||Oct 10, 2005
An American transport carrying secret documents is shot down over Communist territory and the lone survivor must evade capture and escape to friendly turf.
Barnes & Noble.com
A downed American airman must run for his life to evade capture by the Communists in Cold War Albania in the 1950s. His chance meeting with friendly partisans, one of them a beautiful woman, sends him running back an forth across Albania, one step ahead of the authorities. Aided by an old WW II spy suitcase radio, he makes contact with the Americans whose attempts to extract him from danger could start WW III. His exploits are funny, amourous and sometimes lethal, and will keep the reader on edge until the very last page.
The novel is based an an actual mission flown by the author in 1958, and the venerable old C-119 "Flying Boxcar" is brought back to life along with communication in Internationl Morse code.
The copilot was shouting over the din. “We’ve got full opposite rudder, and she’s still turning,” Everly said. “Don’t you think we better get out of here before she spins?’
Wilson heard the pilot shout something to the engineer, and then moved aside, as John reached down and pulled up the door to the laundry chute. He heard the bang of the explosive bolts blowing off the lower door, and then the roar of the slipstream blowing by the opening. “This is starting to get serious!” Jim said to himself, looking beside his radio desk at the hole in the floor going down into the black night. In his headset, he heard the voice of Chroughton Airways.
“3-7844, Croughton, go ahead,” the barely audible voice said. At that moment, The Twin Fan Spam Can started to shudder in a prelude to a stall.
The radio operator keyed his mike. “Croughton, 7844—standby, one.” His attention was on the pilots’ huge corrections with the yoke. Both of them had their left legs jammed into the left rudder pedals, but the C-119 was still turning.
The two pilots looked at each other and the pilot shook his head. “Time to go,” he said, and struggling, afraid to take a hand off the yoke, he hit the bell switch. “Bail out,” he shouted over his shoulder, just as Jim heard the voice of the Chroughton operator telling him to go ahead.
Chroughton would have to wait. Jim was closest to the laundry chute. He tore off his headset and was ready to drop through, but he thought briefly of the other members of his crew. Both pilots were strapped in and might need help getting undone. He looked over at Smythe. The navigator was still riveted to his desk. He reached out to pull the navigator toward the chute, but he wouldn’t let go of the table. “Come on, Lieutenant. You have to go NOW!” he shouted, but to no avail. The navigator was frozen with fear. The engineer grabbed hold of one of Smythe’s arms, and Jim pulled on the other, but the navigator was fighting them all the way, shaking his head from side to side.
Then the Spam Can banked far over to the right, throwing them both on top of the navigator, and Jim knew it was going to spin. The engineer was actually on the back of the copilot’s chair, and the centrifugal forces were beginning to build. Panic took hold of the radio operator, and his instinct for self-preservation took over. He fought with all his strength against the forces pinning him, and clawed his way toward the open laundry chute. The stupid godam navigator could fend for himself.
He didn’t know if the airplane was upside down or what, but the laundry chute opening was in front of his face, and he pulled himself into it with all his strength against the G-forces, literally clawing at the smooth metal sides for some kind of purchase to get him to the end of it and out of this deathtrap. Then, unaccountably, some movement of the out-of-control Spam Can catapulted him through the opening and he was falling into the black void. He felt like he fell for a long, long time, and that he would hit the ground any second now. The opening of his parachute jerked him out of his fear and panic, and looking up, he found the blossom of his parachute canopy looming in the darkness. He didn’t remember pulling the ripcord, but he must have or he wouldn’t be floating down into this quiet night. He frantically looked around him, worried that the Spam Can would be coming down on top of him. He couldn’t locate her, but he could hear her engines screaming. The sound was not the deep throaty sound of her big radial engines, but the tortured sound of engines going down out of control. He still couldn’t pinpoint the awful noise, but it seemed to be below and some distance away.
