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Monday 28 September 2020

‘Kittyhawk Down’ by Jonathan Nicholas

Published by The Book Guild Publishing,
28 June 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-91320856-1 (PB)

In 2012 a group of oil prosepctors came upon a strange sight in the Egyptian desert – a wrecked WWII plane with no sign of the pilot. The Kittyhawk’s numbers identified her as ET574, who went missing with her pilot, Dennis Copping, in June 1942. What had happened?

It’s a good start for a mystery. Nicholas gives the simple facts first, then the first three chapters tell the story of the discovery of the Kittyhawk, in novel style. After that the book moves to the first person, and Dennis Copping tells his own story, from his application to join the RAF in the autumn of 1940. We follow him through the initial training in England, then the actual flying in Libya and Egypt. The war in the desert’s going badly, with Rommel pushing forward. Nicholas, through his narrator, takes us there: the sand, the latrines, basic accomodation, with the men clinging to security in the form of the beds being in the same place in the tent every time they move; the monotonous food, the terrifying flights, the occasional disaster, like where one pilot and a number of soldiers are killed in what turns out to have been a raid on one of their own anti-aircraft posts. We feel the increasing pressure as ordinary men struggle to cope with the extraordinary.

However ... though it’s a cracking good read, and although the book is marketed as a mystery, and the whole look of the book reinforces that, with a photo of the downed Kittyhawk on the cover and an intriguing sub-title, the focus of the book is a vividly written account of the pilots’ life in the desert. WWII enthusiasts or flying enthusiasts will love it.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Jonathan Nicholas has been a professional writer since 2011 when he had a regular column in Police Review magazine and with the publication of his first book 'Hospital Beat'. He has been a full-time author since retiring from the police in 2014. A lifelong aviation enthusiast, he became a glider pilot in 1977 with the Air Cadets and obtained a Private Pilot's Licence in 1978. He is based in Nottingham. --This text refers to the paperback edition.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

 Click on the title to read a review of her recent book Death on a Shetland Isle

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