#GuestPost Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story by Barbara Evans Kinnear

I’m delighted to welcome Barbara Evans Kinnear to What Cathy Read Next today to talk about Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story, her late father’s memoir which she co-authored.

The US Air Force celebrates its 75th anniversary on 18th September 2022 and 100% of the profits from the sales of Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story will be donated to the Air Force Aid Society, the official charity of the US Air Force which has been supporting Air Force members and their families since 1942.

You can find out more about Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story, including many wonderful photographs, on the book’s dedicated website. I can imagine the book – a true labour of love – making fascinating reading for anyone interested in military history, aviation or wartime memoirs.

Richard EagerAbout the Book

This is the story of how young Captain Richard Evans became the B-17 ‘Flying Fortress’ pilot for Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery, Commander of the British 8th Army, during missions throughout North Africa and Italy.

Told with humour and humility, Evans’ recollections of cadet training, combat missions and experiences with the ‘top brass’ provide a fascinating first-hand account of a World War II pilot in both the Mediterranean and Pacific theatres of operations.

Nicknamed for his over-eagerness as a cadet, “Richard Eager” shares his stories with great optimism for the future and poignant reflections on growing up.

Format: Paperback (508 pages) Publisher: Kieran Publishing Company
Publication date: 3rd July 2021 Genre: Nonfiction

Find Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story on Goodreads

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Guest Post – Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story by Barbara Evans Kinnear

Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story was published in the United States but the stories in it easily cross the Atlantic Ocean to be enjoyed by British people. Readers from both sides remember that military men and women from the US and the UK shared equally a determination to rid the world of the terror and destruction executed by the Axis countries.

November 11th 2022 is Veteran’s Day in the United States. I mention that date because another similar day, Armed Forces Day, is celebrated in the United Kingdom on June 24th 2023. These days are permanently set aside to remember the armed forces and their dedication to their countries. We not only remember the individuals, but we remember their stories.

It is said that many WWII military veterans do not and did not want to tell their war-torn accounts. We respect their concerns, their emotions, and their memories. But we have lost truths, real-life legends of bravery, tenacity, and history.

Colonel Richard E. Evans felt it was important to tell his story. Not because he was in it, but because his family, friends and fellow veterans were. He wrote a first-hand account of a young man coming of age just as the Second World War erupted. For Richard E. Evans, and for many other young men and women, this was a harrowing and life-changing time to be alive. In the service of their country, average citizens became professional soldiers and had experiences that movie producers can only dream about. As they performed their duties they met, served and protected illustrious and prominent leaders, who are today recognized in the pages of history, but they themselves are not.

Richard Eager PhotoDuring WWII Captain Richard E. Evans was an American B-17 ‘Flying Fortress’ pilot. He flew fifty-five combat missions and was chosen to fly Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery to wherever he needed to be throughout North Africa and Italy. Evans and ‘Monty’ travelled together during a particularly dangerous phase of the war. The Allied forces were just beginning to turn back the brutal Axis armies that had invaded North Africa and were trying to close in on Egypt in an effort to gain control of the strategically vital Suez Canal. Over the deserts of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, a rocky but honest and respectful friendship formed between the young American pilot and Field Marshal Montgomery, later to become 1st Viscount of Alamein.

Although Colonel Evans died without seeing his book in print, he believed he’d written stories filled with compassion, courage, humour, humility and history: poignant anecdotes of his early life in Tennessee, his US Army Air Corps training, his B-17 bombing missions over Africa, Italy and German-held parts of Europe, and, of course, enlightening accounts of his time spent with Monty on long flights and at Monty’s headquarters.

