The Website of Novelist  Derek Robinson

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Proposed new book.  Tell me if you want it.
Derek Robinson is working on a new nonfiction book, called Odds & Sods.  It’s about anything and everything   -   sex, humour, luck, both world wars, JFK conspiracies, test pilots, doodlebugs, gunplay in fiction, freak books, nuclear deterrence, flying under bridges, poetry, plagiarism and much more. Price: about 10.  Odds & Sods will be self-published  -  but only if enough people want it!  If you’re interested, tell me now, at:

Latest Book from Derek Robinson

                         ‘Great book.  Loved every line of it. Never Mind The Facts  fits right in with Invasion 1940  and Just Testing.’    John Kush                   

                          ‘I enjoyed everything. You continue to debunk myths, and you do it in your inimitable style: humorous and narrative rather than just facts.'                                                                        David Stengele

Never Mind the Facts  offers ten
firecrackers that explode popular myths,
ranging from rugby football to Lawrence
of Arabia, from Sweden to Singapore, and from Guernica  to Dunkirk  -   in only 80  pages.

Self-published.   5-50 postpaid in UK.   (More abroad)

What readers say about Never Mind The Facts:
'I enjoyed the read, you have managed to tell the myths in a relaxed, easy-to-read way, while livening up the stories with some of your well-known dark humour, (the reason you are my favourite author).  Anyone who has enjoyed  your writing style should enjoy  this,  too.'
   Alex,  New Zealand.

'So many of these myths are so attractive - the little boats at Dunkirk - or such a good story - William Webb Ellis just picking up the ball - that we want to believe them..,. This enjoyable read is a bunch of them, all in one place.'
                                             Steve Paradis, Michigan

Order using:, stating your postal address.   Pay by PayPal.


                                                 Readers Write #68 January 2020

     Stretching the Rock,

          the cherry on the Cake,

              and Bang! you’re not dead.

   An American commander once said the way to win was ‘Get there fastest with the mostest.’  Guy Bolland, a wartime pilot, had a hand in two operations which proved the truth of that saying. He joined an RAF flyingboat squadron in 1937 and took part in the early radar trials. He repeatedly flew towards Holland at various heights so that radar operators on the mainland could practise the detection and tracking of aircraft.  This proved to be vital in the Battle of Britain:  German pilots, who had been told that the RAF was on its last legs, were surprised to find British fighters in the sky, waiting for them.    Later, Germany developed its own radar network, but Britain got there first.  

Then, in 1942, Bolland was the commanding officer of RAF Gibraltar.  The Rock would be a crucial supply point for Operation Torch, the Anglo-American landings in North Africa. However, the runway on Gibraltar was a simple landing strip on the racecourse  -  far too small for the great concentration of aircraft that Torch required.  Bolland was in charge of a huge (and fast)  extension of the runway.  Tunnels had already been dug in the Rock;  he used the spoil for foundations.  His pressure kept up the momentum of construction;  nothing was allowed to interfere. If an aircraft crashed (and many did), he ordered  it to be dumped in the sea. General Montgomery complained: “There’s a madman at Gibraltar who’s destroying my aircraft.”  Eisenhower, his boss, knew better.  Within months, Bolland had created a broad new runway, nearly a mile long, reaching out into Gibraltar Bay, suitable for the biggest aircraft and ready for Torch. Bolland’s drive and determination helped that operation get there fastest with the mostest.  

Here’s a fine painting of a Hawker Tempest, sent by Garth, an old pal in NewYork:

                        Hawker Tempest

    Tempest (24 cylinders, 2,400 h.p. Napier Sabre engine, maximum speed 435 mph)  was one of the fastest piston-engined fighters of WW2.  


It’s been 32 years, but I’ve just realised what a great honour it was for Mobil’s Masterpiece Theatre to show all six episodes of Piece of Cake on American television in 1988.  This was especially rewarding because the sponsor, Mobil, agreed to do without commercial breaks, so the station (WGBH Boston)  had an unbroken hour for each episode  -  and that meant the American audience saw a continuity which the British audience hadn’t known. (Cake was shown in the UK by London Weekend Television.)   Without commercial breaks,  each episode lasted 50 minutes. On Masterpiece Theatre, the remaining ten  minutes had the benefit  of an American who had been born in England and who was one of the most respected commentators in the U.S.   Alistair Cooke was a household name in  Britain for his   radio series  Letter From America  and in the U.S. for a 13-part television epic, called  America.

