New book examines Hollywood star’s mysterious plane crash

Set for publication in January, Robert Matzen’s sixth book “Fireball: Carole Lombard & the Mystery of Flight 3,” will be released on the 72nd anniversary of the mysterious plane crash that killed Carole and 21 others.

Five weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hollywood comedy actress Carole Lombard, wife of the world’s most popular movie star, Clark Gable, journeyed by train from southern California to sell war bonds and stamps in her native state, Indiana.

After selling $2 million in bonds in a single day, Lombard defied U.S. government orders to stay off planes and attempted to fly back to Hollywood aboard a commercial DC-3 that crashed 30 miles southwest of Las Vegas, on the evening of Jan. 16, 1942. Also killed were three flight crew members, 15 U.S. Army Air Corps personnel, and three other civilians, including Carole Lombard’s mother and Clark Gable’s publicist at MGM.

Based on 2,000 pages of government and TWA records, and never before seen interviews and research, the book recounts the story of the people on the plane, those left behind and the first responders who struggled up a mountain hoping to perform a miracle rescue.

Matzen is the author of six books, including the award-winning “Errol & Olivia: Ego & Obsession in Golden Era Hollywood.”

His previous print work includes many articles about classic films and the Greenwood Press reference volume, “Carole Lombard: A Bio-Biography.” He appeared as an expert on Lombard in the BBC2 documentary “Living Famously: Clark Gable” (2005).

“Fireball: Carole Lombard & the Mystery of Flight 3” is available through, and

See Jamie Beckett’s review of the book here.

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