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An investigatory novel graphs the emotional and intellectual atmosphere in which Lt. Ripault moves after he has bailed out from the flaming aircraft of which he was navigator, on his twenty second mission. One of the French unit of the RAF, his bomber has collided with another near the base; he meets Rosica when he phones the field and, returned there, he learns he is the sole survivor of the crash. Lonely, depressed, questioning his luck in living, he refuses to fly with a pilot branded with misfortune and when the pilot does not come back is held morally responsible for his death by the squadron commander who puts him under open arrest. Ripault finds solace in Rosica, and in the ""Admiral's"" offer to have him on his crew, but offers, and is permitted, to go on the next mission with Lebon, a pilot who is dangerous because he is unable to see the field lights. He helps Lebon take off; he watches them make a perfect bombing run -- and goes down with the bomber when flak fires the engine. Here are the thresholds of fear, doubt, loneliness, resentment and confusion when men are under orders, where death is omnipresent and friendship is the one constant -- in spare, unaccented delineation.

Pub Date: July 26th, 1955
Publisher: Knopf