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White Flag Down
     

White Flag Down

3.4 7
by Joel N. Ross, William Dufris (Narrated by)
 

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September 1942

Without Swiss help, the Reichsbank will fail within six months.

An American airman is shot down over neutral Switzerland, with knowledge crucial to the Allied war effort.

A Russian major escapes the hell that is the Siege of Stalingrad, ordered to Bern to facilitate a Nazi-Soviet truce.

A Swiss journalist seeks evidence of her

Overview

September 1942

Without Swiss help, the Reichsbank will fail within six months.

An American airman is shot down over neutral Switzerland, with knowledge crucial to the Allied war effort.

A Russian major escapes the hell that is the Siege of Stalingrad, ordered to Bern to facilitate a Nazi-Soviet truce.

A Swiss journalist seeks evidence of her country's economic support of Nazi Germany, but ruthless men are determined to stop her.

All three will form an unlikely alliance that could alter the outcome of the negotiations between Germany and Russia.

In this rich, complex novel, based on newly declassified documents, Joel Ross takes you on a breathtaking chase through World War II Europe, where everyone's motives are suspect-and nobody is neutral.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Narrator William Dufris performs Ross's latest WWII thriller with a breathless enthusiasm, making the listener alternately worry for the hero and cheer him on." ---AudioFile
Publishers Weekly

Switzerland during WWII proves an unexpectedly rich setting in Ross's suspenseful second thriller (after 2005's Double Cross Blind). In September 1942, a U.S. Army Air Force pilot, Lieutenant Grant, crash-lands his photo reconnaissance plane in Swiss territory after catching a glimpse of a previously unknown Nazi secret weapon, a jet aircraft. The Swiss authorities imprison Grant, along with his navigator. Grant escapes and is soon enmeshed in a complicated plot that centers on Swiss collaboration, a Russian commander fresh from the Battle of Stalingrad, the Russian's ex-wife and secret negotiations that may result in a truce between Germany and Russia-thus freeing Hitler's forces from fighting the war on two fronts. Much time and energy is spent on the search for an obscure economic document, but there's plenty of action as Grant rips through one seemingly impossible mission after another. Thriller readers who enjoy looking at WWII from a fresh perspective will be particularly rewarded. (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A smart-aleck American flyer and a cynical Russian officer, separated from their warfronts, become embroiled in plot and counterplot in World War II Switzerland, where the famous national neutrality seems to be so much fiction. The flying skills of American Lieutenant Grant and his navigator Sergeant McNeil have brought them safely out of German air space, where they took numerous Nazi bullets, to a Swiss mountain top. By rights, they should be out of harm's way. They're not completely unscathed-McNeil being fairly banged up-but they're alive and eager to tell their superiors about the amazing propeller-less Nazi plane they saw on their way to the crash landing. It was fast as blazes, but McNeil got some photographs of it, and Grant intends to get those pictures back to England as soon as he hooks up with the American embassy. Unfortunately, his American liaison seems more interested in accommodating Swiss laws than helping him out, leaving Grant in the hands of Nazi sympathizers who throw him in a nasty prison. Meanwhile, Russian Major Eduard Akimov, jerked from the battle of Stalingrad, has joined his diplomat father, who is in Switzerland for secret negotiations with the Nazis. The Soviets want the Major to track down his ex-wife Magda and her evidence of Swiss/German collaboration, information also sought by Anna Fay, the widow of Lt. Grant's late comrade-in-arms. Anna is one of a small but gutsy band of anti-German Swiss nationals. Grant escapes his jailers, finds Anna and her clever young son Christoph, and sets on a parallel course with Akimov in the hunt for Magda. Their heels are dogged by a sadistic German who has imprisoned Magda's daughter and will not hesitate to snatchChristoph. All parties are convinced that they hold the outcome of the war in their hands, and they may be right. Ross (Double Cross Bind, 2005) makes good use of unfamiliar history in his second fast-moving thriller. Agent: Henry Morrison/Henry Morrison Inc.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400133802
Publisher:
Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
08/01/2007
Edition description:
Library - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 6.40(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

White Flag Down


By Joel N. Ross

Doubleday

Copyright © 2007 Joel N. Ross
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780385513890

CHAPTER 1

LATE SEPTEMBER 1942

Despite the chill of the brisk English morning, heat prickled Lieutenant Grant's neck and a trickle of sweat ran down his spine. He shrugged off the discomfort: in thirty minutes, flying photo recon over Nazi–occupied France, he’d be grateful for the warmth of his Irvin flight jacket and trousers.

He stepped from the mission briefing with his navigator, Sergeant “Racket” McNeil, who whistled in disbelief. “This one’s a doozy, Lieut.”

