The WW II experiences of RAF pilot David Kirby--in a strong, plainly realistic novel that grimly emphasizes RAF casualties...



The WW II experiences of RAF pilot David Kirby--in a strong, plainly realistic novel that grimly emphasizes RAF casualties while also offering action/camaraderie/romance in the Len Deighton vein. Young, naive Kirby yearns to be a pilot, even though it pains his tight-lipped mother, who has already lost her husband and other son in the war. For training, he's sent to Oklahoma, where he's a whiz at navigation, less gifted at night-flying; and almost immediately the deaths start piling up--training-accidents that will escalate once Kirby is back in England, now training to fly a bomber under confusingly daunting conditions. (""Was that mere blind stupidity on the part of the RAF? Or was it, for some reason, necessary, inevitable?"") Then Kirby's first actual flights begin, with his mixed-bag crew: air gunner Arthur Wood, who's fine in action but a retching wreck before and after; rear gunner Ron Ferris, a surly lower-class pro whom Kirby must Slowly win over; and navigator Maurice Howard--an incompetent who, at Kirby's insistence, is soon replaced by pacifist Alan Russell. (""Jesus wept,"" Ferris mutters. ""A fucking conchie for a navigator. That's all we need."") But, though Kirby's ""K-King"" bomber returns unscathed from missions over Stettin and Berlin, there's tension between Kirby and Wing Commander Norgate, a glory-seeking (if genuinely courageous) type determined to blot out his ignominious past as a vacuum-cleaner salesman. So, when Norgate volunteers the squadron for a special, dangerous, iffy mission over heavily-defended sites in Bavaria, Kirby protests all through the training, taking his objections all the way up to an Air Vice Marshal. And the mission does indeed turn out to be a disastrous triumph--with the K-King crew among the casualties, Kirby alone surviving, happily yet sadly reunited with true-love Kay, the K-King's WAAF mascot. (He ""could find no reason why he should be breathing the crisp, clean air, with a life before him, and they should not. There was no logic, no merit, just luck."") Grittily detailed, on the ground as well as in the air, if never really original or surprising: a sturdy, linear, deglamorized air-war log--by a talented suspense-writer (The London Deal, The Brink) and RAF veteran who ""does not care for the myths which have flourished about wartime RAF aircrew. . . .

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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