Angels and Bandits

Written by Brodie Curtis
Review by Jon G. Bradley

This second novel from Curtis anchors itself around the early days of World War II, specifically the epoch identified as the ‘Battle of Britain’ (July-October 1940). As such, this book joins a long list of previous volumes centered on this early air war, but the author carves out a creative niche that will enthrall readers. Curtis does not offer a panoramic view mired in grand strategies; rather, he concentrates his narrative on two different pilots, thrown together by circumstances.

In Part I, the reader meets private pilot/instructor Edouard (Eddie) Beane, who is secretly used by British authorities to film German airfields. His Aeronca flights are fraught with danger as German planes attempt to discourage his spying missions. Part II shifts to the aftermath of Dunkirk and the maelstrom that characterized the opening air war. To meet this new threat, the RAF desperately cobbled together a rag-tag cohort of dissimilar young men from numerous backgrounds and countries to pilot the Hurricanes and Spitfires to take on the German bombers and fighters.

As the squadrons are slapped together, Beane finds himself in the same group as Dudley Thane, the upper-class, Cambridge-educated ex-fiancé of his current girlfriend, June Stephenson. Hence, the reader is embroiled in two intersecting battles: combat in the air and social tension on the ground!

Curtis’ crisp dialogue captures the terror of battle interspersed with the tension of waiting. Temporary friendships form, and deaths eulogized and forgotten, as the contemporary reality demands attention. Our two protagonists reach an equilibrium formed by danger and are able to contemplate their fates as 1941 unfolds.