A Kansas author claims ties to Pratt. He didn’t grow up here, but his mother did, and he visited his grandparents frequently. The time he spent in Pratt was important.
“Your community molded me in some small way and I appreciate it,” said Philip Donlay, whose fourth book, “Deadly Echoes,” will be released in April.
He claims two distinct events that shaped his life. At the age of 17, he earned a pilot’s license and at 18, he was published in a national aviation magazine.
His love of flying was fostered in Pratt County. His grandfather, Dwight Hardy, was a farmer, educator, acting president of Pratt Junior College in 1969, and a pilot.
“He’d take me flying,” Donlay said. “The first time scared me to death, but I was hooked for life.”
Growing up in Wichita, he considered Pratt to be “kind of a second home.” The swimming pool, fish hatchery, sledding down Cherry Street and spending time at the farm near Wellsford are favorite memories.
Between his junior and senior years in high school, he worked on the farm to earn enough money to take flying lessons.
At the same time, he took a journalism class in high school, liked it and discovered he had some talent for writing. A creative writing teacher encouraged him to pursue writing as a career. He graduated from college as a journalism major, but when it came time to decide between writing and flying for a living, flying won.
Donlay was a flight instructor before becoming copilot of a private jet based in Jeddah, flying for a Saudi prince. After several months, he returned to the United States and flew a corporate jet for a Fortune 500 company for the next 28 years, traveling to 40 countries on five continents.
He always kept writing in the back of his mind, and vowed someday he would write a novel.
“It’s harder than it looks,” Donlay said about writing. “Getting published is harder, but I’m pretty stubborn and I kept at it.”
His protagonist is Donovan Nash, the founder of Eco-Watch, a fictional scientific research organization. In “Deadly Echoes,” Nash is being blamed for a series of violent eco-atrocities that ignite protests around the world.
Advance praise from the industry includes words like heart-thumping, well researched, supremely entertaining, and commanding thriller.
“A Donlay thriller is as sleek and fast as a Gulfstream. Buckle up,” wrote Brian Freeman, author of “Spilled Blood.”
Donlay’s fifth book in the series is due out in March 2015, and after he finishes a book tour this spring, and if his agent has his way, he’ll start writing book number six.
“It’s a hobby that got way out of control,” he commented.
Published by Oceanview Publishing, headquartered in Florida, “Deadly Echoes” will be available wherever books are sold, or it can be ordered in hard copy and will also be available in all eBook formats.
Donlay’s third book, “Zero Separation,” was chosen as a finalist among more than 1,500 entries in the thriller/adventure category of the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, sponsored by USA Book News.
He divides his time between Minneapolis and the San Juan Islands.
“Tell Pratt hi for me,” Donlay said in a phone interview. “I kind of miss it.”