Thomas Fleming, . . Forge, $27.95 (544pp) ISBN 978-0-7653-0322-6

A century of aviation and world history are revisited in novelist and historian Fleming's latest offering, which tracks the development of the airplane from a fantastic toy into a potent economic and military force. In the early 1930s, Frank Buchanan is a brilliant and conscientious aircraft designer, and Adrian Van Ness is his unscrupulous business partner in the increasingly powerful airplane industry of California. Associates, wives, mistresses, sex clubs and gallons of booze accompany them through peace and war as their initial idealism fades into cynicism. Real-life personalities make appearances: Charles Lindbergh survives airmail night duty and famously flies solo to Paris; JFK is regularly treated to the services of a high-class whore; and a giggling Richard Nixon is shown a porn flick before getting a promo film pitch for a new aircraft. The book is at its best in its aerial set-pieces. Ancient Hollywood cameras grind out brilliant recreations of the old barnstorming days; Spads and Fokkers reenact WWI, looping and crashing earthward in plumes of smoke. Later, in terrifically exciting scenes of WWII air warfare, B-17 Flying Fortresses lumber to unpublicized destruction on forays over Europe, while daring low-level fighter bomber attacks on Japanese fleets turn the tide of the war. Interwoven with such potent scenes are clandestine romances, in which women are rarely more than sexual fodder for macho males. Pulpy dialogue and supersonic metaphors abound, but Fleming knows how to turn history into captivating fiction. (Jan. 23)

Forecast:Aviation enthusiasts are the core audience for this novel—which is being published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of powered flight—but it is also a natural airport buy for travelers.