Goodbye, Mickey Mouse by Len Deighton (1982)

The throttle was against the fire wall; emergency power. Dive steeper, and steeper still. The white airspeed needle chased round the clock. Faster – 350, 400, 450 – the white needle caught up with the slower red danger line and Farebrother knew that his airframe was in jeopardy as he used all his strength to pull at the stick. Both hands couldn’t hold it still. He braced his feet and pulled so hard that he expected the column to break in his hands. He could feel a dull pain in his belly, his legs were as heavy as lead. There was an insupportable pressure on his head, forcing him down into his seat until he thought his spine would snap. His vision clouded and darkened as the centrifugal effect drained the blood from his brain. He felt the airframe shaking; just a vibration at first and then a pounding, now it was jolting him about in his seat as the wings tried, and failed, to deflect the engine from its chosen trajectory towards the earth. He looked out and saw his wings flapping as if to break off. (p.338)

It is December 1943. A new flyer, Jamie Farebrother, joins the American 220th Fighter Group, based in windy East Anglia, flying P51s (‘Mustangs’) as cover to protect the US heavy bombers raiding Germany almost daily. He falls in love with a pukka local English girl. We meet a cross-section of the other pilots, officers and admin staff at the base, the flyer’s well-placed dad, his girlfriend’s posh Cambridge parents etc, and slowly get to know them, their hopes and fears etc as the novel follows them all over the next six months or so into spring 1944.

Factual research

There’s no doubting the book’s earnestness. It is 433 pages long. It has a three-page acknowledgements section which says it was six or more years in the researching and writing, and goes on to thank 20 US pilots and veterans, six US veterans’ newsletters, half a dozen British veterans, three WWII writers, two British newsletters, the Imperial War Museum and its experts, four more US fighter generals and colonels, as well as press officers from British government departments and local government archivists, historians of Cambridge, and a professor from Guy’s hospital who, presumably, checked information about wounds. The book is backed up by and displays in abundance Deighton’s awesome knowledge of the period, the men and the machines.

No questioning the breadth and depth of Deighton’s background knowledge and factual research.

Catch-22

But the trouble with any novel about the US air campaign in Europe is that Joseph Heller wrote one of the greatest novels of all time – Catch-22 (1961) – about the same subject, a novel which took writing about war into a whole new territory of demented satire, creating an entirely new prose style to convey the mad (il)logic of wartime (dis)organisation and attitudes.

Any rival treatment of the subject tends to look tame by comparison. (I had the same feeling about the movie Memphis Belle (1990), full of good intentions to tell us about the futility of war, but doing so via a collection of entirely predictable American stereotypes and so dull and predictable.)

If the similar (but not the same – Catch-22 is about bombers, Goodbye, Mickey Mouse about their fighter escorts) subject matter hadn’t reminded me of the comparison, Deighton almost forces the issue by using the same structure as Heller, to wit, naming each chapter after a character in the story, so that we jump between episodes focusing on the named person, slowly building up a kaleidoscopic group portrait of them all.

  • Captain James (Jamie) A. Farebrother – clean-cut all-American boy, newest member of the squadron, pilot of Kibitzer, son of…
  • Colonel (then General) Alexander J. Bohnen – hard-case, very successful businessman, mover and shaker, divorced Jamie’s mother who remarried (hence his different surname)
  • Victoria Cooper – on their second date she sleeps with Jamie Farebrother. Is that how posh English women behaved in 1943?
  • Lieutenant Z.M. Morse aka Mickey Morse aka MM – smooth-talking pilot, commander A Flight (four Mustangs), pilot of Mickey Mouse II, falls in love with already-married Brit Vera Hardcastle, star-crossed affair which precipitates disaster
  • Winston – his dog
  • Vince Madigan – squadron Press Officer, opera fan and classic horny Yank, boastful of his countless girlfriends
  • Colonel Dan Beaver – head of the squadron, pilot of Pilgrim
  • Major Kevin Phelan – likeable Group Operations Officer
  • Major Tucker – squadron commander, a ‘tense thirty-something West Pointer’, who learns to lighten up during the novel
  • Boogie Bozzelli – Italian, plays the piano at parties and in the mess, shot down early on
  • Earl Koenige – strapping blonde farmer’s boy, pilot of Happy Daze, shot down
  • Rube Wein – dark-haired, intense, rumoured to be studying for a PhD, pilot of Daniel, runs out of gas and turns back to bail out over Holland; never heard of again
  • Sergeant Gill, crew chief

