Excerpt from Hornet Flight by Ken Follett, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Hornet Flight

by Ken Follett

Hornet Flight
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2002, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2003, 416 pages

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"I own it. What does the bike use for fuel?"

"Anything that burns. I use peat." He pointed to the pile in the back of the sidecar.

"Peat?" The man laughed.

"Why are the doors shut?"

"The Nazis closed me down."

Harald was dismayed. "Why?"

"Employing Negro musicians."

Harald had never seen a colored musician in the flesh, but he knew from records that they were the best. "The Nazis are ignorant swine," he said angrily. His evening had been ruined.

The club owner looked up and down the street to make sure no one had heard. The occupying power ruled Denmark with a light hand, but all the same, few people openly insulted the Nazis. However, there was no one else in sight. He returned his gaze to the motorcycle. "Does it work?"

"Of course it does."

"Who converted it for you?"

"I did it myself."

The man's amusement was turning to admiration. "That's pretty clever."

"Thank you." Harald opened the tap that admitted steam into the engine. "I'm sorry about your club."

"I'm hoping they'll let me open again in a few weeks. But I'll have to promise to employ white musicians."

"Jazz without Negroes?" Harald shook his head in disgust. "It's like banning French cooks from restaurants." He took his foot off the brake and the bike moved slowly away.

He thought of heading for the town center, to see if there was anyone he knew in the cafes and bars around the square, but he felt so disappointed about the jazz club that he decided it would be depressing to hang around. Harald steered for the harbor.

His father was pastor of the church on Sande, a small island a couple of miles offshore. The little ferry that shuttled to and from the island was in dock, and he drove straight on. It was crowded with people, most of whom he knew. There was a merry gang of fishermen who had been to a football match and had a few drinks afterward; two well-off women in hats and gloves with a pony and trap and a stack of shopping; and a family of five who had been visiting relations in town. A well-dressed couple he did not recognize were probably going to dine at the island's hotel, which had a high-class restaurant. His motorcycle attracted everyone's interest, and he had to explain the steam engine again.

At the last minute a German-built Ford sedan drove on. Harald knew the car: it belonged to Axel Flemming, owner of the island's hotel. The Flemmings were hostile to Harald's family. Axel Flemming felt he was the natural leader of the island community, a role which Pastor Olufsen believed to be his own, and the friction between the rival patriarchs affected all other family members. Harald wondered how Flemming had managed to get petrol for his car. He supposed anything was possible to the rich.

The sea was choppy and there were dark clouds in the western sky. A storm was coming in, but the fishermen said they would be home before it arrived, just. Harald took out a newspaper he had picked up in the town. Entitled Reality, it was an illegal publication, printed in defiance of the occupying power and given away free. The Danish police had not attempted to suppress it and the Germans seemed to regard it as beneath contempt. In Copenhagen, people read it openly on trains and streetcars. Here people were more discreet, and Harald folded it to hide the masthead while he read a report about the shortage of butter. Denmark produced millions of pounds of butter every year, but almost all of it was now sent to Germany, and Danes had trouble getting any. It was the kind of story that never appeared in the censored legitimate press.

The familiar flat shape of the island came closer. It was twelve miles long and a mile wide, with a village at each end. The fishermen's cottages, and the church with its parsonage, constituted the older village at the south end. Also at the south end, a school of navigation, long disused, had been taken over by the Germans and turned into a military base. The hotel and the larger homes were at the north end. In between, the island was mostly sand dunes and scrub with a few trees and no hills, but all along the seaward side was a magnificent ten-mile beach.

Reprinted from Hornet's Flight by Ken Follett by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2002, Ken Follett. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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