The Website of Novelist  Derek Robinson

Quick Links:     RFC Books   RAF Books   Luis Cabrillo Books  Other Novels    Bristol Books 

Upcoming book!  So far, 77 people want to buy a copy of  Odds and Sods when it is published. My break-even goal is 100.  If you are interested, tell me now at

It's called Odds and Sods because it's about anything and everything, including luck (both good and bad) in wartime, bad sex novels, both world wars, JFK conspiracies, test pilots, doodlebugs, gunplay in fiction, freak books, nuclear deterrence, flying under bridges, dangerous humour, poetry, plagiarism, and much more.  Price about 10 plus postage.

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 #69 April 2020

     Random thoughts.  

  There has been talk of reviving the Blitz Spirit, but not many remember the Blitz itself.  In comparison with other modern disasters (including the present virus), it was a lot more lethal. In the five years of WW2, a total of about 60,500 were killed by bombing, by V1s and V2s, and by long-range shelling across the Channel.  86,000 were seriously injured. Britain was a dangerous place. The chances of anyone being killed in an air attack on Britain   -  anywhere in Britain   -   were just under 1 in 800. Those living in cities (including me) faced shorter odds.  In London there was a 1-in-200 chance of being killed; the chance of being seriously injured was 1 in 160.  The big difference, of course, is that Covid-19 is an invisible threat  -   yet it’s worth remembering that nobody in Britain could see the German V2 rocket. It travelled in the stratosphere and it arrived at a speed of 3,500 feet per second.  Its victims never knew what hit them. The V2 was beyond sight and sound, until it exploded.  Hitler hoped that these offensives would bring Britain to its knees, and he failed.  Today we face a very different offensive, but we survived before and we’ll survive again. 

 Black humour is the natural reaction to a threat, and the virus has generated a few already. The first was a video clip of what looked like a dodgy drug dealer on a street corner, until the customer hands over a wad of currency  in exchange for... a toilet roll. (This form of panic buying reflects the public’s obsession with hygiene.)  We have been there before. In the 1950s, the great fear was of nuclear destruction,  accentuated by the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Tom Lehrer had a big hit with his cheerful ditty, ‘We’ll All Go Together When We Go’.  It didn’t amuse General Curtis LeMay, Chief of the US Air Force. He was convinced that the best thing was to A-bomb Soviet Russia while (he thought) America has a head start.   


 All jokes  -  especially black ones  -  are capable of angering someone.  My favourite cartoon, from an old New Yorker, showed two old ladies looking at a tombstone. One says to the other, “I told him it wouldn’t kill him to try and be nice once in a while, but I was wrong.” It has a place on the wall of my workroom, but it might not work for everyone. One of my top ten jokes carries the risk of offending anyone self-isolating. It’s about a man who goes hiking in the mountains. He meets nobody. After three days, he sees a  hut on top of a mountain. He reaches it and knocks on the door, which is opened by a naked man wearing a bowler hat. The walker asks: “Why are you naked?”  The man says, “Nobody comes here.”  The walker asks: “Then why the bowler hat?” The man says, “You never know. Somebody might.”    

(I think that’s one of Spike Milligan’s stories. He scored top marks for me with his proposed epitaph. “I want to go to Heaven,” he said. “But if Geoffrey Archer’s there, I want to go to Lewisham.”)

A third story is the shortest. It’s about an amateur bank robber who buys a toy pistol, goes up to a bank teller, and says: “Okay, you stickers  -  this is a fuck-up.”   I suppose a banker who had just been robbed might not enjoy that.   


 A writer’s life has a few advantages  -  you work when you like, eat what you like, wear what you like   -   but one of its demands is resilience, even determination.  A writer has to plug away or he gets nowhere.  Long ago, David Lassman was director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. He wrote the opening chapters and plot synopses of Austen’s novels, changing only the titles and the characters’ names, and he sent them to 18 British publishers and agents.  He was ‘staggered’ when they all rejected them.  He deplored ‘major publishers who can’t recognise great literature’.  Lassman should have looked at Jane Austen’s track record.  She needed all the resilience she could summon up.  

Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, sent it to a publisher and it was, she said, ‘declined by return of post’.  So she wrote Northanger Abbey,  sent it to a different publisher who bought it for 10 and never published it. She plugged away and wrote Sense and Sensibility. This time it got into print  -  but Jane had to pay for the printing and the advertising. She paid. And she had resilience. Eventually her books sold;  but it took a large amount of bloody-mindedness to get her talent recognised.     


 A word about the comma.  Some want it abolished, others scatter it like confetti.  Yet the comma can make a difference. Properly placed, it can reverse the meaning of a sentence.  Take this, for example:

                        Truck drivers said police were driving like maniacs  

 With two commas, it means the opposite: 

                       Truck drivers, said police, were driving like maniacs.

 Punctuation is like knitting patterns.  They both have rules.  Otherwise you end up not with a scarf but one odd sock.   

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