Air Bridge (16)

By: Hammond Innes
June 14, 2015

innes air bridge

HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize Hammond Innes’s 1951 espionage thriller/Robinsonade Air Bridge. Set in England during the Berlin blockade and airlift of 1948–49 (during which time the British RAF and other aircrews frustrated the Soviet Union’s attempt to gain practical control of that city), the novel’s protagonist is a mercenary pilot… but is he a traitor? Hammond Innes wrote over 30 adventures, many of them set in hostile natural environments. Enjoy!




“I don’t understand this sequence of events at all, Fraser.” His voice was kindly, but there was an underlying impatience. “Go back to where you and Carter are alone in the plane. Westrop and Field had jumped. Who went out next?”

“Please —” I implored, “let me tell it my own way. When I reached Membury —”

“Just answer my questions, will you, Fraser?” The voice was authoritative, commanding — it reminded me of Saeton’s voice. “Who jumped next?”

All my muscles seemed rigid with the violence of my need to tell it to them as a straight story. But I couldn’t fight him. I hadn’t the energy. It was so much easier just to answer the questions. “Carter,” I said in a dull voice.

“But I thought you said he came back to see you out?”

“I pushed him out.”

“I see. You pushed him out.” I could tell by the tone in which he repeated the phrase that he didn’t believe me. “And then what happened?”

“I flew the plane back to Membury. It was moonlight 
all the way. I found the airfield quite easily and when I
 landed —”

“Please, Fraser… I want to get at what happened in 
that plane. Now try to help me. What happened after
Carter went out. We know the plane dived into the
 ground. I want to know how —”

“It didn’t dive into the ground,” I said. “I told you what happened. I flew it back to Membury.”

He got up and came over to me. “Now pull yourself together, please.” His hand pressed gently on my shoulder. “We naturally want to know what happened. There’s no question of the accuracy of the Russian report. They’ve even sent us a piece of the tailplane. The plane is yours all right. It has your flight number on it and it’s unquestionably a Tudor. Now what caused it to crash?”

“It didn’t crash,” I said wearily. “I tell you, I flew
 it —”

“Then if it didn’t crash, how the devil are the Russians able to send us a sample of the wreckage that clearly shows it to be your plane?”

“I tell you, we put it there,” I replied desperately. “We 
loaded it into the plane and flew it there. Saeton stooged
 around while I pushed the bits out. Then he landed me at 
Hollmind. That was when he flew out to Wunstorf to join 
the airlift. I searched all that night and all the next day
 for some trace of Carter. Then I found his helmet. It was 
just after the snow had started. It was lying on the snow
 and —”

“I just can’t follow what you’re saying,” the station commander interrupted. “Will you please stick to what happened in the plane.”

But before I could answer, the door of the room opened. “Come in, Pierce. You, too, Gentry.” The station commander crossed over to the taller of the two men, drawing him aside and speaking to him in a low voice. I could see the two of them glancing covertly in my direction. Symes was beating an impatient tattoo on the edge of the desk with his long fingers, his dark eyes fixed curiously on my face.

I felt as though an invisible curtain was being lowered, separating me from contact with them and I pulled myself to my feet. “You don’t understand,” I said angrily. “I joined Harcourt’s outfit in order to get hold of one of his planes. We’d crashed ours. It had to be replaced. We had to get hold of another plane in order to test the engines. Saeton was due on the airlift on the 25th. We had to have another plane. The only place we could get one was in Germany — off the airlift. It had to be a Tudor. That was why —” My voice trailed away as I saw them all staring at me as though I were crazy.

The man who was talking to the station commander said quietly, “It’s obvious he’s had a nasty shock. He’s suffering from some sort of mental disturbance — he’s all mixed up with that escape he did. I’ll get him down to the sick bay.”

The station commander stared at me and then nodded.

“All right. But I wish to God I could find out what happened to that plane of yours.”

“Nothing happened to it,” I cried angrily. “There was 
nothing wrong with it at all. I flew it back to Membury.
 All the Russians have found —”

“Yes, yes,” the station commander cut in impatiently. “We’ve heard all about that. All right, Gentry. Take him down to the sick bay. Only for God’s sake get some reasonable statement out of him as soon as possible.”

The M.O. nodded and started towards me. It was then that the other man stepped forward. “Mind if I have a word with him first, sir?”

The station commander shrugged his shoulders. “Just as you like, Pierce. I suppose you think in his present muddled state he’s more likely to tell you the truth.” He gave a quick laugh. “I hope you make better progress than we have.” He crossed to the door and paused with his hand on the handle. “I’d like a word with you, Symes, after breakfast.”

