From Publishers Weekly
Salter is one of the great writers about flying, and this short novel was revised, at the suggestion of Counterpoint editor Jack Shoemaker, from a book originally called The Arm of Flesh when it was first published nearly 40 years ago. (Salter's first novel, The Hunters, was also revised for republication three years ago.) It is set in Germany a few years after the war, when the U.S. Air Force was still maintaining airfields and flying practice sorties, and when bad weather, particularly heavy cloud and fog, could still cause problems at smaller landing fields. Cassada is a young lieutenant, sent to join the unit at the center of the story, who is determined to be a star in the target gunnery contests in which the pilots indulge, and who in the end is part of a disaster when he and a colleague fly too far and run out of fuel in heavy rain before they can land. Salter's subtle, understated prose has been justly praised, even if at times it hovers perilously close to Hemingway parody, and the best scenes here portray the tensions of the men on the ground as they wait for planes to land safely. Salter's feeling for weather and for the dark mysteries of solitary flight are exemplary, and it is only in the rather mundane scenes of family life on base and the barely hidden rivalries and jealousies that the book is less than compelling. It is certainly worth reading for the frequent pleasures of Salter's writing and for the originality of the setting, but it in no way compares with his brilliant A Sport and a Pastime and Light Years. (Jan.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Especially since Dusk and Other Stories
(1988), Salter's fiction has commanded considerable respect, and expectations should be high for this extensive rewriting of his second novel (originally published as The Arm of Flesh
in 1961). Here he brings his deft, often spare prose to bear on the story of a group of air force pilots flying training missions in Europe during the cold war. The characters are sharply realized, especially through extended scenes of dialogue; their relationships, their failed or incomplete or squashed attempts at expression, are fully displayed. Salter's style and approach may engage readers not usually drawn to military stories, especially in the case of Cassada, who is "solitary and unboisterous . . . intelligent but not cerebral" and whose ambition leads to tragic consequences. As in most of Salter's fiction, there is seemingly simple but clearly controlled, accomplished prose to marvel at throughout: "It's silent and cold. He lies in bed aching, too ancient to move. Out there, somewhere, more silent still, in the matted grass the wreckages lie, blown apart in the darkness, wet as the ground." James O'LaughlinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved