Southern California was the center of America's aviation industry after World War II. Billions of dollars were invested in the research and development of new aircraft, especially military aircraft. Jet planes, in particular, intrigued the public. Hundreds of books were written about them, but only a few were fiction. So I was glad to run across Jet Pilot, figuring (correctly) that Tedd Thomey, author of And Dream of Evil, would at least create some vigorous action sequences. Thomey, incidentally, later wrote Jet Ace (1958), which is also about a test pilot.
Jet Pilot by Tedd Thomey. Avon (1955), 157 pp.
Jud, an experienced test pilot for a private aviation firm, is trying to cope with personal and professional problems. He thinks obsessively about Chally, his beautiful young wife, who lives by herself and has moved without a forwarding address. He's drinking so much that he smashes up his Jaguar, then lies about the accident to his father and adoring younger brother. At work he's on the outs with his boss. And, maybe worst of all, he seems to be losing his concentration while undertaking dangerous test flights. Everything is likely to deteriorate further in the weeks ahead.
Tedd Thomey has undertaken a mission as difficult in its own way as any test flight of his protagonist. He's trying to write a character-driven novel of a strong, fearless man whose mastery is fraying. And he's trying to do this using the flat, abbreviated style of 1950s paperbacks. Given the limitation, he probably gets into Jud's head about as far as he can go. The character lacks depth, but his problems are real enough. Offsetting this shortcoming are detailed descriptions of the test flights. Thomey brings readers into the cockpit and vividly portrays Jud's reactions to events both routine and unexpected. The setup for the final action scene may be a bit implausible, but all in all fans of aviation fiction are likely to enjoy the book.