Book number: 91778 Product format: Paperback Author: DEREK ROBINSON

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Described as 'The missing link between Catch-22 and Black Adder', this book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and is produced in a 50th anniversary edition with an introduction by James Holland. In March 1918, the Goshawk Squadron were on patrol, three days until the last great German offensive on the Western Front. One of the pilots unexpectedly suffered engine failure, in the days when the internal combustion engine was in its infancy. The pilot finds himself drifting, when suddenly a German Albatross creeps up behind him by making a near-suicidal manoeuvre through some trees. The pilot manages to escape. As he tries to climb, relieved, a Fokker Triplane stalks him on his blind side, opens fire and ruptures the pilot's fuel tank. White vapour appears, but although petrol begins soaking into his boots it is still inevitable that his plane and he will catch fire. The pilot then fishes out his revolver and fires three shots towards the Fokker, but to no avail and the German doesn't even flinch. The leaking fuel reaches the red-hot exhaust stubs, and the stricken aircraft erupts into flames. The pilot raises his pistol to his head and shoots himself - better a clean death than be burned alive in the skies over the Western Front. Exciting, taut and superbly described aerial combat is a feature of Goshawk Squadron and the many other novels of Derek Robinson with exquisitely drawn characters and shocking violence which befalls the men we come to care about because of their thoughts, personalities, attitudes and responses to the situations in which they find themselves. His books have prompted a certain amount of controversy in their depiction of the British class system, the recklessness and ill-preparedness of many of the men he has written about, and the casual violence they encounter. There has been a dramatic change in how we view the First World War since the novel was first published back in 1971, when veterans were not venerated in quite the same way they became. Stanley Woolley, the C.O. of Goshawk Squadron, is a character at first glance seen as an utter bastard, a martinet and a brutal driver of his men yet he is a complex character, fiercely intelligent, imaginative and above all humane, who understands that most of his men arriving into his squadron have done so with a misguided notion that flying over the Western Front will be exciting, chivalrous and sporting. Woolley through bitter experience has learned there is nothing noble about aerial combat. Incredibly young themselves, the flight lieutenants and squadron leaders, company commanders and naval first lieutenants pioneered new tactics and strove to become better combatants both for themselves and the men in their charge. Robinson captures Woolley's anger, frustration and cynicism perfectly, but also his fundamental decency. Woolley is just 23 years old. 284pp, paperback.

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ISBN 9781529417876

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