Archive for the ‘Beaty, David’ Category

The Four Winds by David Beaty ~ 1954. Originally published as The Heart of the Storm. This edition: William Morrow & Company, 1955. Hardcover. 288 pages.

If you know Nevil Shute, this is essentially more of the same. Flawed heroes, occasional heroines, moral dilemmas, gripping action scenes, and a consistent willingness to kill off key characters.

Ex R.A.F. and commercial airline pilot David Beaty retired and turned writer, and this was his second of what would eventually be twenty or so fiction and non-fiction books, mostly concerned with aviation.

The Four Winds follows several commercial airline pilots as they criss cross vast bodies of water in the early 1950s, moving people and things around, all the while juggling the always complex demands of work and home and colleague relationships.

The first sign that an aircraft is overtaking the south-east quadrant of a storm is often a swell on an otherwise calm sea, which may extend over a thousand miles from the seat of the disturbance. Tufts of cirrus form the windswept ends of a thin haze hanging high over the sky, producing haloes or rings around the sun and the moon…

We start with a hurricane and white knuckle our way through a heroic rescue mission, and though that episode quickly fades into “just another flying incident” its repercussions affect the lives of a widening circle of people – the proverbial “butterfly effect”.

“British Empire Airways” pilot Mark Kelston, stoically enduring an indifferent marriage to the socially-climbing and financially-demanding Veronica back home in England, is perhaps over-ready for the romance that develops during the mid-hurricane stopover in the Azores with the beautiful Czechoslovakian exile Karena, woman-without-a-country.

Kelston’s fellow pilots also have their own complicated personal and romantic lives, and what happens over here affects things over there and vice versa. If this novel has a theme – other than the obvious “men and women of the air” storyline – it would be “everything is connected”.

This novel was a book sale acquisition quite a few years ago, and it’s been shuffled from pile to pile quite a few times, never really reaching out to me, but just intriguing enough on repeated fly-leaf browsings to keep it hanging around. I had lowish expectations, never having heard of David Beaty, but once I started I was happily drawn in and inexorably swept along. It was a good read, in a mid-century, sometimes-a-bit-cringe-worthy, Nevil Shute-ian sort of way. Allowing for the expectedly dated language and attitudes, some passages were very good indeed.

Curious about the author, I had recourse to our old friend Wikipedia, and here is the lowdown on David Beaty.

Another writer to look out for in a casual way when I return to in-person old-book browsing in bricks-and-mortar bookstores. This online questing is all well and good, but hands-on is way better.

My rating: 7/10






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