The author, V. M. Yeates, is not to be confused with the poet W. B. Yeats, whose limpid sonnet on the death of an Irish airman is his only work on an aeronautical theme that I know of. Yeates flew Camels on the Western Front in 1918, dividing his efforts between air combat and ground attack. The novel is pretty clearly autobiographical; one way you can tell is that, like real life, it has no discernible plot. It’s remarkable that Yeates manages to keep you engrossed for hundreds of pages by what is basically a monotonous series of “jobs” — sorties of an hour or two, sometimes several in a day, a few miles into “Hunland,” looking for the odd hapless Pfalz or Albatros or reconnaissance two-seater to sneak up on and send down in flames, or plunging into a cauldron of machine-gun fire to drop a couple of 25-pound bombs or spray a trench with bullets. Movie-style mass dogfights are rare and brief; German pilots, whose equipment the protagonist, Tom Cundall, considers inferior to that of the British, are depicted as generally, and wisely, avoiding engagements with Camels. Most days end in a drunken haze, alcohol lubricating, as no doubt it always has, the wheels of war.