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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: email@example.com
|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.'
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org, stating your postal address. Pay by PayPal.
Readers Write #68 January
Stretching the Rock,
the cherry on the Cake,
and Bang! you’re not dead.
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.
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:
cylinders, 2,400 h.p. Napier Sabre engine, maximum speed 435 mph) was one
of the fastest piston-engined fighters of WW2.
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,
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
‘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.
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.
thanks to all who wrote. Derek
Previous Readers Write
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
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.
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.
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..
SALESMORE GOOD NEWSAll
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
Availability of the books.
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
The two Bristle books, and A Darker Side of Bristol
are published by Countryside Books
Other websites you may find of interest:
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