The Rough Mechanical : The Man Who Could
A plane crash shatters the rural calm of an English air force base during World War Two, and a brave young airman rushes through the smoke and fire to pull a body from the wreckage.
The air force base is occupied by Allied airman who play cards and cricket by day, but by night they have a deadlier goal - in their "devil's machines" they bring death and destruction to the cities of Germany. The quiet and unassuming rescuer is called Adam, a young navigator, something of a technical wizard who can turn his hand to anything. That is, until he meets May, an attractive young radio operator, and for the first time in his life, he finds himself floundering over what to do.
A bombing mission goes badly wrong, and Adam's plane is shot down over Poland. The crew is interned in a prisoner of war camp. Life is tough there, and it only gets worse when they find themselves on the receiving end of Allied bombing. His friends are mainly interested in football, but Adam does not let the barbed wire fence in his mind. The camp is the education he never had, and some of it is dangerous stuff.
The war drags to a noisy close; Adam and friends are liberated. On their return home they find themselves in the battered city of Berlin, where they see the destruction that they helped wrought. Adam helps hunt Nazi sympathisers, runs into threatening Soviets, and has a strange encounter in a seedy nightclub with another victim of war. Or maybe she is not such a victim after all.
Adam and his friends return to London, trying to get their lives together again, looking to rebuild after all the destruction. It should be a time of hope and optimism. But post-war London is grey and cold, food is rationed, and there are more crises to come. As American money for Britain runs out, a financial crisis is brewing. In Whitehall there is talk of a depression, riots and hunger.
May and Adam start going out together, and romance is in the air. But it is not easy - war has left them apart. Adam is keen, but even when they are out dating, May suspects that Adam's fertile mind is not always thinking about her. He has enrolled at university and it is proving a hot bed of radical new ideas. He starts to form an intriguing new plan.
Despite all the distractions, romance grows. Overcoming the obstacles of rationing, unhelpful friends, mad landladies and May's rabble-rousing Communist father, Adam and May get married. But May wants more than that, and Adam finds his domestic life starting to get more complicated than he had expected.
The clouds of war are threatening again. The Russians are blockading Germany, and Adam is drafted in to help with the Berlin airlift. The planes that once brought misery from the skies are now bringing coal, food and hope to that beleaguered city. Against a backdrop of spies and bootleggers, Adam stumbles back into contact with Eva, an old flame, who turns leaves him politically and sexually very confused.
Back in Britain, things are looking up: a family is on the way. As May is pregnant with their daughter, Adam has another baby to look after: a revolutionary new machine that he has designed, a Heath Robinson structure of pipes, valves and flowing water, a computer which promises to make the world a better place.
But ironically, Britain is now pursuing the most devilish machine of all, the Atom Bomb. Short of money, and with a young family to support, Adam is pressured to take a job helping develop the bomb. He has to make a hard choice, and finds himself caught up in a real life Cold War spy drama.
The Rough Mechanical has a fascinating plot where real world dramas of the 1940s and 50s are interwoven with a story of struggle and inspiration. It is meticulously researched - most of the background events did take place, and actual persons populate the cast of characters. Adam is