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Damascus Redemption – Book Review

Damascus Redemption is Welsh author Richard Pendry’s debut novel, though he has previously written and published an excellent short story, The Last Patrol, in aid of the Semper Fi Fund U.S. military charity. I discovered this author quite by chance via Twitter. 

pendry3Richard is an ex-member of the Parachute Regiment who became involved in the secretive world of the private security industry in post-Gulf War II, Iraq. Since then, he has worked in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and many other hostile environments, continually at the tip of the spear as the intelligence services fight the Global War on Terror.  In addition to his past and post-military careers, Richard C. Pendry is forging a new additional career in writing. 

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Amazon Blurb:

(462 print pages) – Mason has lost his family, his friends and his reputation, but can he find his redemption? Unable to cope with the loss of his family, Mason turns his back on his life in the SAS. Years later, he is enticed into the cut-throat security industry in Iraq by an old comrade. He soon finds himself under fire. His team is attacked – most are killed and two are taken hostage. Mason takes the fall.

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DAMASCUS REDEMPTION

timberwolfamazonAuthentic, exciting, and intriguing – A real page-turner worthy of comparison to the best of military & historical fiction …

In this Middle East based military action thriller, Richard Pendry has created an array of characters that really does include the good, the bad, and the ugly, along with a rich and colourful mix in between. Behind the macho image of ex SAS and another assorted military, the author portrays each with all the faults and traits of people who have lived real lives, haunted by their various pasts.
pendry1Likewise with the non-military characters, each tells his own tale, contributing to the overall story rather than simply filling a role essential to some plot. Central to them all though is Mason, an ex SAS man who resigned from the job and life he loved following the tragic death of his wife and daughter. But life goes on, bills need to be paid, and so he’s eventually tempted by a lucrative security training job in the Middle East. Needless to say, events don’t follow the neat path they’re meant to, and in an effort to prevent the deaths of the men he was meant to train, instead, he leads them in what is practically a hastily and an ill-conceived suicide mission. 

Amid the drama and military and political tensions following the Gulf Wars and the efforts of the oil companies and the security companies they employ to restore Iraqi oil production, intertwined is a completely different story being told; an eminent historian’s quest to solve a centuries-old historical and religious secret reaching back to the time of the Crusades and even far beyond helps bring to life the ancient and bloody history of the cradle of civilisation and Christianity, along with treating the reader to a tale worthy and reminiscent of a Dan Brown novel. 

Just as it did in his previous story, Richard Pendry’s own military background and first-hand experience of the Middle East shines through in his writing; experiences aside though, once again the author also demonstrates a real talent for crafting an imaginative and well-told multi-stranded story,  along with meticulous research and attention to detail. 

For those who are already fans of the military genre or may have served in the armed forces, this is a highly enjoyable and captivating read, and I would say an intelligently written one too. For others who may be reading a military adventure thriller for the first time, I would be hard-pressed to think of a better introduction to the genre.

Not only is the military action authentic and exciting, the author creates a genuine sense of place and atmosphere from beginning to end. Unlike many other writers in this genre, the author here writes equally well and authentically when portraying Arabic and non-military characters, real people the reader can easily identify with. In any such book as this, there will always be some degree of military terminology, but the author skillfully allows the context and wider story to make their meanings obvious. There are a few occasions when some of the ‘army speak’ isn’t immediately apparent to the non-military reader, but this in no way detracts from the overall enjoyment of the story any more than perhaps any of us might not recall the exact meaning of a particular word when reading – a more than acceptable trade-off against lots of contrived and unnatural explanatory prose in my opinion. 

If you’ve ever read and enjoyed, say, a Chris Ryan, Andy McNab novel, or even the likes of Dan Brown, I can highly recommend Richard Pendry as a welcome addition to those lofty ranks. Overall, a fantastic story from beginning to end, with an absolute cracker of a conclusion. An easy and well-deserved five stars!

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Click Here for Amazon Link to Damascus Redemption

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See also: 

Twitter – @RichadCPendry – Website – www.richardpendry.com 

See Here for Richard C. Pendry’s Amazon Author page:

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Gunners ‘N’ Grenades – Book Review

sean1I first came accross this book via Amazon’s recommendations as well seeing it pop up in a few facebook posts/recommendations. Although not a member of my Indie Author Support Fb group, having read and enjoyed this book I’m delighted to present my review of it here. Sean Connelly is the author of a number of military themed books, most of which are of the memoir & autobiographical genre. Gunners ‘N’ Grenades is Sean Connelly’s first fiction book, though it still draws on his military past. Having spent fifteen years and being a Bombadier in the British Army, he is well qualified to write in this arena. Sean first started writing after someone suggested that he should write an account of his early days in the army, and since then he has gone from strength to strength in his efforts. 