The I.O. rose to his feet. “Very good, sir.”

The door closed behind the station commander and as I slid wearily back into my seat the policeman came and leaned on the edge of the desk, his hard, slightly pitted features seeming to hang over me, a dark blur against the lights. “My name’s Pierce,” he said. “R.A.F. Police. You’re Fraser?”

I nodded hopelessly. All chance of a plane had vanished with the departure of the station commander and I felt drained and utterly exhausted. If only they’d let me tell my story the way I’d wanted to. But I knew that even then they wouldn’t have believed me. Put into words it immediately became fantastic.

“Christian names Neil Leyden?”

Again I nodded. It was stupid of him asking me my name when everybody in the room knew damn’ well who I was.

“I’ve been instructed to ask you a few questions.” His voice was quiet, almost gentle; very different from his features. “Do you remember the night of November 18th last year?”

I thought back. What an age it seemed. That was the night I’d arrived at Membury. “Yes,” I said. “I began working with Saeton that night.”

“At Membury?”


“How did you get there — by car?”

“Yes, by car. There’s no train service to Membury.”

“A car was found that night at the foot of Baydon Hill. That was your car, wasn’t it?”

I stared at him, struggling to understand the drift of his questions. My hand reached up almost automatically to tiie crust of blood where my forehead was cut. “I had a crash,” I said.

He nodded. “You’ve another name, haven’t you? Callahan.”

I started involuntarily. So that was it. This was what Saeton had meant. I stared up at him, meeting his steady gaze, knowing they’d got me and thinking that I might just as well have refused when Saeton had forced me to take that job with Harcourt. But it didn’t matter now. So much had happened, nothing seemed to matter any more. It was as though in some queer way I was now paying the price for what I’d done to Tubby. “Yes,” I said in a whisper. “I’m Callahan.” And then in the silence that gripped the room I asked, “What happens now?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s nothing to do with me, old man. I’ll send back a report to England. In due course I imagine you’ll be flown back and they’ll decide what they’re going to do about you. There’s no warrant for your arrest or anything like that at the moment.” He coughed awkwardly. “Sorry to have to put the questions so soon after your escape from the Russian Zone. Now, I think you’d better go along with Squadron Leader Gentry here. It’s time you had that cut cleaned up and you look as though you could do with a bit of rest. I shan’t be worrying you again — not for some time anyway. So you can just relax.”

I thought how reasonable and logical his questions had been. If I could get him to do the questioning about what had happened to Tubby — they’d believe me then. I pulled myself to my feet again. He was already at the door. “Just a minute,” I gasped, feeling the room reel. “I’ve got to tell you something.” He had stopped in the doorway and was looking at me with a slight frown. “You got this from Saeton, didn’t you? It was Saeton who told the authorities who I was. You know why he did that? It was because he was afraid I’d talk. I didn’t want to pinch the plane. But he made me do it. He said if I didn’t he’d —” I closed my eyes trying to shut out the blurred movement of the room. The engines of a plane thundered on the perimeter track just outside the building. The windows rattled, the sound merging with the din in my ears. The sound was like the roar of a great fall; it went on and on. “Don’t you see?” I gasped. “He blackmailed me —” My knees trembled and gave. Somebody called out something and I felt myself slipping. Hands caught hold of me as I fell, supporting me while my legs seemed to trickle away like used-up water from the base of my body. Everything was remote and indistinct as I slipped into unconsciousness.

I suppose they gave me something for I don’t remember anything more till I woke up in bed with a nurse standing over me. “Feeling better?” Her voice was gentle and soothing.

“Yes, thanks.” I closed my eyes, searching in my mind for what had happened, gradually piecing it together.

“Open your mouth, please. I want to take your temperature.” I obeyed her automatically and she pushed a thermometer under my tongue. “You were a bit feverish when they brought you in and you’ve been talking a lot.”

“Delirious? What was I saying?”

“Keep your mouth closed now. All about your flight and a friend of yours in the Russian Zone. Squadron Leader Pierce was here for a time. They’re flying you out tomorrow — that is if the M.O. says you’re fit enough.”

“Flying me out tomorrow?” I thrust at the bed, forcing myself up into a sitting position. If they flew me out tomorrow nothing could ever be done about Tubby.

“Now don’t get excited otherwise we shan’t allow you to go.” Her hands touched my shoulders, pushing me gently back against the pillows.