“Easy enough,” Grant said, heading across the airfield.

“I dunno—any closer to Germany, we’d smell the sauerkraut.”

“They want recon, we’ll give ’em recon.”

Racket was a rangy kid with an easy grin, but this smile looked forced. “And be back by dinner.”

At the dispersal pen, Grant pulled himself through the nose hatch into the cockpit of the Mosquito, settled into the pilot’s seat, and saw the camera in Racket's hand. “Bringing your handheld?”

“For souvenirs,” Racket said. “Something to show my grandkids.”

“At the rate you’re going, you already have some.”

“The English girls like me, what can I say?” They were stationed near an Oxfordshire village—half–timber houses and a high street pub thatsold warm bitter beer—and Racket had wasted no time meeting the local fauna. “But if what I hear about Frenchwomen is true…brother, you can drop me over Paris.”

Grant laughed and completed his preflight checks, then twirled a finger at the RAF flight sergeant, who gave the thumbs–up. Grant hit the starter button and the propeller revolved lazily before catching with a puff of smoke and a bark from the exhausts. As the port engine settled into the rough idle of a cold Merlin, he started the starboard motor, watching the temps rise to ground levels. He ran through his after–start check, turned from the dispersal pen, and rolled to the eastern end of the runway.

“Clear blue skies,” Racket said.

Grant examined the heavy gray clouds. “Should’ve requested a navigator with eyes.”

“Who needs eyes? You’ve got Pinpoint McNeil.”

“The met officer says it’s clear over France.” Grant swung the Mossie into line and trimmed the rudder. “Hope he’s not as drunk as you.”

He flicked the magneto switches, advanced the throttles, and the Mossie rolled down the runway, heavy with fuel. The western hedge rushed toward them, and a light tug on the stick pulled the undercarriage from the ground and into the sky.

Racket told Grant about his new girl and her mother, like some radio drama, then there was nothing but engine noise and clouds, and heat seeping into the cabin from the radiators. When Grant had arrived in England, sent by the Eighth U.S. Air Force to fly photo–reconnaissance flights with the RAF, he’d laughed at the British. The photo–reconnaissance unit flew PR.I and PR.IV versions of the Mosquito—wooden aircraft, plywood and balsa and glue. Then he’d flown one, and stopped laughing: wood or not, Mossies could fly.

Racket broke the silence. “You know why they sent us spitting distance from Germany, Lieut?”

“For photo recon?”

“On account of General Eaker’s new intruder force—using bad weather as a cloak for blind–bombing operations. I figure we’re prepping for them."

“Where do you hear this shit?”

Racket fiddled with the nav system. “I also heard you saw combat in China, flying with some civilian outfit.”

“Yeah. CNAC.”

“What’s that?”

“Chinese National Aviation Corporation.”

“You flew into war zones—why didn’t you join a fighter group?”

Because he’d lost his edge in Nanking, in 1937. “I fly what they tell me.”

“Speak fluent German, too, don’t you?”"

“What’s that got to do with anything? Check we’re on course to find the IP, Racket.”

Because they were beyond GEE range, pinpointing the initial point for the photo–recon run took all of Racket's attention. He managed, though, then edged into the glazed nose of the Mosquito to trigger the cameras and said, “Looks like the met officer was drunk after all.”

The world below was a featureless white, cloudy as a cataract. “We'll take another run,” Grant said. “Under the clouds.”

They took two more—then a Focke Wulf 190 dropped from nowhere, running at them from the front.

Racket swore. “The hell did he come from?”

Grant flew into the attack, turned the nose down, and opened the throttle.

“Another Focker,” Racket said tightly. “Behind and—”

“I see”

“Watch the—” Machine–gun fire pocked the side of the Mossie, the noise drowned by the explosion of 20 millimeter cannon shells. “Damnit!

Grant screamed downhill, into a bank of clouds. “Racket?”

“Starboard side’s smoking.”

“Where are they?”

“Can’t see beans—”A short intake of breath. “We’re leaking glycol, Lieut.”

Grant checked his instrument panel.“Starboard's in the red. Temp’s rising, and we’re losing fuel. We’re not getting back to England, find us a—”

One of the Fockers broke cover a hundred yards away. “Shit.”

Grant cut the starboard engine and boosted the port, torquing the Mossie into a thick gray mass, holding his breath and staying inside the cloud. “Gimme a hint, Racket, we’re almost outta time—”

“Head southeast.”

“Germany's east.”

Southeast. Switzerland.”

