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I would like to find the title or author of a novel that I read circa 1977, by either an American or English author. Set in England, in the fifties or very early sixties, it describes a love affair between an American air force officer—I believe a major—and an English artist (I think a musician).

He is in England almost by chance: the B-47 bomber he flew to England had major mechanical problems, and then the transport aircraft on which he and his crew are shipping out crashes, leaving them dead and him grounded because of injuries.

They meet through a minor fender-bender while she is learning to drive—she asks him to drive her home because she despises the driving instructor. I would risk a small bet that the author had been a pilot, or at least knew the military. There is a thriller element: aircraft are being sabotaged, which I recall being interesting, and the love affair didn’t feel like an afterthought.

Thanks!

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This Side of the Sky by James Barlow

Description taken from goodreads.com:

When a C-54 airplane crashes en-route to Schipol in Holland, American pilot Bill Schoyen is the sole survivor. Grounded for one year and relegated to security work, Bill remains in self-imposed exile in England away from his home, his wife, and his children. He claims his reason for doing so is a sense of shame, but in fact he means to investigate the crash, suspecting sabotage.

Bill develops an obsession with unhappily married up-and-coming actress Emma Reynolds, who is appearing in repertory near his base. The two begin an affair that dominates all notions of duty or ambition – but when Bill’s family arrives in the UK he is faced with a terrible choice. Alternating between the fashionable world of the theatre and an air base where a saboteur is at work, This Side of the Sky traces their dilemma with a blend of passion, sympathy and suspense.

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  • Interesting: not a pilot, but with air force experience, and not American; I'll give myself a 50% for my guesses. I think I read one or two of his other books in the long ago. Thanks!
    – Barnaby
    Jul 16, 2023 at 13:21
  • I'm halfway through rereading the book, and though it is nearly sixty years old, I'd still call it a good read. Obviously dated ... but in consequence it has something of the quality of a historical document, especially in its descriptions of a SAC base in England. I suspect that when I first picked up the book, I was simply expecting 'an aviation novel', and was lucky enough to get something markedly better.
    – Barnaby
    Jul 18, 2023 at 1:23

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