It is June 1941, and the low point of the war. England throws wave after wave of bombers across the Channel, but somehow the Lufwaffe is able to shoot them down at will. The skies – indeed the war itself – seem to belong to Hitler.
But on a small Danish island across the North Sea, Harald Olufsen, a bright eighteen-year-old with a talent for engineering, stumbles across a secret German installation. Its machinery is like nothing he has ever seen before and he knows he must tell someone – if he can only figure out who.
With England preparing its largest aerial assault ever, what Harald has discovered may turn the course of the war – but the race to convey the information could have terrible consequences for everyone close to him.
For his older brother Arne, a pilot in the grounded Danish Air Force and already under suspicion of the authorities. For Arne’s fiancee, Hermia, an MI6 intelligence analyst desperate to resurrect the foundering Danish resistance. And most of all for Harald himself – because as the hour of the assault approaches, it will all fall to him and his friend Karen to get the word to England.
And the only means available to them is a derelict Hornet Moth biplane abandoned in a ruined church, a plane so decrepit that it is unlikely ever to get off the ground.
Pursued by the enemy; hunted by collaborators; with almost no training, limited fuel, and no way of knowing if they will survive the six-hundred mile flight, the two will carry with them England’s best – perhaps only – hope of avoiding disaster.
I came across an extraordinary story about two Danes who wanted to escape from German-occupied Denmark in 1941. They wanted to get to England, but of course would have to cross the Channel. They decided to do this in a delapidated Hornet Moth – a small fabric-and-wood biplane. So they fixed it up, stole parts and petrol for it, and eventually took off and flew across the Channel, which was a very hazardous journey in such a small plane… Needless to say, several RAF fighters were scrambled to investigate, but the young men hung a white towel out of the window, and managed to land safely in a field.
Hornet Flight is loosely based on this tremendous “Boy’s Own”-type adventure, but the characters are different: it’s a young man and a young woman. They have a reason for wanting to get to England – they have information about a German radar system that will be vital to the Allies, who were losing bombers at an alarming rate. So I’ve really combined two real elements from history to create a novel.
Listen to Ken’s view on Hornet Flight
Listen to an excerpt
Read an interview with Ulric Cross, the man who inspired the character ‘Charles Ford’ in Hornet Flight.
- “The Second World War action sparkles as Follett develops the plot and stretches the suspense” — David Hall in the Oxford Times, 15 January 2003.
- “Fast-paced and exciting, it benefits from excellent and believable characterisation… has a strong cinematic feel as the reader is swept through descriptions of the island-studded, flat landscape and the thrilling aeroplane sequences. The fact that elements of the plot are based on actual events lends the more fantastic episodes a poignancy and thrill that increase the tension and suspense” — Good Book Guide, 1 January 2003.
- “Follett hits the mark again… starts out fast and keeps up the pace” — Publishers’ Weekly.
- “Ken Follett proves once again that he is the master of intrigue.” — Midwest Book Review, December 2002.
- “This is Follett at his compelling best…” — Elaine Rounds Budd, Hartford Courant.
- “A rippingly good read… Hornet Flight offers generous helpings of suspense and a climax that could hardly be more satisfying.” — Nicholas H. Allison, Amazon.com.
- “Hornet Flight is just s-u-u-u-u-u-u-p-e-e-e-e-e-erb… just fantabulous and it sure reaffirms Follett’s reputation as the master of the classic World War thrillers – a superb read and a wonderful buy. Recommended, highly, highly recommended” — Narayan Radhakrishnan in New Mystery Reader Magazine.
- “Chock full of action, suspense and seat-of-your-pants adventure. WW II buffs will want a sequel because the secondary characters deserve to have their story told. Ken Follett proves once again that he is the master of intrigue…” — Harriet Klausner, BooksnBytes.com
Hornet Flight by Ken Follet — Macmillan, London, 8 November, 2002.
Le Vol du Frelon in French by Robert Laffont in November 2004
Mitternachtsfalken in German by Lübbe in September 2003
Il Volo del Calabrone in Italian by Mondadori in January 2003
Vuelo Final in Spanish by Random House Mondadori in March 2003
Nachtwakers in Dutch by Uitgeverij Unieboek in August 2003
Fluktens Vinger in Norway by Cappelen in June 2003
London Kalder in Denmark by Cicero in August 2003
Also published in many other languages, and available as an audiobook and as an ebook.