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A Good Clean Fight [Format Kindle]

Derek Robinson

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North Africa, 1942. Dust, heat, thirst, flies. Nothing here to harm but the sand, the enemy and yourself. A good clean fight, for those who like that sort of thing, and some do. From an advanced landing field, striking hard and escaping fast, our old friends from Fanny Barton's Hornet Squadron (Piece of Cake) play Russian roulette, flying their clapped-out Tomahawks on ground-strafing forays. On the ground, the men of Captain Lampard's S.A.S. patrol drive hundreds of miles behind enemy lines to plant bombs on German aircraft. This is the story of the desert war waged by the men of the R.A.F. and S.A.S. versus the Luftwaffe and the Afrika Korps, a war of no glamour and few heroes in a setting often more lethal than the enemy. A follow up to Piece of Cake, A Good Clean Fight brings the desert war to life in Robinson's inimitable style. And as ever when military intelligence is involved, intrigue and idiocy go hand in hand.

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Amazon.com: 4.4 étoiles sur 5  31 commentaires
14 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Almost a Really Great War Novel 11 mai 2003
Par R. A Forczyk - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Derek Robinson's novel, A Good Clean Fight, follows the remaining characters from his earlier Piece of Cake to the North African Desert in May 1942. As in previous Robinson novels, much of the focus is upon the fictional "Hornet Squadron," now led by "Fanny" Barton and equipped with P-40 "Tomahawks." The pilot "Pip" Patterson, the squadron adjutant "Uncle" Kellaway and the intelligence officer "Skull" Skelton are also on hand. However unlike other Robinson novels that focus mainly on life within the squadron, A Good Clean Fight has substantial roles for the Germans and for a British ground unit. Captain Jack Lampard is a British Special Air Service (SAS) officer who leads daring behind-the-lines raids on German airfields and Major Paul Schramm is a German intelligence officer tasked with finding and defeating the SAS raiders. There are also a number of other SAS and German supporting characters that add depth to Lampard's and Schramm's roles. A Good Clean Fight also has considerably more combat action than any other Robinson novels and the book crackles along at a very good pace. Indeed, the novel starts off very well and could have been a truly great war novel if Robinson had not allowed himself to get distracted with several unnecessary sub-plots in the middle of his work. Nevertheless, A Good Clean Fight is very good and probably one of Robinson's finest efforts to date.
The main plot with "Hornet Squadron" in A Good Clean Fight focuses on efforts to entice the Luftwaffe fighters to come up and fight in the quiet period that preceded the Gazala Campaign. Barton, afraid that his hard-luck unit might be broken up, offers to conduct a systematic ground attack program in order to get the German fighters to commit to action (the Germans preferred to hold their fighters back in order to prepare for the main battle coming). In effect, Barton commits his unit to an attritional campaign that can have but one end for the squadron - whittling down pilots and aircraft in the hope that something will "break loose" before the unit is combat ineffective. Barton has changed somewhat since A Piece of Cake and is no longer very sympathetic; many readers might feel that he is sacrificing his unit for his own sake, but that is unfair. "Fanny's" efforts to "outfox" the enemy as he says, and "Skull's" pointed explanations of why this is unlikely are quite interesting. In the midst of this growing tension in the unit, Robinson delivers several excellent and exciting descriptions of air-ground attacks on assorted targets.
Lampard begins the novel with an exciting raid on a German airfield and even briefly captures the intelligence officer, Schramm. Robinson's depiction of these raids gives great insight not only into SAS tactics of the period, but the type of men who excelled in this type of work. Lampard in many respects is the SAS leader par excellence - aggressive, physically impressive, cunning and ultra-competent. Unfortunately, Lampard has some flaws which may not be uncommon in the special operations community: he is a "risk junkie" who doesn't know when to quit and he lies to superiors and subordinates in order to cover up his mistakes. Like Barton's attrition tactics, Lampard's "risk tactics" seem preordained to eventual catastrophe, of course, with much bravery along the way.
Schramm starts out as a very interesting, witty character but gradually withers into a sour, introverted, pathetic sort. While Schramm and his peers do provide some tension in the novel with their "cat and mouse" game with Lampard, one feels that the SAS are never seriously threatened by Luftwaffe intelligence. Indeed, the one German effort to send a large patrol out into the desert to ambush the in-coming SAS patrols ends up in total and ridiculous disaster. The worst parts of the novel involve Schraam's involvement with an Italian female doctor - this goes nowhere and means nothing. On the Allied side, the antics of two reporters is also quite distracting and useless. Were it not for these distracting minor characters - who somehow elbow out the main characters in midstream - A Good Clean Fight would have been nearly perfect.
As usual, Robinson's humor is very dry and very dark, and is certainly the most compelling aspect of his novels. Robinson is able to show both the bravery and the stupidity in war, as well as just the sheer misery of trying to fight in blast-furnace heat, covered with flies. In a historical sense, Robinson also delivers insight into neglected facets of the desert war, such as the "Takoradi" trail the Allies used to ferry planes across Africa and the German air raid on Chad to interdict the trail.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 "Ping-pong is not an Olympic sport" 30 octobre 2002
Par R. Sundquist - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche
Although A GOOD CLEAN FIGHT shares some characters in common with an earlier book, PIECE OF CAKE, and it's also about the fictional Hornet squadron, it's not a sequel in the traditional sense. A sequel implies a certain safety, the security of routine: Biggles, Sharpe, Hornblower. With Robinson's books there is no such thing as safety or security. The only thing predictable about this book is that it is just as riveting and blackly funny as any of his other novels.

