Saturday, November 23, 2013

DTB Review: Open Cockpit

Product Details

  • File Size: 7363 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Grub Street Publishing (October 25, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. (Kindle edition.)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G6SBIN8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • ISBN-10: 1908117257 (Hardcover)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908117250
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars (11 customer reviews) 
  • Price: hardcover $16.63 plus shipping (what I paid); Kindle $10.09
1. Short review:  (Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars -- I like it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked:  Easy-to-read narrative by a flyer in the Great War.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? 80% walk-in-the-park; 20% roller-coaster.

2.2. What I did not like: The photos. There are six pages of black-and-white photos in the book plus the back of the dust cover and the cover photo (see above). They are not integrated into the text. They are just there. The cover photo is of a Nieuport two-seater of 46 Squadron -- AGL's squadron -- jinking to avoid flak, but when 46 Squadron flew Nieuports,  AGL had not joined the squadron.
     The non-scalable font. I have gotten used to e-books. I like to choose the size of the font I read. Not having that ability is an annoyance.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: I don't know. Air combat history buffs -- like me -- prefer hard history like AGL's No Parachute. The general audience does not read air combat history. Open Cockpit lies in no-man's land between the hard air combat history buffs and the general audience.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes. No worries.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Had I read only Open Cockpit, I would not buy another book by AGL. Based on No Parachute,  I may order Fly Past.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     There is no plot. Instead, there are unconnected chapters. Why AGL bothered to number the chapters I don't know. For examples, Fourteen, Ground Strafer (an account of AGL's ground attacks in a Sopwith Camel); Fifteen, The Red Baron (AGL flew combat against Rittmeister Manfred von Richtofen himself in June 1917 in a Sopwith Pup); Sixteen, Evening Patrol (AGL recounts leading a late patrol of himself, another experienced pilot, and three air-combat virgins). Why are these chapters together? I don't know. 
     The upside is that you can read the book a chapter at a time, as I did, without losing the thread. There isn't any thread.
 2.7. Other:
     A couple of items: 1) Manfred von Richtofen and 2) The Great War.
     The first book I read on air combat in The Great War was Quentin Reynolds, They Fought for the Sky.

     QR painted MvR as the villain of air combat in the Great War. In QR's book, MvR came across as a cold killer.
     That informed my view of MvR for years. But as I read more, including MvR's own Der rote Kampfflieger, I saw a different picture. There are many photos of MvR still extant. When he was photographed with his squadron mates, he smiled. Invariably. And his men smiled. Evidently, he liked them and they liked him. And MvR sat and slumped and relaxed. When he was photographed with his superiors, MvR stood to attention without a smile. Evidently, he was not comfortable with high-ranking officers. There is one photo of him smiling with a general. He was arm-in-arm with a squadron mate and appeared to be singing the praises of his mate to the general.
     That MvR was a calculating killer is born out in his own words. He was calculating. All combat pilots are calculating. Those that live, anyway. MvR took the most favorable attack because he wanted to live. The one combat in which he violated all his own rules cost him his life.
     It is a matter of record that MvR showed courtesy and chivalry to captured British airmen, going so far as to entertain them in his own mess.
     AGL called MvR a fair and worthy foe. That he was.

     In the last chapter, AGL called attention to the impact of the Great War. In one battle -- the Battle of the Somme -- "more British lives were lost than in the whole of the Second World War." During the Battle of Verdun, the French lost ten times as many men as the United States lost in all of the Vietnam War.
     These numbers are the reason I think the Great War is headline news in the military history of the 20th century and all else is below the fold.
     The price given above is what I paid. YMMV.

2.8. Links: 
No Parachute
Fly Past 

2.9. Buy the book: Open Cockpit

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