Angels and Bandits

Today, we’re hosting a guest post by Brodie Curtis on research undertaken for his new book, Angels and Bandits

Publication Date: 15th May 2022 / 357 Pages

The Battle of Britain rages and two young RAF pilots from very different stations in life must somehow find common ground—and stay alive.

On the eve of World War II, working-class Eddy Beane is a flight instructor in London. He successfully completes dangerous espionage missions for Air Commodore Keith Park and takes on society-girl June Stephenson as a student. Her ex-fiancé, Dudley Thane, is also a flyer, but upper-class and Cambridge-educated. When the German Luftwaffe attacks England in 1940, Eddy and Dudley end up serving in the same Spitfire squadron. Aerial combat is intense, and both men show their skills and courage, but can they set aside jealousy and class differences to become fighting brothers for the defence of Britain?

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Research I Undertook When Writing ANGELS and BANDITS

By Brodie Curtis

ANGELS and BANDITS is my second historical novel, set around The Battle of Britain. The research I undertook for the book was a true joy, due to the vast historical chronicle, words and images, of those heady days when Britain stood alone in 1940.

I have always been a history buff and was fascinated at an early age by The Battle of Britain. From mining my memories I think the spark was watching a VHS tape of Michael Caine leading his squadron into aerial combat in The Battle of Britain, a 1969 movie directed by Guy Hamilton. Check it out even today for an example of a film that educates its viewer on high stakes geo-political intrigue and drama while brilliantly portraying the nitty-gritty of battle faced by front-line combatants. 

I made the decision to take my protagonists from my debut novel, THE FOUR BELLS, into the Battle of Britain, and to feature a new character, Eddy Beane, who came from a loose thread in my first book. Task one was to learn about the aerial conflict in detail, and how The Battle of Britain fit into the greater World Wars. I love to devour thick non-fiction renderings of historical events and found that, boy, was I ever in my element! There are a number of wonderfully written non-fiction summaries of The Battle of Britain, each with its own stamp on the subject, through the author’s choice of organization and approach, and the differing focuses on time period, combatants, armaments, politics, and the like.

I would highlight Stephen Bungay’s The Most Dangerous Enemy as my go-to source on the battle itself. Mr. Bungay’s book breaks The Battle of Britain down to its component parts—the politics, the men, the aircraft and other military equipment—with an impressive knack of making points with deeply researched statistics and anecdotes. For a fairly dense, fact-filled volume, The Most Dangerous Enemy moves along at a lively pace. And how could I not give a nod to Winston Churchill’s Their Finest Hour, book two in his WW2 collection, in which Churchill discussions the strategies and decisions prior to and during The Battle of Britain. 

Here, I need to point out that I provide a comprehensive list on my website of my sources and links for the research I undertook to write ANGELS and BANDITS, as well as my debut, THE FOUR BELLS. Check it out at World War I Sources & Links – Brodie Curtis Author

ANGELS and BANDITS, at its heart, is the story of the young pilots of many different socio-economic backgrounds and nationalities who not only had to dig deep within themselves while fighting in harrowing aerial combat, but also had to find ways to come together for the good of their squadrons and ultimately the defence of Britain. My most meaningful source was the words of the men themselves. I got my hands on auto-biographies of RAF Battle of Britain pilots, and even those of a couple of Luftwaffe pilots. Nearly all of the military action in ANGELS and BANDITS is inspired by an anecdote told by a pilot who was there, in the skies above Kent, London or the Channel.

A treasure trove of Battle of Britain events have been recorded to history. I’ve listened to and viewed a fair number of bits on YouTube and other streaming sites and I’ve listed a lot of them on my Sources & Links page. There is an archive available of a number of incredibly moving BBC reports of the aerial fighting. Just check out this newsreel footage of action over “Hellfire Corner”—the White Cliffs of Dover:

My research for ANGELS and BANDITS provided me the distinct pleasure of learning about the Spitfire, Britain’s innovative fighter plane that played a key role in winning the Battle of Britain, thereby repelling Hitler’s planned invasion of England in September, 1940. Slim and graceful in appearance, yet fast and maneuverable, the Spitfire proved to be the Excalibur of Arthurian legend in the hands of the RAF flyers. The sight of it inspired confidence in the British people and fear in the enemy. Philip Kaplan’s The Spitfire has an amazing collection of photographs of the graceful craft and anecdotes about flying a Spit.

Another thread from THE FOUR BELLS that I played out in ANGELS and BANDITS took then-civilian pilot Eddy Beane on a flight into the heart of Germany before the war, in 1938, where he came face to face with the Nazis. I read a number of books to get my arms around life in Nazi Germany during the period.

Though Eddy’s visit to Germany is a fairly brief scene in ANGELS and BANDITS I hope the raw emotion I felt when reading about atrocities perpetrated on innocent citizens by the Nazis flowed through my words.

Anyway, researching the period around The Battle of Britain was as much fun as I’ve ever had in the history books and would encourage readers to have a look at the sources I’ve tagged.

About Brodie Curtis

Raised in the Midwest, Brodie Curtis was educated as a lawyer and left the corporate world to embrace life in Colorado with his wife and two sons.

Curtis is the author of THE FOUR BELLS, a novel of The Great War, which is the product of extensive historical research, including long walks through the fields of Flanders, where much of the book’s action is set. His second novel, ANGELS AND BANDITS, takes his protagonists into The Battle of Britain. Curtis is currently working on a novel set on a Mississippi Riverboat prior to the Civil War.

A lover of history, particularly American history and the World Wars, Curtis reviews historical fiction for the Historical Novels Review and more than 100 of his published reviews and short takes on historical novels can be found on his website.

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Thanks for the interesting post on your background research, Brodie.

Good luck with Angels and Bandits

@BrodieCurtis4 @maryanneyarde #HistoricalFiction #WWII #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub

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