West with the Night
West with the Night is a 1942 memoir by Beryl Markham, chronicling her experiences growing up in Kenya (then British East Africa) in the early 1900s, leading to a career as a bush pilot there. It is considered a classic of outdoor literature and was included in the U.S.A.'s Armed Services Editions shortly after its publication. In 2004, National Geographic Adventure ranked it number 8 in a list of 100 best adventure books.
There are some questions of whether Markham is the real author of her memoir. According to the 1993 biography, The Lives of Beryl Markham, by Errol Trzebinski, the book's real author was her third husband, the ghost writer and journalist Raoul Schumacher. Trzebinski also claimed that Beryl Markham had an advance from Houghton Mifflin to do a book on the famous international jockey Tod Sloan, that Raoul Schumacher was supposed to write. Apparently Schumacher never did, and she was forced to go it alone, resulting in a manuscript submission that the publisher rejected as worthless, and not from the same person who had written West with the Night.
Author Mary S. Lovell, who visited and stayed with Markham in Kenya shortly before Markham's death in 1986, expressed no doubts in Markham's biography that she was the sole author, although her third husband did edit the manuscript – but not in a major way. Ernest Hemingway was deeply impressed with Markham's writing, saying
|“||"she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But [she] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers ... it really is a bloody wonderful book."||”|
Markham is often incorrectly described as the first person to fly the Atlantic east to west in a solo non-stop flight, but that record belongs to Scottish pilot Jim Mollison, who attempted to fly from Dublin, Ireland, to New York City in 1932. Low visibility forced Mollison down in New Brunswick, Canada, but he was still able to claim the Atlantic east-to-west record (a westbound flight requires more endurance, fuel, and time than the eastward journey, because the craft must travel against the prevailing Atlantic winds). Markham was, however, the first woman to complete this feat and the first person to fly east to west from England to North America non-stop.
When Markham decided to take on the Atlantic crossing, no pilot had yet flown non-stop from Europe to New York, and no woman had made the westward flight solo, though several had died trying. Markham hoped to claim both records. On 4 September 1936, she took off from Abingdon, England. After a 20-hour flight, her Vega Gull, The Messenger, suffered fuel starvation due to icing of the fuel tank vents, and she crash-landed at Baleine Cove on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada (her flight must have been almost identical in length to Mollison's). In spite of falling short of her goal, Markham had become the first woman to cross the Atlantic east-to-west solo, and the first person to make it from England to North America non-stop from east to west. She was celebrated as an aviation pioneer.
- Armed Services Editions list by title, No. F-166
- National Geographic Adventure: 100 Best Adventure Books.
- Lovell, Mary S., Straight on Till Morning, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987, p. 175