BLAZE OF GLORY by Michael Carreck


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Like N. J. Crisp's Yesterday's Gone (p. 826), this short first novel takes a deglamorizing, de-glorifying approach to Britain's RAF during WW II--as young pilot Tony Marlowe flies his first ""ops,"" dropping bombs over Germany but quickly learning the truth: ""Nobody finds the target, let alone bombs it. In spite of crews dead and missing. . . Bomber Command was a conspiracy, a hell of a lot of fuss for fuck-all, Was Your Journey Really Necessary?"" Meanwhile, in between these frustrating, fearful missions, Tony falls instantly in love with 19-year-old, saucy, ""heart-wrenchingly pretty"" WAAF Kate, beginning an affair that's mildly ribald (condom humor), occasionally sappy. (""Her smile was the swoop of sun across a meadow and a bird singing high in the sky."") Tony also saves the life of his wild, womanizing chum Dick--whose girlfriend Judy is a burlesque showgirl and whose father is a boozy, crudely pompous Air Commodore. (""Pity this drunk is Dick's father, can't call him stupid bloody twit to his face."") And there's mounting tension, of course, at the air base--as more pilots are killed every week: Tony's fine, brave navigator Bill, an older family man, refuses to continue on the missions to Germany (""over ordinary people in their homes, over women and kids""); Bill's replacement is an incompetent, cowardly blowhard; Tony returns alone--just barely--after one disastrous mission, his crew having bailed out. . . with largely fatal results. The secret to survival? ""Believe me, it's the cunt-happy pissy-arsed fuckers who get through ops."" So Tony and Dick, with sexual aid from Kate and showgirl Judy (who comforts both men), get through their required 30 ops--but not before becoming thoroughly disillusioned: ""Worse than thinking you're going to die is the thought that you're going to die for nothing, just for lies in the newspapers and on the BBC. Worst of all is to think what you're actually doing, killing people in their homes."" First-novelist Carreck delivers the thin, episodic plot here in hard-working prose--with heavy irony, sentence-fragment impressionism, lots of streaming through Tony's consciousness. And this lively-yet-mannered style is dense with period-British allusions and slang, an obstacle for many US readers. Still, if far less powerful or developed than Crisp's suspenseful version of the anti-war RAF novel, Carreck's treatment is vivid and breezy: an evocative slice-of-WW II-life for readers with a taste for both RAF action and jauntily oblique narration.

Pub Date: Dec. 16th, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's