Reviews

Just Another Trip
Martin Whittle
AuthorHouse UK, 375 pages,
(paperback), $24.34, 9781504943147
(Reviewed: October, 2015)

This story concerns men who, in the words of one character, fly “night after night to targets we can’t see for reasons we don’t know.” Martin Whittle’s WWII novel is about the crew of a Lancaster bomber, dubbed M-Mother, during the ill-fated, controversial, British Bomber Command campaign to destroy Berlin from the air.

Nietzsche warned us, “If you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also back into you.” Whittle brilliantly describes this sort of hell, in which young men fly in total darkness until searchlights blind them or cities afire, night fighters, flak or exploding aircraft light up the sky. What it does to their bodies, minds and spirits is the subject of the story, which is told mostly from pilot Matt White’s point of view.

As the book begins, in August, 1943, White is solid, calm, outwardly unshakable and confident. The author portrays him in a near matter-of-fact style. The crew goes through missions, and in the calm between horrors, they meet women, fall in love, complain, and above all else, drink. As they chalk up operations, they lose friend after friend, and the abyss begins to change all of them, including White.

The narrative style parallels these developments, shifting as the story progresses from a straightforward telling to one drenched with emotion. Readers are slowly drawn in, wondering who will crack up, who will die, who will survive. A healthy sprinkling of Britslang — words and phrases such as “whilst,” “crumpet,” “steady on,” “jug of wallop,” “bloody parky out here” — lend atmosphere and authenticity to the tale.

Subtle, incisive and psychologically oriented, this is a fine book portraying, as the back cover notes, “the stark distinction between the raw brutality of the operations and the relative tranquility of the intervals in between.” It will be enjoyed by WWII buffs — or anyone else simply looking for an engrossing story.

Also available as an ebook.

BlueInk Heads-Up: Highly recommended for historians, WWII aviation buffs, and Anglophiles, who will appreciate the liberal seasoning of vintage British slang. Note to American readers: The book uses British-style punctuation, including single quote marks in dialogue.


JUST ANOTHER TRIP
Martin Whittle
AuthorHouseUK (382 pp.)
$24.34 paperback, $4.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1-50-494314-7; May 28, 2015

Whittle’s first novel is a stark chronicle of the physical, emotional, and psychological toll the Battle of Berlin took on airmen and their loved ones.

From August to December 1943, the seven-man crew of Lancaster bomber M-Mother fly sortie after sortie into Germany. As their nerves and sanities slowly erode while fellow airmen are killed or wounded, the soldiers cling to whatever shreds of normality they can salvage from downtime. The story begins halfway through the crew’s 30-mission tour and alternates between bombing runs and time off. The routine, nerve-wracking raids consist of flying through flak and enemy fighter planes, hitting targets, waiting for a photo record of the drop, then flying back to England, all while bombers are shot down around them and shrapnel peppers their fuselages, often killing or maiming crewmen. Whittle allows characters to develop slowly, creating the feel that the reader has joined the team and is coming to personally know Matt, Stephen, Freddie, and the rest. On the surface, they joke and carry on bravely, remarking simply on what a shame it is whenever they learn of a death or injury. They carouse, meet women, and fall in love, but each mission chips away at their psyches, and readers will sense the palpable fear and tension. Raids are portrayed in terse prose, often repeating verbatim the various checklists and routines of flight, while the style depicting time off is lush and languid, focusing on detail, nature, and love. “For Stephen, it was an untold joy just to be lying there listening to her breathing, feeling warm with the wind rattling the windows in the gusts.” As missions continue, often striking Berlin and other points deep in enemy territory, M-Mother rarely returns without injury, and she must be patched up by ground crews. Damage to the men, however, is not so easily repaired, and the surviving airmen begin to unravel, even as they find reasons to live while on leave.

This well-written, fact-based novel will please students of WWII and human nature alike.


Title: Just Another Trip
Author: Martin Whittle
Publisher: AuthorHouseUK
ISBN: 978-1-50494-314-7
Pages: 382
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewed by: Joe Kilgore
Rating: 5 Star Review

Martin Whittle’s account of young British airmen, who flew multiple missions in the ongoing Battle of Berlin during World War II, is a heartfelt tribute to courage and sacrifice. From August of 1943 to March of 1944, England’s RAF lost 625 aircraft. 2690 aircrew were killed. The campaign itself was generally considered a failure, but the heroism of those who participated can never be denied.

The axis of the novel revolves around bomber pilot Matt White and his crew. Matt is portrayed as a stalwart Englishman, keen to do his part. He’s not braver than most, nor is he some sort of adventure addict. He simply realizes that war makes demands, which cannot be shirked if ultimate victory is to be attained—and not achieving that victory is unthinkable.

Other principal characters figure prominently in this tale of the traumas of war. Anne is a nurse and Matt’s lover. She becomes his fiancée as the missions mount in Matt’s tour of duty. Stephen is Matt’s flight engineer and longtime friend. Driven to the edge by increasingly violent and dangerous flights over Germany, Stephen’s fear begins to push him to his limits. Matt has to balance his personal feelings for his friend, with his obligations for the safety of his crew. As Matt’s responsibilities grow, so too do the burdens of command. Eventually he will wind up fighting battles not only with the Germans, but also with his sanity.