There is a very large cast of characters occupying North Africa in the spring of 1942, in a lull between battles when the two armies, German and British, are eyeing each other across the desert and waiting for something to happen. Fanny Barton, leader of Hornet squadron and survivor of the Battle of Britain, needs to get some results or else he'll be taken off ops, reassigned to ferry brand-new airplanes across Africa. He hatches a plan to strafe German camps and ammo dumps, and whatever other targets he can lay his hands on, even if it means leading his squadron of clapped-out Tomahawks to the brink of destruction.

Jack Lampard, a captain in the SAS, has a similar motivation. He's the sort of man only suited to life during wartime; anything less than a life-or-death adventure -- preferably in the desert, with a good chance of having one's head blown off by a German sentry -- is not worth it. He leads commando raids on German airfields, driving his patrol through the desert, behind enemy lines, and striking at night. He gets results, but he also gets addicted to danger: his men can see that Lampard doesn't plan on coming back from their latest raid. An American reporter comes along for the ride, looking for a hero to sell his newspapers.

Paul Schramm is a Luftwaffe intelligence officer determined to find some way of combating the SAS raids. He's forty-four, walks with a limp, and knows he's no killer, but he's had a taste of action and he wants more. He struggles with these impulses: "War doesn't use brains. War replaces brains. There's no such thing as intelligent violence." Major Jakowski of the Afrika Korps comes up with a scheme of his own to outfox the SAS patrols, by leading a force into the desert to intercept them. The result is about as effective as Don Quixote tilting at windmills: "I expect they were up to no good, just like us," Lampard says, "The difference is we're rather better at it, aren't we?"

The characters are sketched in quick, deft strokes: you recognize them and empathize with them, even though they might only hang around for a few pages, even if they're not the sort of people you'd like to know. Dialogue is one of Robinson's strengths, and he is on top form here. He describes the desert with a remarkable intensity: flies, heat, sun, sand, flies, spectacular sunsets, dust, more flies; everything comes to life with a harsh vividness that is second only to the real thing. The action scenes are equally graphic, sparing no details. They are as emotionally gripping as they are thrilling.

Mr. Robinson has written some fantastic books. A GOOD CLEAN FIGHT is probably not his masterpiece, but it is the widest in scope and perhaps the most lucid in its depiction of the bravery, futility, and utter absurdity of war.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A Big, Fat Disappointment 19 novembre 2009
Par M. G Watson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
...and I don't say that lightly. I think Robinson's PIECE OF CAKE is flat-out one of the best books I've ever read, and as this book was billed as a sort-of sequel, I was all too eager to lay my mitts on it. Now I wish I hadn't bothered. Here's why.

CAKE It followed the lives of the men of the Royal Air Force's "Hornet Squadron" over a period of twelve months, from the outbreak of the war until the climax of the Battle of Britain. Because a lot of nothing happened during the first six months of World War II, we were able to get to know the pilots quite well, and thus, were emotionally invested in their fates, not to mention engrossed in how the strain of combat flying and command responsibility changed them. CAKE was many things - a great story, a beautifully written account of aerial battle, a superb, if not very flattering, psychological study of fighter pilots, and a supremely cynical and ironic look at the overglorified Battle of Britain. In short, it was a masterpeice, not in the least because it produced so many memorable characters - Moggy Cattermole, Lord Rex, CH3, Flash Gordon, Uncle Kellaway, Skull Skelton, et al - but in the main because it was a patient, oak-solid piece of storytelling.

A GOOD CLEAN FIGHT is a very different sort of book, and it is not a case of viva la difference. It is set in 1942, in the North African desert, about two years after the end of CAKE, and it involves four distinct storylines involving

1. Jack Lampard, an SAS commando who raids German airfields;
2. Paul Schramm, a Luftwaffe intel officer with a grudge against Lampard;
3. Fanny Barton, CO of Hornet Squadron, who is in danger of being grounded, because his squadron isn't racking up kills;
4. Henry Lester, an American reporter in Egypt looking for a scoop.