War

Needless to say, coming from the author of Fighter (Deighton’s compelling history of the Battle of Britain) and backed by Deighton’s trademark research and microscopic attention to detail, the novel convincingly portrays every aspect of life on the windswept East Anglian airbase: all the equipment, the organisation, the ranks and duties, the American slang and jokes and pass-times, and of course everything about the planes and the experience of flying them, the discomfort, the faulty cockpit heaters, the kick as the machine guns start firing, the change in tone as the planes taxi from smooth tarmac to squares of concrete, everything is powerfully and persuasively imagined, you really are there.

And then there are the descriptions of aerial combat – not many of them, maybe four in total – but what there is, is thrilling and totally believable, edge-of-your-seat stuff (see opening quote).

Love and psychology

What is surprising is the extent to which the plot is not about the war. Obviously it is the dominating backdrop, but the text is mostly about the relationships between a dozen or so key officers on the base, their jostling rivalries and animosities and tremendous camaraderie, and with the love affairs of the two women, Victoria Cooper and Vera Hardcastle, surprisingly central to the plot.

1. Romantic love There have been women in Deighton’s previous novels (obviously), but I think this is the first one to so prominently feature not one but two love affairs.

Posh, tall, Cambridge-educated Victoria Cooper and handsome Yank Jamie Farebrother 1) are introduced by a mutual friend at a restaurant, 2) then he takes her to a chaotic drunken party which she leaves early, takes a bath and is just taking her make-up off when there’s a knock on the door and it’s Jamie, who’s walked all the way to her house in the rain to apologise. She invites him in, they go to bed and that’s it, they’re an item, swiftly telling his estranged dad, the first star general, and her parents, a professor of psychology and his wife.

Meanwhile, the young, competitive flyer Lieutenant Morse, widely nicknamed Mickey Mouse, or MM, needing just a few more kills to become this top USAAF fighter ace, falls heavily for thirty-year-old Vera Hardcastle, preferring to repress the knowledge that she’s married (to a husband off fighting in Burma) and has also had flings with a number of Yank flyers before him, notably the squadron’s press officer, opera-loving Vince Madigan.

In describing these two love affairs running in parallel, Deighton, for the first time in his oeuvre, writes explicitly about the psychology of romantic love with, I think, questionable results.

He laughed. ‘I love you.’
‘I love you, Jamie. Let’s never quarrel again.’
‘Not ever. I promise.’
They were childish promises, but only childlike pledges are proper to the simple truth of love. (p.78)

I found it difficult to believe that both couples had gone from complete strangers to head-over-heels lovers in a matter of days. And then was very surprised that Deighton broke cover to fill whole sections about them with some pretty ordinary reflections on life and love and human nature etc.

2. Humdrum insights This is from a chapter named after Victoria’s father, Dr Bernard Cooper, giving his perspective on a family dinner Dr and Mrs C host for Victoria, Jamie and his father, the rough but loving one-star General Boehnen.

General Bohnen was a compulsive, if not to say obsessional, personality, conditioned by the business world in which he found the sort of peer-to-peer respect that such men need. But now his ‘duty’ had become a rationale for demanding too much from others, and far, far too much from his own limited emotional resources. Was there within him some deep-felt desire to sacrifice what he loved most – his son – upon the altar of war? And did the son, in some dreadful fashion, perceive it, as all sons instinctively share the mental states of their fathers? Bohnen loved his son, as every father must love his child, and the son could not respond with equal love, for that is the fundamental and tragic truth of human biology. For if children did love their parents with that same consuming passion, they would never leave home, and the world would end. (p.199)

It is not necessarily untrue, it just seems rather sweeping and obvious, a little trite (definition: ‘lacking originality or freshness’), and expressed in clichéd language: ‘the altar of war’.

