The Website of Novelist  Derek Robinson

NEW DEREK ROBINSON NOVEL  - "What a romp!"  
virgilioThis is Virgilio, in handcuffs, before he got out of jail.

 Middleaged, five feet tall, slightly deaf, bad knee, twitches a bit.  Used to be a journalist.  Now flat broke.  No money, no job, no future.  Mr Insignificant.

 So he's the last man to rattle any world leader's cage, right?  Wrong.  Very wrong.

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

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                                                         6 in U.K. inc postage
                                                      8 in Europe, inc airmail
                                             9 in Rest of the World, inc airmail

                                    To order, email me at
                                                   Please tell me where you are.

A heartwarming comedy of deceit, deception, power-seeking and
revenge, set in the liberated Rome of 1944.  Based on fact. Similar
 to my Luis Cabrillo  novels, but completely different.  No aircraft.
 Many jokes.  Self published - a slim volume, only 170 pages,
which explains the low price.

Here's a taste of page 1. We're in the Pentagon in 1944.

               “Albanian dwarves,” General Donovan said. “Dwarves from Albania. Interesting.” 

                He was walking along a wide and busy corridor. With him were a colonel, Randall Stuart, and a major, Fred Stoner.  Stuart had just outlined a plan to
infiltrate into Albania a number of male dwarves who were fluent in the language and the customs of the country.  Their task would be to sabotage German army
communications and to stimulate Albanian partisans. Stuart said that dwarves had an inbuilt advantage as secret agents because nobody suspected them..



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                                                                                                          Readers Write #48 April 2017

Unreliable journos,

       Swindling Spies,

              and the Mystery of the Bone-dry Brolly  

 Journalism, so it’s said, is the first rough draft of history.  But it was a journalist who said that, and sometimes what is printed in those first rough drafts develops a life of its own, even when it’s untrue.  The Times is one of the few newspapers that   -   to its credit  -  publishes corrections of its misreportings,  and occasionally the Old Thunderer gets caught out by somebody else’s blunders. Recently it wrote about an American financier who (it said) had, in 2014, bought a house in Los Angeles for $102 million; and it then had to apologise because, back in 2014, someone had invented the purchase. The American never bought the house. Every news medium should be so honest, starting with the BBC.  Nothing makes a journo check his facts more carefully than being exposed on his own front door. Yet the question remains  -  how many people read the correction?  How many still believe the first story?  There is something to be said for printing the correction in the same type-size and in the same place on the page as the original misinformation. 

    War, of course, is a great creator of fake news.  A reporter on a quality newspaper once asked my opinion on a story he’d come across, about an RAF pilot in WW2 who allegedly stole a Hurricane fighter and flew it to a Luftwaffe airfield in Belgium.  I gave him four reasons why it was full of holes, starting with the claim that he flew it right across Belgium instead of putting it down on the first airfield he saw. The reporter spiked the story. If I’d told him it was a hell of a scoop, would he have printed it? I wonder. 

    Often time is a factor;  for newspapers, tomorrow is too late. But journalists can be sloppy.  I was the defendant in a longrunning lawsuit when the Sunday Times ran a big piece, with colour photographs, about the plaintiff’s having to sell her late husband’s medals in order to finance the action.  No mention of the fact that she had the benefit of Legal Aid, so there were no legal bills for her to pay. The reporter missed a trick there.  (Eventually, I won the case;  no mention of that in the Sunday Times, either.)   So much for junk.  But, once in a while, the truth comes out, and newspapers get it right. Take the story of the umbrella man in Dallas,  caught on film when Kennedy was assassinated.   

 The man put up his umbrella as the motorcade was passing. Why?  It was a clear, dry day.  Was it a signal to the gunman?  The umbrella man must be a suspect. Nobody could trace him.  That looked bad, too.  Then, 15 years later, somebody did. The truth came out. The umbrella was a political gesture, meant to remind Jack Kennedy that his father, when he was ambassador to Britain, supported the Munich agreement with Hitler. Neville Chamberlain’s umbrella symbolised appeasement. It was a joke, not a conspiracy. 

Another joke was the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) at the outbreak of WW2.  SIS operated agents in Holland,  which was neutral.  One of them was, in fact a double agent, working for the Gestapo.  Two SIS officers  in the Hague, Captain Sigismund Best and Major Richard Stevens, ran the agents. One day, they drove to the border, expecting to meet a German general who was opposed to Hitler,  and were kidnapped at gunpoint by German agents.  They spilled the beans about their operations and spent the rest of the war in a prison camp. Not surprisingly, the reputation of SIS plummeted, especially when it emerged that Sigismund Best, who wore spats and a monocle, had invented thirteen of the sub-agents which he had claimed to be running.  They were fictitious.  Their expenses ended up in Best’s pocket.  (Later, when Rudolf Hess parachuted  into Scotland, SIS was in such bad odour that the government refused to let it question the prisoner.)   When I wrote The Eldorado Network, which was based on the activities of Garbo, probably the Allies’ best double agent in WW2,  I created a whole raft of  non-existent sub-agents, all paid by German Intelligence.   Now I can see that Garbo was merely carrying on a fine old tradition in the espionage game.  

Onwards.  It’s always a pleasure to hear from a feminine fan, and Meredith in South Australia writes that she has “greatly enjoyed all your novels since I first discovered War Story some years ago.. .  Thank you for many, many hours of enjoyable reading and re-reading...”  A small thing that has puzzled her is the reference to Mackenzie’s cane chair in Hornet’s Sting.

Aircraft cockpits in WW1 had no purpose-built  furniture;  cane chairs for the pilot were lightweight, simple and cheap. Also handy in a two-seater for swapping cockpits in mid-air, one of the batty ways aircrews amused themselves. 

Another longtime fan is Adam in Wisconsin. “You are a damn good writer and write damn  good books.”    No ifs or buts there. “Please keep them coming.”  Well,  Holy Smoke is now blowing in the wind.   Wayne, in Bethlehem, New Zealand, enjoyed  Why 1914? (“What a fantastic narrative”) and is deep into a new Cake, his first copy having been half-inched by a pal.   Michael, an old friend in Virginia who used to read my stuff when he was off-duty in Afghanistan, has begun a memoir of his experiences there.  He also researched the aircraft used by US Navy carriers,  and found a sporty little scout plane called  -  surprise, surprise  -  Goshawk.   It’s in an air museum in Pensacola, Florida.  Here  is a small picture of it:


A larger photo and more details at:               

My thanks to all who wrote.
Derek Robinson                                                                        

Previous Readers Write

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

Preferred payment method  -  PayPal
Email your order to me at and you will receive a Payment Request.  Then all you need is a credit card to pay into my PayPal account.

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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

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
                          why1914thmnl     Holy Smoke      
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?

2017  Holy $moke