I’ve been tweeted with a question about ‘#WWI aviation novels published 1918-1940?’
I can’t suggest very much, but here are some random thoughts:
During the war, flyers were presented as heroes, but most home-based writers had little idea of the technicalities of flying. Actual airmen wrote quite a bit of poetry, but little prose that I know of (except for George R. Samways, who provided stories for the Magnet comic, at least one of which is about airmen).
Arnold Bennett’s 1918 play The Title shows us how the RFC was perceived as dangerous. Eighteen-year-old John Culver blackmails his mother by saying he’ll join the Royal Flying Corps unless his she does what he wants – she wants him to join the Siege Artillery because she has been told it is safest:
MRS. CULVER. Your father won’t allow you to join the Flying Corps.
JOHN. My father can’t stop me. I know the mess is expensive, but the pay’s good, and I’ve got £150 of my own. Not a fortune! Not a fortune! But enough, quite enough. _A short life and a merry one_. I went to see Captain Skewes at the Automobile this morning. One of our old boys. He’s delighted. He gave me Lanchester’s ‘Aircraft in Warfare’ to read. Here it is. (Picking up the book) Here it _is_! I shall be sitting up all night to-night reading it. A short life and a merry one.
After 1918, war fiction generally became less common – especially in popular writing. There was still a huge interest in aircraft, but it is expressed more in stories of travel and adventure, looking forward to the peace rather than back to the war.
Come the war books boom after 1928, most books were about soldiers on the Western Front. Exceptions were Saggitarius Rising by Lewis and Winged Victory by V.M. Yeates. You might also find Waac: The Woman’s Story of the War, by Anonymous, quite interesting.
Many of the war books of the late twenties and early thirties were written with the express intention of telling the younger generation what war was like. W.E. Johns says this was his purpose in the stories he wrote for Popular Flying, later collected as The Camels are Coming (1932), the first of the long-running Biggles series.
Air power also featured strongly in the ‘Future War’ fiction of the twenties and thirties, many of which imagined air raids devastating cities. An example that fascinates me is Theodore Savage (1922) by Cicely Hamilton.
I’m sure that there are other worthwhile books that either I don’t know or I’ve forgotten. Maybe some readers can suggest other titles?