Book Three of the Black Sabre Chronicles, Vietnam vet Willard's 19th novel, carries on an engrossing generational saga about blacks in the military. Buffalo Soldiers (1995) told of black trooper Augustus Sharps (a crack shot named after the long rifle), who's fighting Native Americans and white marauders with the post—Civil War Tenth Cavalry, earns a sergeant major's stripes, and marries the scalped Selona. Augustus's two sons, Adrian and David, go off to OCS; in The Sable Doughboys (1997), they—re holed up in segregated training camps before being posted as lieutenants to the 93rd Division's 372nd Infantry and shipped to France. David dies, while Adrian's son Samuel, in Wings of Honor, endures the famous Tuskegee Experiment of WWII, becomes a pilot, and is sent to fight the Luftwaffe. The story ferries Samuel and his squadron through campaigns in Africa, Sicily, and France as they fly their devil-throated P-40 Warhawks and P-51 Mustangs. These Tuskegee Airmen are also the vanguard who tear down the walls of segregation in the military. Meantime, the wonderfully exciting air battles bear comparison with James Wylie's 1977 Faulknerian classic, The Homestead Grays, about African-Americans of the 1930s who are lighted up by the thunderclap of war to man the secret machines of wizards (prop-driven Mustangs) and at last face Messerschmidt jets over burning Berlin. The first half of the story, however, concerns black life in the States, since the war doesn't come until mid-novel, with Augustus and Selona strongly present. No dimming of the solid style Willard favors.
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