BY SPENCER DUNMORE
These linked short stories recount the adventures of a group of men stationed with a Bomber Command squadron in Yorkshire during the Second World War. Though many of the stories deal with the literally explosive action involved in bomb runs over occupied Europe, a number of them explore the lives, on and off the airfield at Rocklington, of the young men who were living and dying as members of the squadron. The individual tales of nerve, luck, terror, and romance are linked in ingenious ways: characters appear, remove from the action, and re-appear, but in each story a different character occupies centre stage.
Among the characters we meet are Tuttle, a pilot officer with the face of an Eton schoolboy, whom "bad luck followed around like an ill-tempered barracuda"; jazz aficionados Ross Sinclair, a dashing Canadian pilot from the prairies, and flight engineer Sergeant Willy Perkins, his bashful sidekick; the adjutant Coombs, a career officer, star-struck by the wife of one of the missing men; the mid-upper gunner shot down and rescued in a memorable encounter with the enemy; the marksman Cornelius Brand, a Canadian rear gunner from Ontario whose deadly accuracy brings him unwanted celebrity; and Phoebe Webb, a green-eyed WAAF whose sirenlike beauty and ill-fated love affairs become Rocklington legend. Their stories and others' are woven together with exciting aerial adventure,against the nostalgic backdrop of wartime England.