Devotees of stories about the First and Second World War will likely feel echoes of The Dawn Patrol while reading Whittle’s account of rousing drink fests in the company mess to toast recently fallen comrades. Of course, these benders were often as much to shore up one’s own courage, as they were to salute the departed.

The author does a particularly first-rate job of chronicling the Lancaster aircraft involved in multiple bombing runs over cities such as Berlin, Nuremberg, Mannheim, and more. Roles and responsibilities of crewmembers are brought vividly to life through dramatization, rather than simply relying on exposition alone.

Just Another Trip is an airman’s cavalier reference to the life and death journeys real individuals took to make sure tyranny would not triumph. The fear, dread, courage and sacrifice depicted in this World War II tale, reminds us of what others went through then, so we could live the lives we live now. In the end, what makes this war novel compelling, is Whittle’s skill in reminding us that each and every statistic is a living, breathing, human being whose gallantry should never be forgotten.


Just Another Trip
Martin Whittle
AuthorHouseUK (May 28, 2015)
Softcover $24.34 (382pp)
978-1-5049-4314-7

This novel about the crew of a WWII bomber boasts well-drawn characters and a worthy protagonist.

In his historical novel Just Another Trip, Martin Whittle joins the crew of the Lancaster bomber M-Mother as they fly on terrifying night raids through Nazi Germany’s frozen skies.

It’s 1943. The Allies are making a concerted bombing effort to cripple the Nazi war machine. The US bombers make daytime raids on German industrial cities. The Royal Air Force’s four-engine Lancasters strike at night. Nazi fighters and flak guns relentlessly scour the skies, and Allied loss rates suggest bomber crews won’t complete their thirty-mission assignment. The prospect of being shot down and killed or captured weighs heavily on M-Mother’s crew, from Pilot Officer Matt White, aircraft commander, to eighteen-year-old tail-gunner Freddie, a Cockney from East London.

Whittle opens with bang-up character sketches of the crew, from bomb aimer to gunners to navigator Charles Redman, RAF officer since 1937. Secondary characters shine too, like the harried squadron commander and the veteran aircraft maintenance officer, and the kindly pub keepers who cater to off-duty crews. Best defined is Anne, a nurse at a hospital near the East Kirkby base. Anne and Matt become engaged, a sweetly drawn affair—there are several PG-13 sex scenes—but her medical life is tangential. Other women are bit players also.

Matt, the pilot, is a worthy protagonist, with a distinct character arc: tense though determinedly optimistic but later nearly burned out. The dangerous missions are exacerbated by the collapse of flight engineer (and Matt’s best friend) Stephen Bamber. Stephen’s nervous breakdown and his near-refusal to fly are especially well done, perhaps because of the author’s medical training. An extended period of drugged sleep therapy helps Stephen only temporarily, but even stressed, he chooses to fly rather than being labeled “LMF”—lack of moral fiber. That would mean disgrace and permanent menial duty.

The writing is competent, albeit not especially powerful with descriptions, evident especially when M-Mother is in combat. Night missions lasted hours, but the book generally covers only a few elements, in a style more reportorial than literary. However, it takes little imagination to see blood and terror splash across the black skies. Thematically, it’s a story of courage and duty. The narrative is chronological, and Whittle has a solid grip on setting—the cold barrack rooms, the smoky warmth of bars, the frenetic drinking and dancing, 1943’s terrible winter weather, and the rattletrap cars and crowded buses the men relied on to find their way to town and friendly faces.

Just Another Trip‘s accomplishment is certainly credible as it follows Matt and his crew through several bombing missions. Those who desire to add to their library another novel about the European Allied air war won’t be disappointed with this effort.

GARY PRESLEY


Just Another Trip
Martin Whittle
AuthorHouse
reviewed by Yuliya Geikhman

“He was sweating now, even though it was freezing cold, and he concentrated on keeping the aircraft steady. The flak was all around them, and the closer exploding shells rocked the aircraft, the shrapnel rattling against the side.”

The men of M-Mother are a motley crew with a mixed bag of ages, backgrounds, and experience. But all differences are put aside when they take flight. Together, they man a bomber aircraft during World War II, running bombing missions for the RAF. Just Another Trip provides a snapshot of the life of Pilot Officer Matt White and his fellow crewmembers during the height of the war. In between flights, the crew members do their best to relax and unwind, though the war never leaves their mind. With each trip, the men risk their lives and despite going on many runs together, it never gets much easier. It’s hard to relax when every flight could be their last.

The book alternates between two worlds: the dangers of the bombing run, and the leisurely free time spent with friends and lovers. This dichotomy creates a palpable tension that grips on even when Matt and his crew are away from the aircraft. Each character is an integral part of the aircraft’s smooth operation, and each handles the war in a different way. As M-Mother sees more and more bombing runs, it is ripped apart both figuratively and literally. Over time, the war takes its toll on everyone involved. Follow Matt as he enjoys the company of his nurse girlfriend, forges strong bonds with the men around him, and deals with loss on a level only the war can create. This well-researched historical novel deposits us in the middle of a war-torn world and highlights war’s many facets, from its power to take lives to its power to unite them.

 

Just Another Trip

Just Another Trip