‘It smells like spring,’ Cooper agreed. It was a day that brought to mind no end of schoolbook poems that extolled the power of nature awakened in slumbering earth and bud. And yet the arrival of the time for the seeding of the land brought also the inescapable reminder that, before Europe’s crops were gathered, there was to be a terrible bloodletting that would bring a harvest time of tears. (p.311)

‘A harvest time of tears’. This is laughably bad, isn’t it? Both these passages come in sections about the psychologist Dr Cooper. Are they meant to indicate that he is a doddery old geezer given to banal, threadbare platitudes, as prosey as Polonius? Or – bad thought – has Deighton created this preachy old man under the impression that he is a mouthpiece for profound and interesting insights into human nature and history? Because he really isn’t.

I was tempted to skip both the lovey-dovey and the ‘insights into human nature’ passages, but resisted and read through quite a few love sections that verged on a Mills-and-Boonish, breathlessly naivety – and several ‘Dr Cooper-lectures-about-parents-and-children’ passages, which I found pretty unconvincing. Cooper, it is claimed, studied with Freud and Adler in Vienna, but he shows no signs of sharing Freud’s profound and unsettling views of human nature, contenting himself with cosy truisms – for example, parents can sometimes be too protective of their children. Well, my mum could tell you that and she’s not a Cambridge professor of psychology.

3. Doubtful generalisations about gender And a lot of this ‘psychology’, and especially the writing around the two love affairs, is based on, or is made up of, very sweeping and not very persuasive generalisations about men and women.

‘She’s one of those women who get married for ever and ever. It wouldn’t make any difference what Reg did or said, or whom she met – she would always be Mrs Reg Hardcastle till death do them part. Some women are like that.’ (.244)

Aren’t men extraordinary, she thought; even the most dedicated lecher could be made uncomfortable by such casual references to his sex life. (p.246)

It made no great demand on her feminine intuition to discern when men were speaking heartfelt truths and when they were wishing for things that were evidently not so. (p.250)

I think generalisations like this are supposed to have you nodding in agreement and thinking, ‘Yes, that’s so true’, but for me they had a repelling effect, working against my absorption in the story, leaving me standing outside it. Don’t know whether it’s just me, or whether 33 years later, our culture is less tolerant of sweeping generalisations about gender.

The plot

So, everything about the base, its men, the planes and the combat totally convincing – everything about the love affairs and the father-and-son plotline about General Boehnen and Jamie, not so convincing.

But what actually happens? Well, the men fly their missions, each time losing one or so of their number, arriving back sweaty, dirty and stressed to spend the time between flights arguing, drinking, attending dances at the social club, bickering about paperwork and office politics and worrying about their planes.

Powerful as this all is, much of it feels like a backdrop to the evolution of Jamie and Victoria’s love affair – for example the longish chapter where Victoria takes Jamie off for a ‘break’ to a windswept cottage in rural Wales, or Jamie’s first dinner party with Victoria’s parents, or a sequel dinner party with Jamie’s parents and the general invited along, with the general and Dr Cooper becoming unexpected pals and swapping thoughts about parenthood.

There is a sub-plot about an old pal of Jamie’s, Captain Stigg, who flies bombers and we meet at a meal with Jamie, Victoria and one of his crew at a London restaurant and dance hall. The crew member leaves the completely drunk Stigg in the lobby to come back and warn Jamie that his pal’s nerve is breaking, he can barely manage to handle the flights any more. And then, 100 pages or so later, a chapter consists solely of the letter the crew member sends Jamie telling him that Stigg has killed himself, detailing the request to fly one more mission which pushed him over the edge. The novel is made up of multiple threads like this, weaving in and out and resurfacing hundreds of pages later, with great skill on Deighton’s part and great enjoyment for the reader. The longer it went on, the more I became drawn into this world of young men asked to place themselves in mortal danger on a daily basis.

