|One of many 'Splendid' war novels by Derek Robinson|
Ever finish a book and think “This bastard should write faster.” Derek Robinson is one of those authors. Every book he’s written grabs you, dazzles you, leaves you in a trail of gut-busting laughter, tarnished tears, and famished for more.
What makes Derek Robinson special? He has a niche and an unnatural gift as a raconteur. War. Flying. The Royal Air Corps/Force. His series, set in World War I, the most famous of which is Goshawk Squadron, set the mark for all that would follow. Don’t think for a moment that ‘famous’ means the best of the lot. All of them are connected, clever, dark with humor, gore, and the certainty of your own destruction. Robinson’s Second Would War series also has every bit of all of the above. Unbelievably engaging. (Piece of Cake)
Now comes ‘A Splendid Little War.’ A war fought in Russia in 1919-1920 mean anything to you? Probably not. No RAF history of it exists. Yet, it was fought. And men died in Britain’s frantic effort to keep the Bolsheviks from consolidating their power after the Russian Revolution. A Splendid Little War tells the tale of the men who leapt into the breech, or at least into the cockpits of well-worn aircraft, like them, cast offs from the First World War.
What do men do that lived through the daring-do of aerial combat, grinding the fear out of their minds, as they twisted their eager craft through the bullet strewn air? They volunteer for the next war, fully expecting it would be a continuation. It wasn’t.
But, fighter pilots are fighter pilots. They must have whiskey, women, and danger to feel alive. The raw smell of petrol and engine oil in their nostrils. Death at every turn.
Scoundrels all, their dark humor and aptitude for rollicking fun, in the most unlikely of places, carry them along. Mere skill doesn’t cut it when ineptitudes of the powers-that-be, and the vicissitudes of battle conspire against them.
Derek Robinson is king of the genre. Careful character sketches, a plot that whistles along, and a masterfully told story bring ‘the war that wasn’t a war’ to life in glowing Technicolor. Haven’t heard of the Splendid Little War? After this fabulous novel it’ll be etched in memory.