My eyes went past her, searching the room. At least I was on my own. A single window rattled to the sound of planes behind black curtains. “What’s the time?” I mumbled the question, my tongue still closed over the thermometer.

“Don’t talk, please. It’s nearly seven and if you’re good you can have some supper.” She reached down and took the thermometer out of my mouth, peering at it through her thick-lensed glasses. “That’s fine. We’re back to normal now.” She shook it down with a neat, practiced flick of the wrist. “I’ll get you some food. Are you hungry?”

I realized then what the faint feeling in the pit of my stomach was. I couldn’t remember when I’d last had a meal. “Very,” I said.

She smiled in her efficient, impersonal way. “Just a minute, nurse,” I said as she was going out “I’m still at Gatow, aren’t I?” She nodded. “Will you get a message to someone for me? It’s for Mrs. Carter. She works in the Malcolm Club. I want her to come and see me — right away. It’s urgent, tell her.”

“Mrs. Carter. Is she the wife of your friend?” She nodded. “I’ll see she gets the message.”

She went out, closing the door, and I lay there staring at the light which hurt my eyes, listening to the planes coming in and taking off, and going over and over in my mind what I would say to Diana when she came. There must be no mistake this time. I had to convince her. She was my one hope. If they flew me out in the morning I’d be able to do nothing more for Tubby. And then I began to think about Saeton. I was angry then and I wished to God I had never met the man.

The nurse wasn’t away long and when she returned she had a tray full of dishes. “I brought you extra big helpings of everything,” she said. “They told me you probably hadn’t had a proper meal for some time.”

“What about Mrs. Carter?” I asked. “Is she coming?”

“I haven’t been able to get your message to her yet.”

“You must,” I said desperately. “Please, sister. It’s urgent.”

“All right. Don’t you fuss now, I’ll see she gets your message. Now you eat that.”

I thanked her for the food and she left me. For a time I could think of nothing but the joy of eating again. I ate until I was full and then I lay back replete and the thought of Tubby was nagging at my mind again. Perhaps if I put it all down on paper… The thought excited me. That was the answer. If they read it as a straightforward report… I would address it to Squadron Leader Pierce. He had a logical, reasonable mind. They couldn’t ignore it if it was sent to them in the form of a factual report. I lay there planning how I’d write it until the nurse returned.

“You must have been hungry,” she said as she saw the empty plates. “You look better, too. The M.O. will be round later. I don’t think you need be afraid he’ll stop you from going out on the P 19 in the morning.”

“What about Mrs. Carter. Did you get my message to her?” I asked.

“Yes. I went all the way down to the Malcolm Club myself. I’m sorry, Mr. Fraser, but she won’t see you.”

“Didn’t you tell her it was urgent?” The sense of being boxed in with an invisible wall of disbelief was back with me again.

“Yes, I told her that. I even told her it might affect your recovery.”

“What did she say?”

“She said there was no point in her seeing you.”

I lay back and closed my eyes, feeling suddenly exhausted. What was the good of going on fighting? Then I remembered the report I was going to write. “Can I have a pencil and some paper, please?”

She smiled. “You want to write to your girl-friend?”

“Yes. Yes, that’s it.” I nodded. “Can I have them quickly, please. It’s urgent. I must write now.”

She laughed. I remember it was a pleasant laugh. “Everything is always urgent with you, isn’t it?”

“I’d like a pen if possible,” I added. It would be better if it was written in ink. Somehow it seemed to make it more formal, more definite than if I scribbled it in pencil. “Where are my clothes? There’s a pen in my flying suit.”

“They’re in the cupboard just outside. I’ll get it for you. I haven’t any note-paper, I’m afraid. Will typing paper do?”

“Yes, anything. Only hurry, please. I’ve got a lot to write and I want to get it finished before the M.O. comes round.”

But the M.O. didn’t come round. Propped up in bed I set it all down right from the time of my arrival at Membury. I had no reason to hide anything now and my pen fairly flew over the paper. And when I was in the middle of it the door opened and Saeton walked in. He was dressed in his flying kit “Feeling better?” he asked as he crossed the room.

“I thought you were flying tests,” I said.

“So I am. But they can’t spare tankers off the fuel run. The boffins are flying routine flights with me.”

It was odd how matter-of-fact our conversation was and Saeton kept it that way. He came over and sat down on my bed. “Writing a report?”