Towards the end of the book a lot of time is spent unpacking a plotline wherein Lieutenant Morse (MM) is about to become the fighter pilot with the most kills in the USAAF, and Madigan, the press officer is lining him up for big coverage in the media – until word gets out to General Boehnen that MM is sleeping with the wife of a British soldier serving overseas (ie Vera). Ooh bad. The general immediately grasps that the Top Air Ace story – which would certainly make lots of newspapers in the States and Britain – risks turning into the ‘Top Air Ace Screwing British Soldier’s Wife’ story, which could seriously damage troop morale, and even effect relations between the Allies in the run-up to the invasion of the Continent which everyone knows is coming that year.

So the general strong-arms both MM’s boss, Colonel Dan, and Madigan’s boss, the Group Head of Press & Publicity, to have MM grounded, pending being shipped off somewhere obscure and out of the way. Colonel Dan, reluctantly, because he knows how much flying means to him, tells MM he’s grounded and MM understandably is livid. Over the next few pages Colonel Dan and his Exec are shown cooking up ways to circumvent the ban, when the whole storyline is completely overtaken and eclipsed by ‘Bad Monday’, the subject of the last 40 pages or so and the climax of the novel which draws the whole narrative to a close. On that day:

1) Press Officer Madigan is torn away from a busy morning shepherding journalists round the base by an urgent, life-or-death phone call from Vera. On getting to her house he is disconcerted to find the much-talked-about husband, Reg, has returned from the war in Burma and somehow discovered his wife was having an affair with a Yank. Vera used an old photograph she had of Madigan to persuade the husband that the press officer is her lover (thus concealing the identity of her real lover, MM – and saving his life). Now Madigan is horrified to learn that Reg has murdered Vera, stabbing her to death with a kitchen knife, before he pulls out a revolver and, despite Madigan’s pleas, shoots him dead.

2) As it is taking off, one of Jamie’s Mustang’s tyres explodes, the plane slews to the side, the wing tip hits the ground, and the nose is forced inwards. Jamie is pinned against his seat by half a ton of steel, unconscious and hemorrhaging.

3) News comes in that the popular Group Leader, Colonel Dan, was killed instantly on that day’s mission, colliding in mid-air with a Messerchmitt.

In his absence the Group Exec, Colonel Scroll, takes charge, having Jamie carefully extracted from the plane by the rescue crew, supervised by the group doctor, and phoning Jamie’s dad, General Boehnen, who immediately flies in. Despite their best efforts Jamie dies of his injuries. Victoria is at home with her father when a police detective arrives to tell her Vera has been murdered and to ask her to identify Madigan. And we know, though we don’t see it, that soon afterwards she will learn that her lover, Jamie, and the father of her child (for she has just discovered she is pregnant) is dead.

As I knew it would be from the moment I picked up the book, the end is guttingly sad.

Epilogue

The novel has a prologue and an epilogue (anticipating the Spielberg movie Saving Private Ryan) in which a coachload of USAAF veterans has returned to the now-abandoned airfield in 1982. In the opening pages we see one particular couple consisting of an English-speaking woman and her husband walking to the perimeter fence. Now, in the epilogue, we learn, to our surprise, that they are Victoria and MM. MM broke the news to her that Farebrother was dead, saw some more of her, and proposed to her, adopting Jamie’s yet-unborn son as his own. Do I believe this? All through the book he had been madly in love with Vera; even more prominently, Victoria had been truly, madly, deeply in love with Jamie. Maybe I am meant to be moved that the depth of their passions and the intensity of their lives required an outlet, a coming-together, and moved that they name their little boy Jamie after his dead father…

A final conversation with one of the other veterans lets us know what became of the American characters we’ve met in the book, most of whom survive, flourish and prosper in the way Americans do.


