Published:  01:19 AM, 08 July 2018

Salt Spring novelist wings it with saga about 1930s female pilot

Salt Spring novelist wings it with saga about 1930s female pilot Chasing the Wind C.C. Humphreys | Doubleday Canada $24, 320 pages

The thriller/historical fiction fusion - which centres on a brash, loud-mouthed, whisky-swilling smuggler pilot Roxy Loewen - is also fuelled by Humphreys' extensive research into Amelia Earhart and other daring women aviators from the 1930s, and thus takes on an exciting life of its own.

Tara Henley

Salt Spring Island novelist C.C. Humphreys' latest outing is dedicated to his father, a Royal Air Force fighter pilot who survived his plane being shot down in North Africa.Indeed, it was his father's stories of "flights and dogfights and the joys and terrors of being aloft" that inspired this action-packed saga.

But the thriller/historical fiction fusion - which centres on a brash, loud-mouthed, whisky-swilling smuggler pilot Roxy Loewen - is also fuelled by Humphreys' extensive research into Amelia Earhart and other daring women aviators from the 1930s, and thus takes on an exciting life of its own.

"What research does for me is act as a springboard for my imagination," Humphreys writes in his author's note. "It launches me in cool, unforeseen directions."In the case of Chasing the Wind, that means a high-stakes art heist,in the midst of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and a perilous journey on the Hindenburg.

The exhilarating adventure opens in New York City in 1929, with the crash of the stock market, the death of Roxy's industrialist father and her narrow escape from his creditors.Seven years later, we find Roxy running guns into Ethiopia with her lover Jocco Zomack, a Cary Grant-look-alike pilot and dedicated Communist.

Just as it appears their affair has run its course, he offers to cut her in on a deal to acquire Bruegel's painting the Fall of Icarus, lost for centuries and recently discovered in war-torn Madrid, and covertly deliver it to a buyer in Berlin.

No small feat, this, to "steal one of the most expensive works of art ever, in the most heavily policed country in the world" - and "from under the nose of Adolf Hitler" no less.As the pair carry out the mission, they dodge crooked clergymen, Nazis, spies and Roxy's sworn enemy, the man responsible for her father's death.

This fast-paced tale is heavy on colourful plot points and evocative scenes from history books, but light on literary devices. As such, Chasing the Wind proves a highly cinematic endeavour, well-suited to a screenplay (in keeping with Humphrey's background as an actor and playwright) and, eventually, the silver screen.

In other words: this is an easy read, ideal for summer cabin-, ferry- and beach-R&R.Plus, the "strong female lead" we find in Roxy? Total on trend.

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