Magazine article The Spectator

Trying to Be One of the Boys

Magazine article The Spectator

Trying to Be One of the Boys

Article excerpt

Trying to be one of the boys Olivia Glazebrook CASSADA by James Salter Harvill, L10.99,pp. 224, ISBN 1860469256

A group of bored American fighter pilots liven up their posting in cold war Germany with round-the-campfire joshing, petty squabbles, and some traditional extramarital frolicking. But hey - it's all locker-room stuff: the banter is kept within acceptable boundaries. For safety's sake a code of behaviour, however peculiar, is observed. Everyone seems to know the rules, written and unwritten.

Into this frustrated pride of alpha males arrives an anomaly, Lieutenant Robert Cassada. Cassada is ambitious, aloof, reticent and therefore different. He lacks the carelessness or the natural talent of his fellow officers. He is also Puerto Rican, a fact which causes confusion and suspicion:

'Well, how'd he get in the American Air Force?' 'Puerto Rico's part of the United States.' 'Since when?'

Rather like the new boy in the class at school, the one who arrives slightly after the start of term (due to some inevitably feeble illness), Cassada seems unable to keep his head below the parapet. He is a flop, from the moment he walks into the canteen and announces that he doesn't drink coffee - 'I seem to be sensitive to the caffeine.' He sweeps his hair back, 'Anglo style'. He's a try-hard. He's a swank. He sucks up to his superiors. He's not the flying ace he thinks he is. He's not good for his bets. Naturally, Cassada becomes desperate to prove himself and be accepted into this rather dubious tribe. …

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