When Adam Makos moved to Colorado two years ago, he and his family were looking to expand the West Coast presence of the Valor military magazine they started here in 1999.
While there, Makos finally had the time to expand upon a story that was featured in the magazine, one that he and many others thought was a tall tale: the story of a German bomber who spared the life of an American fighter pilot.
After eight years of research, Makos wrote "A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II," which was released today, on the anniversary of the story, which took place on Dec. 20, 1943, when American pilot Charlie Brown and German Franz Stigler met in the skies over Germany.
"A Higher Call" is the first of a three-book deal he secured with Penguin Publishing and the book already has garnered national attention through an NPR interview from 11 a.m. to noon today on the Diane Rehm show, a two-page spread in the New York Post and a review from Publishers Weekly.
He will launch his national book tour with a book signing at 5 p.m. Friday at Otto Book Store, 107 W. Fourth St.
Makos graduated from Lycoming College in 2003 and Montoursville Area High School in 1999. He and his family - father, Bob; mother, Karen; brother, Bryan; and sister, Erica - are the owners of Valor Studios, one of the top producers of military art, Valor magazine and now books.
IF YOU GO
WHO: Montoursville native Adam Makos
WHAT: book signing
WHEN: 5 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Otto Book Store, 107 W. Fourth St.
Makos's second book, "Voices of the Pacific," is due in April and his third book is about the Korean War and is due in 2014.
Makos said the message of the book is one that is extremely relevant in today's times.
"These were enemies who became brothers, men who chose not to kill each other in war," he said. "This is a story we need today ... we should look at the example they gave us."
Makos said the book is a way to tell a story from another perspective of World War II.
"I spent a week with Franz, he was a generous, kind, gentle man," Makos said. "He was just on the wrong side of WW II. He would have been a great hero if he had been on another side."
Makos said he interviewed the men off and on for four years, from 2004 until they both died in 2008. Although both men passed away before they could see their story told, Makos said they knew he would care for the story.
He said the book signing at Otto's is another reunion because store owner Betsy Rider sold their magazine - then known as Ghostwings - in 1999.
"Williamsport is still home to me. We may be back once our mission is accomplished, but for now, the mission comes first," he said.
That mission, of course, is telling the WW II veterans' stories. Makos said he is working against the clock because he figures he has only about two more years or so to work with the remaining WW II veterans.
In the future, he hopes to expand Valor's focus, but for now, he wants to make sure he and his family reach out to any veterans they can find. Bryan, Bob and Adam spend time on the road each month going to interview veterans while Erica runs the day-to-day operations of the company.
The next Valor magazine will come out in January after a brief hiatus while Makos worked on the books. Makos said he has received interest from producers who want to secure the film rights and an Oscar-winning screenwriter who wants to collaborate, but he wants the book to "be a good book first."
"I'm very proud of this story and I hope it changes the way people look at WW II," he said. "There were good men on both sides ... that's what will change you and you will never look at WW II the same way again."
The 400-page book is $26.95 and is available at Otto's and at Barnes and Noble.
For more information about the story, check out www.valorstudios.com/franz-stigler-photos-and-video.htm, a video created by Bryan, who also designed the book cover.