Masterpiece Theatre  (not Theater)  was the idea of another expatriate, Christopher Sarson at WGBH, and Frank Gillard, a BBC veteran.  In 1970, WGBH had great success with all 26 episodes of the BBC’s  Forsyte Saga.  In those days, American television had nothing like it.  The official history of Masterpiece Theatre was candid:

                   ‘Viewers who weren’t interested in bimbos in peril, or teenagers in heat, were forced to join the lost audience, doomed to wander the television wasteland looking in vain for entertainment that didn’t upset their intelligence,  their tastes, or their stomach.’ 

BBC-TV had stacks of drama serials filed away in London. Mobil agreed to sponsor the best. Cooke agreed to top-and-tail each episode,  which he did for 21 years. Masterpiece Theatre eventually took the pick of British commercial television’s productions. Piece of Cake was one. I framed a Mobil poster.  It showed the American actor, Boyd Gaines, who played Pilot Officer Chris Hart III, better known as CH3. The caption was:  War was just a game  -  until it began. 

Those were the days.  If you sell the screen rights of a novel,  you sell all control.  (When Woody Allen made All You Want To Know About Sex Without Worrying, the studio bought the rights to a serious medical book, threw away the text and kept the title.) In filming a story, many things can go wrong:  the screenplay, the casting, the direction, the music.  I was lucky that Cake went right in every respect. I took a small piece of credit;  after all, if I hadn’t written the story, the series would never have happened. Masterpiece Theatre put the cherry on the Cake.  


Ben Cowburn was one of the most succesful SOE agents in WW2.  He made four missions to France  and survived because he knew what worked and what didn’t.  Cowburn told recruits that any hand gun, ‘fired by the average person...would merely be a useless noise at a range of more than a dozen yards...’   Yet Hollywood and TV still make cops-and-robbers films and Westerns where hand guns hit the target fifty yards away.  Sometimes more.  Cowburn was right.  Movie makers are wrong.  They crank out films where the gunman fires from the hip,  which multiplies inaccuracy,  and hits a running man several cricket pitches away. Cowboys (the real cowboys) rarely got into gunfights.  They carried a revolver because the noise of a shot in the air might stop a herd of cattle stampeding.  Or at least divert it. That final scene, beloved of Westerns,  where two rivals end up on Main Street,  and go for their guns, is garbage unless they were so close they could smell each other.  If you can’t tell whether the other guy is using deodorant, don’t fire a handgun. You’ll miss.  

It’s satisfying to know that my books get around.  Sometimes around the world.  Marc, in Dinan, France, was part of a Flight Deck Crew on board the aircraft carrier  Clemenceau  in 1996, working 12 hours a day bombing-up Super Etandards.  He’d found  Goshawk Squadron in a bookshop, and he read it during the crew’s 6-hour rest time.  In fact, he had  ‘to leave our rest room as as not to wake my friends with my loud laughs’.  (Later, most of them read it too.)  He kept the copy and re-read it.  Gagan,  in the USA, got hold of  GS  in 2013 when he was 13 and found it ‘unlike anything I had read until that point...I must have read it over a dozen times in the next two years’. Then he found my other RFC trilogy, ‘Hornet’s Sting  being my favourite by far’.  He’s now about 19. He had a rough time in his teenage years,  and reading my RAF quartet  (plenty of rough times there) helped him grow up and get on with his life.  For which he thanks me.     

Lastly, I was flattered to find that an academic in the University of Warsaw reckons my stuff is worth a nine-page article on my ‘Post-Memory Fiction’.  She is Marzena Sokolowska-Paryz,  and she examines the subject from all sides,  including  some that don’t exist.  She writes about the way I read two books,  Aces High and All Quiet On The Western Front, that influenced my writing Goshawk Squadron.

Two mistakes there.  (1)  I’ve never read the first book, and (2)  I didn’t read the second until last year.  My novel was  -  as the pavement artists used to say  -  All My Own Work.

My thanks to all who wrote.    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.Alas, in 2017 a wildfire reduced DUX to ashes. 20,000 fir trees burned to the ground. Sic transit, as the locals say.

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 .

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

2019  Never Mind the Facts
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