Got Derek Robinson’s novel ‘Piece of Cake’ recently s/h off amazon and just finished it. Amazing amazing book and really captures life on a RAF squadron in 1940 - Battle of France and the Battle of Britain.
The dialogue is extremely well written and comes across very authentic and sharp. Full of black humour and characters.
The author got a lot of flak when it came out for ‘tainting’ the heroes of the RAF - but the truth is actually even more impressive. He works in lots of historical detail that actually happened (Standard fighting attacks, no rear armour on early Hurris, shooting up Red Cross rescue aircraft and killing pilots who have baled out) and uses them to generate authentic dialogue of how pilots might have discussed these at the time.
Theres also a geniune feeling of loss in this book as major characters are introduced, background details are given, you empthaise with them, and then they are killed. There is no ‘safe’ character that you know at the begining will make it.
Finally the novel has some of the best descriptions of the sheer horror of air combat that I have read. In flying IL-2 I’ve been guilty as hell of this (virtually) and you read this from time to time in other books - as treating the enemy as a machine. Ie - you are aiming at the Me109 - rather than flesh and blood inside it.
However in Piece of Cake, Robinson examines in gruesome details what happens when a cannon shell goes through a cockpit, or you are trapped inside a aircraft ditching in the cold dark Channel and your canopy won’t open. Very sobering stuff and (even if you are aware of this) gives you a fresh perspective.