The Pilots

The Pilots

by James Spencer
     
 

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During World War II, James Spencer was a cocky, risk-addicted young pilot who lived with death every day -- but considered it a privilege to fly the B-24s that helped win the war in the Pacific. Only in recent years has he been able to write about those experiences. The extraordinary result is The Pilots, a novel about young flyers locked in almost-daily aerial combat…  See more details below

Overview

During World War II, James Spencer was a cocky, risk-addicted young pilot who lived with death every day -- but considered it a privilege to fly the B-24s that helped win the war in the Pacific. Only in recent years has he been able to write about those experiences. The extraordinary result is The Pilots, a novel about young flyers locked in almost-daily aerial combat, living their off-hours as if they were their last -- and the women who endured the pain of attachment to men whose life expectancies might be measured in weeks and days. Alive with the horrors of war and the sheer exhilaration of those who live, breathe, and dream of flying, The Pilots introduces us to bomber pilot Blake Hurlingame and his boyhood chum, fighter ace Steve Larkin, who is captured by a strange, savage tribe that might trade him to the Japanese -- or use him as food; Doc, whose concern for his men is unhinging his sanity; Courtenay, the arrogant, reckless captain with inner demons behind his movie-star good looks; and heartbreaking Addie -- who will leave her mark on them all.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Half a century ago, brave pilots fought in Pacific skies against a determined enemy and helped turn the tide of war. The author was one of them, but only in the past decade-to satisfy the curiosity of his sons, he says-has he written up his memories, fictionalized as a series of linked short stories. Other veterans have produced a deluge of similar works, but the honesty of Spencer's writing, which is lean and understated whether he is describing deadly scenes of action or military horseplay at base camp, sets this volume apart. There is a touch of Tales of the South Pacific to the adventures of Steve Larkin, a fighter pilot and the author's stand-in, who bails out of his plummeting aircraft and lands on a grimly hazardous jungle island inhabited by head-hunting, spear-toting savages. They capture and imprison Steve in a fetid hut, and the situation seems bleak, but after some days of testing his intentions, two nubile young women make it clear he is welcome. Though the episode is described unemotionally, its impact is plain; after the villagers release him, Steve concludes simply "it was odd that he didn't feel more enthusiastic about being rescued." Heroism is about staying alive, but the unit physician, Doc, is so solicitous of his men as to become hopelessly delusional, believing he must save them from sinister friendly fire. Scenes in Australia, where the pilots go for rest, are vivid and poignantly capture the pain of the women there who have lost their men. This is not self-conscious writing, but it successfully balances the beauty of flying with the terrors of life-and-death combat, and is a worthy addition to the literature of WWII. (Feb.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425194164
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
03/02/2004
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.04(w) x 8.88(h) x 0.76(d)

Meet the Author

James Spencer earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals, among other honors in the Pacific. Four of these stories have appeared in The Ontario Review and The South Dakota Review, and his short stories, poems, and plays have also appeared in more than forty other magazines and collections, including The Best American Short Stories 1999, edited by Amy Tan.

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