Everyone who has entered 'the brilliantly colored, sometimes grotesque and sometimes magical world Dahl has conjured up in Boy', as Claire Tomalin described it in the Sunday Times, will be longing to learn what happens to the supreme storyteller next in Going Solo - and they will not be disappointed. It is a tale of deadly snakes on the ground and daring deeds in the air, of African safaris and encounters with the Hun, told with all the irresistible appeal which has made Roald Dahl one of the world's best-loved writers both for adults and for children.
In the autumn of 1938 Dahl sets off to work in Africa aboard a paint-peeling tub full of the dottiest fellow passengers imaginable. He falls in love with Tanganyika: a wonderful, beautiful, exciting country, plentifully covered with exotic wild animals - some of them best kept at a considerable distance. The green and black mambas, Dahl learns, make tricky opponents. Trickier still are the human predators, the Huns, who are trying to take over the world. Britain declares war on Germany and after temporary duty as an army officer, Dahl signs up with the RAF.
It is impossible to imagine a more exciting or vivid account of what it was like to learn to fly a fighter plane and take it up to dice with the enemy. A disastrous detour delays him for six months, but then, with all six foot six inches scrunched into the cockpit like a pretzel, young Dahl eventually takes his place in the heavily depleted 80 Squadron, consisting of a mere fifteen fighter pilots and their Hurricanes who have been ordered to provide cover for the entire British Expeditionary Force in Greece. In Dahl's case this insanely doomed venture is undertaken with minimal flying experience and no combat training whatsoever. How close we came to never meeting Charlie and his Chocolate Factory, Danny, the BFG, and Uncle Oswald and others will soon be apparent.
If you want to discover how a snake-man avoids a poisonous bite, what to do if you find yourself in the mouth of a lion and where Rudolph Valentino comes into it all, just plunge into the adventurous pages ofGoing Solo. As Hazel Rochman in the New York Times Book Review declared of Roald Dahl's Boy: 'the autobiographical stories are as frightening and funny as his fiction'. What could be higher praise than that?