He nodded. “I guessed you’d do that. It won’t help you, you know, Neil — unless Tubby gets back to corroborate your statement.” He glanced at his watch. “I’ve only got about five minutes so I’ll say what I’ve got to say right away.” He hesitated as though marshalling his thoughts. “You’ve put a lot of money and work into the company. I wouldn’t want you to think I’m not grateful and I wouldn’t want you to lose by it.” I think he meant that.

“You’ve seen Pierce?”

“Yes,” I said.

“And you’ve guessed that it was I who put them on to you?”

I nodded.

“Well, you didn’t give me much alternative, did you? I was convinced Tubby was dead and you made it quite clear that if you didn’t find him you’d give yourself up to the police. I couldn’t risk that. I had to discredit you in advance.” He took a packet of cigarettes out of his pocket and tossed me one. His eyes were watching my face as he lit it for me. “I’m very near to success now, Neil. I’m so near success that the authorities would be most unwilling to believe any report that you made. The Rauch Motoren have got the Americans behind them. If your report were accepted, it would mean a trial and the whole thing would become public. In those circumstances the Americans would bring pressure to bear on our people and the engines might have to be handed back to the Rauch Motoren. At best the design would become generally available for any company in any country. You see what I’m driving at?”

“You want me to keep my mouth shut?”

“Exactly. I want you to admit that the Russian report is correct.” I started to say something, but he held up his hand. “I know it’s tough on you. You’ll go to jail for this Callahan business. But as an airlift pilot I don’t imagine you’ll get more than a year, perhaps less. After all, you’ve got a fine record. As for the fact that you came out of the crash alive, you could say it was Tubby, not you, who was scared of jumping.”

“Aren’t you forgetting one thing?” I said.

“What’s that?”

“That Tubby is alive.”

“I hadn’t forgotten that.” He leaned closer to me, his eyes still on my face. “I can cope with your evidence or Tubby’s evidence, but not the two of you together.”

“What do you mean?”

“If you do as I want you to, it doesn’t matter to me if Tubby does get out alive. A fantastic story told by a man who has been badly injured, wouldn’t carry much weight. Now as regards compensation for yourself. I’m prepared to offer you £10,000 and of course your position as a director of the firm would stand. And don’t think I won’t have the money to pay you, I’ll have all the money I want in a few days’ time.”

“And you’ll leave Tubby to rot in that farmhouse?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “I can’t do anything about getting him out, if that’s what you mean. If you admit the Russian report to be true, then I must accept it that he’s dead.”

“And if I send in this report?” I asked.

He glanced at his watch and then got to his feet. “Time I was going.” He paused, looking down at me. “If you send in that report, nothing will come of it. That I can assure you. Without Tubby’s corroborative evidence it will be disregarded. And I’ll see to it that there is no corroborative evidence.”

I stared at him. His tone was so easy and natural it was difficult to believe that there was any sort of a threat behind his words. “What do you mean by that?” I asked him.

“Think it out for yourself, Neil. But remember this. I haven’t come all this way with those engines to be beaten now.”

“And either way Tubby doesn’t get brought back for hospital treatment?”

He nodded. “Either way Tubby remains where he is.”

“By God, you’re a callous bastard,” I said. “I thought he was the only man you were ever fond of?”

That touched him on the raw and his face darkened with sudden passion. “Do you think I like the thought of him out there in the Russian Zone? But I can’t help it. This thing is a lot bigger than the comfort of one man. I think I told you once that if one man stood between me and getting those engines into the air, I’d brush him aside. Well, that still holds good. As far as I’m concerned, Tubby is dead.” He glanced at his watch again. “Well, think it over, Neil.” His tone was once more even and friendly. “Either way you won’t help Tubby, so you might just as well tear up that report.” He hesitated and then he said gently, “We’ve come a long way together in a short time, Neil. I’d like to know that we were going on together. You’ve done all you could to help when the going was tough. Don’t shut yourself out from the thing just as it’s starting to go well. I’d like us to continue the partnership.” He nodded cheerily and opened the door. A moment later it had closed on his thick, burly figure and I was alone again.

I lay there for a moment going over in my mind that incredible conversation, appalled at Saeton’s complete lack of any moral sense. This was the third time in our short acquaintance that he had forced a desperate choice on me. But this time it never entered my head to agree to his terms. I didn’t even consider them. I was thinking only of Tubby. Somehow I had got to get him out.

I don’t know quite when I reached the decision to get out of the sick bay. It just seemed to come as a logical answer to my problem. So long as I remained there, I should be taken out on the P 19 flight in the morning and then, there would be no chance of doing anything for Tubby. On the other hand, if I were clear of Gatow, free of the whole organization, then there might still be a chance.

