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The Pilots [Hardcover]

James Spencer

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 268 pages
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons; First Printing edition (Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399149732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399149733
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.3 x 2.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,222,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
It was a clear, windless day in Stevie Larkin's eleventh whiter when he stood with his grandparents peeking through the curtains at the three boys racing dirty speed bikes up and down the driveway of the old Paterson place. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very visceral look at WWII... 18 April 2005
By Max Wyman - Published on
I read this book at the recommendation of a friend, and I must say, I have never been endowed with such a clear perception of what it was like to actually be in WWII. The gritty characters, intricate settings, and detailed descriptions made the book seem very, very real... I would recommend this book to anyone who would like a thrilling glimpse at what it was like to actually BE THERE. An enjoyable and gripping novel overall.
2.0 out of 5 stars Missed Opportunity 23 April 2004
By Dana A. Hess - Published on
I also salute the author's contribution in WWII. However, "The Pilots" is just too disjointed and -- quite frankly -- predictable to recommend. Apparently much of the book was written as short stories, which is fine. But there should have been some effort to edit these into a seamless whole, rather than just slap them together between covers. As a result, we often hear the same bits of information over and over. Trust me, Mr. Spencer, by page 228 we KNOW that "Blake Hurlingame was Steve's boyhood friend who now flies B-24s!" And too many of the incidents were telegraphed far in advance. When Addie finds the .45 automatic in her nightstand drawer, we KNOW she's going to need it in just a few pages! On the plus side, some of the flying sequences were quite enjoyable. There just weren't enough of them. It seems to me that if you're writing a novel about combat flying in WWII, you pretty much know who your audience will be. And it's not women. Therefore, I would suggest cutting down on the "romance" and jacking up the action. Just one guy's opinion. Still, it's a quick, painless read and flying novels are hard to find.
(By the way, one positive: The new trade paperback edition has the appropriate P-38 on the cover.)
4.0 out of 5 stars Been There, Done That--And this guy HAS 27 Mar 2003
By Phillip Jennings - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is just a super book. Well written, warm, and yet frightening in its description of combat flying. Jim Spencer has a wonderful way of getting into the stories and making them real for us. Having lived just a bit of that life (USMC pilot)I felt in the cockpit and in the ready room with Jim. The out of combat R&R in Australia was just the right tone, and the craziness that permeates everything was right on.
All the guys I know would love this book. There is hardly a pilot alive or that has lived that has not dreamed of air-to-air combat. This is a piece of that dream.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book of vignettes about World War II's Pacific Theater 10 July 2006
By DWD's Reviews - Published on
Some of the other reviewers of this book are apparently unfamiliar with the literary style of the vignette. This book is an excellent example of it in use. the book consists of a series of short stories, mostly about American pilots in the Pacific Theater in World War II. The stories are all related to one another but any one of them is also a stand-alone story on its own (in fact, the author notes in the back note that 5 of the stories were previously published independent of one another in magazines). The dust jacket liner notes call it a novel-in-stories.

Many are complaining that the stories are disjointed. Yes, that's the intention. It is similar to the difference between a movie about an event and a few snapshots of that same event. The movie is smooth, a series of photographs is disjointed - but each picture can stand on its own.

Anyway, Spencer's book consists of 15 vignettes about the lives of two pilots. The first one is about their childhood. It is by far the weakest of the stories. It has the least to do with the war, but it is a decent little story about the Great Depression. The rest of them give us a little taste of the action in the air over the Pacific but also a sense of life back on base and on leave.

The book is a breeze to read and quite enjoyable. As a memoir in fiction, one can assume that some of it really happened to Spencer, some of it is based on things he heard about and some of it he just made up. Either way, I enjoyed it.

I give this one a grade of A-
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Story of combat from someone who lived it. 21 May 2005
By P. Notch - Published on
I read this book this year. I picked it up because my Grandpa was a B-24 pilot in the war and said it was a good fictionalised account of 'his war'. I started reading and was sucked in.

The way he describes dogfights and bomb runs is in great detail. The book is based on two characters, Lieutenants Stevie Larkin and Blake Hurlingame. Both are childhood friends who both join the Army Air Forces during WWII. One is a fighter pilot and the other a bomber pilot. The book bounces between different characters but the stories are intertwined. If you want a well written, tragic WWII novel, "The Pilots" is a great choice.
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