To provide greater context and colour to Colonel Evans’s experiences, I have included in the book much research and additional archival material, including:

  • a chronology of his life’s milestones
  • a glossary of war terms – many defined with his customary humour
  • primary sources – original family letters, Victory Mail, commendations and other documents – that shed light on his fears, reflections and important personal and professional relationships
  • photos from his childhood in Tennessee and his years in military service
  • maps illustrating the lands and seas over which he flew
  • an epilogue detailing his work after the WWII

So, dear reader, I hope as you peruse this post you will be encouraged to read Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story. As one reviewer has stated, “Most particularly this book shows us how many individual stories it takes to complete the story of WWII. You will remember this book and Richard Eager for a long time to come and be grateful that he was fighting on our side.”

#GuestPost Cold War Noir by M. Z. Urlocker

I’m delighted to welcome brothers Michael and Zack Urlocker, authors of The Man From Mittelwerk, to What Cathy Read Next today. It’s particularly special as it’s publication day of their debut novel. The Man From Mittelwerk is available to purchase now from Amazon.

So, as Michael says, “Sit down my friends, pour yourself a Scotch (or a cold, bitter cup of Joe) and let me take you on a tour of some of the Cold War noir novels and themes that influenced our book The Man from Mittelwerk“.

The Man From MittelwerkAbout the Book

1950. The Cold War simmers, and ex-GI Jack Waters is called in to investigate a fatal accident at a research lab in California.

When Waters recognizes the victim, he realizes he must revisit his hidden past in World War II to solve a murder and prevent Nazi scientists from creating a terrible, new weapon in America.

Blending noir detective fiction with post-WWII history, The Man from Mittelwerk builds from the facts of Operation Paperclip, the US government’s secret recruitment of 1,600 top Nazi scientists, to pose a dark what-if scenario.

Format: Paperback (362 pages)             Publisher: Inkshares
Publication date: 6th September 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Find The Man from Mittelwerk on Goodreads

Guest Post – Six Cold War Noir Novels You Will Love by M. Z. Urlocker

Cold War Noir

Growing up as teenagers in the 1970s my brother and I became fans of Cold War fiction before we even knew it was a genre. Our parents had original Pan paperback copies of Ian Fleming’s James Bond series that we read until the bindings dried out and the pages fell loose.

From Russia With LoveFrom Russia With Love stood out among Fleming’s work. Agent 007 doesn’t even make an appearance until a third of the way into the story, instead Fleming takes you behind the Iron Curtain in a detailed exploration of the dark operations of the MGB (precursor to the KGB) and SMERSH, Stalin’s counter-intelligence agency. Fleming wrote the book at the start of the Cold War, as Britain and the United States were coming to grips with a new, dangerous enemy. It was a new era, where the old rules no longer applied. It wasn’t the black and white world of earlier noir fiction or war novels, it was a world where you no longer knew who you could trust. Fleming isn’t always given his due as a writer but he opened the door for a broad range of Cold War novels which reflected the growing tension between East and West for decades.

Pulp Fiction

Early pulp noir is often built around a “lose lose” situation. Take a down-on-his luck protagonist, beaten by the world and paint him (or her) into a corner where there are only bad choices. Classic works by Ed McBain, Lawrence Block and Jim Thompson fit this bill; these are gritty books of terrible consequences.

The Dark TunnelOne of the best first novels is The Dark Tunnel (originally published in 1944 under the name Kenneth Millar) but later reissued under the more well-known pseudonym, Ross MacDonald. MacDonald was influenced by Raymond Chandler and John Buchan, but he puts his own twist on things. The book is set in the early days of WWII in a university town, not unlike Ann Arbor where MacDonald taught. It’s a fast-paced tale with protagonist Professor Robert Branch fighting for his life against a German spy conspiracy as well as petty crooks, rural rednecks, Union men and university politics. What makes the book especially tense is the conspiracy going on that’s bigger than Professor Branch realizes, and it just keeps getting darker. The pacing is a bit uneven compared to MacDonald’s later works but there’s a level of paranoia MacDonald never captured in his more famous Lew Archer PI series.

One Lonely NightConspiracy and paranoia are two themes that also come out in Mickey Spillane’s fourth Mike Hammer novel, One Lonely Night (1951). Hammer is a US government-trained killer from WWII trying to adapt to life stateside as a private investigator.

