Review: David Bristow
Fly Away, A Sopwith Jones Adventure by Alan Haller (Self-published)
This is not the usual fare for this page but it deserves a few words, for a few reasons.
The first is that it is essentially fun, a racy adventure yarn in the vein of James Bond – not so much the current re-iterations but the older ones of the 1960s and 70s.
Another is that we, and the book, do not take ourselves too seriously lest we all bore one another to death (as I seem so often these days to be trying not to offend anyone).
This book might well offend some people, should they read it, but it probably won’t, because they won’t. Not from the cover anyway, which shows an airplane flying over lovey-dovey couple all in sunset hues.
It’s mostly about airplanes, or one specific airplane, and the hero guy who made it, Sopwith Jones. If you get the reference to vintage planes you are likely the kind of person who will read it.
Briefly, Sopwith converts an old Cessna “brick” to solar power in a hanger down in Port Alfred, and then everyone and their corrupt dog wants in on the spoils. So Sopwith bolts, in short solar-powered hops, across Africa to England. But his troubles follow him. Big troubles, James Bond style, where you have to suspend your disbelief to go with the flow.
Although the aircraft is state-of-the-art, the tone and style of the book itself is curiously old fashioned. Kind of like a cross between early Wilbur Smith and Boy’s Own magazine. We suspect that is the author’s own world view, but we cannot be sure it is not crafted that way for nostalgic effect (I fancy the former).
The leading female cast member, the only one who gets any substantial screen time, has shapely breasts (referred to quite a few times), and is ready to fall in love and into bed with the hero almost at the drop of a torque wrench. She’s also a jet fighter pilot, so what’s not to love?
There is lots of racy stuff about flying, and aircraft carriers and guns, for people who like that kind of stuff. Some recent elections in the US inform us that the percentage of women to men who do like that kind of stuff, and/or the men who do, is about evens with those who don’t. My best was the T-shirt fairly rent asunder by a tremendously breasted woman with the slogan “I love toxic masculinity”. So there it is: it takes all types to spin a propeller.
Another thing about the book that warrants discussion among we bibliophiles is that it was not issued by a mainstream publisher. The author knocked on all the doors, like so many of us before, but no bone was offered. So he decided to walk the lonely the “pay to publish” path.
I once tried that route and got my wallet singed but not much more. In conclusion, I would say don’t try that one at home. And I say lonely, because once you have delivered your manuscript and paid the fee, the relationship is pretty much over just as it’s begun.
The thing about books, as much as with bricks or bread, is that they are easier to make than they are to sell. And the Lord and the Devil know they aren’t easy to make.
The “paid for” people will give you a good looking product, well edited, good looking cover, all professional looking, but they’ll do diddley squat to sell it for you. That’s your job and, you soon find, it’s the really hard part.
Generally it’s better all round, and cheaper, to self-publish in the Amazon-Kindle model, and then throw whatever resources you have at marketing and getting it reviewed by calling in every favour you were ever owed. Haller reckons he has several more yarns to tell and sell in the Sopwith Jones series, and I’ll be interested to see how he goes about it.
Final word is that this book will make a soaring gift for anyone who has a penchant for airplanes, aircraft carriers, guns and perky breasts. We’d probably be surprised to find out how many do.