1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2014
Tom Neil is a prolific and highly readable author who pulls no punches in turning, for once, to writing a fictionalised story in order to better tell just what it felt like in wartime to experience loss, tragedies and the exhilaration of fighting in the sky.(There is a companion book Flight into Darkness as well as Questions of Guilt). Tom has left us such splendid books telling his true story such as in the best selling book: Gun Button Set To Fire, about his days flying Hurricane fighters of 249 Squadron in defence of Britain in 1940. He also wrote, (in Onward to Malta) of his time fighting against odds in the air over Malta and in battles with superior officers over getting Spitfires to replace the outclassed early Hurricanes that his friends were dying in.
This book is wonderful in that he can set himself free of restrictive writing, where he, and other Battle of Britain pilots are walking a tightrope between telling it as it was and trying to not "Shoot a line"! He tells the story from many perspectives of tragedy, humour and of real life incidents he either witnessed or knew of, but gives fictional characters to save causing unneeded painful memories.
Tom tells not just his own stories but those of friends he fought alongside and of others he met in wartime. These stories are thought provoking, real and gritty with a reaction dragged from the reader;He will move you to laughter, to sadness and to anger by some of the incidents described but overall you will reflect on how Tom has saved his best until last. I have read every book that he has written and enjoyed all of them but these two fiction works stand out for being unique. There is nothing like them out there.
He has also, I feel been able to tell us the missing parts of his story from his non-fiction best selling books such as The Silver Spitfire, Spitfire-from the Cockpit and these books mentioned.
Having met Tom and spent time with him at Farnborough in 2010 and other places, I know just how true some of these stories are. The marvellous thing is whether true or not, these stories will keep you enthralled, like I was in an armchair opposite whilst he literally thrills you with his humour, his descriptions of combat (Amongst the best that I have read) and his tales of finding crashed Spitfires of his Squadron that had flown into the side of a hill, bring home vividly, just what wartime flying and its dangers were all about.
Tom will make you glad to read a story that is human, telling of love in wartime, accidents, combats and humour and all brought vividly to life by his atmospheric detail;He tells a story well and you will not be able to put it down. I was sad when I had finished this book and read it again. It moved me so much!
Tom will never admit to being a hero, as well as a wartime fighter ace with around 17 victories, but his honest and good nature shines out despite the terrible things he witnessed. Tom endured a lot for a young 20 year old and many of his friends from 249 Squadron were killed, either in the Battle of Britain, or like his two great friends;George Barclay or James Nicolson VC ( or "Nick", as he affectionately calls him)were lost later in wartime. I think Tom and possibly one other are the last of the 1940 era 249 Squadron that fought out of North Weald and elsewhere.
Tom will shock you by his conclusions to the series of short stories in the chapters and make you want to turn the pages to find out what happens next by the style of narrative;holding back the secret until the end.
Tom Neil is now in his 90s. This book will make him immortal and remembered for a long while as a great author.
Highly recommended for a good read, like all books should be.
Paul Davies BoBHSc
on 11 February 2015
This is an extraordinarily moving & vivid account of the author's experiences (where not already related in his wonderful autobiographical books) & of those of his friends, fictionalised to preserve identities & to allow the author greater freedom to honestly relay the range & impact of emotions felt by himself & others like him.
The 3 stories are thought-provoking & really help you to imagine & understand what life was like for these brave people.