The fuel gauge edged lower and the starboard temp rose—they wouldn’t be back by dinner. The cloud cover finally thinned, the needle touched red, and Grant said, “I want you ready to bail, Racket.”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

Because after the navigator bailed and the pilot released the stick to follow, the damaged Mossie could spin and trap him inside. “That’s an order, Sergeant.”

“Climb back here then, and we’ll arm wrestle for—” Racket’s voice turned tight. “There! Another Focker, at ten thirty.”

“Where? I don’t—” Grant saw the bogie and felt his heart catch. “That’s not a Focker, too damn fast.”

“That’s a—” Racket raised his handheld camera. “What is that?”

“I never saw anything like it. Nobody has.”

“Look at her go—” A constant click–whir, Racket snapping photo after photo. “There’s nothing keeping her in the air."

“There’s nothing keeping us in the air, Racket.”

“She’s got no propellers, how the hell is she flying?” Click–whir, click–whir. “She saw us, she’s veering off.”

“And radioing for help.”

“Swastika on the fuselage, she’s German and too fast to—damn. Gone already.”

“You got pictures?”

“Sure, but what was that?”

“Some kind of prototype.” Grant swung them into the clouds. “With a fighter patrol for cover. Are we in Switzerland?”

“A prototype? That thing is Flash Gordon, we gotta tell ’em back home, show ’em the pictures.”

“First we have to get home. We in Switzerland yet?”

“Maybe. Yeah. Almost.”

“Check your maps, find a—” Grant cocked his head. “Do you hear that?”

“What?”

“The engine.” A high hollow whine, a bad omen. Too low to bail out, and he couldn’t get any altitude. “We’re gonna land soon and we’re gonna land rough.”

And the next time they broke the clouds, they were flying into a mountain.

Grant corkscrewed blindly, and instead of exploding against rock, they were trapped in a craggy snow–dusted valley, the mountainsides blurring past. No way out, rats in a maze, and the only direction they were headed was down, the port engine roaring and starboard coughing—

“Lieut!” Racket shouted. “There! There!”

The alpine meadow shimmered into sight like an oasis in the desert, but this was no mirage. His face slick with sweat, Grant relaxed his shoulders and exhaled, his hand gentle on the stick. The valley walls squeezed the Mossie, the meadow grew larger, and a stillness rose inside the speed and the noise. He felt nothing but the slow beat of his heart, heard nothing but his own breathing—yet saw every outcropping of rock, every windswept tree, every pretty shrub that could send them cartwheeling.

Speed steady at 210 knots, lower, steady, lower—

And the starboard engine seized in a deafening clatter.

Grant fought to keep the nose up, slamming the throttles shut as the port propeller shattered on impact and the Plexiglas nose broke and turned the Mossie into a giant shovel, scooping rocky earth into the cockpit.


Black smoke coiled under the gray sky.

Grant’s ears rang and his mouth was full of blood; he sat stunned and staring. Then he heard the sizzle of fuel dripping onto hot exhausts, saw the smoke rising from the shattered engine cowlings—and snapped back. One spark and they were dead. He reached for the escape hatch in the roof, but it was already gone, demolished in the crash.

He fumbled at his harness, dragged himself to his feet and saw Racket slumped in his seat, belts tight across his chest, his face a clotted mask of blood—but alive. He called his name then shook him, with no response. Got himself through the roof hatch and leaned back inside, hooking Racket under the shoulders and using his own body weight sliding down the fuselage to pull his navigator out. They fell hard, then Grant dragged him across the meadow and crouched to check his wounds. The mountain tilted—Grant staggered and collapsed and lay there, deafened by the cold wind.

After a time, he stood and sprinkled sulfa powder on Racket’s cuts and dressed them with a compress bandage. Didn’t know what else was wrong, didn’t know what else to do. Except Racket still held the strap of his handheld camera in his fist.

Were they even in Switzerland? If this was Germany, and that prototype aircraft radioed in a sighting, he could expect company.

And Racket needed a hospital. Grant turned in a slow circle, almost losing his footing on the uneven ground, and picked out the largest fir tree at the edge of the meadow. He fell to his knees and buried the camera, wrapped in oilskin, among the roots.

Back in the meadow, Racket’s face was as white as the mountaintops, his breath fast and shallow. Nothing Grant could do but go for help, and pray he was in Switzerland. He chose a direction and started walking.


Through the trees, a hundred yards below him, two army trucks and an ambulance drove along a snaking dirt road. By the time Grant stumbled from the woods they were gone, headed up–mountain. He lifted his head and saw black plumes of smoke from the Mosquito waving like a banner in the sky.

An ambulance, already on the way to Racket. So now what? Depended on the country—if this was Germany, he’d get the camera and hightail south, across the border. If Switzerland, he was on velvet: talk to the American consulate, tell ’em where to find the camera, and sleep easy.

