The Last Commando

Michael Asher‘s Death or Glory: The Last Commando hit the shelves here a couple of months before Christmas – I was tempted to grab a copy but, mindful of upcoming New Year’s resolutions and my current stash of unread books, I kept my card in my pocket. My eldest daughter did, however, buy it – this is Tasha, who left school early but now has a passion for history – so I got to read it over Christmas anyway.

I had high hopes for it based upon the author’s stated Para and SAS experience (although the blurb doesn’t actually say what he did in these units) and publishing history i.e. this book is not a first attempt, although it may be at a work of fiction. Tasha hadn’t finished it because she had trouble getting her head round the military jargon (this is the girl who ate up Blackhawk Down, Pearl Harbor and who is now starting to work through the Stephen Ambrose collection) but after the first couple of chapters I could see why. Not only only does this guy go into mindless detail on weapons and their effect e.g. a rifle can’t just be a rifle, it has to be endlessly referred to as a Gewehr 41, but he makes up his own words and thrashes them to death…Germans don’t just collapse, drop, or even ‘spin and fall’ when hit, they endlessly potatosack and gunnysack, whatever that is supposed to mean. The author’s clear knowledge and experience of the desert is not enough to overcome his over-enthusiasm for adjectives and adverbs (do we still teach what these are in schools?)

This is the third book I have reviewed recently that would benefit from the services of a good editor – Accidental Guerrilla was one and I don’t recall the other – it annoys me that a book like this was hyped so much when it was released instead of being concealed on the shelves with the Mills & Boone and other pulp fiction. The basic premise of the story is good and interesting but it is let down by verbose prose, poor (or no) editing and too much jargon…imagine if you will, Executioner-clone does Popski’s Private Army

The stories of the Middle East Commando and the other fledging Special Operations forces operating around the same time like Stirling’s SAS, Popski, and the LRDG deserve to be told as fact and fiction but not like this…for me, Death or Glory‘s sole redeeming feature is in the last five pages where a minor plot line is resolved in a most satisfying way…

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