Then out of the corner of his eye, a tongue of flame stabbed the night, and in the glare of burning fuel, he could see several pieces of airplane plummet into the earth in a fiery explosion. He knew it was the Spam Can.
“Oh God. I hope they got out,” he murmured.
London Morning Paper
This is Charles’s second book yet while reading it I felt he’s been writing all his life. The feeling is really not far from the truth. The author was a wireless operator aboard the forgotten icon of military transport planes, the C-119, the forerunner of the well known C-130. So where does the writting come in? Wireless communications up to the 2nd World War including shortly after was still a Morse code activity, hence the requirement for a radio operator crew member. The introduction of voice communications put an end to this seat in the cockpit. Charles was a member of a close fraternity that spent most of his life writing in code. This comes through in his latest book.
The book is not really about aviation, however I am convinced that many an aviator will enjoy it. It is more about human nature pressed into the mold of military and international politics. Within the witches brew of military rules and regulations you often find a few that break out because opportunity and situation dictates it.
Boxcar Down is the story of a chain of events bringing two worlds together into a dicey situation. This is not a spy thriller, although it borders
on it very well, much in the light of John le Carre’s book “The Spy that Came in From the Cold”. In essence it’s a cold war situation where a plane errantly flies into restricted territory whereby blind procedure causes it to be shot down. The lone survivor trapped behind hostile borders, attempts to find his way back into friendly territory. It is here where the tension begins; Charles does a splendid job of increasing that tension to a screaming end. His painting of the characters involved will indelibly burn them into your mind making you wish the book would go on longer despite it being over six hundred pages.
Charles has become a master of mixing the human element into a potentially dangerous international incident. His main character Wilson, gets involved with the people who help him escape, turning the whole incident into a family of friends deciding to use the situation to flee from an oppressive regime. Each member of that family contributing dramatically their experience in assisting the ultimate escape. I use the word family because only a family could be so dedicated, “family” helps to illustrate the concept. Towards the end, four countries are involved in a tinderbox of negotiations. What Charles brings to the fore is the camaraderie among professionals and the respect this brings. It is during such situations as described where the phrase is so aptly applied, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.
Although the book is fiction many of the characters used in the book are real life people with whom Charles has served in the US Air Force. This makes the book so vividly real as the traits of these people creep into your mind. The aviation part of the book is well described towards the end making any pilot sit on the edge of his seat. Woven masterly into the background of the story is the C-119 that in a way becomes alive again. It is a tribute to this plane and its crews, yet not forcing you to accept this. All in all a very tastefully written book which I classify into realms of both aviation and historical thriller. A novel well worth your time, keeping you wondering how you would do it. I step back and wait in keen anticipation for Lunsford’s next novel.
James Van Etten, Editor
Want to review or comment on this
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!
Reader Reviews for "Boxcar Down: The Albanian Incident"
|Reviewed by Dianne Salerni
|Fans of Clive Cussler, Dan Brown, and Tom Clancy should take a look at this slightly different military/political adventure, a highly enjoyable tribute to “all the forgotten Cold War veterans who served very close to the Iron Curtain when the Cold War was not so cold.” Boxcar Down, The Albanian Incident is the story of Airman Second Class Jim Wilson, a radio operator on a C-119 “Flying Boxcar” which is shot down in 1958 during a secret courier mission when it inadvertently strays into Albanian airspace. The author, Charles L. Lunsford, is a former Airborne Radio Operator and one of the very last to be trained in Morse code operation. His expertise in this field provides the fabric which holds this tale together, for this is a story of a resourceful young enlisted man whose clever use of a vintage WWII spy suitcase radio provides the wherewithal for a daring and dangerous rescue mission. This is a big, fat novel rich in background and populated by memorable characters. The dialogue is a pleasure to read, and the action is realistic and compelling. I can highly recommend Boxcar Down as a fun read that includes a little bit of espionage, a fair amount of history, and a lot of adventure.
Reviewed by Dianne Salerni
For POD Book Reviews and More