An excerpt from Os Doran’s first thriller, Nudge Nudge Wink Wink Die

Copyright © 2017 Riis Marshall and Turfhill Court Press

Os Doran, close protection security consultant, turned onto final and the deafening silence from the rear seat told him at the very least they were not going to die. He was learning to fly gliders. Today it was not about flying them—he was already reasonably good at this, today it was about landing them, an entirely different matter. Maybe this is something of a metaphor for life, one only gets one chance at it.

He rolled out of his turn six-hundred feet above the ground instead of where his instructor told him he should be—three hundred. His turn was well-coordinated; it was just that damned height! He extended the airbrakes fully and worked the elevator—up and down, up and down. The nose followed and his speed control went all to hell: instead of his planned forty-five knots, theirs fluctuated from a little too fast fifty to a much too fast seventy.

He kept the brakes fully open and struggled with the speed. He closed them to half when they were twenty feet above the grass and was able to get their speed down to something near fifty-five knots—more or less. Still no sound from behind him. They hit the ground with a resounding thud that did no damage other than to his now quite fragile ego. They rolled to a stop and the right wing dropped slowly to the ground.

Finally, a quiet response from the back seat: ‘That wasn’t a landing – that was an arrival.’

Os said nothing.

They climbed out, pushed the glider to the edge of the runway and waited for the tractor to retrieve them.

His instructor smiled a fatherly sort of smile: ‘Great flight except for that last little bit at the very end. Couple more weeks and you’ll be ready to go off on your own.’

Os smiled a sonly sort of smile: ‘Must try harder.’


A true story

The gliders tied down in a tidy row along the runway reflected the burning hot sun of the Arizona desert. All but one were sparkling, white fibreglass. The exception was orange and it was being attended by a man I assumed was the owner. I walked closer to have a better look. He could have been sixty; he could have been seventy; he could have been eighty. He was dressed in an ancient, worn but clearly well-maintained flying suit. He had close-cropped, salt and pepper hair, and his face was wrinkled and tanned from many years in the sun. He had not shaved for a couple of days.


The finish on this aluminium glider when new would have been gleaming but had faded to very dull: well beyond matte. Paint worn away from leading edges of the wings revealed yellow zinc-chromate primer beneath. The Perspex canopy was cloudy and crazed; the cowling over the instrument panel, originally black, was now grey and covered with tiny cracks. The aircraft was clearly well-maintained but also clearly well-used and had spent many years in the sun.


My father had been a long-distance lorry driver and he said you could look at the state of a driver and predict the condition of the rig – and vice-versa. The same was true here: there was an obvious consistency between the appearance of the aeroplane and the appearance of the pilot.

I walked closer: close enough to inspect the machine but a respectably far-enough-away so not to interfere with his ministrations.

‘This looks like one serious aeroplane,’ I said.

He paused then said, gently, quietly and matter-of-factly: ‘Oh I’ve had ‘er up to thirty-thousand feet.’

As a neophyte glider pilot, I was impressed with this information. Imagine: fourteen metre wingspan, made of sheets of aluminium held together with a few rivets, along with some cables, a little Perspex, a couple of instruments, a little fabric, and some other bits and bobs, in total weighing two hundred and fifteen kilograms. Thirty-thousand feet. Oh, yes, and a small tank of oxygen and a face mask.

In conversation with a young tug pilot later I commented on this brief conversation with the owner of this venerable flying machine.

His response was almost reverential: ‘He’s had it up to thirty-thousand feet lots of times.’




A popular aphorism states each one of us can connect to anyone else in the world with a maximum of six links. If I want to link myself to Mao Zedong, for example, I might do it thus: Elizabeth, my daughter, received her Duke of Edinburgh Award from The Man himself some time ago. Therefore my links are: Elizabeth, my daughter > Prince Phillip > The Queen > Winston Churchill > Joseph Stalin > Chairman Mao.

There are others. I once spoke by telephone with Jim McDivitt, the astronaut. Through him I can link to Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, et al.

