Cover Image: Red Burning Sky

Red Burning Sky

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Member Reviews

“Red Burning Sky” is a well-researched, very well-written WWII novel about the real-life effort to rescue hundreds of American airmen shot down over Yugoslavia. Based on real events, billed as a “historical thriller,” it is a fictional tale that fans of films like “The Great Escape” and “12 O’Clock High,” and books such as “Unbroken” (the Louis Zamperini story), “Flyboys,” or “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” may well enjoy. 

When his B-24 is shot down, bombardier Lieutenant Bill Bogdonavitch parachutes into his father’s Serbian homeland where he is rescued by guerilla fighters. Able to speak the language, Bill soon learns that he is not the only American airman Serbs are hiding. There are 500 more, some sick or wounded, all in need of repatriation. Their first challenge? Getting word to the US Army Air Force that they need to be rescued.

Meanwhile in Texas, Lieutenant Drew Carlton trains other men to fly the bombers he did not have the fortitude to fly in combat. Thought of as a coward, and struggling to regain his self-respect, Carlton volunteers to return to Europe to fly unarmed C-47s through German-held skies and onto barely land-able fields to bring the airmen home.

Author Tom Young has written an absorbing tale of rescue and redemption.  I was particularly impressed by the high level of historical detail, both with respect to flying the aircraft of the period and conditions on the ground in Serbia and Italy (where the rescue missions are staged). Having been a combat pilot, Young adeptly places his readers into the cockpits of the aircraft being flown. And he ably describes the politics affecting, and the hardships faced by, Serbian guerillas and citizens at war not only with the Germans but also Yugoslavian communist “partisans.”

My one criticism would be that, although this is billed as a “historical thriller,” in some places it lacks the “edge-of-your-seat” tension and suspense that thrillers require. Yes, there are battles and perilous missions. But, particularly in the scenes depicting guerilla enclaves and the hiding of airmen, a sense of danger—of catastrophe waiting just around the corner—seems to be missing

Nevertheless, all in all, I found “Red Burning Sky” a worthwhile read.

My thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. The foregoing is my independent opinion.
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Although I don't often venture into the mainstream of traditional historical fiction, once in awhile a title will tempt me because of its underlying context.  This is what brought me to request an ARC of Tom Young's "Red Burning Sky" soon to be offered under the Kensington imprint.  Since the book is set in Yugoslavia late in WWII and is based upon the underlying history of the region and a specific and little known event that occurred there, I was quickly hooked.  The story revolves around a number of characters, principally airman involved in the bombing campaign in Europe.  It relates a fictionalized narrative about a mass rescue of downed Allied airmen being sheltered by the resistance in Yugoslavia.  Of course, this brings us into the complicated relationships between warring partisan groups in that region as well as the Allied nations supporting them.  In essence the country, like much of Europe, was fighting an intense civil war, even as all sides were also opposing their German occupiers.  This has always fascinated me.  The author skillfully uses his characters to illustrate some of the many challenges confronted by both the resistance on the ground as well as Allied airmen evading capture and flying in to facilitate their escape by air under less than optimum conditions.  It is worth reading, from my point of view, primarily for its insights into this troubled regional struggle that looms large in the Balkans to this day.
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An outstanding novel with a background of a little known true event in WW2. The story and the characters were compelling and I find this book hard to put down once I started it. This is a great read. I highly recommend this book. 

Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Picking up the book “Red Burning Sky” by Tom Young and looking at the cover, it seems pretty obvious that it is a book about large aircraft of the WW II vintage.  A parachute coming down helps to convey that feeling.

What is interesting about the book is that it was based on actual happenings and the courage and fortitude of not only American fliers but of allied friends in Yugoslavia.  The almost civil war among those who supported the Communist Tito and those who did not like the communist ideals is a sidebar to the story of hundreds of American fliers shot down and rescued by one band of the Yugoslavs called Chetniks (not the Communist Partisans).  

The story follows one bombardier, Lieutenant Bill Bogdonavich, whose father was from Yugoslavia and he makes a connection with the locals who are all too thrilled to have someone who can speak their language, at least somewhat. The other primary American is another Lieutenant Drew Carlton who is a natural as a pilot but has had a series of mishaps that let some in the USAAF to think he might be a coward.

Carlton and Bogdonavich have stories that parallel and intertwine those of the local peoples.  It is about courage, redemption, and fear.  I would guess unless one has had the experience of being put to the test of life and death that this might be as close to what it must feel like.  Young does a masterful job of storytelling in this book.

There are up and downs but the ultimate goal of flying into a Nazi controlled area to rescue over 500 American aviators (enlisted and officers) in an unarmed transport plane is the goal.  Unlike planes today that have a much better track record for success the cargo planes of WW II are not always dependable.  

There are real figures from the time as well as those made up in conglomerate and these are explained in the afterword.  But all in all, the story of overcoming fear, comradeship, and courage ring through the story.  If you want to vicariously experience some of these emotions and maybe many others, then this book is for you.
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