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World’s Most Prolific Novelist Still Had Time to be a Daredevil Aviator; Meet Barbara Cartland

Our Adorable Past

Barbara Cartland is best known for penning “risqué” (though they rarely contained anything of an, ah, suggestive nature) thrillers, plays, and romance novels with titles like The Bitter Winds of Love, and The Wicked Marquis, and penning a lot of them. She holds the world record for most books written in a single year (twenty-three, in 1983 when she was fifty-eight), and has been named the top selling author in the world by Guinness. She sold more than a billion books over her career, with a total of nearly nine hundred novels, one hundred and sixty of which were published posthumously.

But what she isn’t well known for, as io9 shows us today, is her contributions to aviation and, relatedly, the war effort in England during WWII.

Cartland was at the forefront of gliders, which, as io9 puts it “are what planes would be if you removed a lot of the stuff that kept them from crashing, like engines.” Flying a glider is not unlike having a gas powered plane tow you up into the sky on a giant paper airplane, and then cutting the towline. Gliders were a fun diversion in the 1920s and ’30s, but didn’t seem to have much practical application, as they couldn’t get off the ground by themselves, weren’t particularly fast, didn’t go very far, and couldn’t carry much.

It was Cartland who decided that a long-range glider was a goal worth pursuing, and built her very own plane to prove it, named, what else, the Barbara Carland. She completed a two-hundred mile flight carrying the first glider-carried sack of airmail, a feat that would eventually culminate in gliders being used as troop transports in World War II. What they lacked in power and maneuverability, they made up for in being completely silent, I’m guessing.

Cartland’s work was primarily in the genre of historical romance, so no gliders to be found there. While she didn’t fly for the war effort, she was still active, as io9 explains.

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Susana Polo thought she'd get her Creative Writing degree from Oberlin, work a crap job, and fake it until she made it into comics. Instead she stumbled into a great job: founding and running this very website (she's Editor at Large now, very fancy). She's spoken at events like Geek Girl Con, New York Comic Con, and Comic Book City Con, wants to get a Batwoman tattoo and write a graphic novel, and one of her canine teeth is in backwards.