© 1983 Max Hennessy
High above was a layer of stratus, ice-white so that the sky seemed full of light, and Dicken knew against it they were silhouetted perfectly, a wonderful target for the ground gunners.
Dicken Quinney didn’t enter the war for politics or glory — he just wanted to fly. Dangerous as it was, once he’d experienced soaring above the clouds, he couldn’t tear himself away from it. From France to Italy, “Dick” gets his chance here, facing the Hun, imperfect machines, and malicious COs alike. He begins as a lowly artillery observer before trying his luck in the Royal Flying Corps, where he flies against Germany’s best in some of England’s worst — not until the very end of the book is he flying a decent ‘bus’, in fact. What gets him through is sheer luck and a bit of skill.
Bright Blue Sky is principally a work of aerial combat, with some character drama (and development) thrown in. Hennessey’s work is definitely not wish fulfillment: “Dickie” makes the most of what he has, flying canvas crates while Germans in proper planes are massacring his brother airmen. He also has little luck, romantically, though despite this he’s an object of jealousy from the aptly-named Diplock, a sniveling toadie who did get the girl — and the promotion — but apparently feels worlds insecure in both. Other memorable characters include Zoe (a liberated wrench wench), and Willie Hatto, a poor Irish nobleman who cheers up any scene he’s in. Most appreciated is Hennessey’s visit to the often ignored Italo-Austrian front. The author seems to have numerous air-and-sea series scattered among the world wars, I imagine I’ll be reading him again.
Some of my Kindle highlights:
“Just in front of the shell hole were abandoned packs, rifles and shovels, and unspeakable bodies from the previous winter, black, damp, and decomposing, together with a dead mule, disemboweled by a shell, a man sitting with his back to it, bolt upright but headless. Nauseated, he turned away to find himself staring into the single dead eye of the forward observation officer, and at the moment he decided he didn’t like trench warfare. ”
“For the most part, the future didn’t exist, because the war stretched in a bloody blur across it, leaving a curious sense of emptiness and want.”
“‘They’re very pretty’, Zoe said, fingering the wings on Dicken’s tunic. ‘And I see you’ve got another medal, too. What’s that for?’
‘Saving Willie Hatto’s life.’ She touched the ribbons.
‘I thought that was for saving Willie Hatto’s life.’
‘This one’s for saving it again.’
‘It sounds like a put-up job to me. What does he do? Go around getting himself into trouble so that you can drag him out?'”
“[Hatto] held up the bottle. ‘Have a go?” Dicken shook his head.
‘No thanks’ he said, ‘We thought you were dead and we’ve had too much already.’
‘Because you thought I was dead? Dear old fruits, what a jolly decent thing to do!'”