He walked downhill through the woods, paralleling the dirt road—roots catching at his boots and branches slapping his face—until the sun dipped behind a mountain peak. The ringing in his ears grew steadily louder, but he didn’t realize until he saw the fenced pasture that he was hearing the rush of a nearby river running through a mountain town.

He crossed the pasture toward a barn. Halfway there, a farmer stepped from a shadowed pen, wearing heavy boots and a homegrown hat, and called to him. He didn’t understand a word, and the relief almost knocked him over: the farmer was speaking Swiss–German, he was safe in neutral territory.

Grant went toward the barn. “American. Ich bin Amerikaner.”

“The airplane,” the farmer said, in regular German. “You crashed.”

Ja. My navigator’s hurt, I need to talk to—”

“Come, come.” The farmer led Grant around the barn to a stone–walled house overlooking a green valley. “You stay, you wait. I send my son.”

Grant sat on a weathered bench. The farmer asked him something, but he didn’t answer. Cowbells sounded in the distance, and the scent of pine and manure rose on a chill breeze. The view was unreal, too vivid, too panoramic, like a dream—like part of him was still in the cockpit watching that meadow loom larger and closer.

He looked at the clouds until tires crunched on the drive, and a tall soldier stood before him, with a coal–scuttle helmet and a rifle.

“You are the pilot?” the soldier said, in unaccented German.

Grant checked the man’s uniform, saw buttons with the Swiss cross. He nodded, and answered in German. “You found my navigator?”

“He’s in the hospital already. They are looking after him, yes?”

“I need to talk to the American consulate.”

“First you talk to us,” the soldier said.

A medic came and checked his eyes and pulse, then he was strapped on a gurney, sluggish and shocky. The clouds slid away, and he was looking at the riveted metal roof of the ambulance. He faded out, shaken by the hard rattle of the mountain road.

Continues...

Excerpted from White Flag Down by Joel N. Ross Copyright © 2007 by Joel N. Ross. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Narrator William Dufris performs Ross's latest WWII thriller with a breathless enthusiasm, making the listener alternately worry for the hero and cheer him on." —-AudioFile

Meet the Author

Joel N. Ross studied history at Hampshire College and taught English abroad for a short time before writing Double Cross Blind, his first novel.

William Dufris has been nominated nine times as a finalist for the APA's prestigious Audie Award and has garnered twenty-one Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, which also named him one of the Best Voices at the End of the Century. He has also acted on stage and television in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

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White Flag down 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really tried to like this book. The plot is first-rate but the writing is boring. There are some moments of buildup that brought me back into the story, but after 250 pages I could read no longer. If you have some background education or knowledge of Swiss-German relations during WWII and know about Waldwilermoos, then part of the surprises are taken away. Also, there are some mispellings of Russian and German words in the book. I may come back and struggle to finish the book, but the writing is too banal to continue now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jet_Mech More than 1 year ago
This one was just OK for me. I liked the story, but I'm not sure if it was the writing style, or what, but it just never took hold of me like a good read does. One thing I didn't care for was how the beginning hooked me into one story (the search for the camera) and kinda left that hanging till the end, with another story in the middle. I can see what the author was going for, just not how I thought it should have got there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a really interesting, slightly different novel about World War II. Many focus on the Holocaust of specific battles, but this took a fictitious event and made it into tightly-woven story. The characters were memorable and all had a very definite personality different from that of any other character in the story. However, one fault was that it was sometimes hard to keep track of what was going on because the storyline often alternated back and forth between different characters. Even though it was hard to keep straight, that step was necessary because eventually all of the characters all coalesce into a single storyline.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I especially liked the characters and I got in trouble because I couldn¿t lay it down. It is fast-paced and it doesn¿t ever slow down. There are several different things happening in the story and the three main characters¿ lives and troubles intersect. Grant is an American pilot who crash lands, Anna is a widowed friend who writes news articles and is being offered an important story by a woman who doesn¿t show up, and Akimov is brought from Stalingrad to find his ex-wife by his father who had betrayed him once before to gain prominence in the Soviet government. This action filled story also gives you a chance to learn about history. Stalingrad comes to life as a band of Russian soldiers try to retake a partially destroyed building under the leadership of Akimov who has lost an arm, but leads the charge, anyway. The plight of service men who are interned in Switzerland is shown, also. We are there and experience it with Grant. Anna cannot get her articles published and the excuse is that neutrality must not be threatened. It is about people who continue to try to fight, no matter what. They are in trouble and we care about them, they are courageous and we follow them with hope for their success. I highly recommend this story.