Sidney Allinson is a Victoria-based communications consultant, Canadian
news correspondent for Britain’s The Army Quarterly and Defence, and
author of The Bantams: The Untold Story of World War I.
Readers of Spencer Dunmore’s five previous novels may be a little disconcerted by Ace. Though it provides his usual sound fare of military derring-do, a new note has been added this time by copious gobs of sexual congress. In a novel about German fighter pilots, one can expect a certain amount of slap-and-tickle, but not delivered as it is here — through descriptions of bouts with women who are improbably portrayed as being uniformly voracious, aggressive, and generously endowed. However, there is a believable romance involved as well, when the protagonist, Ernst Brehme, becomes involved with a Jewish woman in occupied France.
As a pilot himself, Spencer Dunmore is on firmer ground with his accounts of air combat. Each time Ernst — an admirable, young, reluctant hero — fires up his Messerschmidt on Focke Wulf, we know that here is an author who loves flying. On this level, Ace is engrossing enough to be an authoritative guide on how it was to fight for the Luftwaffe.
After easy “duck shoot” victories during the Blitzkrieg, the German pilots find themselves up against a more resolute RAF in the Battle of Britain. As the nature of the air war changes, Ernst is shown to evolve from a starry-eyed patriot to an increasingly cynical veteran whose main object is merely to survive. He is sustained only by his love for an older woman, an involvement which makes him see the fallacy of the official line of anti-Semitism.
Tragically separated from her, he fights in Russia and against the Flying Fortresses over a crumbling Reich. While his score of kills mounts, and he receives coveted medals, he experiences personal changes that mirror those of his country. Thus, through one valiant fighter-pilot’s eyes, Dunmore effectively evokes the atmosphere of wartime Germany, portraying that nation’s gradual descent from arrogant triumph to disillusion and final despair.