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Further links to Sean Connelly’s writing can be found at:

www.armynovels.com

Sean Connelly’s Amazon Author page:

Sean Connelly’s Armymovels Fb group

www.twitter.com/armynovels

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Note:  As you will see from the following review I’ve prefaced it with the author’s own Amazon blurb; it’s often a dilemma as to how much plot detail to include in a review without giving too much away or simply repeating what the author has already said. In the case of an Amazon review, not to include such detail doesn’t present a problem generally as anyone reading the reviews are already likely to have read the the said blurb, but with a blog review it’s likely this will be the first time the reader has even heard of the featured book hence my inclusion of the blurb here…

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Amazon Blurb for: Gunners ‘N’ Grenades –

“… It is the dream of most soldiers to be the best. To join an elite fighting force and be able to perform in any theatre of war is the goal of most British squaddies. With it come respect, honour, comradeship and greater courage.

PERSTO TROOP is made up of some of the best and most experienced soldiers in the British Army… and four delinquents. The latter are about to be dishonourably discharged but someone, somewhere sees their potential and they are offered the lifeline of joining this new elite force. They must now endure the rigours of harsh training that will either make or break them.

Told in the style of a fictional autobiography, Gunners & Grenades, has humour as well as action and follows the ‘nitty-gritty’ of the everyday life of a young soldier in the 1980’s as he grows from misfit to a true leader, covering his exploits from bars to battle and sex to secret operations which culminate in explosive action with the kidnapping of a Sultan’s Daughter at The Edinburgh Tattoo and the race against time to rescue her.

For ‘Sledge’, our delinquent soldier and his mates, this is both a final chance and a dream come true… “

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Gunners ‘N’ Grenades: Sledge’s First Mission 

By Sean Connelly 

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(Available from Amazon in both print and eBook formats, and signed print copies available from the author’s website… www.armynovels.com )

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sean2Thoroughly enjoyed this British military adventure story. Like many such stories it begins with some background events leading up to the situation in which the central character, in this case a young soldier called Sledge, finds himself, and from which the unfolding action emerges. Unfortunately for our hero of the story, Sledge, and the men under his command, display just a little ‘too’ much potential and enthusiasm at the beginning of their careers for what it takes to be a good soldier and very nearly find themselves in danger of being booted out of the army. Thankfully someone higher up sees how Sledge and his oppos might be put to better use rather than being thrown back onto civvie street, and gives them the opportunity to prove themselves in a more demanding role. What follows is a side-splittingly funny (and indeed sometimes harrowing) depiction of the brighter side of army life, military banter, and colourful language that would make even the sturdiest blush at. The reader follows Sledge and his comrades’ progress through their training in a newly formed elite troop that sort of exists as a halfway house between a regular regiment and the elite special-forces, possibly to take on missions that the SAS would want to be able to deny all liability or involvement in. Although highly trained and capable of killing without hesitation by the end of their training, Sledge and his comrades are still just like ninety five percent of the rest of the British Army, i.e. hard drinking, womanising, and a colourful a vocabulary as one can imagine – in other words, typical squaddies (and damned good soldiers to boot) – rather than some unbelievable Rambo type supermen.

The real nitty gritty of the story i.e. fighting a real enemy, doesn’t really take place till say the last third of the book, focusing instead on the men’s training, friendships, and banter, but all combining to form the prefect built up to the conclusion. The contrast between the humour and sometimes madness of army life, and the grim realities that inevitably arise from time to time is well portrayed as the story progresses.

I would say that the best military based adventure books are written by those with some personal experience of military life, but that isn’t to say such experience guarantees an enjoyable reading experience. Quite often the writer’s personal experience is injected into their writing too literally, often resulting in a book that comes across as part fiction, part memoir, and with way too much emphasis on military accuracy at the expense entertaining the reader. Thankfully Sean Connelly hasn’t fallen in that trap; yes his own experience shines through in the writing, and the military detail is spot on (for the most part) but he’s also injected a certain degree of poetic licence into his writing to make for a more entertaining story, creating larger than life characters but who aren’t so far removed from reality that they force the reader to suspend disbelief; for military purists there might well be some areas where it could be argued that the poetic licence has been taken a tad too far, i.e. the notion of a bunch of green teenage royal artillery recruits getting the better of highly trained and experienced infantry men is a little hard to believe for anyone whose actually served, as well as their being propelled at such an early stage of their careers into such a troop, but for the average non-military or civvie reader I imagine it wouldn’t be an issue.

