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The Pilots

by James Spencer

In the dramatic tradition of Philip Caputo and Robert Stone, a remarkable story of men at war. 'Apart from sex, flying was the most exciting thing I'd run across in my twenty years on this planet." James Spencer flew B-24 bombers over New Guinea, Borneo, and the Philippines in 1944 and 1945, and it was only decades later that he began to write about it, combining the literal truth as he remembered it with imagination based on all that he'd seen and heard. The extraordinary result is The Pilots, a novel-in-stories about a group of young men, their comrades and girlfriends, as they evolve in often unpredictable ways: Blake Hurlingame and Steve Larkin, boyhood friends who take different paths into fighters and bombers; Doc, the flight surgeon, battling combat fatigue; Courtenay, the captain whose arrogant bluster masks hidden demons; and Addie, the woman who will leave her mark on them all. These are stories alive with the senses, filled with the smell of hot oil and burnt rubber; the sight of green jungle and backlit clouds like vast sculptured monuments; the feeling of a plane warming up, trembling like a bird eager to be in flight. Several excerpts have already appeared in magazines; now the entire work itself makes a wholly impressive debut.

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