Bernàrd

General Boehnen pronounces Dr Cooper’s first name the American way, emphasising the second syllable – Bernàrd. This would be a trivial detail, were it not that the next nine novels Deighton was to write feature his spy protagonist, Bernard Samson, and his American boss, Bret Rensellaer, pronounces his name the American way (Mexico Set p.150).

Related links

Paperback cover of Goodbye, Mickey Mouse

Paperback cover of Goodbye, Mickey Mouse

Len Deighton’s novels

1962 The IPCRESS File Through the thickets of bureaucracy and confusing misinformation which surround him, an unnamed British intelligence agent discovers that his boss, Dalby, is in cahoots with a racketeer who kidnaps and brainwashes British scientists.
1963 Horse Under Water Perplexing plot which is initially about diving into a wrecked U-boat off the Portuguese coast for Nazi counterfeit money, then changes into the exposure of an illegal heroin manufacturing operation, then touches on a top secret technology which can change ice to water instantly (ie useful for firing missiles from submarines under Arctic ice) and finally turns out to be about a list – the Weiss List – of powerful British people who offered to help run a Nazi government when the Germans invaded, and who are now being blackmailed. After numerous adventures, the Unnamed Narrator retrieves the list and consigns it to the Intelligence archive.
1964 Funeral in Berlin The Unnamed Narrator is in charge of smuggling a Russian scientist through the Berlin Wall, all managed by a Berlin middle-man Johnnie Vulkan who turns out to be a crook only interested in getting fake identity papers to claim the fortune of a long-dead concentration camp victim. The Russians double-cross the British by not smuggling the scientist; Vulkan double-crosses the British by selling the (non-existent) scientist on to Israeli Intelligence; the Narrator double-crosses the Israelis by giving them the corpse of Vulkan (who he has killed) instead of the scientist; and is himself almost double-crossed by a Home Office official who tries to assassinate him in the closing scenes, in order to retrieve the valuable documents. But our Teflon hero survives and laughs it all off with his boss.
1966 Billion-Dollar Brain The Unnamed Narrator is recruited into a potty organisation funded by an American billionaire, General Midwinter, and dedicated to overthrowing the Soviet Union. A character from Funeral In Berlin, Harvey Newbegin, inducts him into the organisation and shows him the Brain, the vast computer which is running everything, before absconding with loot and information, and then meeting a sticky end in Leningrad.
1967 An Expensive Place to Die A new departure, abandoning all the characters and much of the style of the first four novels for a more straightforward account of a secret agent in Paris who gets involved with a Monsieur Datt and his clinic-cum-brothel. After many diversions, including an induced LSD trip, he is ordered to hand over US nuclear secrets to a Chinese scientist, with a view to emphasising to the Chinese just how destructive a nuclear war would be and therefore discouraging them from even contemplating one.
1968 Only When I Larf Another departure, this is a comedy following the adventures of three con artists, Silas, Bob and Liz and their shifting, larky relationships as they manage (or fail) to pull off large-scale stings in New York, London and the Middle East.
1970 Bomber A drastic change of direction for Deighton, dropping spies and comedy to focus on 24 hours in the lives of British and German airmen, soldiers and civilians involved in a massive bombing raid on the Ruhr valley. 550 pages, enormous cast, documentary prose, terrifying death and destruction – a really devastating indictment of the horrors of war.
1971 Declarations of War Thirteen short stories, all about wars, mainly the first and second world wars, with a few detours to Vietnam, the American Civil war and Hannibal crossing the Alps. Three or four genuinely powerful ones.
1972 Close-Up Odd departure into Jackie Collins territory describing the trials and tribulations of fictional movie star Marshall Stone as he betrays his wife and early lovers to ‘make it’ in tinseltown, and the plight he currently finds himself in: embroiled in a loss-making production and under pressure from the scheming studio head to sign a lucrative but career-threatening TV deal.
1974 Spy Story The Unnamed Narrator of the Ipcress spy novels returns, in much tamer prose, to describe how, after escaping from the ‘Service’ to a steady job in a MoD war games unit, he is dragged back into ‘active service’ via a conspiracy of rogue right-wingers to help a Soviet Admiral defect. Our man nearly gets shot by the right-wingers and killed by Russians in the Arctic, before realising the whole thing was an elaborate scam by his old boss, Dawlish, and his new boss, the American marine General Schlegel, to scupper German reunification talks.
1975 Yesterday’s Spy Another first-person spy story wherein a different agent – though also working for the American Colonel Schlegel, introduced in Spy Story – is persuaded to spy on Steve Champion, the man who ran a successful spy ring in Nazi-occupied France, who recruited him to the agency and who saved his life back during the war. Via old contacts the narrator realises Champion is active again, but working for Arabs who are planning some kind of attack on Israel and which the narrator must foil.
1976 Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Spy (aka Catch a Falling Spy) The narrator and his CIA partner manage the defection of a Soviet scientist, only for a string of murder attempts and investigations to reveal that a senior US official they know is in fact a KGB agent, leading to a messy shootout at Washington airport, and then to an unlikely showdown in the Algerian desert.
1977 Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain Abandoning fiction altogether, Deighton published this comprehensive, in-depth and compelling history, lavishly illustrated with photos and technical diagrams of the famous planes involved.
1978 SS-GB A storming return to fiction with a gripping alternative history thriller in which the Germans succeeded in invading and conquering England in 1941. We follow a senior detective at Scotland Yard, Douglas Archer, living in defeated dingy London, coping with his new Nazi superiors, and solving a murder mystery which unravels to reveal not one but several enormous conspiracies.
1979 Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk Another factual history of WWII: Deighton moves quickly over Hitler’s rise to power and the diplomatic bullying of the 1930s, to arrive at the core of the book: an analysis of the precise meaning of ‘Blitzkrieg’, complete with detailed notes on all the weapons, tanks, artillery and hardware involved, as well as the evolution of German strategic thinking; and then its application in the crucial battle for the river Meuse which determined the May 1940 Battle for France.
1980 Battle of Britain
1981 XPD SIS agent Boyd Stuart is one of about 20 characters caught up in the quest for the ‘Hitler Minutes’, records of a top secret meeting between Hitler and Churchill in May 1940 in which the latter was (shockingly) on the verge of capitulating, and which were ‘liberated’ by US soldiers, along with a load of Nazi gold, at the very end of the war. Convoluted, intermittently fascinating and sometimes moving, but not very gripping.
1982 Goodbye, Mickey Mouse Six months in the life of the 220th Fighter Group, an American Air Force group flying Mustangs in support of heavy bombers, based in East Anglia, from winter 1943 through spring 1944, as we get to know 20 or so officers and men, as well as the two women at the centre of the two ill-fated love affairs which dominate the story.
1983 Berlin Game First of the Bernard Samson spy novels in which this forty-something British Intelligence agent uses his detailed knowledge of Berlin and its spy networks to ascertain who is the high-level mole within his Department. With devastating consequences.
1984 Mexico Set Second of the first Bernard Samson trilogy (there are three trilogies ie 9 Samson books), in which our hero manages the defection of KGB agent Erich Stinnes from Mexico City, despite KGB attempts to frame him for the murder of one of his own operatives and a German businessman. All that is designed to make Bernard defect East and were probably masterminded by his traitor wife, Fiona.
1985 London Match Third of the first Bernard Samson spy trilogy in which a series of clues – not least information from the defector Erich Stinnes who was the central figure of the previous novel – suggest to Samson that there is another KGB mole in the Department – and all the evidence points towards smooth-talking American, Bret Rensselaer.
1987 Winter An epic (ie very long and dense) fictionalised account of German history from 1900 to 1945, focusing on the two Winter brothers, Peter and Paul, along with a large supporting cast of wives, friends, colleagues and enemies, following their fortunes through the Great War, the Weimar years, the rise of Hitler and on into the ruinous Second World War. It provides vital background information about nearly all of the characters who appear in the Bernard Samson novels, so is really part of that series.
