Best-selling historical writer Thomas Fleming returns to the historical epic this month, following his more punchy previous novel "Hours of Gladness," a gritty thriller about Irish gangsters in New Jersey.

This time around, Fleming has produced what his publishers are calling the crowning achievement of Fleming's prolific 40-year career. This weighty novel, "Conquerors of the Sky," spans much of the 20th Century, and looks into the lives, loves and dreams of the men and women who built the U.S. airline industry.

Suffice it to say, air flight, for Fleming and his characters, is not merely a way to get from point A to point B: it is cosmic, poetic, religious and, yes, sexual. There is some overheated prose here (as in many of Fleming's best-selling historical epics), but Fleming's tour of the American Century is an illuminating one, from the days of the Wright Brothers to the Korean war and stagnant 1970s. Fleming's fans know what to expect passionate characters who hop from bed to bed, swift pacing, prose that is not ashamed to be unabashedly purple and Conquerors of the Sky delivers Fleming's goods. ($27.95 / 541 pages / Forge)