As soon as I had reached that decision I set to work again on the report. By ten-fifteen it was done. After that I lay back, shielding my eyes from the light, waiting. Shortly before eleven the nurse came in. “Lights not out yet?” She patted the pillows into place. “You’re looking tired now. My! What a lot you have written to your girl-friend.”

“It isn’t to my girl-friend,” I said rather sharply. “Where’s the M.O.?”

“He’s not coming to see you tonight. But don’t worry. He’ll be here first thing in the morning.”

The morning was no good. This must be read tonight by somebody in authority. “Do you know Squadron Leader Pierce?” I asked.

“Of course.”

“Will you do something for me? Will you get this to him tonight?” I folded the numbered sheets across and handed them to her. “Will you see that he gets it personally?”

“And I suppose it’s urgent?” She smiled indulgently as she took the sheets from me. “All right. I’ll see he gets it if you promise to be a good boy and go to sleep.”

“I’ll sleep if I know that that will reach Pierce tonight. Will you promise that, sister? When he’s read it, he’ll understand the urgency.”

She nodded seriously, humoring me with an imitation of my own mood. “Now, you go to sleep. Good-night.”

The room was suddenly in darkness as she switched out the light. I had to suppress an urge to leap out of bed and go with her to the mess. But it wouldn’t help. She’d only think I was mad and she’d call the M.O. and between them they’d drug me into a coma until I was on that damned plane and out of Berlin. The door closed with a decisive click and I lay there suddenly aware that I was alone again and all that stood between Tubby and complete disbelief of his need for help were a few flimsy sheets of paper in the hands of a nurse who thought I was slightly nuts.

I waited for about half an hour and then I slipped out of bed and groped my way to the door. A blast of cold air swept past me as I opened it. A blue-painted bulb showed me the top of some stairs and a corridor. The concrete flooring was bitterly cold against the soles of my feet.

I found the cupboard. My clothes were still there and I bundled them over my arm and slipped back into the room. It took me some time to dress in the dark, fumbling awkwardly with the laces of my cold, wet shoes, tugging at the zip of my flying suit. Finally I struggled into the heavy German greatcoat and jammed the forage cap over the bandages that circled my head.

Thinking back on it now I suppose I was still a little dazed with the exhaustion of the last few days, for I had no plan and as far as I can remember my mind made no effort to grapple with the problem of what I intended to do. I just knew I had to get out of the clutches of the Gatow authorities before they flew me out and, like an automaton who can only manage one idea at a time, I worked towards that end without a thought to the future.

As soon as I was dressed I felt my way to the door and opened it. The single blue-painted light bulb threw a weird light on to the empty corridor and the deserted stair-head. There was no sound except the intermittent murmur of the planes. I closed the door and went boldly down the stairs. There were two flights, each with its blue light, and then I was in the entrance hall. The light was bright here and a man’s figure lounged by the open doorway where a car was drawn up. I hesitated. But there was no point in skulking in the shadows. I crossed the hall and went quickly out through the door to the accompaniment of a murmured “Gute Nacht” from the German driver who stood there.

I replied “Gute Nacht,” my heart hammering against my ribs. But he made no move to stop me and in a moment the night had swallowed me with its blackness and its murmuring of the wind in the fires. I kept to the road, walking quickly, the sound of the planes on the airfield over my left shoulder, and in a few minutes I came out onto the road which ran from the entrance gates down past the mess to the terminal building. I recognized it at once in the lights of a Volkswagen saloon that went careering past me. I waited until its lights had completely disappeared and then I crossed the road and slipped into the sheltering anonymity of the fir woods.

I had no difficulty getting out of Gatow unobserved. I simply pressed on through the woods, keeping the sound of the airfield at my back. I had occasional glimpses of the lights of buildings and the swift rush of cars’ headlights. The rest was utter blackness with the branches clutching at my bandaged head and roots tripping at my feet. I met no one and in a comparatively short time I was brought up by a wire boundary fence. After that I was in the open with the lights of a lorry showing me the Kladowerdamm and the way to Berlin.

There was some advantage in wearing Han’s discarded greatcoat and cap, for I was able to stop the first lorry that came along. The truck was a Bedford, one of a continuous line that moved through the night from the FASO apron to Berlin. I suppose the driver took me for one of the German labor teams slogging my way home. I climbed in and lay back on piled-up bags of flour that tickled my nostrils with their fine dust as we clattered over the pot-holed road.

