NEW DEREK ROBINSON NOVEL - "What a romp!"
Holy $moke gets warm welcome
"Bloody marvellous! The characters are plausible, with the usual black humour and excellent dialogue. Quite a bizarre story - but amazingly true." Philip Ardley
"I read it - devoured it, more like! Always a pleasure to read your books. Holy $moke was no exception." John Kush
"I loved it. What a romp! Populated with indelible characters, a fast-moving, believable plot, and situations that rapturously capture the organizational plod toward the wrong answers - in the face of logic and the evidence to the contrary!" Bill Stroud
"I read Holy $moke at once, and with the greatest pleasure. What a terrific novel! It's fascinating, very funny, pleasingly intricate and fragrant with that subtle thing that is often only noticed in its absence: charm." Richard Snow, Author
For a full review of Holy $moke by Bill Stroud, click:
HOLY $MOKE NOW AVAILABLE
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Hello Hitler, goodbye Britain?
the SE5a flies again,
the glider-bomb is late again.
Sloppy thinking leads to bad writing, just as lazy writing
points to a bungalow mentality: nothing upstairs. There are world leaders who
sometimes rush into print and reveal that their ability to handle words is that
of a not-too-bright ten-year-old. Churchill had greater respect for the English
language. After the British army’s escape from
No weasel-words there. No spin-doctoring.
Churchill did not say - as so many politicians
instinctively do - “We must address the issue.” (Which means
nothing at all.) He told the truth. We could do with politicians
today who tell us, not what they think we want to hear, but the hard truth, no
matter how unpleasant. Back in 1940, the grim prospect was Hitler’s plan to
destroy a free and independent
Anyone who still thinks
invasion was just one of Hitler’s daydreams should read SS General
Schellenberg’s Invasion Plan. Recently, the BBC showed a television drama
called SS-GB (about a German-occupied
It is a relief to turn to Operation Sealion, codename for
Hitler’s planned invasion, and read that it was to be ‘a surprise crossing’ of
the Channel. The reality was that, by the time his invasion fleet was ready to
sail, there was no possible surprise. The Royal Navy was ready to smash and
sink the slow armada of river barges. (My Invasion 1940 gives
full details.) To pretend that it could be a surprise crossing was
lazy thinking. Hitler had a fatal habit of believing that by saying
something, he made it happen. He sent his troops to conquer
Which brings me to Nick Garton’s new book on the WW1 fighter, the SE5 and its many variants. This book is the reverse of sloppy. It’s a hardback, 160 pages, superbly illustrated (many in colour), brilliantly researched and written with the utmost clarity. Here’s a taste of the pix:
Nick tells us everything about the design,
building and combat flying of the SE5, including many things you would never
imagine. Its airframe was wood - Douglas fir and
And - surprise, surprise - there’s an interview with me, all about Goshawk Squadron, which Nick says inspired his book and ‘was a novel that changed popular perceptions about World War One for good’. He quotes my reason for equipping the squadron with the SE5a rather than the Sopwith Camel. It was ‘the same reason that Woolley gives in the book: it was a compromise that was most effective in accomplishing the purpose of the pilots being up there, namely to kill the enemy’. As for the man himself, Nick writes: ‘Then there is the magnetic appeal of Woolley, Robinson’s uncompromising, Guinness-swilling anti-hero, drawn with significant influence from two former ‘camp rats’ who rose to lead SE5a squadrons: Mannock and McCudden.’
Nick’s book is priced at £25. It’s
Meanwhile, emails keep arriving from all over. Lars in Denmark was with UN forces in Cyprus and ‘stumbled upon Piece of Cake and have been a huge fan of yours ever since...Just read the two books with pilot Silk for the third time and will certainly read them again...’ Alan in Maryland, USA, writes: ‘I have no doubt whatsoever your existing books are going to delight readers for decades, and perhaps even centuries, to come.’ It’s an encouraging thought. Most art is of its time. Things date quickly. If any of my books is still in print 50 years from now, I’ll look down (or up) and hope they’ve spelt my name correctly. Alan adds: ‘Books like yours are not just adventure stories and not just interesting historical records; they are appreciations of people who risked and often sacrificed their lives for the good of humanity.’ I can’t argue with that.
Timing is everything in life. Take Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. It came out in 1851, got badmouthed by the critics, sold a yearly average of 27 copies which earned him an average of $37, and was already out of print when he died. It was forgotten until the 1920s, when a different generation discovered its epic qualities. Too late for Melville, of course. I know a little of how he felt. Piece of Cake was first published a couple of weeks before the Booker Prize for fiction was announced. All the London literary critics had their eye on that ball, Cake got lost in the shuffle, sales were feeble, and the book was rapidly remaindered. For me, four years’ work down the drain. Then, by sheer luck, it found a backer and today the old warhorse is still selling.
From Moby Dick to Adolf Hitler is a big jump, but I keep finding examples of how the Nazi leader missed a trick. In 1942, the prototype Messerschitt 262, the world’s first operational jet fighter, had its test flight. Soon, with the Allied strategic bombing campaign hammering Germany, the Me 262 was exactly what the Luftwaffe needed: a rocket-armed interceptor that even the Mustang couldn’t catch. Instead, Hitler tried (and failed) to develop it as a bomber. Result: Me 262s arrived too few and too late. Hitler often backed the wrong horse. He demanded enormous weapons (giant tanks, colossal artillery, massive six-engined transport planes) which didn’t work and wasted valuable resources. His interference may explain another flop: the German glider-bomb.
Lastly, an email from
My thanks to all who wrote.
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.”
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
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Click here to read
Elizabeth Ballmer's review
is now also available as an Amazon E-book.
Click here for details
|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.
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:
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 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.)
CopyrightMacLehose 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.
Main publications Click any group heading to see details.
The RAF Quartet (WW2)
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.
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
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?
2017 Holy $moke