By Stephen Coonts
Forge Books, $24.99, 253 pages
Three Novellas is by the master of airplanes, war, and the human condition: Stephen Coonts. The Sea Witch, from which the book draws its name, is a World War II Catalina Flying Boat painted flat black. Filled with gas, it could stay in the air for over twenty hours. The Sea Witch, as she leaves her forward base has two missions: first and foremost, find Japanese war ships and bomb them till they sink. The second is to hopefully find the remains of a flying boat that didn’t make it back to the base. Their destination for this night’s flying would be Buka and Rabaul, deep water lagoons the Japanese were using to resupply so they could attack Guadalcanal. The route they would fly was the same route the missing PBY had flown the night before. So, strap yourself into a spare seat and prepare for the ride of your life as Rabaul has a big surprise waiting for the crew of the Witch.
“We call it war but it’s really murder, isn’t it? Us or them, whoever pulls the trigger, no matter. The object of the game is to assassinate the other guy before he can do it to you.”
The second novella is The 17th Day, which was the life expectancy of a flyer during World War I. Wood frames guy wires with a cloth covering in which sat a pilot, engine, a barrel of gasoline, and two guns. Last three weeks in these planes and you were practically a veteran. Paul Hyde dropped out of college to join the Royal Flying Corps looking for a grand adventure, and grand it was until planes were crashing all around him. Today is his seventeenth day. Will he be able to beat the odds?
Al-Jihad is the third novella in the book. Will three million dollars be enough money to steal a V-22 Osprey, and fly with a woman he considered totally bonkers to some remote fort in the middle of the desert and help her kill a bunch of terrorist that had killed her parents by planting a bomb aboard an airliner? Things get dicey quickly and Charlie Dean, ex-force Marine and sniper begins to wonder if he’s made a pact with the devil. A fast paced well written book perfect for a weekend at the beach.
Reviewed By Dick Morris