IN THE BLUE LIGHT OF AFRICAN DREAMS by Paul Watkins

IN THE BLUE LIGHT OF AFRICAN DREAMS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

American Charlie Halifax flies for the French during WW I, serves in the Foreign Legion--in the Moroccan desert--until 1926, then tries to capture the $25,000 Orteig Prize by being the first to fly nonstop across the Atlantic, in this case from Paris to New York. As in his two earlier action-novels (Night Over Day Over Night, about battle late in WW II; and Calm at Sunset, Calm at Dawn, about commercial Atlantic fishing), Watkins again provides wealths of technicolor immediacy, high vividness, and gripping detail but doesn't go far beneath the surface of things. Halifax's heroism is never in doubt (he wins the French Croix de Guerre for his flying on the Western Front), but after he's shot down and almost dies, he's certain that his luck has left him. His attempt to return to the US rather than fly over the trenches any longer is interpreted by the French wartime authorities as desertion, and he's given the choice of death or of serving 20 years in the Foreign Legion helping fight the stalemated French-Arab war. His sinister and ruthless commander in Morocco, it turns out, is himself profiteering handsomely by running guns to the enemy Arabs, and he gladly makes use of the choiceless Halifax to fly risky arms-deliveries into the desert. Only after the brave but hapless American pilot destroys two German mercenaries who are flying for the Arabs--and after he is almost given another Croix de Guerre--does Halifax find a way to blackmail this unscrupulous but vulnerable commander: along with Ivan (his trusty Russian mechanic), 15,000 francs, and his discharge papers (as well as with Ivan's mail-order bride, who's dying of TB), Halifax heads for Paris, buys an airplane; and sets about training and preparing (it's now 1927) to beat Sikorsky and Lindbergh in the sensational and historic race across the Atlantic. The look, feel, and surface exotica of half a century ago or more--varnished wooden propellers, frail canvas planes, edge-of-your-seat fights and flights in the air--in a skillful and historically based blood-sweat-and-tears adventure-melodrama.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 1990
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin