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                                                               Spring Sale

TWO BOOKS FOR 5 (including postage) 

         WHY 1914?  and  DAMNED GOOD SHOW 

  “...tough, taut prose that pulls you through the book like a steel cable.”   The Guardian

                   To order, email me at:  

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Why 1914

Why 1914?

Why 1914? is "the best short introduction to the causes of the first world war I have come across.  Derek Robinson is as vivid and trustworthy a historian as he is a novelist.”
                                Nicholas Lezard - The Guardian

Here's a taste of what you get:

“The Black Hand recruited Gavrilo Princip and two others to murder the Archduke.  All three young men had incurable tuberculosis. They were ordered to kill themselves when the Archduke was dead. Phials of cyanide were handed out. What could possibly go wrong? In the event, everything.  Especially the cyanide.”

"To find war news in July 1914 you have to look at Ireland.  Home Rule had been passed.  Ulster, largely Protestant, detested the Catholic south.  Gun-running was on an industrial scale.  The government was trapped in an Irish bog.”

"In 1914, Kaiser William II, commanding the most powerful army in Europe, was not so much a loose cannon as a whole battery of loose cannons.”

"Admiral Tirpitz, Navy Minister, held the job for 19 years and followed one plan throughout his career:  more battleships, and then more battleships.  The Kaiser said that ‘with every new German battleship there was laid a fresh pledge for peace’.  Yet Tirpitz was using his battleships to frighten Britain into silence.”

"On 15 August 1914, Lieutenant Bernard Montgomery wrote in his diary: ‘At least the thing will be over in three weeks."

”If Germany seized the Channel ports, this would be hugely damaging to Britain’s strategic position. Britain went to war for Belgium’s sake, and for her own.”

"In 1914 the German army did not talk to the German navy.  For eight days in August an armada of ships transported the British army to France without disturbance.”

"The British infantry’s  name for its rapid rifle-fire was ‘mad minute’: a trained rifleman could fire fifteen rounds a minute.  This was often mistaken for machine-gun fire.”

"Confidence of success fuelled German troops’ drive for victory.  All Germany shared this confidence:  friends and family wrote letters to German soldiers with the address ‘in or near Paris’. (The postal service being neutral, sacks of this mail reached Paris.)”

"Winning the Battle of Ypres gave the Allies no strategic advantage but it became a heroic trophy simply  because Germany wanted it so badly.”

    The Paperback is available only directly from the author

In UK                                              8
In Europe                                         10
Rest  of World                                 12.50
(But if you are in UK, see Spring Sale offer in panel above!)

Preferred payment method  -  PayPal
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Click here to read
Elizabeth Ballmer's review
Why 1914?
   is now also available as an Amazon E-book.

Click here for details

                                                                                        Readers Write #38 March 2015

Much angst in Op Bam,

             Texas air force sale,

                          and what makes Skull tick.
The motto of all authors should be: Check Everything, Trust Nobody.  Especially Yourself.   I remember a book by a well-known author that mentioned a scientist,  eminent enough to be knighted, now dead.   It exposed him as a Soviet spy.  Two things wrong with that: he wasn’t dead, and he wasn’t a spy.  The book got pulped, and the knight got large damages.  It pays to look in Who’s Who before you rush into print.  When Philip Roth published Portnoy’s Complaint (not the kind of thing you discuss at dinner parties), he first looked in the Greater New York phone books and found nobody of that name.   Later, a man named Portnoy, living in France, sued  Roth for defamation, and lost.

So when Robin, an old pal, read my Cabrillo  novel Operation Bamboozle a couple of weeks ago, he was curious about the medical condition around which the con trick revolved. ‘Neurostatic hypostasia.’ he said.  ‘Is there a lot of it about?’  I assured him that the B strain, which causes such angst in Op Bam, is almost entirely non-existent.  I’d like to say entirely,  but you never know what Big Pharma is capable of discovering in its labs.  However, I feel pretty confident that you can’t go down with neurostatic hypostasia, because I invented it.  The ‘B strain’ tag got added to give Luis Cabrillo something to say in the stunned silence that followed his announcement of the malady.  (I’m not going to explain the con.  Read the novel.  It’s available as an e-book.)  Sometimes Luis juggled the syllables and it came out as hypostatic neurostasia.  Nobody noticed. Still, Robin’s question made me wonder.  Novelists sometimes  think they’ve invented something when the truth is they’ve remembered it. So I searched the medical dictionaries for neurostatic hypostasia (or its twin brother) and  came away with a clean bill of health.  Apparently there is a condition called hyperplasia.  Nothing to do with me. Luis Cabrillo rides again.

But mistakes can creep in,  and I’m very willing to hold my hands up when I make them. Andrew in Cheshire read   Why 1914? and ‘as usual when reading your books I’ve been entertained and learned some new things’. One key point he underlines is that the Great War  began with the willing support of most people, convinced it would be a great adventure, all over not by Christmas but (as Lieutenant Bernard Montgomery predicted) in a matter of weeks.  Andrew knows the family trees of the various royal families better than I do.  I said a granddaughter of Queen Victoria ‘married Tsar Nicholas II, which eventually made him and King George V cousins’.    Andrew points out that ‘they were born cousins. as their mothers were sisters  -  the common ancestor being King Christian IX of Denmark.’   In those days it was hard for monarchs  not to be cousins.  It was a royal network that proved to be as fragile as cobwebs in 1914.

Not like some World War Two planes.  A friend  pointed me towards an amazing collection in a Texas barn  (which, like everything in Texas, is big).  Connie Edwards owns them  and wants to sell them. He’s a former movie pilot; he flew many aerial scenes in The Battle of Britain; often the producers paid him with aircraft,  and now he has a Spitfire that flew in the real Battle, plus half a dozen Buchons (Spanish-built Messerschmitt Bf 109s), a P51 Mustang and two PBY Catalinas, and truckloads of spare parts   -   all for sale.  ‘People can either pay my price or go to hell,’ Connie says.  ‘I don’t really care which.’  To inspect the goods,  go to     Includes clips from Connie Edwards’ career  with his comments on the performance of fighters.

Messerschmitts in their heyday...     Messerschs_then.jpg

                                          ...and now in Connie Edwards' barn  Messrschs_now.jpg

David in Cheshire got introduced to Piece of Cake (‘thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable’)  by a former RAF pilot who has flown WW2 planes and reckons my stuff  to be ‘the most accurate representation of the reality experienced by RAF pilots of the period’.  It’s always good to get endorsed by the professionals. Neil in Nottingham, a lo-cost airline captain with a whole career in aviation behind him, found five of my novels ‘extremely enjoyable’. He says Skull Skelton ‘often pops into my thoughts...when someone on the flight-deck makes a Daily Mail-type proclamation, all I do is calmly offer an alternative view...even if it’s in conflict with the consensus.’  Just as Skull would.   Also good to hear from Andrew in Norfolk, a librarian enthusiastic about the  MacLehose reissues of my stuff   -   ‘I’ve been a pusher for your novels and created a number of other addicts amongst our customers.’  My warm thanks.

Readers often mention with pleasure the streak of irony in my books;  which makes me wonder.  What is irony?  Certainly, Skull would not regard his words as ironic.  He simply  points out the facts.  Irony has nothing to do with coincidence.  If Bloggs, a soccer player, gets transferred from club A to club B, and then  he scores a goal in a match against club A,  the kneejerk reaction is for commentators to say:  ‘and ironically the scorer is Bloggs.’  There’s nothing ironic about it.  Bloggs did what he’s there to do.  True irony involves a double layer of meaning. Here’s an example from the time of the Troubles in Ireland.  A helicopter pilot told me he served in South Armagh, bandit country.  The IRA tried hard to destroy the power lines between Eire and Ulster.  Finally they did it.  Blew up the pylons.  That was when they discovered the electricity didn’t go from Eire to Ulster.  It went from Ulster to Eire.  Or rather, it didn’t. And there’s the double layer of meaning. The IRA succeeded in making an impressive explosion, but their own lights went out. Irony.

My thanks to Michael in North Carolina, to John in Missouri, and to all who wrote

Derek Robinson                                                                        

Previous Readers Write

Mentioned in Despatches

Nicholas Lezard in The Guardian chooses Why 1914 as one of his Paperbacks of the Year, writing: "The novelist Derek Robinson, 82 this year, just keeps going, and his prose is as sharp and sprightly as ever (there is something of Evelyn Waugh about its economy and grip)...   This year he has written and self-published the best introduction to the causes of the  first world war, Why 1914?, I have come across.  He is as vivid and trustworthy a historian as he is a novelist."

Robert Allison  puts A Good Clean Fight in his top 10 of desert warfare novels, saying, “Well above genre standards,  thanks to its energetic storytelling, its wealth of factual detail , and the author’s trademark gallows humour."                                                                                           Click to read the full article.

Reviewing A Splendid Little War, Nick Lezard writes: "Robinson has pulled off a remarkable coup. It's as bleakly intelligent as anything he has done but he has
also increased our historical understanding."
Click to read the full review.

Describing Derek Robinson's war novels, Antonia Senior said: "No one writes about war quite like Robinson, despite attempts to shroud him in echoes of other writers, such as Joseph Heller or Norman Mailer. He writes with a bleak savagery, in controlled, precise prose. There is humour – and it is dark and painful. There is love – and it is inadequate and messy. Most of all there is death. It comes from clear blue skies and grey clouds, from enemy fire and friendly mistakes. It
hovers, unseen, at  15,000 feet."
                                                                           Click to read the full article.

                                A Splendid Little War is now available in paperback. 

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 train, 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 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.  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.

The RFC Quartet (WW1)
         pce cake          A Good Clean Fight          Damned Good Show_new           hullo russia          
                             The RAF Quartet (WW2)
The Double Agent Quartet
Other Novels/History
Rugby Books

Bristol Books

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 .

Finally, I have a few copies of Pure Bristle, available at 2 each. 

Quercus Books  Amazon UK      Amazon USA      Fantastic Fiction   

Other websites you may find of interest:    Wikipedia     IMDB     Jeremy Northam Blog   

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

2014   Why 1914?