All Blood Runs Red
Author: Henry Scott Harris
Published By: eBookIt.com
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
A couple of months ago, I received a package containing a book, some paperwork and an old metal toy airplane. The book was All Blood Runs Red and the paperwork presented an overview of the life of Eugene Jacques Bullard, the first black American military aviator. The plane was detailed to look like the one Mr. Bullard flew. A letter from the author requested that, should I not be interested in this book, I give the plane to some deserving child and donate the book to my local library so that others may learn of this extraordinary man. Of course, I read the book.
All Blood Runs Red is a historical fiction written as if the author himself were interviewing Eugene Jacques Ballard just prior to his death in 1961. We learn of Bullard's life as a young child in Columbus, Georgia in the late 1800s, the seventh child born in the family. His mother died early and Eugene decided to make his way on his own after his father broke the "white man's law" by defending himself against an abusive white dock foreman. At eight years old, Eugene Jacques Ballard was on his way to France, the one place where his father had always told him he would be treated like an equal no matter the color of his skin.
Along the way, he joined a band of gypsies, sang and danced to earn his keep and eventually stowed away on a boat headed to Scotland. Once discovered, Bullard earned his keep there as well, swabbing decks and more to pay for his ride. He eventually made his way to Liverpool, where he trained to become a boxer. This brought him to France briefly and, after one taste, he knew this was the place he wanted to call home. Joining a traveling circus brought him back and he prepared to stay.
Then World War I broke out and, unable to join the French army, Bullard became a decorated Legionnaire. When injuries sidelined him and threatened to end his military career, Bullard learned to become a pilot and flew with the Escadrille. His Spad was adorned with his logo: a heart with a dagger through it and the words All Blood Runs Red. When he tried to transfer to the American Army pilots division, he was denied because of his color. After the war, he returned to boxing, but found a more lucrative career as a nightclub owner. When World War II broke out, unable to rejoin the military, Bullard became a spy, using his nightclub to gather information from the Nazis for the Resistance.
As the Nazis began to close in on him, Bullard fled France and returned to America to discover that not much had changed. In France, he was treated as an equal. In America, he was treated as a second class citizen. And still, he found a way to survive, raising his two children until the day that he was recognized as being the first black American military pilot.
I loved the way Henry Scott Harris wrote this book, as if it were in Bullard's own words. Though there wasn't much differentiation between the voices of Bullard and his interviewer, I could still picture this larger than life man telling us his story...fantastical though some of it may seem. Harris even alludes to this, asking Bullard if it is all true. After all, Bullard's life reads like an amazing legend, but research has backed up much of what is written in this book. Using Bullard's logo from his plane as a title for this book is a perfect way to remind us that though we appear different, we are all the same in some aspects. Despite the hardships he had been through, Bullard always seemed to believe in this motto. A highly decorated man, it's a shame that he should return to his homeland to experience bigotry and hate amongst the very people he hoped to save from the Nazis.
Writing this as a historical fiction, allowing the reader to hear the story told in what the author believed would be Bullard's own words was an excellent choice. It almost seemed to make the book move faster; make it more interesting. Instead of reading a droll, quick tale about the life of a legend, Henry Scott Harris allowed the legend to speak for himself. All Blood Runs Red was a fast and interesting read and I would definitely recommend it to any history buff.