Award-winning author pens riveting, cinematic WWI novel, Dead Heat to Destiny!

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Award-winning author pens riveting, cinematic WWI novel

Author J.B. Rivard delivers his best book yet


MESA, AZNow a prolific writer with dozens of novels completed, J.B. Rivard wasn’t always an author. A veteran of the Korean War and a specialist in nuclear reactor technology, Rivard balanced his career in engineering with a love for the arts. A visual artist turned novelist, Rivard’s creative work has received widespread acclaim in recent years.


In Rivard’s latest–and most daring–novel to date, “Dead Heat to Destiny” (February 7, 2023), the lives and loves of three people are imperiled during the cataclysm of the First World War. An adventurous historical novel with both romance and espionage, “Dead Heat” weaves a  stunning tapestry of events.


About the book: Destined for success in the booming world of high fashion, young Adrienne Boch deflects the romantic pursuit of Will Marra, an American student in Paris. Her cousin, Gregor Steiner, completes his training as an officer in the Imperial German Navy. They, like the entire world, are unprepared when World War I begins. As the invading German army threatens Paris, Gregor advances to captain a U-boat, Will becomes a pilot in the U.S. Army, and Adrienne’s family flees an overrun Belgium. In Central America, a spy is recruited to defeat the United States. At the climax—during which love hangs in the balance—they meet in a thrilling and emotionally riveting clash.


Spanning 1903-1917, this cinematic novel transports the reader to a variety of stunning locales. With his dedication to historical accuracy and his immersive writing style, Rivard offers readers a front row seat to the early twentieth century’s most compelling events.


“Dead Heat to Destiny”

J.B. Rivard | February 7, 2023 | Books Fluent | Historical Fiction, Adventure

Paperback | 978-0-9968363-6-4 | $15.95

eBook | 978-0-9968363-7-1 | $5.95

J.B. RIVARD believes words can create pictures. His readers agree; one said, “I was right in the biplane cockpit with Nick,” referring to pilot Nick Mamer, the 1929 record-setting aviator in Rivard’s nonfiction book “Low on Gas – High on Sky.” A writer of historically accurate fiction and nonfiction, J.B. knows readers want the past to blaze up and enthrall them. His commitment to compelling and convincing writing derives from four years in the military as well as his technical career on the staff of a U.S. National Laboratory. A graduate of the University of Florida, he attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and is an award-winning artist and author. His latest novel is  “Dead Heat to Destiny,” in which the lives and loves of three people are imperiled during the cataclysm of World War One. To learn more about J.B.’s life and work, visit


An Interview with J.B. Rivard

  • What inspired you to write “Dead Heat to Destiny”?

Researching the early life of aviator Nick Mamer for my nonfiction book “Low on Gas – High on Sky” confirmed Nick’s service in the Army’s 7th Aero squadron in 1917-18. Although an enlisted man without formal flight training, Nick amassed more than four hours piloting a rickety Curtiss biplane in observation and training flights over the Panama Canal. This introduced me to the United States’ preparations for entering World War I in 1917.

  • What was the research process like for this book?

Although much research on the US Army’s fledgling Aviation Section had been done, much more was needed to support the four main characters of the novel. This research included the German invasion of Belgium and France in 1914, details of the booming fashion industry in Paris 1910-1917, the buildup of the German Imperial Navy and its advances in U-boat design, the operation of Etappendienst, the German spy agency, the pursuit of Pancho Villa by General Pershing’s Army in 1916, and much, much more. It was in-depth and exhausting, but also rewarding by increasing my ability to convey the realities of these experiences.

  • Something that’s quite unique about “Dead Heat to Destiny” is how cinematic it is. It’s quite the page-turner! How did you accomplish this?

Writing my earlier crime novels taught me a lot about pace. As an admirer of Elmore Leonard’s novels, I often refer to his suggestions in The New York Times article (2001) “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle.” Sol Stein’s 1995 book Stein on Writing says modern readers, rather than being ‘told,’ are attuned by movies and TV to ‘seeing’ stories cinematically. He cautions modern writers to avoid static description and backstory in favor of immersing the reader directly into scenes. I often plunge the reader into a scene in which the action is underway—this seems to speed up pace.

  • You served in the military for 4 years. Did you draw on your experiences while writing “Dead Heat to Destiny”?

Yes, but probably not how you might think. What I learned is that military aviation is a serious business—a wrong move has consequences. But for writing about war, battles and such, my participation in a number of nuclear blasts over the Pacific Ocean in 1962 probably contributes.

  • What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Adults of the 21st century are well-aware how unpleasant war is for participants—civilian as well as military. But war’s brutalities also force participants to face and endure realities that illuminate their character and the sometimes impossible choices they face. My story suggests how the war of a century ago impacted friend and foe—for both good and evil. I hope readers find the story enjoyable!


Inspiration, Themes, Casablanca, and my New Novel

by J.B. Rivard

My new novel, Dead Heat to Destiny, follows the lives of three people and a spy over more than a dozen years, from 1903 to the years 1914-1917 of World War I. 

