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Under the Radar: A Novel Paperback – 1 May 2014


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Under the Radar: A Novel + Empire of the Clouds: When Britain's Aircraft Ruled the World
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (1 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571274013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571274017
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 173,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Under the Radar is fascinating to read and superbly written. Hamilton-Paterson is among our finest prose stylists, and we are fortunate to have him. (Ian Thomson Financial Times)

Hamilton-Paterson has written an intelligent, stylish story about a war fast fading from our collective memory. (Antonia Senior The Times)

This book is a must for RAF buffs and conspiracy theorists. But more importantly it is a testament to the unsung heroes of the skies who stood between us and a nuclear strike. (Daily Mail)

An absorbing fictionalisation of a fascinating few years ... Hamilton-Paterson has done is a terrific job recreating a credible atmosphere of the air force base, with its tensions between the old guard and the new, between the past and the future, ratchet and release, between men and women. (Toby Clements Daily Telegraph)

In Empire of the Clouds, Hamilton-Paterson conjured up a magisterial account of the vanished glories of British jet aviation. While this novel is not a sequel, it focuses on a small part of that story with remarkable clarity and pathos ... As a riveting recreation of a period, it is a moving elegy with graceful prose and acute characterisation. (The Lady)

Book Description

Under the Radar: A Novel by James Hamilton-Paterson - the author of the bestselling Empire of the Clouds - is a gripping novel of cold war pilots, espionage and secrets.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. C. Riches on 7 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed Empire of the Clouds enormously, and James Hamilton-Patterson is clearly a talented writer. I was expecting something fictional from him after his last documentary output, and was delighted to see the subject matter, so it was with anticipation that I downloaded the book and got stuck in.

My overall impression? Excellently researched, with some real nuggets including the fascinating truth about the inevitable cancellation of the Nimrod MR4. Some really good writing, lyrical in parts, that gets across to the reader both the stultifying boredom of much of the V-Bomber crews' lives in the 1960s, and the difficult and sometimes dangerous nature of their profession. The story of the infamous crash at Heathrow in 1956 is also told, yet another example of the insider material to which he has access.

From a storytelling perspective it's 99% there, although there's just not quite enough of it for my taste - the narrative winds up with surprising speed, and another few thousand words strategically placed after the main incident (no spoilers here) and the switch to the present might have worked better for me. However, being intimately familiar with how fiction works, I was happy enough with the end result and will definitely read more by the author. Certainly good enough for five stars (and no, we don't share a publisher and I don't know James personally).
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jothla on 2 Jun. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a fairly good representation of the V-Force in the sixties. I was a Vulcan pilot at Waddington at the time and well remember the No 1 Group dinner, for instance. There are a few factual errors (eg there are no flaps on the Vulcan) but not many. It's a bit of a corny story and not written with great elegance or fluency. For those who remember the Cold War, the V-Force and QRA, the reading of this novel will be enhanced by a great feeling of nostalgia! I've enjoyed his other books more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael Bartlett on 14 May 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As an ex Vulcan Nav Radar from the early 70s I found the book full of vivid memories of things I was either aware of at the time or personally experienced. Although promoted as a novel this is is a book rooted in fact and as such deserves to be required reading for all those interested in the history of the RAF and its role as this country's nuclear deterrent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By B. Davies on 18 Sept. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read and enjoyed Empire of the Clouds, however, I found that while Under the Radar might be enjoyed by ex aircrews, it was a disappointment in certain areas. The author seems to have got all the technical aspects of the Vulcan aircraft from the flying point of view, but when it comes to the the general service of the Royal Air Force in the 60s, I found it lacking. Some examples, the Blue Steel was not a bomb but a stand off missile, there was no such term as a "munitions dump" on a bomber airfield during the 60s, it was a bomb dump for conventional weapons and an SSA (Supplementary Storage Area) for nuclear weapons. Also, whilst he has captured the excitement of a QRA alert from the aircrew point of view, he has totally neglected to mention the work of the ground crews to get and keep the aircraft serviceable. Equally, I'd be amazed if a crew chief after seeing off the aircraft, disappeared into the Warrant Officer & Sgt's Mess so readily! One last thing, the TASF in Malta was not run by "local" people but staffed equally by RAF technicians, SNCO's and officers.

I looked forward to this novel and while I acknowledge that it is work of fiction, the research into the state of the RAF at the time cannot be faulted. As someone who served during this period it brought back vivid memories, I just wish the author had been a little more accurate in some respects.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By aurora on 7 Jun. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had enjoyed the book 'Empire of the Clouds" so I also bought this book. I think it works better as an account of flying than in the development of the characters and plot.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By George Fletcher on 26 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you are ex RAF and want to wallow in a reminiscence-fest about the good old Cold War days, then this book is for you. It follows a crew wrestling with just about everything that can be wrestled - their role, their responsibilities, their place in the world, and in one case, his sexuality.

From the cover notes I was expecting a thriller, and although there is a plot in there somewhere, it takes second place to the reminiscing. Just when you expect it to flare up, it doesn't, and eventually it just fizzles out.

Some of the book is interesting, but probably only to people who are or were in the RAF. For the rest of us, it's not the pot boiling page turner I'd hoped for. I did learn a bit about Britain's nuclear strike capability in the 1960s though, so I did get something out of it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By ghostrider78 on 23 Jun. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a military aviation enthusiast, and have read many books on the subject. All in all I found this a decent read, however not one of my favourites. The book started really well, and initially I found it hard to put down, it however drifted away from the main subject in order to concentrate on the main character's love life, and far from subtle connotations about his sexuality, which I felt did nothing for the overall story. The book then returned to the subject of flying, and just as it was becoming interesting, and hard to put down again, with a number of threads of the story coming together nicely, it seemed to end all too abruptly. I felt that the author had set the scene well, for a great ending, to which I was looking forward, with anticipation, but then tried to finish it, in a rush, without fully doing the story justice. He then turned the clock forward, some 40 years, at which point I was anticipating a twist in the tail, however it never materialised. As I say a decent enough read, but one which left me feeling, a little, unfulfilled and frustrated.
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