Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Going Old School
The two books I'm reviewing this month might be the two books I have read most frequently in my life. They aren't classics of literature, and most likely you have never heard of them. They are unabashedly genre fiction and guilty pleasures, but they are great reads all the same. And they are the kind of book that I never see any more.
Whip by Martin Caidin is a World War II flying novel. Based on true events, it tells the story of a crackerjack bomber unit in the Pacific and their commander Captain "Whip" Russel. It takes place during the early months of the war and the Americans and Australians are facing a looming Japanese assault.
Facing defeat at every turn "Whip" and his men mount extra firepower on their bombers turning them into flying gunships, adopt low-level daredevil tactics, and take the war to the Japanese. The action is fierce and non-stop and Caidin excels at aerial combat descriptions. The characters don't fare as well, but enough time is spent on the main characters so that you care about their fates.
The Last Dogfight tells a similar story, this time about fighter pilots stationed on a Pacific island away from the main fighting. Led by ace Mitch Ross, the American forces suffer from worn-out airplanes and low morale and are little match for a disciplined and clever enemy.
After a devastating surprise attack decimates the American forces, Ross becomes an almost mythical hero to his men and thus begins a showdown with the Japanese and their master pilot, Shigura Tanimoto. The novel culminates in a riveting one on one duel between Ross and Tanimoto in the closing days of the war.
These books were published in the 1970s and might be difficult to find, but are well worth the effort. I have read each one at least half a dozen times and will re-read them again.