NEW DEREK ROBINSON NOVEL - "What a romp!"
Holy $moke gets warm welcome
“Holy Smoke finds us in Rome at the end of the war, a new location for Robinson but one which has his customary cast of liars, saboteurs and arsonists. Everyone will have their particular favourite; one of mine is Captain Ironside, whom I nominate as the statutory ‘awkward bugger’, a fixture in so many Robinson books. What is conjured up for our delight is the amorality of a city staggering out of war, in a state of mind which - with an almost total disregard of government and law - enabled Italy to slip from Fascism to democracy. I loved it and thought it a perfect topic and cast for the Robinson treatment. My one disappointment - the Albanian dwarves were an authorial invention.”
Graham ThorneFor a full review of Holy $moke by Bill Stroud, click:
HOLY $MOKE NOW AVAILABLE
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£8 in Europe, inc airmail
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the Bloody Paralyser,
and two right hands.
Britain was lucky to have squadrons of Hurricanes and Spitfires when World War Two broke out. We were also lucky to have Roy Fedden, a brilliant engineer whose team at Bristol Aircraft Factory had designed Pegasus aircooled radial engines, smaller, lighter and more powerful than online aero engines. A Pegasus delivered over 900 horsepower - high performance in those days - and the Pegasus proved its reliability in the 1930s when it powered a single-engined Vickers Wellesley non-stop from Egypt to Australia, a world record of 7,162 miles. (Still a record for a single-engined aircraft.)
Fedden’s team had another triumph: mass production. By 1939 the Pegasus had a supercharger, automatic boost control, and provision for variable-pitch propeller, and well over half the RAF’s bombers had Pegasus engines. Roy Fedden may be a forgotten hero to many people, but not in Bristol. For the first two years of the war. most Bomber Command aircraft flew on Pegasus engines, and that included the first raid on Berlin. Flight Lieutenant Frank Lowe, DFM, flew a Hampden bomber to Berlin in 1940. I was lucky enough to meet him.
The Hampden was nicknamed the Flying Suitcase because it had a short, deep fuselage connected to the tail by a narrow boom. The crew of four had little room to move. It was a round trip of 1,150 miles to Berlin, which might take five hours, often more if they faced a head wind. They flew at night, which had its hazards apart from enemy flak and unpredictable weather; it was bitterly cold at 15,000 feet. Frank Lowe bombed Berlin (which came as a shock to Hermann Goering, who had promised the German people that their country was impregnable) and his two Pegasus engines brought him back. He liked the Hampden and admired the Pegasus. There is no substitute for meeting a man who has been at the sharp end of war, and my novel Damned Good Show was all the better for my having met Frank. I wrote the book because I felt Bomber Command had been shortchanged: few people realised that RAF bomber crews were in action from the very start: the first Hampden operation was on 3rd September 1939. Later I learned about the Bloody Paralyser.
Berlin had been the target a generation earlier. Before Bomber Command, there was the Independent Force of World War One. Hugh Trenchard, looking for ways of using the RFC to shorten the war, urged a bombing campaign that would damage Germany’s war production and weaken morale. Then twenty Gotha bombers raided London in July 1917, and that prompted a demand for reprisal. The result was the Independent Force, separate from the RFC, mainly equipped with the DH9 and the Vickers Vimy. Handley Page saw the need for a bigger aircraft, able to carry a heavier bombload further; and it designed a monster.
Their V/1500 bomber had a wingspan of 126 feet (the Lancaster’s was 102) and four Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines, each with 12 cylinders; they produced an astonishing 1500 horsepower; hence the name. The engines were mounted in tandem with propellers that were 12 feet long. The ‘pusher’ had a four-bladed prop, the ‘puller’ was two-bladed. The short-range bombload was 7,500 lbs, and the bomber had enough range to reach Berlin with 1,200 lbs of bombs. There was a crew of five and anything from 4 to 8 machine guns, including an innovation: a tail gunner. The RAF (as the RFC became in April 1918) liked the monster. They called it the ‘Bloody Paralyser’.
It came within a whisker of bombing Berlin. A V/1500 was about to take off when news of the Armistice grounded it. Nevertheless it saw action. A year later it took a week to fly to India, just in time for the 3rd Afghan War. The Amir, annoyed because he had not been invited to the Peace Conference at Versailles, was about to invade India. Nobody was looking forward to yet another bruising campaign in the mountains of the North-West Frontier, and somebody had the bright idea of using the V/1500. It worked. The sight of the Bloody Paralyser above Kabul - probably the first aircraft ever seen in Afghanistan - panicked the harem, who rushed into the street. The bomber made a few leisurely circuits and dropped some small bombs on the palace. It was enough. The Amir gave in. Peace rapidly followed, but India had the last word. Termites found the V/1500 and reduced it to scrap.
Back to the present. Authors would be nothing without readers, and I get messages (email@example.com) from all over. Bill in Chesapeake, Virginia, asked for Holy Smoke, Why 1914? and Operation Bamboozle, which should complete his collection, and said: “I can’t wait to read them, and anything else you write in the future.” Mike Ripley in Essex publishes a column on crime fiction called Getting Away With Murder. He enjoyed Holy Smoke and identified the picture on the back cover as Constantine’s Finger.
And I thought it was just a bit of ancient Roman rockery. Mike knew better: “The finger was part of the Colossus of Emperor Constantine the Great, thought to have been 40 feet high. Probably two right hands were made” - the one with the finger, and one holding a staff inscribed with a Christian symbol to indicate his conversion to the new religion. A Colossus doesn’t come cheap, and when they had to update it they did the Roman equivalent of photoshopping and chucked the old finger aside, which is where it is today. Statesmen like big statues. Somewhere in India they have a statue of an Independence leader, S.V.Patel, which is the tallest in the world at 600 feet high. Low-flying aircraft beware.
My thanks to all who wrote. Derek Robinson http://www.derekrobinson.info/indextestRW59Sept2018.html
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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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