Publication Date: June 15, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
Close to the Sun follows the lives of fighter pilots during the Second World War. As a boy, Hank Milroy from Wyoming idealized the gallant exploits of WWI fighter aces. Karl, Fürst von Pfalz-Teuffelreich, aspires to surpass his father’s 49 Luftsiegen. Seth Braham falls in love with flying during an air show at San Francisco’s Chrissy Field.
The young men encounter friends, rivals, and exceptional women. Braxton Mobley, the hotshot, wants to outscore every man in the air force. Texas tomboy Catherine “Winty” McCabe is as good a flyer as any man. Princess Maria-Xenia, a stateless White Russian, works for the Abwehr, German Intelligence. Elfriede Wohlman is a frontline nurse with a dangerous secret. Miriam Keramopoulos is the girl from Brooklyn with a voice that will take her places.
Once the United States enter the war, Hank, Brax, and Seth experience the exhilaration of aerial combat and acedom during the unromantic reality of combat losses, tedious bomber escort, strafing runs, and the firebombing of entire cities. As one of the hated aristocrats, Karl is in as much danger from Nazis as he is from enemy fighter pilots, as he and his colleagues desperately try to stem the overwhelming tide as the war turns against Germany. Callous political decisions, disastrous mistakes, and horrific atrocities they witness at the end of WWII put a dark spin on all their dreams of glory.
I am most fortunate to have reviewed another book written by Donald Michael Platt, Bodo the Apostate, in December of 2014. Mr. Platt also honored me with a guest post, in which he spoke to the differences in writing for various media.
Close to the Sun reminds me of another war drama I enjoyed immensely, Henry V, (specifically the movie version of Shakespeare's play, starring Kenneth Brannagh). Neither are pieces of propoganda, neither should they be. While war has its elements of heroism, glory and gallantry, it is also a story of greed, loss and evil. I have never been in the military, nor have I ever experienced the horrors of war ravaging the area near where I live. But I feel Mr. Platt's book is a rather accurate portrayal of life during a time of war in general, and for Americans and Germans during WWII specifically.
I sincerely appreciated the inclusion of major female characters in Close to the Sun. Platt showed that women could do more than 'keep the home fires burning' (not that that is/was not important).
Winty was an example of an extremely talented female pilot, who probably would have helped the US war effort in combat situations, but in those days, 'ladies didn't do that sort of thing'. Maria-Xenia, a Russian princess who had married into German nobility recognized earlier than most the looming collapse in Germany's military and political arenas. Elfi is a widowed German nurse whose husband was recently killed during the war; she reminds me of the strength and sacrifices made by war wives past and present, who had to deal with the uncertainty of ever seeing their soldier husbands again. Mimi was a young singer with a big band of the era, who was determined to remain a virgin until she married.
One of my favorite parts of the book was where Karl and Hank's paths crossed, almost literally. The German's and the American's squadrons were engaged in aerial combat. Hank's plane was disabled and he was out of ammunition. Karl recognized this and rather than racking up an easy kill (Luftsiege), Karl escorted Hank's plane out of the line of fire.
Platt's writing style serves this story well. I could see, hear, smell, feel and taste the 1940's anywhere around my 2015 rural Kentucky home. Many of the books I read are more geared toward a female readership, but Close to the Sun will appeal to both men and women, both soldiers and civilians.
If I understand the methodology correctly, scoring five kills in combat makes a pilot an 'ace'. Close to the Sun is a 2nd 'direct hit' I have personally witnessed from pilot-writer Platt. I am supremely confident as I read more of his work, I will be able to testify that he, too, is an 'ace' author. I am also eagerly awaiting the sequel to this amazing novel.
WHAT OTHER BLOGGERS ARE SAYING:
“Donald Michael Platt’s Close to the Sun is an amazing story told from the perspective of average male fighter pilots in the onset and during WWII, juxtaposing between various men from many sides of the war. The details in this novel were spectacular, creating imagery and depth in the scenes and characters, as well as the dialogue being so nostalgic and well-written it felt right out of a 1950’s film. The romantic nuances of his storytelling felt incredibly authentic with the tug and pull of the men being called to serve and the women whom they loved who had their own high hopes, dreams, or work. I loved how he portrayed this women the most—strongly and fiercely independent. I’ve read several other books by Platt, and this is the best one I’ve read yet! I couldn’t stop reading. ” – Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Hook of a Book
“Donald Platt’s Close To The Sun, is nothing short of Historical Fiction gold. Platt’s flair for emotionally provocative storytelling makes this book attractive to both male and female readers. Seamlessly weaving the threads of action and feeling into a brilliant tableau of humanity. This is a masterfully penned tale of war, ambition, love, loss, and ACES!” – Frishawn Rasheed, WTF Are You Reading?
“Fast-paced and riveting I couldn’t get enough of Hank, Karl and Seth’s exploits! CLOSE TO THE SUN is a thrilling novel that leads readers through idyllic dreams of heroism and the grim reality of war. Platt provides readers with a unique coming-of-age story as three adventure-seeking boys discover far more than how to be an aerial combat pilot. CLOSE TO THE SUN is an amazing tale of adventure, heroism, war and the drive within us all that keeps us going when things look bleak.” – Ashley LaMar, Closed the Cover ***link not added due to problems finding a direct link to this blog***
“I found Close to the Sun to be an entertaining read, it was well written, with well developed characters, these characters had depth and emotion. A unique plot, told from the point of view of pilots prior to and during World War II. It was a well researched and interesting book” – Margaret Cook, Just One More Chapter
Author of four other novels, ROCAMORA, HOUSE OF ROCAMORA, A GATHERING OF VULTURES, and BODO THE APOSTATE, Donald Michael Platt was born and raised in San Francisco. Donald graduated from Lowell High School and received his B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley. After two years in the Army, Donald attended graduate school at San Jose State where he won a batch of literary awards in the annual SENATOR PHELAN LITERARY CONTEST.
Donald moved to southern California to begin his professional writing career. He sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted for health food guru, Dan Dale Alexander, and wrote for and with diverse producers, among them as Harry Joe Brown, Sig Schlager, Albert J. Cohen, Al Ruddy plus Paul Stader Sr, Hollywood stuntman and stunt/2nd unit director. While in Hollywood, Donald taught Creative Writing and Advanced Placement European History at Fairfax High School where he was Social Studies Department Chairman.
After living in Florianópolis, Brazil, setting of his horror novel A GATHERING OF VULTURES, pub. 2007 & 2011, he moved to Florida where he wrote as a with: VITAMIN ENRICHED, pub.1999, for Carl DeSantis, founder of Rexall Sundown Vitamins; and THE COUPLE’S DISEASE, Finding a Cure for Your Lost “Love” Life, pub. 2002, for Lawrence S. Hakim, MD, FACS, Head of Sexual Dysfunction Unit at the Cleveland Clinic.
Currently, Donald resides in Winter Haven, Florida where he is polishing a dark novel and preparing to write a sequel to CLOSE TO THE SUN.
For more information please visit Donald Michael Platt’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.)