Originally published in October of 2014.
Audiobook published in February of 2016
Read by Tom Lennon
Duration: 18 hours, 24 minutes
I have read or listened to a few books about the experiences of fighter and bomber pilots in World War II and those books drew me to this one.
The book's main character is Steve Carmichael. Steve grew up on a ranch near Orlando, Florida and was a baseball player at the University of Florida. The Detroit Tigers are interested in him but, as a kid he learned how to fly a rattletrap biplane that his father purchased for a song and refurbished and Steve decides to join the Army Air Corps as a pilot.
He becomes a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot and is shipped off to England in 1943. The story follows his original crew that all trained together as they try to work their way through their required 30 missions. The descriptions of everything to do with the airplanes and the combat missions in this book are absolutely excellent. I felt like I was riding along with the crew and I was invested in those characters.
But, this book is bogged down by so much pointless detail when they are not in the airplanes that it became a chore to listen to. In a print book you can easily skim over excessive description of breakfast after breakfast after breakfast (the level of detail gets down to the jelly that everyone had on their toast at the table) but you can't skim in an audiobook.
Uneventful trips are described in detail. Rather than saying something like "and they made it back to the hotel, had a nightcap and went to bed" you get 5 minutes of description of the car, the hotel lobby, the alcohol and a discussion of why everyone is tired. The reader knows why they are tired - we just read about it (or heard about it, in my case).
It is clear that MacDowell did an extraordinary amount of research for this book and that is nothing but commedable. However, the non-combat scenes tried my patience because it felt like MacDowell was trying to incorporate EVERYTHING he learned about the various locales into the book. Every time a character encounters a new town, a new building or, sometimes, even a new room the reader gets an extensive history lesson (this church/town/castle was built in....burned down in...and re-built in...). It was like Rick Steves from the PBS travel show was trying to tell me a war story and give me a tour of London at the same time.
A decent editor could knock 3 or 4 hours from this story and made it nothing but better. As philosopher Blaise Pascal stated in a 1657 letter, "I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter."
Tom Lennon read this audiobook. There were a wide variety of accents to be mastered for this book and his Belgian, French, German, southern and Maine accents were excellent. Any complaints I have about the audiobook are not the fault of the reader.
I rate this audiobook 3 stars out of 5.
This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Not Just Another War Story.
Note: I was provided a copy of this audiobook so that I could provide an honest review.