Launch: Brodie Curtis’s Angels and Bandits


Brodie Curtis mentions on his website that F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “there are no second acts in American lives.” Yet, Curtis has managed to achieve that, transforming himself from a California corporate lawyer, with the help of his wife Sue, to a Colorado real estate entrepreneur. But now, having published two historical fiction novels, he is well on his journey into a third act!

Would you share your elevator pitch for Angels and Bandits, your second novel?

On the eve of World War II, working-class flight instructor Eddy Beane has completed dangerous espionage missions for Air Commodore Keith Park. Eddy falls for one of his flying students, society girl June Stepheson, and when the German Luftwaffe attacks England in 1940, he ends up serving in a Spitfire squadron with June’s upper-class ex-fiancé, Dudley Thane. Aerial combat is intense, and both men show their skills and courage, but can Eddy and Dudley set aside jealousy and class differences to become fighting brothers for the defense of Britain?

You stated (in a previous HNR feature) that your inspiration for your debut novel, The Four Bells, was John McCutcheon’s song about the Christmas Truce of 1914. So, please tell us what moved you to write your second book about the Battle of Britain’s Spitfire pilots?

Angels and Bandits protagonist Eddy Beane is the answer to a loose thread from The Four Bells, my debut novel, which portrays events during the Great War. But my inspiration for Angels and Bandits goes beyond a sequel and is rooted in deep respect and admiration for the RAF’s defense of unrelenting German Luftwaffe bombing attacks in 1940. That job fell to RAF fighter pilots with mostly boyish countenances who were inexperienced in life but tasked with the weighty responsibility of protecting civilians. The story of how they confronted and repelled the German Luftwaffe with its daunting scale, efficiency, and weaponry inspired me.

I understand that you did travel to the Flanders battlefields for your first novel, so for your second book, did you carry out site visits in Britain, and what research did you undertake?

I had hoped to visit RAF sites and museums before Covid-19 scuttled those plans. Task one was to learn about the aerial conflict. Then I dug into auto-biographical stories of the pilots themselves and studied the Spitfire both through books and in-flight videos. My sources and links for research for Angels and Bandits and The Four Bells are here.

The plot of Angels and Bandits is well-conceived, especially the introduction of romance and conflict. Did you find writing from British and French aviators’ and upper-class women’s points of view challenging? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Also, please tell us a bit about your writing process.

I try to imagine myself in the place of my characters. Angels and Bandits, at its heart, is the story of young men of many different socio-economic backgrounds and nationalities who had to dig deep within themselves while fighting in harrowing aerial combat and come together for the good of their squadrons and, ultimately, the defense of Britain. Their own words in their autobiographies helped me imagine many of the scenes. Yes, writing from the point of view of society girl June was challenging, and credit goes to my amazing editor Sue Millard from Cumbria, England, for helping me hone this important character. I plot out major scenes of my books, but I find that the characters take me down their own roads, and often scenes change course significantly. Sometimes, that happens in the middle of the night when I’ll jot down a thought on a notepad and develop it the next day.

Your details of flying a spitfire and the dog fights are very realistic. Have you taken flying lessons, and if not, how did you learn the flying techniques?

I am not a pilot and, alas, I’ve never been in the cockpit of a Spit. But a treasure trove of information about the Spitfire has been recorded in history. In particular, I’ve viewed on streaming sites a fair number of bits about the restoration of Spitfires and flying Spitfires. RAF pilot autobiographies include detail on flying Spits and dog fighting. An archive of incredibly moving BBC reports of Battle of Britain aerial fighting is available.

You have some real-life characters in the novel, and the blending of fact and fiction seems seamless. Some interesting insights about the war are included, particularly the discovery of Messerschmitt’s inadequate fuel range. Was this crucial scene in the novel based on reality?

It was a joy to make the great Air Vice Marshal Keith Park an important character. The fuel range limitation of a Messerschmitt 109 was real. I became interested in it when reading a Luftwaffe pilot’s autobiography.

You mention that your next novel is set in pre-Civil War time of the Mississippi River paddle-wheeler showboats. Although Angels and Bandits ends with a thrilling conclusion, there are hints about the characters’ uncertain future. Hence, at some time, would you be returning to this series?

Never say never! Keith Park eventually led the air defense of Malta and became the Air Officer in command of the Middle East, so it is easy to imagine Eddy and Dudley at his side!

What research book have you pulled off your shelf most often?

Stephen Bungay’s The Most Dangerous Enemy. It breaks The Battle of Britain down to its component parts—the politics, the men, the aircraft, and other military equipment—with an impressive knack for making points with deeply researched statistics and anecdotes.

What is the last great book you read?

Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland.

Thank you for your time in answering these questions, and best wishes for your “third act” writer’s journey.


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