1988 Spy Hook First of the second trilogy of Bernard Samson spy novels in which Bernie slowly uncovers what he thinks is a secret slush fund of millions run by his defector wife with Bret Rensaeller (thought to be dead, but who turns up recuperating in a California ranch). The plot involves reacquaintance with familiar characters like Werner Volkmann, Frau Lisl (and her sister), old Frank Harrington, tricky Dicky Cruyer, Bernie’s 23-year-old girlfriend Gloria Kent, and so on.
1989 Spy Line Through a typically tangled web of incidents and conversations Samson’s suspicions are confirmed: his wife is a double agent, she has been working for us all along, she only pretended to defect to the East. After numerous encounters with various old friends of his father and retired agents, Samson finds himself swept up in the brutal, bloody plan to secure Fiona’s escape from the East.
1990 Spy Sinker In the third of the second trilogy of Samson novels, Deighton switches from a first-person narrative by Samson himself, to an objective third-person narrator and systematically retells the entire sequence of events portrayed in the previous five Samson novels from an external point of view, shedding new and sometimes devastating light on almost everything we’ve read. The final impression is of a harrowing world where everyone is deceiving everyone else, on multiple levels.
1991 MAMista A complete departure from the Cold War and even from Europe. Australian doctor and ex-Vietnam War veteran Ralph Lucas finds himself caught up with Marxist guerrillas fighting the ruling government in the (fictional) South American country of Spanish Guiana and, after various violent escapades, inveigled into joining the long, gruelling and futile trek through the nightmareish jungle which dominates the second half of the novel.
1992 City of Gold A complex web of storylines set in wartime Cairo, as the city is threatened by Rommel’s advancing Afrika Korps forces in 1942. We meet crooks, gangsters, spies, émigrés, soldiers, detectives, nurses, deserters and heroes as they get caught up in gun smuggling, black marketeering and much more, in trying to track down the elusive ‘Rommel spy’ and, oh yes, fighting the Germans.
1993 Violent Ward Very entertaining, boisterous first-person narrative by Los Angeles shyster lawyer Mickey Murphy who gets bought out by his biggest client, menacing billionaire Zach Petrovitch, only to find himself caught up in Big Pete’s complex criminal activities and turbulent personal life. The novel comes to a climax against the violent backdrop of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in April 1992.
1993 Blood, Tears and Folly: An Objective Look at World War II
1994 Faith Return to Bernard Samson, the 40-something SIS agent, and the world of his friends and family, familiar to us from the previous six Samson novels. Most of the characters (and readers) are still reeling from the bloody shootout when his wife returned from her undercover mission to East Germany at the climax of the previous novel. This book re-acquaints us with all the well-loved characters from the previous stories, in a plot ostensibly about smuggling a KGB colonel out from the East, but is really about who knows the truth – and who is trying to cover up – the real cause of the Fiona-escape debacle.
1995 Hope 40-something SIS agent Bernard Samson continues trying to get to the bottom of the death of his sister-in-law, Tessa Kosinski and is soon on the trail of her husband, George, who has gone missing back in his native Poland.
1996 Charity Ninth and final Bernard Samson novel in which it takes Bernard 300 pages to piece together the mystery which we readers learned all about in the sixth novel of the series, ie that the plot to murder Fiona’s sister, Tessa, was concocted by Silas Gaunt. Silas commissioned Jim Prettyman to be the middle-man and instructed him to murder the actual assassin, Thurkettle. Now that is is openly acknowledged by the Department’s senior staff, the most striking thing about the whole event – its sheer amateurish cack-handedness – is dismissed by one and all as being due to Gaunt’s (conveniently sudden) mental illness. As for family affairs: It is Bret who ends up marrying Bernard’s one-time lover, the glamorous Gloria; Bernard is finally promised the job of running the Berlin Office, which everyone has always said he should have: and the novel ends with a promise of reconciliation with his beautiful, high-flying and loving wife, Fiona.

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