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Robinson, Derek

squadron british pilots brutal

(British, 1932– )

Robinson writes authentically about air wars in which he was too young to have fought. His best work occupies the intellectual no man's land between genre fiction and serious literature, which is probably why he has not had the recognition he deserves, although Goshawk Squadron (1971), the second novel in a trilogy about a brutal RFC squadron leader bullying callow pilots into survival, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His masterpiece, though, is Piece of Cake (1983), a revisionist take on that great British myth, the Battle of Britain. He describes death, wounding, and burning in brutal anatomical detail, shows his class-ridden, public-school ‘knights of the air’ deliberately shooting down their own (incompetent) squadron leader, killing parachuting German pilots, and pissing in their cockpits in sheer terror, but never loses sight of their bravery or humanity.

Joseph Heller, H. E. Bates. See WAR  MH

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