This is a strange book. It reads like the memoirs of a World War 2 fighter pilot. It has many of the elements of similar books I have read. However, this one is a work of fiction.
Frankly, I don’t understand the point. There are plenty of fine fighter pilot memoirs and many exciting or intriguing ones. This one reads pleasantly enough, it’s a good mixture of action and human interest and is entirely plausible. However, I just don’t see what it adds to throw another one into the mix when it can only be derivative.
I suppose if you’ve never read a fighter pilot memoir before it might be interesting, but I read these books primarily to learn about history. While you could do so from this book—it seems reasonably accurate as these things go—it would only be second- or third-hand knowledge at best.
If anyone can explain to me the advantage of fiction over reality in an area like this, I’ll be interested to hear the argument.
Update and bump: Reader phil writes in with these excellent WWII fighter pilot memoir recommendations. Comments are his:
- Tumult in the Clouds by James Goodson: Started with the RAF Eagle Squadrons then transferred to the US AAF.
- Nanette by Edwards Park: Memoir of a P-39 pilot in New Guinea.
- Thunderbolt by Robert Johnson: Johnson was one of the highest scoring aces of the European Theatre; P-47 pilot.
- Gabby: A Fighter Pilot’s Life by Francis Gabreski: Served with Johnson, shot down 28 planes in WW2 and became an ace again in Korea.
- Into the Teeth of the Tiger by Donald Lopez: Memoir of a P-40 pilot in China.
- Ace by Bruce Porter: Memoir of a Marine night fighter ace in the Pacific.
- Mustang Ace by Robert Goebel: Memoir of a P-51 ace (12 kills) who flew out of Italy.
- The Jolly Rogers by Tom Blackburn: Memoir of the commander of the Navy’s first active Corsair squadron which operated from land bases in the Solomons.
Many thanks to Phil for his excellent suggestions, and I’ll toss in my own, Yeager by Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos, who was the first American pilot in the European theatre to be shot down, make it back to England, and return to flying combat missions.
—Posted by Nicholas.