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Despite All Odds

Samrat Mitra Author Interview

Laddie Roy DFC follows an intrepid youth from a British colony who flies a combat aircraft for the Royal Air Force in the Great War. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Having read a few brief mentions of Lt. Indra Lal Roy or ‘Laddie Roy’ on Memorial Day, I was quite in awe of his achievements. Here was a young Indian boy from colonial India flying expensive war planes to take down the German aircrafts at a time when the Red Baron spread terror in the skies with his deathly ‘Flying Circus’. It seemed too good to be true: we have read amazing accounts of Indian infantry battalions storming German trenches on the ground but the aerial fight of the flying aces was a tactical and expensive war and if not for Colonel Sefton Brancker, no one from the British colonies could ever fly these magnificent machines, let alone get near them. However there were brave men from all corners of the Empire and America whose characters have been woven into Laddie Roy’s journey to greatness because they worked as one squadron, one team. It didn’t matter where they were from but what they did to fulfil their mission duties. Mike Mannock (Victoria Cross), George McElroy (Distinguished Flying Cross) and James McCudden(Victoria Cross) and many others were Indra Lal Roy’s contemporaries and colleagues who figure prominently in his story. When a plan and a few good men come together only greatness can follow, this was the inspiration for the setup of my story.

Indra Lal Roy is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Indra Lal Roy’s journey to become a pilot of the Royal Flying Commission (as the RAF was named at the time) was not without incredibly challenging odds and yet he overcame them. It was his struggle about getting past his first failed qualification test for the RFC, his first crash which nearly killed him, his remarkable recovery thereafter to become a flying ace in a matter of days gives us hope that we can achieve what we set out as our goals. Indra Lal Roy was as determined, as forthright and sincere as anyone could be but I see this brilliant brightness in his persona that just made destiny put the pieces together for him to fulfil his dreams until it didn’t in his final flight mission over Carvin, France. Roy never let up his determination to keep going despite all odds and yet he never lost that touch of humanity between missions despite fighting the moral dilemma of destroying an enemy aircraft.

My book touches upon this aspect of what we now call PTSD but back then soldiers were afraid to admit this and yet one could find evidence of their stress in the mails they sent back home as I have mentioned in the story. My driving ideals were to present as accurate a picture as I could, a snapshot of the time when flying was still an experimental science forcefully brought into urgent improvement during the First World war.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I wanted to delve into the psyche of the victor and the vanquished airmen in an aerial dogfight, clearly this is a different war than those fought in the trenches and that is where the heart of the book lies. One is transported into one of these biplanes, high above the sky, cold and alone except for possibly a few more colleagues in their own planes on a flight mission waiting to take on enemy aircraft. It is a situation where a thousand checks can fail save for one rash maneuver, one bracing wire to snap or have enemy aircraft shoot at you from below. Flying these aircrafts required incredible skill if one were to stay alive after the mission was over and this is the reason why some of the challenges faced by the pilots especially technical faults are mentioned. One has to remember these men were not given parachutes as it was a ‘do or die’ mission which made sure the pilot applied himself the best he could while flying these airplanes.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My third book would be a conclusion of my first one, The Incidental Jihadi because I couldn’t quite give the story a conclusion at that point in time. Given the geopolitical situation in Syria is difficult, it felt almost impossible to conclude the story but the wheels are in motion as some ideas are shaping into chapters. I always want the best for my characters which is why closure from the first book is quite important to me as it needs to be realistic to what could be achieved now that the US has retreated completely from Syria, leaving the nation completely open to Russian influence. I am hoping to complete the conclusion to my first book The Incidental Jihadi by the end of 2023.

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What were the odds of an intrepid youth from a rebellious British colony flying a combat aircraft for the Royal Air Force in the Great War? Could hopes and dreams survive at the cusp of an increasingly bleak conflict on the western front? Against all odds, Flying ace Indra Lal Roy (D.F.C. 1918) dreamt of flying airplanes and engaging in a new form of battle for the skies above German occupied France. He achieved ten victories in thirteen days. This is his story based upon true events from the war.

Laddie Roy DFC

Laddie Roy is the story of a young boy from India named Indra or ‘Laddie’, as he is later known. After the family moves to England, the older boys, Indra and his older brother, must try to integrate into a British school where they are faced with discrimination. They both enlist in the army to try and prove themselves. The story moves between Indra’s life as a boy and his experience during the Great War.

This is an adventurous tale that is full of vivid historical imagery and intriguing metaphors. One of my favorite pieces of writing is ‘Father Frost was gently laying a quilt of snow on Indra.’ There is something so compelling about it, especially since it is a peaceful scene juxtaposed against the background of war. In addition to the beautiful writing there are many quotes that the reader will find heartening and inspirational such as, ‘Exhausted in the satisfaction that he gave his best and the outcome would not matter as much as the journey itself.’ This gave the book the same uplifting and thought-provoking feel as Paulo Coelho The Alchemist.

It is good to see a story about the Great War that is told from the unique perspective of an Indian soldier. The way the main character’s life flashes between past and present is written in a clever way that is easy for the reader to follow, and makes the story engaging. I enjoyed seeing what lead to the character being in the war, and flying a plane in the first place. I felt connected to the character by the end of the story.

Laddie Roy DFC by Samrat Mitra gives readers an interesting and unique perspective on life growing up from someone who has emigrated to Britain and wishes to prove themselves, not only to their family and their country of origin, but also to their new friends and their new country. The writing in this story is so moving. I would recommend this impassioned military adventure story to any reader who enjoys military or historical fiction.

Pages: 282 | ASIN: 1915330025

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