I chose to write this story for several reasons:

Writing Low on Gas – High on Sky, the true story of Nick Mamer and his 1929 record-setting flight, exposed me to history ‘in the raw.’ By this I refer to the powerful emotions I felt as I pored over hundreds of documents and photos and thousands of news clippings in the collection of the Mamer family, the archive that provided the book’s foundation. I became somehow enmeshed—transfixed, even—in those early adventures. I could almost hear the roar of the Whirlwind motor, feel the nighttime swerve of the airplane avoiding thunderhead, or smell the hot oil of the exhaust leaking into the cockpit. It seemed as though a time-machine had transited me to those early days of aviation—with Nick taking off on the rough turf of Felts Field, slicing through a refueling hose over Wyoming, or flying high but hungry over Long Island’s Roosevelt Field.

Enthused about flying, the teenaged Nick Mamer had passed the Federal Exam for the Aviation Section in 1916, and joined the U.S. Army. He wanted to learn to fly, but was initially denied. Eventually his success as an enlisted “mechanician” led to flight training and later success as a record-setting civilian aviator. His story infused me with respect and admiration for those who take to the sky, with both its rewards and its risks. 

Writing this true-to-life story led to research on the earliest decades of flying, especially the Army’s history within the Signal Corps. 

World War I introduced aerial warfare. It forced the Army’s Signal Corps, and the United States, to finally join the allies in 1917 and end the fighting in 1918. During the initial 15 months of the U.S. involvement, Nick Mamer served at the Panama Canal. But by the time of the Armistice, U.S. forces were serving far and wide, from Asia to Ireland, from the Azores to the Philippines. 

These considerations inspired me to envision diverse characters interacting in international locations in a story involving both civilian and military life, as well as aviation, before, and during, World War One.

My four years service in the U.S. Navy provided in-depth experience of military life and military thinking. The absolutes of military discipline and the total reliance on top-down control are constants, regardless of country, branch, or era. My experience supplied an added resource for the military scenes and ventures in Dead Heat to Destiny.

Prior to World War I, France sustained a period of economic growth that resulted in astounding artistic, engineering, and cultural developments. It came to be known as la belle époque—literally, “the beautiful age.” This time of optimism, progress and elegance results in the erection of the Eiffel Tower, the construction of the Métro, and the replacement of horse-drawn cabs by motorized taxis. “Cubism” enters art, ‘neon’ signs appear, and haute couture comes to daily notice in the houses of Worth, Paquin, and Poiret. This period inspired me to chronicle the life and fierce dedication to high fashion of Adrienne Boch, the female protagonist in Dead Heat to Destiny.

Nick Mamer’s stint as part of the defense of Panama prompted my interest in one of the marvels of the modern world, the Panama Canal. Much study of its history followed, including accounts of the contribution of George Washington Goethals, the engineer most responsible for finishing this shortcut between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. A fascinating aspect of the opening of the canal was the first transit. Goethals arranged the 12-hour trip by the S.S. Cristobal, a freighter of the Panama Railroad Steamship Co., to assure nothing would go wrong on the  first ‘official’ (and later) transit—a measure typical of Goethals’ thoughtful planning. The initial transit, although unofficial and uncredited, occurred August 3, 1914. What Goethals and his army of canal workers did not know was that Germany declared war on France that same day. In his 617-page story of the Canal, The Path Between the Seas, David McCullough calls the coincidence of these two vastly divergent events ironic and tragic. I find the convergence of the magnificent finish of the Canal with the devastating beginning of a horrific conflict both frightening and extraordinary—perhaps a corollary to our situation today.

The movie Casablanca has been called the most celebrated movie of all time. As entertaining as it is, it is also a sturdily-fashioned drama with both international and personal themes. The escapees peopling the Moorish enclave of Casablanca, who hail from numerous countries, constitute the international theme. The cynical casino owner Rick (Bogart), the grasping Ugarte (Lorre) and crafty Ferrari (Greenstreet), the prim-and-proper duo of Ilsa (Bergman) and Laszlo (Henreid)—each is developed via symbolic actions and stinging dialogue. They constitute the personal theme. 

Robert McKee writes, “A great story authenticates its ideas solely within the dynamics of its events.” Casablanca demonstrates this in its masterful choice of terse scenes enriched by wit, chance, love and wisdom, illuminating both tragedy and truth via the outcomes of human choice and action. These key features of the movie animate me and inspire the dynamic of Dead Heat to Destiny

My belief is that readers want to experience stories as they experience life, drawing tentative conclusions while disregarding the incomplete and/or inconclusive nature of individual events. The accumulation of these apprehensions enables us to interpret life’s dynamic.

When I read a compelling story, I experience it as a movie. I call this phenomenon MiMM, the Movie in My Mind. I construct my story similarly as an array of scenes, more or less incomplete and/or inconclusive when considered individually. My idea is that, having experienced the accumulation of scenes and finally encountering—as in a movie—“The End,” readers may grasp the totality of its meaning.

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