Review of ‘The Infinite Reaches/Contact Patrol’, by Pat Cunningham

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Pat Cunningham
Published by Pecsaeton Publishing
ISBN 978-0-9556325-2-5 & 978-0-9556325-3-2 (2008)

If anyone is qualified to write about aeronautics, it must be Pat Cunningham DFM, now well established as an author/publisher following his 40-year career flying with the RAF and British Midland Airways.

Pat's factual titles include the four-volume Peakland Air Crashes and it seems that he finds it metaphorically impossible to keep his feet on the ground, at least if these first two volumes of his aviation-cum-romance saga are anything to go by. The obvious difference between real-life author and fictional aviator Paul Cowley, both from Derbyshire, is that the latter honed his flying experience during the First World War. Yet the action scenes and background detail could almost have been experienced by the author first-hand.

The early chapters of Infinite Reaches see Paul convalescing, temporarily grounded and almost in love. Both problems get resolved but his other great love, flying, force-lands him behind enemy lines on the Western Front. The accident has its compensations in an all-too brief affair with Angele - a liaison that puts the young Frenchwoman in danger of her life in the sequel, Contact Patrol. This title is explained in the words of one of the pilots: ' ... it's our job to fly right down on the carpet keeping in touch with the storming troops and carrying back reports so that HQ always know where they are.' This involves pilots scribbling down their observations to be dropped in message bags behind allied lines. Dangerous and stressful work, ' ... suspended in space with hands and feet numb and eyebrows frosting'.

Behind all the action, Paul harbours deep feelings for a career woman who seems to be playing it cool, who writes to him infrequently but then puts a spark into his life during a well earned leave. In fact, Cowley's off-duty activities ensure that female readers are far from excluded from novels that have already earned the praise of air and military historians.

Review by Julie Bunting

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