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Out of the Clouds of DeceitOut of the Clouds of Deceit

David Canning

  • Historical Fiction
  • Family Drama

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Why I wrote this book

Many years ago I read Robert Bly’s book Iron John and found myself in sympathy with his ideas of what it means to be male in our society, such as the isolation frequently felt by men. Out of the Clouds of Deceit combines these ideas with my interest in twentieth century history. What was it like for ordinary people to cope with remarkable events they found themselves part of; for example, the allied bombing campaign of the Second World War is interesting from a military history point-of-view, but what did it really mean to be a member of one of the aircrews involved? I have always suspected that for the men involved their innermost thoughts and feelings remain deeply private and in this sense, my novel is a celebration of the ordinary.

In recent years the shameful way in which the bomber crews who alone for the middle years of the Second World War took the fight to Hitler’s Germany, were ignored as an inconvenient historical truth by politicians, even before hostilities had ceased, has become more readily acknowledged. These men, who were even denied a campaign medal, understandably felt deceived and betrayed by their Government. At the same time as looking at the impact of deceit at a personal level, I draw a parallel between the experiences of the bomber crews with the exposure of service personnel to radiation during the British nuclear tests in the 1950’s; there have been a number of recent high profile court cases with the British Government refusing to entertain the idea of compensation for the servicemen involved.

I have meticulously researched the historical background for Out of the Clouds of Deceit and carefully evoke time and place through granular description and nuance of vocabulary and speech; so often I feel disappointed with historical novels, finding that the setting feels inauthentic or contains glaring inaccuracies. I want the reader to feel transported back to the grimy austerity post-war years and to the atmosphere of the Cold War.

Although it might seem a bit of a cheek, I think my style is similar to that of the twentieth century novelists Elizabeth Bowen (e.g. The House in Paris) and Elizabeth Taylor (e.g. The Sleeping Beauty) for the pacing of the narrative, the importance given to the nuances of speech, the understanding and insight of the human events dealt with, and with the way the authors rely upon the reader to interpret and draw their own conclusions. Of more recent novelists, I greatly admire Tim Pears (e.g. Landed) who achieves a remarkable male voice in his writing, something I have tried hard to do in Out of the Clouds of Deceit.


In 1948, while training to fly bombers in the RAF, Aiden forms a friendship with another pilot, Dennis, who lost his brother in the war and cannot come to terms with his grief. Through contact with older serving officers, Aiden and Dennis come to understand the sense of betrayal nursed by bomber crews who flew in the allied bombing campaign of the Second World War. Shortly before completing their training, Dennis is killed in a dreadful accident. But their uncommonly close friendship has been crucial in the development of Aiden's character. Craving domesticity as much as love and sex, Dennis' death proves an urgent propellant for Aiden to marry Margaret, who soon becomes pregnant. Aiden takes part in Operation Grapple in the Pacific testing Britain's hydrogen bombs, flying an air-sampling aircraft through the mushroom clouds. By this time, Aiden and Margaret's marriage has become strained. However, when provoked by Margaret, Aiden discovers that there is something powerful and dark both in his love for Margaret and in his love for his son. The disconnection between them is bridged when the disappearance of their son forces them to acknowledge the legitimacy of innately different male and female needs and nurturing roles. Aiden eventually retires from flying and they achieve domestic harmony, but having been exposed to radiation during Operation Grapple, a sudden health diagnosis threatens their peaceful lives...Set in the Cold War period, Out of the Clouds of Deceit has been inspired in part by the ideas in Robert Bly's Iron John of what it means to be male in our society and will appeal to fans of historical and military fiction.


D J Taylor

“A densely realised evocation of a bygone age – in this case the England of the immediately post-war era – with some sharp things to say about male solidarity and the deception on which even the sturdiest relationships cane sometimes be based.”

About the Author

David Canning After leaving school I initially put my energies into a career in music, playing trumpet and flugelhorn as well as writing and arranging music, particularly jazz, for a number of performing and recording bands in London. In 1985 I moved to Norwich and studied for a joint degree in Literature and Philosophy as a mature student at the University of East Anglia, gaining my degree in 1988. After leaving university I had a successful career in the financial services industry – an industry I fell into by accident – in both systems audit and project management. As a project manager I was responsible for the delivery of a number of multi-million pound projects. I left the industry a few years ago and now work for a number of charities as well as teaching and writing. My interests include: cooking, history, historic aviation, current affairs and walking.

Book info

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320 pages


David Canning


Matador an imprint of Troubador Publishing

Publication date

1st December 2012

Author's Website