We went into Berlin by way of the An Der Heer Strasse with its glimpse of Havel Lake where the Sunderlands had landed through the summer. There were lights along the An Der Heer Strasse, for the power, like that of Gatow itself, came from the Russian Zone. But darkness closed in with the trees of the Grunewald and the broad, straight line of the Kaiserdamm was like a dark cleft in the waste of ruins dimly seen from the swaying back of the lorry.

At length the truck slowed and the driver shouted to me, “Wo wollen Sie hin?

“Anywhere in the center of Berlin will do,” I answered in German.

“I drop you at the Gedachtmskirche.”

The Gedachtniskirche I knew — the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, one of the most conspicuous buildings in Berlin. It had been pointed out to me more than once during operational briefings. “Dankeschön,” I said.

A few minutes later the lorry stopped again. Leaning out I saw a gigantic, ruined tower rearing above us into the darkness. A train hooted eerily and clattered by, wheels rattling hollow on the rails of a viaduct. I climbed over the tail-board and dropped to the ground. “Dankeschön,” I called to the driver. “Gute Nacht.”

Gute Nacht.” His voice was almost drowned in the roar of the engine as the heavily-laden lorry rolled on with its load of flour. I watched it disappear round the bend of the platz and then I was alone in the darkness with the monstrous hulk of the Gedachtniskirche above me, its colossal tower so battered by bombs that it looked at though it must topple into the street.

I turned and walked slowly up the Kurfurstendamm. This had been the Piccadilly of Berlin. Now it was a broken, ruined thoroughfare, the shops ground-floor affairs of wood and plaster board whose flimsy construction seemed constantly threatened by the rubble of the upper stories. There was no lighting in the Kurfurstendamm; all allied Berlin was under drastic power-cut now that fuel had to be flown in. But it was possible to see as though the thousands who huddled behind the broken facades of the buildings emanated a sort of radiance.

It was past midnight now, but despite the cold there were still prostitutes on the sidewalks, wandering up and down past the deserted street cafes. There were cars, too — black-marketeers’ cars and taxis with American Negroes trading currency. Prowlers moved in the shadows, pimps and currency dealers, men who brushed by with a muttered, “Fünf Ost für eine West.” Bundles of rags lay huddled in doorways or dragged slowly along with a clop of wooden shoes as they searched the dustbins in the rich heart of Berlin.

I drifted up the Kurfurstendamm, only half conscious of the dim, shadowy life around me, my mind suddenly face-to-face with the problem of what I was going to do now. Until that moment my only thought had been to escape from the organized world that centered around the airlift at Gatow and so avoid being flown out on the P 19 passenger service in the morning. But now, in the heart of occupied Berlin, dressed half as a British civilian flier and half as a German laborer with no German money and no one I knew, I felt suddenly lost and slightly foolish.

But I wasn’t cold any more and I had food inside me. My head was painful, but my mind was clear as I grappled with the problem. A dim figure slid past me with its muttered, “Ich tausche Ost gegen West” I stopped him. “Do you exchange English pounds?” I asked him in German.

Englische Pfunde?”


“You want Deutschmark or Bafs?”

“West Deutschmark,” I answered. “What is the rate of exchange?”

“I give you thirty-two Deutschmark for one pound sterling.” Gold teeth glittered with a drool of saliva as the lights of a car slid past. The man had a wide-hrimmed black hat and his face was swarthy with greasy sideboards. The long Semitic nose was thrust inquisitively into my face. A Greek or perhaps a Pole — certainly not a German.

I changed ten pounds with this shadow of the Berlin underworld and with the Deutschmark forming a wad in the pocket of my flying suit I felt that the first hurdle was past. But what next? I stood on a corner by one of those circular poster hoardings that look like overgrown pillar boxes and wondered how I could get Tubby put of the Russian Zone. If I could get Tubby out, then there’d be no doubt about my story.

But in all Berlin I had no friend to help me.



RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HILOBROW’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Philip Gordon Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.

READ GORGEOUS PAPERBACKS: HiLoBooks has reissued the following 10 obscure but amazing Radium Age science fiction novels in beautiful print editions: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, J.D. Beresford’s Goslings, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man, Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage, and Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.

SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable | Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire”.

ORIGINAL FICTION: HILOBROW has serialized three novels: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic); Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda (which includes original music); and Robert Waldron’s roman à clef The School on the Fens. We also publish original stories and comics. These include: Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Flourish Klink’s Star Trek fanfic “Conference Comms” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | Charlie Mitchell’s “Sentinels” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | John Holbo’s graphic novel On Beyond Zarathustra (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”


Serial Fiction