White Flag Down

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 August, 2008, 12:00am

White Flag Down

by Joel Ross

Hodder & Stoughton, HK$128

Is there no end to the books being written about the second world war? If it's not a biography of Hitler or Stalin, then it's a biography of Stalin as a teenager or Hitler as a painter. The world of fiction is little different. Take Joel Ross, whose work sticks distinctly to the popular side of the street. White Flag Down is populated by world-weary pilots (who just happen to speak fluent German), Swiss housewives (who just happen to be amateur spies) and more subplots than you can shake a stick marked 'Top Secret' at. The secret in this case is a German jet plane that our hero, American airman Lieutenant Grant, encounters while flying a reconnaissance operation over Switzerland. Grant is a tough customer. What's more, his first name does actually appear to be Lieutenant. With terrible timing, Grant crashes, is arrested and escapes all within a chapter or two. Thereafter, the obstacles come thick and fast: a secret truce between Germany and Russia; the lost photographs of the jet; and sentences like: 'He wanted to see her dishevelled, her hair tangled and face flushed, her lips swollen.' White Flag Down also taught me that I am still too immature to read lines like, 'Another Focke' without giggling. But at least the story is focke-ing good fun.