In 1922, a 15-year-old girl, fed up with life in a French convent school, answered an ad for a travelling secretary. Tall, blonde, and swaggering with confidence, she might have passed for twenty. She also knew what she wanted: to become the first female to drive around the world. Her name was Aloha Wanderwell.
Aloha's mission was foolhardy in the extreme. Drivable roads were scarce and cars were alien to much of the world. The Wanderwell Expedition created a specially modified Model T Ford for the journey that featured gun scabbards and a sloped back that could fold out to become a darkroom. All that remained was for Aloha to learn how to drive.
Aloha became known around the globe. She was photographed in front of the Eiffel Tower, parked on the back of the Sphinx, firing mortars in China, and smiling at a tickertape parade in Detroit. By the age of 25, she had become a pilot, a film star, an ambassador for world peace, and the centrepiece of one of the biggest unsolved murder mysteries in California history. Her story defied belief, but it was true. Every bit of it. Except for her name. The American Aloha Wanderwell was, in reality, the Canadian Idris Hall.
Drawing upon Aloha's diaries and travel logs, as well as films, photographs, newspaper accounts, and previously classified government documents, Aloha Wanderwell reveals the astonishing story of one of the greatest — and most outrageous — explorers of the 1920s.
Christian Fink-Jensen's writing has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including the Toronto Star, Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Quarterly, Rampike, Vancouver Sun, and Ottawa Citizen.
Randolph Eustace-Walden has worked as a writer, editor, researcher, television producer, and director. He has twice been nominated for Emmy and Gemini awards and has won several Leo awards.
"Aloha Wanderwell must surely be the most remarkable woman adventurer to remain virtually unknown to history. This marvellous book sets the record straight, even as it powerfully evokes a distant era of travel when the survivors of the Great War set out to go anywhere but home. "
— Wade Davis, author of <i>The Lost Amazon</i> and <i>The Serpent and the Rainbow</i>
"She was a young adventurer, ready to take on the world without fear. Aloha Wanderwell, the book, is a fascinating look at her travels and her other exploits. She may have slipped from our collective memory for a few decades, but she is back. "
— Dave Obee
"Fink-Jensen and Eustace-Walden have compiled a remarkable biography about the exploits of a young Canadian woman and the charismatic man who guided her early career. In rescuing Aloha’s life from obscurity, they have reintroduced her as a significant and accomplished historical actor who was both a product and a purveyor of her times. "
— Bonnie Reilly Schmidt
"Fink-Jensen and Eustace-Walden expertly parse Aloha’s journals, films, and photos as well as press coverage and previously classified government documents to bring readers along on the adventures of an audacious and fierce young woman of the early 20th century. "
"Aloha Wanderwell recounts over a decade of non-stop adventure (along tens of thousands of kilometres of “barely existing roads” on several continents). All told, it’s an impressive feat. "
— Brett Josef Grubisic
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