Lloyd E. Olson worked as a technical writer for news articles and served as the editor for a university news bureau. Olson served in the U.S. Air Force during WW2 and used that experience to author his one and only novel, 1960's Skip Bomber published by Ace. In the book's opening notes, Olson reveals that he used the story's location in New Guinea due to it being the least known battle of WW2's brutal Pacific Theatre. He poignantly described it as “an area where the Stone Age and Twentieth Century met.”
Skip Bomber introduces readers to Captain McGurk and his crew of the Fertile Myrtle, an American B-17 bomber. In a lot of ways the story is about this flying fortress and it's steadfast resistance to the elements, mechanical deficiencies, a stern Captain and Japan's robust naval fleet. For perspective, this bomber's wing area was 1,420 feet and powered by four engines each pushing 1000 horse-power. It's top speed was 325 mph at 25,000 feet. It's cargo? 6,500 pounds of explosives. Needless to say, the B-17 was a fire-breathing behemoth.
McGurk's mission is to consistently defend an area known as Port Moresby in New Guinea. During the war, this was a city of about 1,300 people sitting a mere 80 miles from Australia. For the strategist, it was an important area for the Allied forces but also critical in the defense of Australia. While Olson summarizes the history and importance of the area, don't forget this is an action-adventure fiction paperback.
Aside from a few fun excursions, each chapter is dedicated to one flying mission for McGurk and his crew. The author doesn't provide much insight on the characters' personal lives, choosing instead to simply tell an exciting series of stories. Through instrument panels, tailgunner pivots, belly bombs and McGurk's perspective, readers are thrust into these exciting bombing campaigns. Missions vary from defense measures around American ships to assault runs across Japanese fleets. Interesting enough, there's even a bombing run on a volcano.
While Skip Bomber is a lot of fun, I was hoping for a central plot to develop. Additionally, having some sort of backstory on these characters may have prompted a more emotional investment. The story ends appropriately enough, but I couldn't resist contemplating a better ending or thinking of a potential sequel or follow-up tale. Regardless, at 180-pages, this 35-cent Ace paperback packs a punch. Skip Bomber is a fun, exciting look at a lesser known WW2 campaign. Bombs away!
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