Normally this would be an easy five stars for the humour and thumping good story telling value whilst still remaining credible but there were a few typos and grammatical issues i.e. the odd missing word here and there, which tells me the final draft would have benefitted from another round or two of editing and proof reading. Nonetheless it still gets a five star rating, just not quite a resounding one. If you’re looking for the sort of high octane adrenalin fuelled action of an Andy McNab novel or the cold brutal reality of a Ken Wharton book then this probably isn’t it, but if you enjoy British Army themed escapist story telling that captures at least some of the feel and flavour of military life as it was for most of us then you really can’t do much better than this.

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Further books by Sean Connelly: Click on Thumbnails for Amazon links…

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Book Review – Amie: An African Adventure

LucindaEClarkeI’ve had this book on my kindle for quite some time now, but what with one thing and another I only recently got round to actually reading it. I really shouldn’t have left it so long as it turned out to be a truly beautiful and enjoyable read. Lucinda E. Clarke’s writing is another discovery via Fb and other social media, along with some wonderful reviews and recommendations from fellow writers and bloggers. As well as Amie: An African Adventure, Lucinda E. Clarke has written three more books, links to which are provided following my review. But first, a little about the author herself…

Born in Dublin, dragged up in the Cotswolds, matured and finished off in Liverpool. Her family were not wildly enthusiastic about following her grandfather into Fleet Street (unfeminine, unreliable and dangerous), so she was packed off to dockland Liverpool to get teaching qualifications (safe, respectable and pensionable).

Lucinda returned south extremely good at self-defence. She married and went crofting in Scotland, a disaster so she says, and bred dogs among other things, less of a disaster. She moved to Kenya with her 3 week old daughter, was abandoned in the bush, then on to Libya, surviving riots, public hangings, an imprisoned husband and eventual deportation. She moved to Botswana – still teaching – and opened and ran a horse riding school with a ‘How to…’ book in hand.

She immigrated to South Africa and taught for four years, but since 1984, she wrote freelance full time, for major corporations, UNESCO, UNICEF and the SABC for both radio and television. Moving into television production in 1986, she has received over 20 awards, specializing in the fields of education, documentaries, municipal and government.

She has also worked on radio in both Libya and South Africa, had a newspaper column, and was commissioned to write two educational text books. In 1996 she set up her own video production company, and retired to Spain in 2008. Well that was the plan…

 

Further links to Lucinda E. Clarke’s writing can be found at:

https://lucindaeclarke.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/LucindaEClarke

http://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com/

Lucinda E. Clarke’s Amazon Author page:

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Amie: An African Adventure 

By Lucinda E. Clarke

(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

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Amie1My biggest regret about this book is that it had to end at some point, as all books do. It tells the story of young couple’s move to Africa for the husband’s career, particularly that of the wife, Amie. It starts off sedately enough, detailing their preparations and Amie’s initial fears and nervousness about leaving behind everyone she knows and loves and her way of life back in England, charmingly detailing many of the fears any of us might have at such a prospect. After their arrival in Africa, things seem to be working out for Amie as she adapts to and begins to enjoy a very different way of life. Now although I say it starts ‘sedately,’ right from the start the author has already hooked the reader with a harrowing and well-placed preface of things to come, and the reader knows that this is to be no ordinary foreign posting, that danger and adventure are sure to follow their initial settling in.

As the story develops, the author introduces the reader to the real Africa and its way of life for the majority. Yes, Amie lives the comparatively comfortable and indeed luxurious life of an ex patriot, shielded from much of the hardship, but she sees it all around her, and against advice goes out of her way to help as best she can. Within the story, with some truly beautiful writing and turns of phrase, the author  manages to convey a real sense of being in Amie’s shoes, providing the reader a glimpse and real insight into the everyday life and comings and goings of the native population, of the poverty and corruption, and of course the dangers. We also learn though not to judge the culture and ways of the African people in relation to European ways of doing things. Amid the vivid descriptions of Africa, the ex-patriot community, and the local culture, the reader experiences the growing unrest of a volatile society, the dilemmas Amie has to face and deal with, and the sudden and explosive upheaval of an entire country. How she copes with everything around her is a story in itself, and perfectly complements the story of her African adventure.

