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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and seeing nothing in the dark.
There is a lot of World War One in World War Two. Nothing new in that idea, but it helps to explain a few hoary myths, such as the belief that machine guns were the most lethal weapon in the Great War. The late John Terraine was a tireless myth-buster (he did a good hatchet-job on the Angels of Mons) and he took a hard look at the casualty figures. What he found was that bullets caused less then 40 per cent of British casualties in WW1. What did most of the damage? Artillery. Shells and bombs accounted for nearly 60 per cent. Machine guns could kill men in the open, but for most of the time the infantry was in the trenches, safe from bullets. But not from artillery. A soldier who survived it said: “Sustained shell-fire was the most trying and terrifying thing to be feared by all.”
It was an artillery war. In the third German offensive of 1918, 6,000 guns fired two million shells in a little over four hours - and that was only part of the attack. The tragedy of that war was that all sides delivered ever-larger bombardments that caused massive carnage, and yet for most of the war it made little difference; until the last year, the Trenches survived. The generals, of course, were far beyond the gunners’ range, which meant that, once the battle began, they were out of control.
Adolf Hitler knew this, better than most. For almost
the entire war he was a messenger, what the British army calls a runner, in an
infantry battalion. He ran messages from the staff to the trenches and
vice versa: dangerous work. He took part in the
The second war began with quick success in
Bertha weighed so much that it could be moved only by
rail. It had a barrel of enormous length that could hurl a shell 26 miles
high, which put it in the stratosphere. Three minutes later it fell on
It is well known to meteorologists and aerospace
experts. If you fling something high enough and far enough, it will
eventually come down - but meanwhile the planet
keeps rotating, and the missile will not land where you aimed it.
Bertha’s three minutes in the air meant that the shelling was never
accurate. The supergun was a terror weapon. Nevertheless, after
1940 Hitler put a lot of time and effort into trying to shell
Hitler never learned the lessons of history. He
Hitler believed that Russians, being Slavs, were inferior
beings; they would collapse in the face of his armies. (After
only four months he declared the war won: ‘The foe was broken and would
never rise again.’) He knew little about
This is not to diminish the stunning success of his
Blitzkrieg. In 1940,
It was a story of the wrong aircraft, poor equipment,
and frustrated aircrews. The first night fighters were Blenheims,
already obsolescent. There were a lot of
accidents - airfields had no homing beacons,
aircraft radios were feeble, blind-flying instruments were
unreliable. Night after night, the Blenheims found no enemy
bombers. “Our failure was due simply to our inability to see another
aircraft in the dark,” said an air gunner. Eventually airborne radar
sets appeared, and they baffled everybody. They were subject
to an infuriating number of faults. When the Blitz began, the night skies
were full of enemy bombers; the Blenheims searched and always landed
empty-handed. Morale suffered. The hard fact was that
Desperate times call for desperate remedies, and some strange solutions were considered, including airborne searchlights, showers of magnesium flares, minefields dangling on parachutes. Some wanted anti-aircraft guns mounted on balloons. Others wanted aircraft to fly above raiders and drop sand in their engines. At one stage, Blenheim aircrew believed that they were losing radar contacts because enemy bombers escaped with incredible speed. Then it was found that their radar sets could show an enemy aircraft that was behind it as well as in front. If the pilot believed the bomber was in front, and he increased speed to catch it, the result was that he ran away from the target behind him. With that discovery, the mythical superfast bombers vanished,
Better radar sets appeared, and the excellent Beaufighter replaced the Blenheim. On 20 November 1940, John Cunningham made a radar contact and shot down a Junkers 88. This good news was flashed to Group HQ, to Fighter Command HQ, and to Air Ministry. It was very encouraging - but it was just one bomber at a time when hundreds were raiding
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.
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|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