This story lies in my love of the legend that a small band of anti-heroes overcomes big and evil. I was raised on Robin Hood and Russel Crowe’s recent version confirmed the power of this story. Other movies also influenced me strongly: Kurosawa’s brilliant Seven Samurai which was copied by John Sturgess in the outrageously anti-genre Magnificent Seven staffed by a gang of grimy anti-hero misfits. And then nothing! Nobody appears to have brought the legend up to date so I started thinking about how today’s Sherwood warriors, today’s Samurai and today’s gunslingers could fit into this ageless mold. What if the warriors, samurai and gunslingers were fighter pilots? What if the village they were to protect from the bandits was a tiny country which had just discovered huge oil reserves. I mean, we will go to war over oil at the drop of a hat. What if Kurosawa’s and Sturgess’ bandits were an aggressive neighbor lead by a dictator who had built an army and air force out of proportion to the region. The anti-hero of my story is a late-thirties Royal Air Force squadron commander and family man from the . He is not a publicity-hungry swashbuckling Robin Olds-type and yet he is as decisive, competent and professional. His surprise assignment from the President of The Gambia is to form an air force from scratch in the four months it will take for Guinea to mount an armored assault on the newly identified oil find. From a command position in a well-oiled machine, he now is both commander and machine - and overwhelmed. Before I get into the story, I should tell you that in my late thirties I was a Harrier pilot, squadron executive and family man. And then, after the Falklands conflict in the early eighties which was played out by Harriers on world news, I began to lament that so little is known or told about the capabilities of this amazing war machine and those who fly and support them. Known as ‘Jump-jets’ for an ability to both hover and perform like a modern jet fighter, the Harrier has a universal mystique. This story takes the reader into the cockpit and decisions of a modern fighter pilot in combat. The story is pure Kurosawa! Selection of pilots includes a fatal accident and natural selection of those suited to the mission. Our hero is befriended by an elder statesman who has returned to his birth place from an international career. Through pre-colonial tribal loyalties, intelligence is gathered and an armored advance is anticipated and then stopped in a classic tactical air warfare campaign. Disaster follows as the ensuing peace falls to the jeopardy of rampaging militias. Our hero is thrust into diplomatic and military actions to rescue the neighboring country from anarchy. Horrifically, the geology which forecast vast oil reserves is found to be imperfect and the entire conflict involving devastation and loss of life is without purpose. The story ends as it began with family. Opening a school in a post-conflict Gambia are our heros’ children and classmates who have gathered much-needed school supplies.
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by Stu Penny,Ngaio Penny
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by Stu Penny,Ngaio Penny
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by on September 24, 2016
- BookBaby, April 2014
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