One of my shipmates was in the same class as Connie Francis at their high school in Union, New Jersey. It’s then a single step to Frankie Avalon and a whole host of ‘sixties American pop singers.

A work colleague, Walt McMorrow, was a classmate of the film actor Alan Alda at Fordham University in New York many years ago.

My history professor at Carnegie Mellon University—then Carnegie Tech or Carnegie Institute of Technology—had taught Andy Warhol in the late ‘forties. If we assume Warhol met Pablo Picasso, and Picasso met Claude Monet—not unreasonable, but certainly not confirmed assumptions—we can then link to Vincent van Gogh, although here perhaps we’re drifting into realms of fantasy.

The list goes on. Now, following my examples you should be prepared to think of some of your own.

A few weeks ago I was challenged to link myself to Benny Hill, the comic. This turned out to be easy, even easier than when it was first proposed:

In 1986 I spent five days at the Lasham Gliding Club in Hampshire near Basingstoke on a gliding course. One of our lecturers was the club CFI, Derek Piggot. He was one of the stunt pilots in the 1965 film, Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines directed by Ken Annakin. In this film, Benny Hill played Fire Chief Perkins. It’s not a safe assumption to think Derek and Benny sat around the catering tent between takes discussing the meaning of life, the universe and everything, but I think it’s reasonable to assume Derek and Benny can be linked through the director. Therefore my links are: Derek Piggot > Ken Annakin > Benny Hill.

Before I am accused of letting this exposition descend into a session of shameless name-dropping, I think it’s time to move on.

She was known as The Ship That Came Back. The USS Hazelwood (DD531) was a Fletcher class destroyer built in a San Francisco shipyard and commissioned on 18 June 1943. On 29 April 1945 she was hit by a kamikaze off Okinawa during a series of land and sea battles in preparation for an invasion of the Japanese mainland that, thankfully, never occurred. The aircraft came from aft, low, and the port wing hit the forward stack and cart wheeled into the bridge. The crash and resulting explosion and fire toppled the mast, destroyed the entire bridge and put the two forward five-inch guns out of action. Sixty-seven enlisted men and ten officers were killed. Of the remaining eight officers on board, four were wounded. Lt. (j.g.) C. M. Locke, the Engineering Officer who had survived the attack unscathed because he was below decks in the engine room, was then the senior officer on board and took command. Under his command the fires were put out and the wounded were attended to.

The ship made her way, partly under tow and partly under her own power, with a seventeen degree list, first to Pearl Harbor then on to Mare Island near San Francisco.

She saw no more service during WWII but was rebuilt and re-commissioned on 12 September 1951 and operated off the Korean coast until early 1954 when she returned to the east coast and Newport, Rhode Island, her final home port.

Following my first year and a half at Carnegie Tech, I ran out of money, as is sometimes the case with American university students, and enlisted in the Naval Reserve. Funny—but we never thought of them then as ‘gap years’. I was ordered to the Hazelwood and went aboard on a Sunday afternoon late in October of 1959. On the mess deck this large, grainy photograph was attached to a bulkhead and I was told the tale of the ship that came back. My two years of active duty were relatively uneventful except, perhaps, for the Newport Jazz Festival riots of 1960 and three days floating around in the Bermuda Triangle, but – these stories are for another day.

In the autumn of 1962 I returned to university. During a conversation with the Dean of Men, whose name I’ve unfortunately forgotten, the subject of military service came up. He had served as a Naval officer on a destroyer during the Korean War and the Executive Officer of his ship was Lieutenant C M Locke.

A Fletcher class destroyer was 376 feet long with a beam of 39 feet, a draught of 16 feet, a displacement of 2150 tons and a wartime crew of 360 officers and enlisted men. It’s certainly reasonable to assume everybody on board this ship under these circumstances had contact with everybody else—I know it was when I was on board.

So we go from me > the CMU Dean of Men > Lieutenant Locke > the wartime crew of the USS Hazelwood. And thus you who are reading this can, with only four links, connect yourselves to all those 360 men aboard that ship on that dreadful day in April, 1945.

uss-hazelwood-2       lt-locke