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Did You Know? Homing pigeons played an important role in World War II! Here are just a few of the remarkable, and true, things I uncovered during my research for THE LONG FLIGHT HOME.

During World War II, British Services enlisted over 200,000 homing pigeons, including 16,000 that were parachuted into German-occupied France.

The National Pigeon Service, a volunteer civilian organization in Britain, delivered over 200,000 war pigeons to British Services between 1939 and 1945.

Source Columba (a.k.a. Operation Columba) was the code name for air-dropping 16,000 homing pigeons in German-occupied France as a method for locals to provide intelligence to Britain.

During World War II, the Royal Air Force dropped 16,000 homing pigeons over German-occupied Europe, parachuted in small baskets containing paper, pencil, and a small tube—attached to the pigeon’s leg—for storing a message.

In 2012, a man renovating an old house in Surrey, England discovered the remains of a homing pigeon along with a tiny capsule containing a coded message—one that has yet to be deciphered by code breakers around the world even today.

The Dickin Medal, instituted in the United Kingdom to recognize the gallantry of animals in World War II, was awarded 54 times—32 of the recipients were pigeons.

By delivering critical messages, homing pigeons have saved thousands of human lives during both World Wars.

 


Books We Can’t Wait to Share – Staff Picks

 

Reviewed by Ann

The heroin pusher from the New Jersey burbs. The LearJet pilot who flew drug runs for heavy metal rockers (including that band you might have heard of) and who died under mysterious circumstances. A funeral mass in a Catholic church filled with assassins, drug runners, gangsters, fixers, and crime family leaders. A $50,000 bribe offered to a pair of New York City detectives. FBI technicians planting bugs in an elderly woman’s apartment above a mafia joint.

Bleedy, seedy, corrupt, and unbelievable because it really happened, GOTTI’S BOYS is a meticulously researched chronicle of the exploits of John Gotti and his crew, from their heights conquering the streets of New York to the clank of Gotti’s jail cell. After the shocking broad-daylight assassination of Paul Castellano, gunned down in front of a popular New York steakhouse, Gotti took over the Gambino crime family and never flinched, despite knowing he was under intense observation from the FBI and NYPD. For the feds, Gotti was now Priority One. So they developed a strategy to catch him and take him down.

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Anthony DeStefano – a seasoned expert in the fields of organized crime and high-visibility trials, who wrote one of the definitive books on The Mafia, The Big Heist – portrays Gotti as shrewd, with an invincible air about him. He flaunted his blood money with sartorial style, waving to tabloid photographers and downing Remy Martin at Manhattan nightclubs even in the midst of his racketeering trial. DeStefano draws from newly released records, fresh interviews, and deep background information to show the inner complexities of these two overlapping circles of power: the law, and the lawless.

What’s most fascinating is this snapshot of policing in the mid-1980s. While technologically primitive by today’s standards, authorities found other ways of gathering information that are still employed today: surveillance, informants, and consistent, careful observation. Irrefutable evidence is enough to turn the most loyal subject into a pliable and cooperative witness.

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Reviewed by Delia

Faith and feathers are one in the same in Alan Hlad’s debut novel. Backdropped by the London Blitz, The Long Flight Home is both a heartwarming will-they-won’t-they World War II love story, as well as a fresh take on the oft-forgotten true story of Britain’s heroic war pigeons. This book is perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave.

Chapters alternate between the perspective of Susan, a young homing pigeon trainer on the brink of womanhood; and Ollie, a Maine-bred crop-duster who leaves the only home he’s ever known to join the Royal Air Force. Ollie and Susan fall into each other’s lives through a series of unlikely circumstances – the kind that war is made of – and work together alongside Susan’s grandfather, Bertie, to prepare their pigeons for deployment into German-occupied France. While this almost-love-story is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes, it’s the remarkable story of Susan’s pet pigeon, Duchess, that will keep the pages turning. Steeped in factual and well-detailed descriptions of military movements and life in wartime London, wrapped up nicely in a knot of love and hope; The Long Flight Home left me wanting more in all of the right ways.

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Reviewed by Michaela

Hello, Western fans! I’m here to tell you some cool background on the Caleb York western series. Does the title LAST STAGE TO HELL JUNCTION remind you of one of your favorite John Wayne western movies? Yes? That’s just what we were hoping you’d say. In fact, the character Caleb York was created by Mickey Spillane, the master of tough-guy fiction, in a screenplay that he wrote for his pal John Wayne. The film was not produced, and the character lived only in the pages of the screenplay until Max Allan Collins, Spillane’s friend and literary executor, found it and saw the makings of a classic western novel. Like all the books in the series, LAST STAGE TO HELL JUNCTION takes place in Trinidad, New Mexico, in the late 19th century, the heyday of the Old West, and offers the classic theme of good guys vs bad guys. Caleb York, a gunslinger turned sheriff, fights for justice against robbers, killers, rustlers, and other villains in this page-turning adventure. Spillane and Collins collaborations have been getting rave reviews, and you’ll see why as soon as you read the opening pages of LAST STAGE TO HELL JUNCTION. Dig in and enjoy.

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Reviewed by Jackie

When we were acquiring THE LONG FLIGHT HOME I bothered the editor every day to make sure we got to publish this book. I am thrilled to be working on it and can’t wait for readers to discover it.

It is everything a great historical fiction title should be. It has fascinating little-known historical details (Pigeons during WW2!). It has adventure in the form of Ollie, an American pilot who volunteers to fight for England. It has women in history and their struggles against gender roles in the form of Susan who is helping use her family’s pigeons for the war effort. There is a particularly loveable pigeon named Duchess that readers will come to love. Finally, it has the emotional pull of families torn apart by war; and at it’s heart it has a love story that flourishes despite all odds.

I recommend THE LONG FLIGHT HOME for any reader looking to connect with the past, read a thrilling adventure, and experience the tenacity of love and family despite the horrors of war.

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