The Balloonist Paperback – 6 Nov 2014
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
About the Author
James Long is the author of non-fiction, historical fiction and thrillers. A former BBC correspondent, he lives in Bristol.
Customers who bought this item also bought
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
At the outbreak of war, Willy is travelling around Europe where, in Berlin, he meets Chester, an American journalist.
Anyone who has read Ferney will know that James Long is fascinated by the idea of lives that intertwine and become inextricably linked. In The Balloonist he takes the idea in a different direction and by a series of slightly improbable coincidences Willy repeatedly runs into Chester at important points in his war. Early on, Willy befriends Claude, a Belgian soldier, and their lives too become immeasurably entangled.
It's an extremely well researched book, but it wears that research lightly. Life in the trenches of the Ypres Salient is vividly recreated. The story of the balloon observers is one of the few of the period that remains largely untold. These unimaginably brave men would float, armed with only a flare, just behind the front lines directing the artillery. If the balloon came free of its moorings, the flare was to be fired into the hydrogen balloon above them to stop it falling into enemy hands. They were sitting ducks for incendiary bullets, exploding shells and aircraft attacks.
It's a ripping yarn, reminiscent of a John Buchan novel. It does end rather abruptly though - but if that means there is a sequel in the pipeline, then it's no bad thing.
Willy Fraser is a Byronic godlike Scot - much play is made over him NOT being English - who has the effortless ability to seduce colonels' wives and
queens, as well as teach himself the trumpet and photographic-quality drawing skills at the drop of a hat, as the plot requires from time to time. By being 'more seduced than seducer', the romantic and chivalrous hero retains his virtuous good-guy status long enough to be smitten by his one true love. We are led through an entertaining if improbable series of adventures and narrowly averted disasters, moving from Berlin to the Western Front in the company of various loyal sidekicks - an American journalist, a Belgian Army captain, the King of the Belgians, an English major, an Oxford-educated good German (he plays cricket) - and meet foes like Winston Churchill.
There is clearly an inflatable sequel on the way, as the book ends not so much on a cliffhanger, but on a 'to be continued' note as Willy is America-bound. As he has the (now revealed) Scots origins of James Bond (and indeed the faithful ghillie of the last film) and the charisma of Indiana Jones, perhaps he will reach Hollywood. I for one will follow him.
The hero in question is 'Wild' Willy Fraser, a cross between James Bond, Indiana Jones and some of Buchan's creations. His story is action-packed, and if one gets a slight feeling that perhaps the author has thrown in a co-incidence too many, it's soon forgiven as Willy is plunged into yet more high jinks and derring-do. The dialogue is as delicious as a quick snifter of Glenfarcas.
The book is more than simply Biggles goes Ballooning, however. It's thoroughly researched, and the author uses his skill to bring in real figures of the time along with the fictional characters. There's some excellent atmospheric writing to be enjoyed, too, in the descriptions of the Western Front: 'the broken brown walls of farmhouses stuck out of the sodden farmland like rotten teeth.'
I felt the story dragged very slightly in the middle section, and I was rather taken aback by the abrupt ending, which leaves many questions unanswered. I do hope this means there will be a sequel. I'd love to read it, and to see the film which is surely asking to be made!