Joseph Wood, 24years’ old
Joseph Woods-whose grandfather was a decorated officer and hero in World War One and whose son (Joseph’s father) is an Oxford educated professor of Military History (and now a Chair at Cambridge University)-has withered in the oversized shadows of his two larger than life patriarchs since he’s don his first jumper embossed with the family crest. Flunking (or kicked out of) three universities before receiving (by the skin of his teeth) a Baccalaureate in Philosophy, Joseph toils as a trolley driver in a warehouse that-until it was bombed-overhauled and reinstalled railway train seats. Regulated to collecting scrap metal and stealing tattered clothes to resale to keep his dank, one room basement flat, Joseph is in search of a bright light in the revolving door of mediocracy and disappointment that has been his life for over a decade. For him, salvation comes on one of the first days of The Blitz. His room, neighborhood and workplace destroyed, he makes a snap decision to join the Royal Air Force and-within weeks-is headed across the pond to the United States of America as a fighter pilot trainee.
Calvin Bannett, 31 years’ old
Death and despair were constant companions as Calvin Bannett goes about settling the unwashed masses that are the nightly visitors to the sleeper shelter he mans in the heart of wartime London, England. For the last eighteen months he’s seen the same faces of quiet fear on different people as they shuffle down the narrow, dimly lit concrete tube stretching deep into the earth. Unlike most of the gathered in this reinforced cocoon of rock and rebar, Calvin’s fright has been replaced by numbness. Nightly, he guides his flock in, settles them down, then-locking the massive door-watches over his sleeping herd. In the morning he arouses all and empties the tube. Twice-three times a month-an elder would die in the night. Calvin takes care of removing the body. What caused Calvin to join RAF was a different kind of fear-the fear that this was all there was and all there will be until the day he’s gone. This one-time accountant (his own firm was destroyed in the beginning of the conflict), then junior accountant at a shipping company (it fled in the early days of the war), had drifted into a barebones existence that was suffocating him. Maybe in joining the cause, fighting the War, he’ll find a way to actually live again.
Earl Harrison, 18 years’ old
Orphaned in the first days of the war (both parents and older sisters killed by bombs in a night raid), Earl Harrison has been living hand to mouth in a blind rage. Working as an employee in a family friends’ bookstore (and sleeping in its back room at night) this young man’s day to day existence mirrors the agony wartime England is living. After yet another lost (the bookstore owner and his wife are killed) Earl enlists to fight with the RAF. A quick study, within weeks he has aced every test thrown at him and is on a steamer ship to the USA (via Canada). His innocence long gone (and anger growing with every mile across the Atlantic) Earl is surviving for one reason-to become the best flyer in the air and exterminate as many Germans as possible.
Victor Begum, 19 years’ old (brother of Hubert)
Victor Begum was a Bobby trainee before enlisting into the RAF. Is very protective of his mum (lost his father-her husband-in the waning days of WW1) but not your typical momma’s boy. Barely makes it into the Royal Air Force’s flight school and fears he doesn’t have what it takes to go all the way. No children or girlfriend but has burning desire for a family of his own. His mum now safe in Ireland, all Victor wants is to do is anything that will move him forward into some semblance of stability. He’s desperately hoping the RAF will give him the direction-and purpose-he craves.
Hubert Begum 23 years’ old (brother of Victor)
Older brother of Victor and all around never-do-well. Worked in a tonne of jobs (butcher’s assistant, pub employee, chimney sweep) and anything else that required little skill and less effort (with hopefully something laying around of value to be pinched). Much smarter and more streetwise then his little brother with a lot less of a moral compass (estranged from his family for years after stealing the last of his mum’s jewelry and selling it after his father died in the last days of WW1). Dappled in the Black Market (rations, diesel and anything else he could get his hands on) with some success. Gets into the RAF by acquiring the papers of a deserting fighter pilot trainee with a ticket to the USA who also happens to be a dope fiend. Plans on fleeing the service and disappearing into the USA the first chance he gets.
Toni Naywood, 20 years’ old (love interest of Victor Begum)
A kitchen worker that prepares (and sometimes delivers) meals for the flyboys while also working as a nurse’s aide in the small on-base hospital, Toni Norwood is on a mission: save as much money as quickly as possible and get the hell outta Arizona. A product of both segregated Paul Lawrence Dunbar Elementary School and Phoenix Union Colored High School (and the top student at both), Toni’s only dream is to become a teacher after moving to Harlem in New York City. She and her mother moved to Phoenix from California after her father-Staff Sergeant Benjamin Marshal Norwood of the 369thU.S. Army’s 369th Infantry Regiment’s ‘The Harlem Hellcats’-was lynched while in uniform when she was still a toddler. A voracious reader with sharp intellect and mature well beyond her years.