDWARD LARSON has been an adventurer most of his life. Although he grew up in Seattle, he spent his summers on Alaska towboats transporting salmon from the fishing banks to canneries spread throughout Southeast Alaska. At the age of 17, with America entering WWII, he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, completing his basic and CTD training in Lincoln and Des Moines, preflight training at Santa Ana, Eighth Army Air Forces flight training at Visalia (Sequoia Field), and twin-engine advanced school at Stockton Field with his fellow members of Squadron 44-D.

In October 1944, Ed transitioned to a B-24 training program at Kirtland Army Air Field; then on Christmas Eve 1944, he was ordered to the China-Burma-India Theater of War to transport much-needed bombs, ammunition, and barreled aviation fuel to fighter groups operating against the Japanese. While serving overseas, he flew C-109 and C-87 aircraft before falling in love with the purr of the C-46’s twin R-2800 engines.

Following the war, Larson returned to Southeast Alaska, once again working the fishing boats. His first book, Spring Tides: Memories of Alaskan Towboats, is based on those experiences. In 1954, he re-entered college and earned a master’s degree, which led to a thirty-year career in education.

Along with his itch for adventure, Larson’s passion for writing and illustrating crystalized as a young boy. Now, at the age of 94, he has amassed a considerable body of critically acclaimed work—writing and illustrations that have appeared in literary journals, magazines, and other publications; his artwork is widely collected. In 2018, he published his sixth book, Leaves from the Autumns of Yesterday, a collection of short stories, poems, and drawings. Set in the sweeping landscape of Montana, on the majestic, often perilous waters of Alaska, along the coastal lands and waterways of California, and in the skies over China and the Far East, it tells the stories of people Ed Larson has lived with and loved.

Ed Larson currently resides in Santa Cruz, California, where he remains active, occasionally attending air shows and sharing his experiences with enthusiastic audiences. He has two granddaughters and five great-grandchildren. He still loves writing, illustrating, and flying, and he still knows how to tell a great story.


T. Anthony Quinn

T. ANTHONY QUINN is a member of SAG-AFTRA and AEA. His credits include eighteen feature-length films and dozens of stage presentations, notably Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, and West Side Story. He has had featured roles in several television programs and lent his versatile, trademark voice to commercials and other broadcasts. In 2017, he served as announcer for the 58th Presidential Inaugural Parade.

Quinn’s engaging style contributes richly to the telling of Spear-Carrier in a Backwater War. His other recent audiobook credits include Jack London’s, The Road and John James Audubon: The Nature of the American Woodsman by Gregory Nobles.

Tony Quinn is a graduate of the Choate School, Amherst College and Emory University School of Law. He has performed at the renowned Weston Playhouse and the Atlanta Shakespeare Theater. More recently, he performed at the Tony Award winning Arena Stage and with the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC. He is a classically trained actor as well as an experienced, practicing trial attorney skilled in direct and cross examination, criminal investigation, and evidence handling.

Lending his talents to Ed Larson’s story, Tony Quinn brings extraordinary depth and a rich appreciation to the story of a young man with a manic devotion to all things flying—a young man who served his country with honest dedication and humility—a young man who came home from a terrible war and quietly built a home and family and a life.

Ed Larson is like a lot of the people who served during WWII. Most of them never recognized for their effort. But all of them, heroes. As much as it is Ed Larson’s story, Spear-Carrier in a Backwater War is also a nod to Tony Quinn’s dad and the rest of those men and women whose service and sacrifice helped redeem the world.

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