“Twice I looked in the mirror and saw me. I didn’t look like me at all. I used to be able to look at myself and grin without giving a damn how ugly it made me look. Now I was looking myself the same way those people did back there. I was looking at a big guy with an ugly reputation, a guy who had no earthly reason for existing in a decent, normal society.”

Hammer, an avowed anti-communist (as was Spillane) stumbles upon a communist conspiracy in New York, a conspiracy that goes to the highest levels and threatens the American way of life. Spillane captures the tension of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt. The larger-than-life conspiracy is a theme that emerges time and again in Cold War noir.

Gritty Realism

The Ipcress FileLen Deighton’s The Ipcress File (1962) is the definitive noir Cold War novel. Its unnamed hero was christened Harry Palmer and portrayed by Michael Caine in the 1965 adaptation and follow-on films. In this remarkable first novel, Deighton created the ultimate noir protagonist trying to survive in a system set against him. Palmer’s a street-smart working-class punter who is pulled into a game he cannot win. Assigned to track down a top military scientist who is being sold to the Soviets, Palmer is kidnapped, whisked behind the Iron Curtain and electronically brainwashed by Chinese captors. When he manages to escape, he finds a much more sinister interpretation that calls into question the nature of Cold War alliances. If you can’t trust your allies, who can you trust? Coming off the “special relationship” between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in WWII and the brainwashing of US troops by the Chinese in the Korean War, this was pretty shocking stuff.

The Spy Who Came In From The ColdJohn le Carré, pen-name for former intelligence officer David Cornwell, published his third novel The Spy Who Came In From The Cold in 1963 at the height of the Cold War. (My brother and I joke that virtually any novel set between 1957 and 2022 can be said to be “at the height of the Cold War” as global tensions continued to escalate.) The Spy Who Came In From the Cold became an immediate bestseller. Its protagonist, WW2 veteran Alec Leamas, takes on one last case in order to avenge the death of a colleague. It involves a descent into the underworld of working-class trade unions and local communist party reps in order to infiltrate East Germany and bring down his nemesis. As with the best noir fiction, Leamas succeeds, but pays the ultimate price.

Along with Deighton, le Carré redefined espionage, taking it from Fleming’s upper-class black and white world of playboys in casinos with exploding devices into the gritty world of spooks and petty criminals against a shifting landscape of grey where no one could be trusted. Le Carré’s later novels transcend the espionage genre. But the underpinnings are never far from the cold, bleak setting of his early books.

Devil in a Blue DressWalter Mosley’s first novel, Devil in the Blue Dress (1990), brought about a resurgence in the noir genre. His hard-boiled detective Easy Rawlins (who deserves an entire article to himself) like many noir protagonists before him, is a WWII veteran up against a system meant to keep him down. Rawlins, manages to survive and even win despite the institutional racial discrimination against him, a topic as relevant today as it was in the 1950s.

Modern Noir

The good news is there are many authors continuing to write modern takes on this important era. For example, Joseph Kanon (Leaving Berlin, The Berlin Exchange), Paul Vidich (The Coldest Warrior, The Matchmaker) and Dan Fesperman (The Double Game, Winter Work) have continued the tradition of putting tough men (and women) against the backdrop of hard choices in politically charged settings.

If you yearn for the classics, I can recommend the James Bond continuation novels by Anthony Horowitz as well as Max Allan Collins’ completions of unfinished manuscripts by Mickey Spillane. Both managed the tricky prospect of ‘honouring the canon’ while also besting their originators. I’d argue Complex 90 is the best Mike Hammer novel and A Mind to Kill is even better than From Russia With Love.

M Z UrlockerAbout the Authors

Twin brothers Michael Urlocker and Zack Urlocker write under the name M. Z. Urlocker.  The Man from Mittelwerk is their first novel. (Photo: Author website)

Connect with Michael and Zack
Website | Twitter | Goodreads