The Website of Novelist  Derek Robinson

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Readers Write #83 May 2022


New Book - Odds and Sods Mk 3


 Following Mk 1 and Mk 2, Odds and Sods Mk 3

is now printed and is full of reports from anywhere and

everywhere - including the truth about Pegasus bridges,

and Jane Austen's get-up-and-go ... the Flying Suitcase and

drop-kicking history ... the  origin of Bristol Fashion and

cowboy stampedes ... Stalin blinked and German frostbite

boots ... the RAF's Bloody Paralyser and Skull's desert blazer.

Interested?    Price 7.50 including UK postage.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


    Kamikaze has become almost a joke nowadays, like scoring an own goal.  It wasn't a joke in May 1945 to the American naval force that arrived off Okinawa, the last island to be conquered before the planned invasion of Japan.  The naval force totalled 288 warships and supply ships.  Against them, Japan sent 1,415 kamikaze pilots in aircraft loaded with explosives, on a suicide mission to halt the attack.  They nearly succeeded.  The kamikaze planes sank 38 American warships, including a carrier and 13 destroyers.  What's more, they damaged a further 174 ships: 16 fleet carriers, 17 escort carriers, 15 battleships, 15 cruisers, 87 destroyers and 24 destroyer escorts.  At a cost of two battalions of pilots flying obsolescent aircraft, Japan had inflicted the heaviest toll on the U.S. Navy in the entire war, including Pearl Harbour.

    Ramming demanded a desperate form of determination, and towards the end of WW2, when the Luftwaffe had failed to stop the Allied bombing campaign, Germany turned to desperation.  The Luftwaffe formed a volunteer Rammkommando, a fighter unit to ram American B-17 bombers.  The German pilots were young and inexperienced with their aircraft tanks half-full - fuel was short.  Theirs was a one-way mission. At their head was Hajo Herrmann, a veteran and decorated pilot.  Against them was the P51 Mustang, a long-range and fast escort that was probably the best fighter of the war.

    On 7 April 1945, the U.S. Air Force sent a massive force to bomb Germany.  Herrmann led 120 Rammkommando Me-109s, with patriotic music playing in their headsets, and 105 German fighters were shot down for the loss of 22 B-17s.  That ended the ramming.  Herrmann survived, but he had always been very lucky.

    On the night of 22 July 1940, Herrmann flew a Ju88 down the English Channel to Plymouth, in order to lay magnetic mines in the Sound.  He arrived at 300 feet and 180 mph, and saw a barrage balloon dead ahead.


    Herrmann's controls were sluggish and he couldn't escape: he ended up on top of the balloon.  His engines were working but his bomber was at a dead stop, perched on the balloon like a bird on a nest.  Next thing he saw was that 'the British searchlights were shining from above - we had fallen off the balloon and were upside-down.'  Amazingly, he regained control, flew through the anti-aircraft barrage, dropped his mines and went home.

    He flew on ops for the whole war, served ten years in a Soviet prison, emerged as an unrepentant Nazi (and a Holocaust denier) and died, aged 97, in 2010.

    Derek Robinson


Previous Readers Write


It's 1919. The  Great War is over but a civil war is raging in Russia.  Bolshevik Reds are fighting White Russians, and a volunteer R.A.F. squadron, flying clapped-out Sopwith Camels and DH9 bombers, arrives to duff up the Reds.  But the 'splendid little war' they are promised turns out to be big and brutal, a world of armoured trains, anarchist guerillas, unreliable allies and pitiless enemies.  There is comedy, but it is the bleakest kind. A Splendid Little War shows war as it is: grim, funny, moving - but never splendid.

Reviews of A Splendid Little War
      The Daily Express
             American edition of GQ Magazine 
                               The Independent                         


DR_Who He?  When someone at a party asks what I do, I say I write Ripping Yarns.  It's a quick answer but a very incomplete one. I'm best known for my novels about the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force in the two World Wars and some might say the books are highly readable adventure stories.  Nothing wrong with that, but there's more than combat in the high blue yonder   -   there's also memorable characters, there's unexpected twists and turns of warfare,  and there's aircrew humour.   Especially the humour.  I did my National Service in the Royal Air Force.  I was never airborne; I was in a Ground Control Interception Unit, deep underground in a concrete bunker.  But I learned a lot about the special humour of flying people,  and it emerges naturally and unavoidably in my novels. Humour is one of the essential colours in the spectrum of life. You don't make a story more serious by removing the humour; you just make it less true.

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  -  four Royal Flying Corps books and four Royal Air Force books.  Here are the new covers:  
      pce cake       hullo russia        A Good Clean Fight       Damned Good Show_new 

                war story_new              hornets sting_new            goshawk squadron_new              

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


All four of the Luis Cabrillo novels (following the career of  probably the best WW2 double agent and later con-man) are now available as eBooks from Amazon/Kindle. Here are the covers:

                               Artillery                  RedRag                 OpBam  
                            Click on a cover to go to the Amazon sales page.

The R.F.C. trilogy and the R.A.F. Quartet are also available as e-books.



        'Operation Bamboozle' is a fastmoving black comedy about what happens when a high-stakes con artist takes on the Mob in Los Angeles.  The result is a heady brew of disorganised crime, hot dollars, triple virgins and dead bodies in the begonias.   

         Luis Cabrillo is the con artist, Julie Conroy is his squeeze, and here's the opening sentence:   

      For a man who had been hauled out of Lake Michigan in 1949, headless, his legs and arms broken, and stabbed in the heart with a red ballpoint pen, Frankie Blanco was in pretty good shape in 1953.  

Click to see the News of the World Review


                        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 supreme. Dollars flow, hotly pursued by bullets. Luis doesn't know it, but FBI, MI5, KGB and CIA have him firmly in their sights. Not to mention Stevie, the only three-times married virgin in New York 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 ofPiece 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.  Derek Robinson

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.  

Click here to send me an email 

Main publications     Click any group heading to see details.

         pce cake          A Good Clean Fight          Damned Good Show_new           hullo russia           
                             The RAF Quartet (WW2)
                           why1914thmnl     Holy Smoke     


Availability of the books.   

All my fiction is available as e-books.  Maclehose Press publish (in print) all eight of my flying novels, available from any good book seller (who may have to order a copy). Or you  could try the websites listed below, often useful for tracking down both new and used books. 

 The two Bristle books, and A Darker Side of Bristol are published by Countryside Books .

     Amazon UK    Amazon USA    Fantastic Fiction  

Other websites you may find of interest:


Major books and original publication dates:

1971 Goshawk Squadron 
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

1999 Hornet's Sting
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
 Why 1914?

2017  Holy $moke

2019  Never Mind the Facts

2020  Odds and Sods

2021   Odds and Sods Mk2