| A new article by Antonia Senior appeared in The Times on 13th April 2013:|
The anti-Biggles takes to the sky
Click here to read the full text of the article
Lucky, lucky Charles Dash,
Rolling a Tiger,
and the truth about Deflection Shooting.
April was a good month. Maybe newspaper editors have a soft spot for authors who hit eighty with the pen still in their hands. Anyway. The Times book section gave Goshawk Squadron (plus all my flying novels) a half-page review, with a photograph that also shows, hanging on the wall, a soft-focus picture of one of the Spitfires used in filming Piece of Cake. (To read the review, click on the link in the panel above.)
Meanwhile, a message arrived by cleft stick from Matthew, who lives not a thousand miles from me. Having read Goshawk Squadron years ago, he took the plunge and read War Story and Hornet's Sting. (All my RFC/RAF books are now available as MacLehose Press paperbacks.) 'Great stuff,' Matthew writes. 'Best novels I've read for years. I gave a copy of Hornet's Sting
to a chum who used to command 2/2 squadron of the SAS and he called me to say he'd finished it quicker than he had a book for years, and praised in particular the pre/post fighting atmosphere.'
Then Matthew raised a question that gets to the very heart of Hornet's Sting. 'Who shagged Dash?' he asked. Most queries from readers are about the horsepower of the Sopwith Pup, or the whereabouts of St Oscar's, an alleged public school where Woolley claimed to have been educated. (He lied. Saint Oscar never existed.) Now Matthew went straight to the nub of chapter 3. Charles Dash was a young RFC pilot who, on horseback, got lost in a snowstorm as night fell. He found himself at a nunnery, empty of nuns but occupied by six stunningly beautiful members of F.A.N.Y., the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. They gave him a hot bath and a delicious supper and a bed for the night, during which some kind lady entered his room and relieved him of his virginity. Perhaps two kind ladies, hard to tell when everything was totally black. All he knew for certain was that she was, or they were, either Chloe Legge-Barrington, Edith Reynolds, Laura da Silva, Nancy Hicks-Potter, Jane Brackenden, or Lucy Knight. Later, he returned to the nunnery and was similarly rewarded; but by whom? And when he planned a third visit, they'd all gone. Moved on. War is hell.
Now you know as much as I do. Chloe, Edith, Laura, Nancy, Jane, or Lucy? You decide. I just tell the story. Nobody said the author had to know everything.
From Washington DC, Paraag wrote to wish me a happy birthday. He's read most of my stuff, reckons that 'a teenager reading
one of your RFC or RAF novels would learn as much (if not more!) about the experience of the past than from reading just a dry history textbook' - a point that some teenagers (and even their teachers) have made in the past. Paraag is working on an RFC novel, avoiding my style and seeking his own: a wise choice. I wish him well. Another longtime fan, Jan in Johannesburg, writes: 'You are one of the few novelists one tends to read over and over again - and that is no mean compliment. I thoroughly enjoyed your latest in the RFC trilogy' (that must be A Splendid Little War, strictly speaking part of a quartet) 'and I dare say that I am looking for more to come...' All my titles are available as ebooks, and Jan has bought some - 'Convenient,' he reports, 'but I have a recurring nightmare of my dream library with bay window, full-height bookshelves and rail ladder all-round, empty but for one iPad lying on its side on a dusty shelf.' On weekends, he 'potters about the sky in my favourite transport', which is a Tiger Moth in excellent condition, as you can see.
I'd heard that the Tiger is a delight to fly but somewhat lethal if you try to roll it, and Jan confirmed this. He gave step-by-step instructions for attempting to roll the aircraft, including the possible disastrous conclusion, but added: 'Having said that, I have been in a Tiger with a guy that did everything. Slow rolls, barrel rolls, loops, Immelmann's and even a slight tail slide and stall turn. But then there are pilots and weekend warriors. You need to know which tribe you belong to and stick with it.' Good advice.
Finally: I came across an old letter from Ernest (I know not where) who said good things about my books and urged me to keep going, which was rewarding since it came from a man who had flown Hurricanes, Spitfires and even the Me-109 ('an uncomfortable gadget, designed for nasty midgets,' he said, 'which changed its response from agile to impossible to handle, depending on the flight envelope. I loathed it.') He wrote that he didn't understand 'why people describe deflection shooting as aiming in front. If you do that, you miss behind; you have to swing the gun/aircraft/tennis racket/golfclub through from behind, fire when you pass the target and keep swinging, on pheasant, grouse, ME's and golfballs. You brush the target out of the air. Aiming with the gunsight means you lose the enemy.' There you have it, from one who has been at the sharp end.
