There are a lot of aircrew stories out there these days and they all have their merits. Every now and then one really surprises me. With One Life Left this was partly due to discovering it had been around for a few years before I stumbled upon it recently. I'm certainly not going to claim to knowing about everything that is published but sometimes I wonder just what I have missed and have still to discover. It's rather an exciting thought!
Discovering something like One Life Left, Hugh Garlick DFC's memoir of his 10 years' flying in the RAF and FAA, is why I love doing what I do. It just asks to be read. While there's nothing unfamiliar about a pre-war RAF pilot seconded to the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (it was a common occurrence in the mishmash of Fleet Air Arm management between the wars), the images reproduced in the book, and on the book's photo website, conjure up all that is wonderful about British wartime flying in the 1930s. Gloster Gauntlets compete with Hawker Nimrods and Fairey Swordfish. It doesn't get much better. Anyone interested in the aviation of World War 2 holds a distinct soft spot in his or her heart for the aircraft of the 1930s. Some of these aircraft did what they were designed to do albeit in a war that their designers, working with the technology of their time, may have struggled to imagine.
What has me particularly excited about this book is reading the few pages available on Google Books. I don't often do this but while trying to find what I could on the book (after speaking with Garlick's nephew, John Hooton), I started reading the first chapter. Long story short - Malta, 1938, recovering in the sun after some heavy drinking ... enough said! The writing is nothing short of delightful and the author has a wonderful ability to capture the atmosphere of the time. His honesty and self-deprecating humour instantly reminded me of 'Mike' Crosley and They Gave Me A Seafire and Charles Lamb doing his thing in War In A Stringbag (funnily enough, these chaps were Fleet Air Arm types too of course). This first chapter, while I was already interested in the book, has me hooked. Skimming through the remaining pages online only reinforced this.
I first found One Life Left on Facebook. John Hooton runs this page and has a small competition running for those who 'like' it. The prize? A hardback copy of the book. While there are many e-book formats available for One Life Left (I am particularly keen to try the new 'fully loaded with extras' iPad version), it's fair to say the hardback is certainly going to be the prettiest! A 'like' on Facebook doesn't take much, and sometimes doesn't mean a hell of a lot, but perhaps helping a relatively little-known book get 'out there' a bit more, in whatever format, will help a good man's incredible tale be remembered by many ... as it should be.