RED LEADER DOWN Ken Catran, Random House, Auckland, New Zealand, 2006, 206 pages, paperback, NZ$18.99. ISBN 1-86941-759-3
Red Leader Down takes readers from small-town New Zealand to a savage air war sixty years earlier. When Matt’s grandfather, Guthrie Tucker, a former RAF fighter pilot dies, Matt finds that someone has stolen his medals and an account Guthrie wrote of the fierce aerial combat on the borders of Germany in the last winter of World War Two.
Using Catran’s familiar and effective double-narrative technique, we follow both Guthrie’s harrowing career as a Tempest pilot and young Matt’s efforts to separate truth from lies six decades later. Catran’s account of the fierce fighting against the last desperate efforts of the Luftwaffe is well-researched and exciting, while Matt is baffled to find his dead grandfather accused of cowardice and murder.
The final revelation is both grim and satisfying.
First published in The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand on August 12th 2006.