My thanks to all who wrote.
Derek Robinson Previous Readers Write
The longer I do this job, the luckier I know I am. For a start, I'm English and the English language is global. That's pure luck of birth. I might have been born in Hungary. There are good Hungarian writers, but it's a lot easier for me to find readers throughout the English-speaking world. And I was lucky to have literate parents. When I grew up there were always books and magazines about the house, unlike some other kids' homes. There was a good public library at the end of the street. And there was the 1944 Education Act which created State Scholarships for bright lads and helped me get into Cambridge.
That's where I learned to write boringly. I was writing to impress, not to inform. Twelve years in advertising agencies (London and New York) kicked the crap out of my style. Every word had to work hard. I wrote ad copy and commercials for everything from Esso petrol to The Wall Street Journal. Always I knew I wanted to move on, to be a fulltime writer - but I had nothing to say. Nothing worth reading, anyway. (I was a late developer.) I wrote two bad and unpublishable novels and finally got it right with a story called Goshawk Squadron. Might have won the Booker Prize if Saul Bellow, one of the judges, had had his way. Not important. "The most readable novel of the year," Nina Bawden said of Goshawk in the Daily Telegraph. "I laughed aloud several times, and was in the end reduced to tears." That's worth more than any prize. The first novel bought me enough time to write the second, and so it goes. Lucky me..
MacLehose Press (an imprint of Quercus Books) has published all of my flying novels - three Royal Flying Corps books and four Royal Air Force books. Here are the new covers:
Click here to go to the MacLeHose website. where you can click on their individual covers for purchase options, including e-books.
This will be the first time that all my flying titles are in print from the same publisher: something that gives me great satisfaction. Equally satisfying is the work of Tony Cowland, who has painted the cover illustrations for all the books. Each cover looks dramatically different, yet together they have a family likeness. They form a splendid collection, and they appeared at The Mall Galleries (near Admiralty Arch) in the Aviation Paintings of the Year Exhibition by the Guild of Aviation Artists. The standard was high. My congratulations to Tony on a memorable achievement.
Artist and Author
Photograph: Chris French
FIRST TIME IN PAPERBACK
RED RAG BLUES
He's a heel, bless him.
Luis Cabrillo rides again in this "dashing tale of Nazis and Mafiosi", as The Observer called it.
In fact, Nazis and Mafiosi play second fiddle to the real dynamo in this story. It's 1953, and Senator Joe McCarthy's witchhunt for Reds under beds is scaring America witless.
Cue Luis Cabrillo, ex-double agent, now con artist
Dollars flow, hotly pursued by bullets. Luis doesn't know
FBI, MI5, KGB and CIA have him firmly in their sights. Not to
mention Stevie, the only three-times married virgin in New
City. This is a rich, fast and very black comedy.
(To read the full Observer review, click here.)
MacLehose Press (an imprint of Quercus Books) owns the book rights to all my RFC and RAF novels. Sam Goldwyn Jr owns the screen rights to Goshawk Squadron. In 1988, LWT made a six-part television series of Piece of Cake and they own the rights to that production. I own the screen rights to any remake of Piece of Cake. I own the screen rights to all my other novels. Quercus Books owns the e-book rights to all my fiction backlist, available through Amazon/Kindle.s
Contact I welcome comments and views about my books, though as a working writer I can't guarantee to have sufficient time to answer everyone.
Main publications Click any group heading to see details.
The RAF Quintet (WW2)
from title to
MacLeHose will be taking over much of my back catalogue. In the
Street booksellers will be able
tell you the current position about any particular book, or
could try the following websites, which are useful for
down both new and second-hand copies.
Other websites you may find of interest:
1973 Rotten with Honour
1977 Kramer's War
1979 The Eldorado Network
1983 Piece of Cake
1987 War Story
1991 Artillery of Lies
1993 A Good Clean Fight
2002 Damned Good Show
2002 Kentucky Blues
2005 Invasion 1940
2005 Red Rag Blues
2008 Hullo Russia, Goodbye England
2009 Operation Bamboozle
2013 A Splendid Little War