Quite apart from the story itself, which was thrilling to say the least, I also admired and enjoyed the way Amie adapted and grew as a person, watching her confidence and self-reliance grow a little more every day. We see the transformation of someone initially afraid of travelling much beyond her home town and who probably thought that a package holiday to Spain was the extent of travelling abroad, into a resourceful and determined young woman more than capable of surviving the dangers of wildest Africa. What I would also say here though is that, while there is an element of memoir to the writing, this is still mainly an action and adventure filled tale, and one that won’t disappoint those who like to see the adrenalin flowing in their reading, combining an imaginative and descriptive narrative with just the right degree and tone of dialogue to drive the story forward. If I had but one tiny criticism it would be the cover, which if I’m honest, didn’t quite grab me or in my opinion, reflect or do justice to the story within. Other than that, I’m delighted to say the author is currently writing a much anticipated sequel to this wonderful book.

Further titles by Lucinda E. Clarke: click on thumbnails for Amazon links

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Book Review – The Third Servant

mikeBI rarely use such reviewing clichés as blew me away, but such words would not have been out of place in the following review. Michael Billington is another member from my Fb Indie Author Support & Discussion group, and the author of several highly acclaimed books, of which details and links appear following my review of The Third Servant.

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The quality of the author’s writing comes as no surprise given his extensive journalistic background, having investigated and reported on stories from all around the world, and indeed the quality of his own prolific book reviews.

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Michael Billington spent nearly a half century as a reporter covering stories around the world and across the United States including Operation Desert Storm, the Rwandan Civil War, hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, Katrina and Rita as well as the Love Canal environmental disaster and the 9/11 airline crash near Shanksville, Pa. During his career he earned more than 40 awards including the Brotherhood Medal of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for an undercover investigation of white-power extremists and the Southern Journalism Award for Investigative Reporting for a series he co-authored exposing police abuses of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act. He also received several awards for a lengthy series on infant mortality in Delaware. An Army veteran who spent two tours in Vietnam, his awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman’s Badge. In addition, he was twice decorated by the Vietnamese government. Given his background, it’s not surprising that he writes in a wide variety of genres from Steampunk to mystery and even historical fiction.

A percentage of the author’s royalties are regularly donated to the Home Of The Brave Veteran’s charity in Delaware in the US, details of which can be found at their website below:

http://homeofthebravefdn.org/

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Further links to Michael Billington and his writing can be found at:

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Michael Billington’s Amazon Author page:

www.twitter/com.Billington_Book

Michael Billington’s Goodread Blog:

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The Third Servant  

By Michael Billington

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 (Available in eBook & paperback from Amazon)

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thirdsevantThis is a story based on and then reinterpreted and expanded from a simple parable taken from the book of Matthew in the New Testament of the bible. Without going into the meaning of the parable, this is a clever idea for a story, speculating on what might have happened to a servant following his dismissal having displeased his Master, much like what might have happened to Heathcliff in the missing years whilst he was away from Wuthering Heights. The principal character, the servant Ezra, does not immediately engender the reader’s sympathy, and would appear to deserve all his initial misfortunes, having made no effort to increase his Master’s wealth when given the opportunity, and his less than honourable actions flowing his dismissal from his Master’s house. What follows is a series of adventures that takes Ezra across much of the known world of the time: from his Judean homeland as far as India and Afghanistan, and then back through the Roman Empire on his return, where the story comes full circle. Interwoven in this series of adventures we meet a wide and varied cast of esoteric characters ranging from reformed warriors, female gladiators, foreign emperors and kings, and the highest of Roman nobility along with poor to name but a few. Several of these adventures highlight the harshness and apparent barbarity of the times but what also shines through are the many moments of justice, kindness, nobility, honour and courage that were also prevalent, giving much of the book a heart-warming and feel-good factor to it. Another aspect I enjoyed as much as the story itself was not just watching the story unfold as it were, but also watching the growth and maturing of Ezra as a man as he seeks to discover what purpose God has decreed for him; but this isn’t just the story of a man with some god given mission and path to follow – Ezra might well indeed have some greater purpose to his life but he is no empty vassel for it, often having to rely on his judgement and courage to fulfil any such plan.

Throughout the book the author demonstrates a good knowledge and understanding of the period in which the story takes place, namely during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius and in and around the years surrounding the death of Jesus, with just the right balance of intelligent speculative poetic license to drive the story forward. The narrative and dialogue have a certain biblical formality to them that pays homage to the original text of the parable but nonetheless works very well, giving the story added authenticity and a real sense of the time in which events take place, but not so much so that the reader feels they’re reading an historical account or history of the times. It’s hard to pin down this book into any one genre, combining as it does, action, adventure, political intrigue, religion, and a host of elements, but what I can say, it is one of the most well written and highly original ideas for a story I’ve read in a very long time, and one that engrossed me from start to finish.

Further titles by Michael Billington: Click on thumbnails for Amazon links:

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