Another epic plotboiler from Fleming (When This Cruel War is Over, 2001, etc.), this one about two unlikely friends who team up to form the world’s largest aircraft corporation.
In its earliest days, aeronautics was a hobby rather than a business, and most aircraft were built by mechanics who tinkered rather than designed. But when Craig Buchanan took his kid brother Frank to an air show in Dominguez Hills, California, in 1912, the younger boy was hooked for life. Barely out of his teens, he learned how to fly and eventually became an ace pilot during WWI. Later on, he toured the US with a barnstorming troupe that included a wiry young flier named Charles Lindbergh. On one of his trips over southern California, Frank had the good fortune to crash in an orange grove owned by Amanda Van Ness, the estranged wife of New York socialite and financier Adrian Van Ness. Talk about landing on your feet: Not only did Frank and Amanda fall in love, but Adrian became one of his best friends and backed him in the formation of Buchanan Aircraft, which became (thanks to Adrian’s money) the first company to produce commercial airplanes on a large scale. The Depression was a hard time to get a new business off the ground, but the combination of Frank’s genius for design and Adrian’s knowledge of the international markets made the company a success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Fleming’s 22nd novel covers a lot of ground, running from the turn of the century to the 1980s, mixing real history (WWI and WWII, the Depression, the Cold War) and biography (politicians from Churchill to Reagan make appearances) into the stew of Frank and Adrian’s ambitions and envies.
A clever and appealing tale that, in the best Fleming style, recounts broad swathes of history through the lives of two well-drawn but fictitious characters. (As the publisher reminds, Fleming’s account “fittingly . . . commemorate[s] the 100th anniversary of the conquest of the sky.”)