Thursday, November 25, 2010

Blood of Honour by James Holland

One of the problems with travelling a lot is that I often end up with multiple books on the go at a time.  There is no point in packing a half finished book so I inevitably start a new one on a trip.  Inevitably, I tend to finish it half way through and then move on to one I've bought at the airport.  So when I get back I have yet another half finished book.

Currently I have five novels on the go and the gap between starting and finishing can be so large I often have to go back and re-read parts of them!

At present I am trying to finish Blood of Honour by James Holland, the third novel about Sergeant Jack Tanner of the fictional Yorks Rangers.  This is not to suggest it is a struggle.  Far from it, but, rather like my "in progress" section on the workbench I am determined to tie up a few loose ends.  I enjoyed the first novel in the series, The Odin Mission, with its unusual setting of the Norwegian campaign. It was, as others have said, very much a Second World War Sharpe, with a small band making a trek through enemy controlled territory. The second novel, Darkest Hour, set during the French campaign which led to the evacuation from Dunkirk, was not nearly as successful.  Rambling, muddled and with characters that float in and out for no discernable reason it also suffered from what looked like a horribly rushed ending.  It may well have been rushed as, about the same time that The Odin Mission appeared we also got Michael Asher's The Last Commando, a similar, although bloodier and grittier, attampt at a WW2 Sharpe.  Whilst the second book in that series is scheduled to appear in a couple of weeks Holland has since produced two more novels in his World War 2 series. 

His third book, Blood of Honour, is set during the Crete campaign, about which, other than the island was captured by German paratroops I knew nothing. As you would expect from a World War 2 historian the "big picture" stuff is handled well and informatively without it holding up the action.  Others have said that the characterisation in the novels is a bit weak but I wasn't expecting Sebastien Faulks, to be honest.  For me what I wanted was some inspirational battle scenes that could be turned into a wargame.  In this, Blood of Honour succedes much better than the previous two books.  There are assaults on a town, ambushes and battles through vinyards; all good stuff.  One of the reviewers on Amazon said that Holland conveyed no sense of place and that the action could have happened anywhere.  I have to disagree with this as I think that he gets the feeling of being on a Mediterranean island in the summer very well.  His fourth book featuring Jack Tanner is due out next summer.  I'll certainly be picking it up when it comes out

My second hand Eighth Army

Meanwhile, I picked up a batch of undercoated Eighth Army, LRDG and commando figures via someone at Guildford. They need rebasing and undercoating in white before I can work on them but now I'm thinking of getting German paratroops to oppose them rather than Afrika Korps,  So maybe I should add my half dozen part-painted Eighth Army figures to my finish before Christmas pile

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