Paco Chierici’s first novel, Lions of the Sky, is an expertly woven story about the determination, sacrifices, and camaraderie of the fighter pilot community. The author, an accomplished fighter pilot himself with over 3000 hours and 400 carrier traps, puts his experiences, both good and bad, into the characters and action, and tells a story like only one who has “been there” can.
“Slammer” Richardson has seen it all as a Hornet pilot, and now he’s training the next crop of stick jockeys. But he has a secret, and survivor’s guilt, and issues with women combat pilots; and all of those will be challenged when he trains his final class, which features two female pilots, “Quick” and “Dusty.” Are they the real deal? Can Slammer keep his demons in check long enough to teach the class what they need to know, despite the distractions and his personal feelings?
Things don’t get any better when by a twist of fate Slammer, Dusty, and Quick are all in the same squadron a year later when rising tensions between Vietnam and China put them smack in the middle of a powder keg waiting to go off. Mettle will be tested and lives will be lost, but who will come out still standing when the showdown is over?
I particularly liked how well the author weaved in his personal experience into the characters. He used parts of his later career, when he was a seasoned aviator, in developing Slammer, and did an excellent job. The trepidation and uncertainty from the earlier part of his career, as he was training for a difficult and dangerous job, is apparent in the more junior aviators. Finally, I was impressed with how the intricate movements of aircraft in combat—second nature to a fighter pilot—were easily and clearly explained to the lay reader. You don’t need to be a pilot to understand the action so well written here.
Fans of air combat action or former tactical pilots from any service will appreciate and enjoy this book. Chierici hit a home run his first time at bat.
Review by Rob Ballister (June 2019)
Sam Richardson is a fighter pilot’s pilot, a reluctant legend with a gut-eating secret. He is in the last span of his tour as an instructor, yearning to get back to the real action of the Fleet, when he is ordered to take on one last class—a class that will force him to confront his carefully quarantined demons. Brash, carefree, and naturally gifted, Keely Silvers is the embodiment of all that grates on him. After years of single-minded dedication, she and her classmates can see the finish line. They are months away from achieving their life-long dream, flying Navy F/A-18 fighters. They are smart and hard-working, but they’re just kids with expensive new toys. They’re eager to rush through training and escape to the freedom of the world beyond, a world they view as a playground full of fast jets and exotic locales. But Sam knows there is a darker side to the profession he loves. There is trouble brewing in the East with global implications. If they make it past him they will be cast into a dangerous world where enemy planes cruise the skies over the South China Sea like sharks, loaded with real weapons and hidden intentions.
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 292