Quick Links: RFC
Readers Write #79 September 2021
Swift exit for Mussolini.
1940, Musso badly needed a victory. He had watched as Hitler's
blitzkrieg had stormed across Europe, and at the last minute Italy
became an ally of Germany, hoping to get a chunk of France. But
when Italy intervened, the Italian invaders got a bloody nose from
French soldiers. In June 1940 the Italian battle fleet had to
retreat, damaged by British warships in the Mediterranean. The
Italian army had camped inside Egypt, built strongpoints, and showed no
sign of moving.
hoped to get some glory from Hitler's threatened invasion of Britain.
He offered the Italian air force to help the Luftwaffe throughout the
Battle of Britain, and he was always declined. Then, in
mid-September - when invasion seemed unlikely - Germany agreed.
Mussolini's Corpo Aero Italiano flew to Belgium.
With 178 bombers and fighters, they might have made an
impact. In fact it wasn't until 11 November that they went into
action. On that day - coincidentally when British aircraft
battered the Italian fleet at Taranto - an Italian force of ten bombers
and forty fighters set out to attack Harwich, a British port 100 miles from
Belgium. A few German Me-109s went with them, perhaps to
British radar found them
and three squadrons of Hurricanes were scrambled. The Italian force was
slow and ponderous, and the combat was a turkey shoot. The
fighter was a biplane with an open cockpit and fixed undercarriage; it
lacked speed, armour and guns, but it was very agile. Mostly it
Three CR42s and
six bombers were destroyed, and the cherry on the cake was the shooting
down of a Messerschmidtt 109. The RAF squadrons had no loss.
Harwich was spared. The folly of sending biplanes against
Hurricanes was demonstrated by Flight Lieutenant 'Cowboy' Blatchford,
a Canadian leading 257 squadron. In the fight he ran out of ammunition and he
attacked the upper wing of a CR42 with his propeller, shredding it.
The CR42 crashed. Blatchford landed safely, as this picture
Clearly, the training and equipment of the Italian air force were inadequate. The Corpo
left Belgium in the New Year. Mussolini looked to his army for
victory. When Hitler invaded Russia, Mussolini sent a division to fight
at Stalingrad. Same result.
The arrival of a special edition of Goshawk Squadron, celebrating its fifty years in print, got a tremendous review in The Times and a flurry of congratulations.
It prompted Roger in London to get the novel: "Am enjoying it
very much." Jonathan in Melbourne, Australia, told me: "I own and have
read multiple times all of your RFC and RAF novels. They have
amused, troubled and moved me over many readings and I remain grateful
for the experience." He wondered about Churchill's questioning of
the RAF's 'cricket scores' of enemy aircraft destroyed in the Battle,
so soon before his 'The Few' speech. In fact there was no
contradiction: Churchill's speeches were partly aimed at America,
whose aid he desperately needed. 'The Few' speech reminded
America that Britain was a pugnacious friend.
My thanks to all who wrote.
Previous Readers Write
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
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.
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.
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..
SALESMORE GOOD NEWSAll
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
Availability of the books.
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
The two Bristle books, and A Darker Side of Bristol
are published by Countryside Books
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
2014 Why 1914?
2017 Holy $moke
2019 Never Mind the Facts
2020 Odds and Sods
2021 Odds and Sods Mk2