Hart chalks novel up to experience
Few are as well-qualified to write an action-adventure novel as Jed Hart.
He served in the Malayan conflict as a naval officer and in the Vietnam War as a pilot before founding Hart Aviation. Not only has he lived an extraordinary life, but Hart is also a gifted storyteller.
These skills are both put to use in his debut novel Without Warning.
Mr Hart said experience had been an invaluable asset in writing the novel.
“It has been something I have wanted to do for a while. I wrote when I was in my 30s, and I was quite a reasonable writer then. I had a London agent. But I couldn’t plot worth a damn; I killed off the hero three chapters before the end in the novels I wrote then.
“I gave up writing then because I felt I didn’t have enough life experience. Life then takes over and I just didn’t have time for writing – running businesses and working in executive positions – but when that stopped I got back to the writing and found I had a wealth of experience and things I wanted to write about.”
His novel is just one way Hart has put his past in the service to use.
He recently co-authored the book Wings of Gold, which told the book told the story of the “Pensacola Experiment”, where Australian pilots and observers trained with the United States Navy aboard aircraft carriers in the mid to late Sixties.
Queenscliff RSL members will also likely be most familiar with Hart for the presentations he has given on Vietnam Veterans Day and Anzac Day.
Hart said writing the novel also helped him process his experiences.
“It is a work of fiction, so the characters are fictional, but some of the experiences are real-life experiences. The prologue, for example, is the hero Jake Hunt having a recurring dream, and that dream is a dream that I had, so it comes pretty close to home.
“It was a cathartic process writing about those experiences. In full-on war when people are trying to kill you and you can actually see them, see their faces as they’re bending over their weapons while their shooting, and you can’t always shoot back if you’re in a paddy field in a helicopter dropping of troops, those sort of experiences really go deep. I delve into some of them in this book, and more will appear in later books.”
But the novel also focuses on how people reconcile these types of experiences when they return to more conventional living.
“The underlying theme is the difficulties men and women have adjusting back the civilian world. They never really adjust back.
“Take the experience of Vietnam: we took a Qantas flight and flew into Saigon, and suddenly all the rules changed. You come from a very civilised Australia, where law and order are paramount and everything worked properly, and suddenly your day job was to kill people.
“So, to make that mental adjustment, you can’t be the same person. To cope with it psychologically, you have to adopt a new set of rules and live by those rules each day and play by the same rules as the rest of your team, otherwise people get hurt.”
The story’s protagonist Jack Hunt has to constantly grapple with these two worlds.
Hart said it was a struggle many servicemen and servicewomen experienced.
“That sort of adjustment is a one-way street. People that come back sort of have split personalities, as they have operated by rules people in civilian society never have, and hopefully never will.
“The civilian persona has to be readopted and you have to ringfence that military person and hope that they never have to be used again. But they’re there; they’re in the background.”
Hart used a lot of his own experiences to inform the character of Jack Hunt. But as he wrote, Hunt began to take on a form of his own.
“You write on what you know, but he’s a more extreme version. He’s a lot better-looking and a lot smarter than I am, so I’ve extrapolated a little, which has been a lot of fun.
“I came to like the character, and he kept heading off in his own direction, so I couldn’t control him.”
A book launch had initially been planned at 360Q in Queenscliff.
The coronavirus meant this did not materialise, but with Hart working on sequels, it is unlikely to be his last chance to unveil a novel.