East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Young adult adventures

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FB&S_Cover_EH_Award_smA story set in the ’30s, featuring airplanes, Japanese spies and no end of intrigue and adventure?
Of course I had to get me a copy.

I chanced upon Jamie Dodson’s Flying Boats & Spies while looking for something completely different – I found the author’s website while doing a web search on tramp freighters.
Looking for a ship, I discovered a wealth of air adventures.

As the world edges closer to war a mighty flying boat is readied for her first flight, and America’s enemies will do anything to see it fail. A plucky young pilot is given a mission that takes him to tropical islands and first love, and into the sights of murderous assassins; he, and America, will need courage to survive.

And no kidding…

The book is the first in the series of adventures featuring Nick Grant, a young man in love with flight, and is what could be generally described as a Young Adult novel.

Indeed, reading it reminded me of the adventure novels I used to devour when I was a young kid – stories featuring kids like me… at least in terms of age… getting involved in unheard-of espionage and crime capers.
And yet there is very little room, in Dodson’s novel, for childishness – so that while I’m well outside the target age-frame, I greatly enjoyed the story.
The writing is good, with a fine eye for technical details and some great action set-pieces.

As it usually happens in adventure novels, plot equals geography, and the adventures of young Nick follow closely a travelogue structure.


The great bonus, to me, is the fact that the novel features a China Clipper, one of the great trans-Pacific planes that marked an age in the history of air travel.
But air-enthusiast pet subjects apart, the novel is good, the action is tight, and the fun is granted for the duration.

I found out there’s two other books in the Nick Grant series – and while I’m probably too old to go through the lot in a single sitting, I think I’ll get them in the future, to find again the nostalgic, somewhat naive but highly entertaining atmosphere of my youth.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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