The protagonist of my most recent novel, Moral Fibre, is one of my more powerful characters. By that I don't mean he has a particularly dominant or forceful personality. Only that he has the power to communicate with me more strongly than others. I never intended to write about him. I certainly did not create him. Yet he was able to take over that part of my brain dedicated to writing. He insisted that I tell his story, disrupting all my other plans. Because of him, the release of one book was delayed six months and work on another is only now being resumed.
I am grateful.
My best books are those in which I draw not only from objective research and employ the technical writing skills developed over decades but where my work is guided by a character with a story to tell.
The protagonist of Moral Fibre, Kit Moran, was not typical of Bomber Command pilots -- then again, he was typical of the diversity that was so much a part of Bomber Command. Aircrew in Bomber Command came from all the colonies and former colonies, especially Canada and Australia, but including the West Indies, and it came form allied nations such as Poland, France and the United States as well. Kit was British, but his father was in the Colonial Service. He was born and raised in Africa -- South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria. His parents met in South Africa, where his mother was the daughter of a Scottish missionary and his Zulu second wife. She was, therefore, viewed as "coloured" in South Africa, despite her British passport. Kit grew up in the ambivalent situation of being British, privileged and to all appearances "white" -- but not entirely.
His anticipated education in the UK was derailed by an accident leading to a financial crisis, and he therefore started his working life as an engineering apprentice in Bristol at the age of sixteen. When the war broke out, he was bored, fractious and impatient to "do" something, so he volunteered for the RAF. The recruiting sergeant looked at his engineering background and suggested he would be mustered faster if he volunteered for ground crew rather than air crew. There were so many young men who wanted to learn to fly, that it would be months before he was called up if he stuck to his original request. So, being in a hurry to leave his seemingly dull job behind, he mustered for ground crew training. After two years as an aircraft mechanic, however, he was restless and dissatisfied with letting others take the risks. He volunteered for air crew and was selected for flight engineer training.
He served a full tour as a flight engineer, earning first the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) and then a commission. After six months as an instructor at an Operational Training Unit (OTU), his former skipper and best friend convinced him to volunteer for a second tour and together they started it. On their sixth operational sortie, however, his skipper was killed and the following day Kit refused to fly with another pilot and crew on another raid against Berlin. In consequence, he was posted for "Lack of Moral Fibre" and sent to a psychiatric diagnostic center to determine if he had a mental health issue or should be disciplined for cowardice. What happened there is the subject of the novella Lack of Moral Fibre, which is available as a stand-alone ebook or as part of the trilogy Grounded Eagles.
Moral Fibre picks up where Lack of Moral Fibre leaves off and takes Kit to the end of his war.
Riding the icy, moonlit sky— They took the war to Hitler.
Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. Their average age was 21.
This is the story of just one Lancaster skipper, his crew,and the woman he loved.
It is intended as a tribute to them all.
Officer Kit Moran has earned his pilot’s wings, but the greatest challenges
still lie ahead: crewing up and returning to operations. Things aren’t made
easier by the fact that while still a flight engineer, he was posted LMF
(Lacking in Moral Fibre) for refusing to fly after a raid on Berlin that killed
his best friend and skipper. Nor does it help that he is in love with his dead
friend’s fiancé, who is not yet ready to become romantically involved again.