Derek Robinson
     
  In 1968, when the RAF celebrated its 50th anniversary, a former RFC pilot  called Oliver Stewart said the objective of a fighter pilot 'was to sneak in unobserved behind  his opponent and then shoot him in the back', which got me thinking.

  Goshawk Squadron  came out first, in 1971, then War Story in 1987, and finally  Hornet's Sting in 1999. Thus the sequence is disorderly; but then so was the war. DR





     Author's Notes
NutshellIt's 1916. The pilots' view of the Battle of the Somme is no healthier than the Poor Bloody Infantry's.

 
    "Beneath the insolent wit and  ludicrous happenings is a novel essentially serious, whose full impact may be  felt only in afterthought."
                           - SUNDAY TIMES

   "The descriptions of patrolling and aerial combat  are superlatively
 well done...  Stronger tastes will relish the whiff of battiness and brimstone."
                           - TIMES LITERARY  SUPPLEMENT

hornetsnewcvr

Author's Notes

This is now published in a new edition.
Full details:
click to go to homepage
Nutshell:  It's 1917. The war grinds on.  Enter Captain Woolley. Exit some unlucky chaps.


   "...a darkly entertaining read. Every page contains at least one good line    of dialogue, one memorable description. You turn the pages, saturated in atmosphere. As writer, Robinson never hits a false note."
                                Nicholas Lezard - THE GUARDIAN
 
     "...the novel...follows Hornet Squadron as it pursues a policy summed up by one former aviator as 'sending obsolescent machines deep into German-held  territory'  -  without parachutes, of course. The wastage of  pilots is high and in many ways the novel is Journey's End in the skies except that Robinson has the gift of showing the excitement of  flying and that not everyone was fighting for lofty principles of King and  Country.
    "Robinson is a better story-teller than Jeffrey Archer, Ken Follett or Wilbur Smith; his prose is as full of care and colour as most of the Booker winners.His is a rare achievement...the creation of a poetry of action."
                            Tibor Fischer - THE TIMES

   

Author's Notes 
 
 Nutshell:  It's 1918, and Woolley, now squadron commander, seeks out chivalry and shoots it down in flames.

 
    "Fit to sit on the same shelf as Waugh and Heller... Robinson's recreation of the exhausted savagery of  1918 is truly shocking... the descriptions of flying are brilliantly vertiginous; nobody puts you in the cockpit like Robinson."
                                    Mike Petty - SLIGHTLY FOXED 
                           

War Story  (1987; paperbacked 1993, 2001)

      Fresh from school in June 1916, Lieutenant Oliver Paxton's first solo flight is to lead a formation of biplanes across the Channel to join Hornet Squadron in France. Five days later, he crash-lands at his destination, having lost his map, his ballast and every single plane in his charge. The squadron regards him as a pompous bastard and/or a complete idiot. But Paxton grows to relish air combat. He is sure the Battle of the Somme will let him share in a glorious victory. Alas, war writes its own script, and Paxton ages years in weeks. Not that many fellow-pilots survive to notice the change.   Top of Page                                                                                                                                            


Hornet's Sting  (1999; paperbacked 2001)      

It's 1917, and Captain Stanley Woolley joins an RFC squadron whose pilots are starting to fear the worst: their war over the Western Front may go on for years. A pilot's life is usually short, so while it lasts it is celebrated strenuously. Distractions  from the brutality of the air war include British nurses (not much luck); eccentric Russian pilots; bureaucratic battles over the plum-jam ration; rat-hunting with Very pistols; and the CO's patent, potent cocktail called 'Hornet's Sting'. But as the summer offensives boil up, none of these can offer any lasting comfort.                                    Top of Page

                                                                                                  


Goshawk Squadron (1971; frequently paperbacked: latest 2006)

France, 1918. A normal January day on the Western Front - no battles, and about 2,000 men killed. Behind the lines, at an isolated airfield, Major Stanley Woolley, RFC, commanding Goshawk Squadron, turns on a young pilot who has spoken of a 'fair fight' and roasts him: "That is a filthy, obscene, disgusting word, and I will not have it used by any man in my squadron." Woolley's goal is to destroy the decent, games-playing outlook of his public-school ­educated pilots - for their own good. He's callous and sarcastic, but neither stupid nor inhuman. His weaknesses are Guinness and his girlfriend, Margery. But what drives him is the war. "We eat death for breakfast," he says. "It's what keeps us going."                                                                                              Top of Page                          


To see other Derek Robinson website pages, please click:  

                Homepage                   The RAF Quartet (WW2)              The Double Agent Trilogy

              Other Novels                         Rugby Books                                   Bristol Books


Availability of the books.
The R.F.C. trilogy will be available in print from MacLehose Press in bookshops in January 2013.
The R.A.F. quartet is already available. None of these books will be available in North America.
Some titles may be found in secondhand bookshops. The following websites may be useful in tracking
down copies. Almost all titles (except A Splendid Little War)  are available as e-books.

Amazon UK   Amazon USA      Fantastic Fiction    The Book Place

Other websites you may find of interest: 
Wikipedia         IMDB      The Aerodrome Forum      LibraryThing.com