And herein lays the first problem. Robinson has too many stories to tell. This could have been a quite remarkable novel about the dirty side of a supposedly "clean" fight if he had just stuck to 1 and 2 - that is the cat-and-mouse struggle between the reckless glory-hound, Lampard, and the troubled cynic, Schramm. Because in fact, Robinson's depiction of how the SAS operated - not just technically, but psychologically - is masterful, as are his descriptions of the desert itself. I would have preferred Hornet Squadron not be included in the story at all, since its presence wasn't really necessary, and since Robinson doesn't handle it with anywhere near the aplomb or respect of CAKE. Firstly, though we get five characters from that book - Baggy Bletchley, Fanny Barton, Pip Patterson, Uncle Kellaway, and Skull Skelton - there is no real emotional connection with any of them, and certainly not with each other. Barton in particular has changed out of recognition, and Robinson makes no attempt to put us in his head and explain how he has transformed in two years from a conscientious leader into a near-total psychopath, one willing to see every one of his men killed just so he can stay the leader of Hornet. There's an odd, unpleasant coldness to the scenes with our old Hornet friends, a sense of a reunion nobody wanted or needed, that everyone wishes would end as quickly as possible and then be forgotten. For me, that was a huge disappointment. I'd always wanted to know what happened to these guys (and we never do find out what became of CH3 or Mother Cox, by the bye), but as I said before, now that I know, I wish I didn't. (I haven't felt such distaste with the way characters were handled in a sequel since HANNIBAL.) As for the Lester story, it was quite purely and simply unnecessary. Pointless bumf, as Rex would say.

The four-layered structure of the novel detracts from it in other ways. The "new" characters in Hornet, not having the time or space to become distinct from each other, take on the appearance of cannon-fodder. They are introduced and killed off as fast as the interchangable teenagers of a FRIDAY THE 13th movie, leaving no particular impression on the reader. Had Robinson devoted the whole book, or a separate book, to Hornet, these unfortunates might have had time to develop into the same type of hauntingly real people as CAKE's Fitz Fitzgerald or Squadron Leader Ramsay. Alas, no. Hornet is here, but the essence of Hornet is not. Furthermore, there are signs everywhere in the writing that Robinson was not trying his hardest, not bringing his "A" game to the typewriter. For example: in PIECE OF CAKE there is a character named Daddy Dalgliesh. In A GOOD CLEAN FIGHT there is a character named Pinky Dalgleish. In P.O.C. there is an American assigned to Hornet Squadron named Hart; in A.G.C.F. there is an American assigned to Hornet Squadron named Hooper. The character of Baggy Bletchley, who was killed in the previous book, shows up alive in this one - no explanation. Bits and pieces of squadron-room banter are recycled, and small errors are made which led me to believe Robinson didn't re-read PIECE OF CAKE before he started A GOOD CLEAN FIGHT. For example, Moggy Cattermole is mentioned having been killed by friendly fire, when in fact he was killed by Germans. Uncle Kellaway is described as disliking whiskey when in the previous book he fantasizes about drinking it at the end of a hard day. Fanny Barton is described as having black eyebrows when in fact he is platinum blond. I realize these things, individually, don't mean much, but collectively I found them jarring and annoying. I loved these characters, and I didn't want to see them carelessly handled. And anyone who doesn't think they were should re-read the "this is what happened to" bit at the end. Embarrassing.

I could go on, but you get the point. Having created the iconic Hornet Squadron, Robinson should have been very jealous of how, or even if, it should ever appear again. Instead, I was left with the feeling he just traded on its good name to deliver a "sequel" which is really nothing more than a depressing cameo appearance.
10 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Robinson's GOOD CLEAN FIGHT is a fantastic piece of work! 15 juin 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Derek Robinson scores a great hit with his A GOOD CLEAN FIGHT. Set amidst the shifting "ping-pong" war of 1942 North Africa, this story jumps between two groups of English soldiers. Robinson's econimical style is subtle and very stylish. His humor is dry and very real. His characters are beautfully done, and the action is both facinating and horrific. This is THE BEST World War II novel I have read.
5.0 étoiles sur 5 One of Derek robinson's best 19 novembre 2014
Par james e. roddy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
This is a great book. Derek Robinson is a favorite of mine for realistic wwI and wwIi aviation novels. The writing is clean and strong. The characters are deeply engaging and capture the power and poignancy of those who know they are likely to die very soon. They show the no-nonsense toughness of the best of noir characters. Great story and great story-telling.
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