Goodbye Mickey Mouse - 1982
A vivid evocation of wartime England through the eyes of a group of American fighter pilots escorting daylight raids over Germany in 1944.
The novel is the story of the 220th Fighter Group of the US Eighth Air Force in the lead up to the Allied invasion of Europe. The Group is based at the fictional Steeple Thaxted airfield in Cambridgeshire, England. It follows the contrasting, but converging lives of two pilots, the reserved Captain Farebrother and the cocky Lieutenant Mickey Morse - the Mickey Mouse of the title - whose friendship bonds in the battles in German airspace.
In the same was as Bomber did, this novel works because it goes behind the movie bluster and showcases the mixture of excitement and terror that was the average airman's lot in World War Two.
Why it's enjoyable
Deighton's written about bomber pilots, so you can see the logic of writing about fighter pilots too. The story is not as gripping as Bomber, perhaps because the reader misses the element of the viewpoint of the other side; it’s nevertheless fast-paced and, as its Deighton, full of the accurate historical background detail one expects. Also, with American pilots rather than British pilots, the conversation and social engagement is different.
The novel does evoke wartime Britain well, with the effects of rationing and the simmering antipathy the British servicemen felt towards their well-paid American allies. It also features his trademark technical and operational details of the P-51 Mustang fighter. The aerial scenes are few and brief but capture the terror and excitement of bomber escort missions over Germany, though the battle scenes are not as raw as those in Bomber.
As well as the military stories, there's an interesting sub-plot about the relationship between fathers and sons which adds a degree of humanity to the characters not normally associated with a war novel.
'"Blue Leader from Blue Two - I can't make it to England."
"What in the hell do you mean, Rube?" said MM indignantly.
"I'm out of gas. It's this goddamned blower."
"Jesus, Rube. We're practically there now."
"It's no use, MM. I've been nursing her, but the needles are out of sight. I'll bail out over Holland. The resistance guys will maybe smuggle me out or something."
"Now listen, Rube..." But MM's advice went unheeded as Rube's wingtip tilted steeply and he began a wing-over that dropped him out of the formation belly-up like a dead fish.'
The jacket design of a P-51 Mustang is by Chris Moore. On the rear flap of the dustjacket, Deighton is photographed in front of the US Air Force roundel of a similar plane.
Goodbye Mickey Mouse, UK first edition, 1982
Planning for success
Len Deighton regards Goodbye Mickey Mouse as the only book he has ever written which came out precisely as he'd intended when planning it