As I hadn't read any of my fellow authors' contributions to this Charity Anthology prior to publication, I've taken the liberty of reviewing their delightful offerings for "Tales from the Sergeant's Pack".
A delightful collection of Short Stories & Novellas in aid of St Luke's Hospice, Plymouth.
A Tale of Two Engagements by A.C.A Hunter: Historical.
Take a moderately sized British package ship mid-Atlantic with limited protective gun-power, and looming on the near horizon is an unidentified ship on full sail – thus the scene is set for a passing encounter. But is the ship French? If it is then Captain Finlay, his crew, and passengers are in dire straits. What is worse, Captain Finlay feels doubly responsible for his passenger sister, and when out-going fire from his cannon causes the ship to shudder from stem to stern, and in-coming fire shatters ship and humans to splintered fragments, Louisa refuses to abide to her brother’s command to act the lady, and thus keep her head below decks?
Here we are given an action packed short novella, a good sense of life aboard ship in wartime, and sufficient insight as to why Louisa is aboard her brother’s ship.
Bobbing in the Dark by Cliff Beaumont:
Contemporary Ghost Story.
Here we have the greatest ever scheduled re-enactment Waterloo 200 in celebration of the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo. With tents pitched in the Orchard at Hougoumont a British contingent are taking a well-earned rest post-travel to the event. Amidst their number is Mark Skinner, his mind awash with thoughts on how it must have been for men of his rank and file in June 1815, and he’s not all that surprised when he's approached by a fellow uniformed re-enactor, anymore than when another appears and orders the first to fall in for duty. His own voluntary enlistment thus leads him into a scary and thrilling mock battle, albeit he’s somewhat mystified by turn of events, for at times it all seems a tad too real. But that’s what re-enactment is all about ain’t it, with mock dead and wounded soldiers, else it would be a mere walk in the park in fancy dress.
To say I thoroughly enjoyed this story; is to say it ticked all the boxes for a suspenseful read.
The Bravest of the Brave by David Cook: Historical.
In this story we are presented with the inner perspective of Martial Ney, at the point where it is a case of do or die for the French. Whilst the Emperor Napoleon, rides before his troops with head held high as though Victory is theirs, Ney knows he must do his damn best to achieve that outcome. But doubts linger in his mind questioning the sanity of taking the initiative to advance against Wellington and the Allied Forces – there has to be a better way but he has not the time to think it through. Praying to heaven God is with the Emperor, Ney spurs his horse forward, and the rest is History – so to speak.
This is another story by David Cook that sets the scene with excellent sense of time and place and no quarter given to the squeamish reader. After all, war is war – Enjoy!
The Chancer by Francine Howarth: Historical.
This is my naval orientated contribution to the anthology, thus I cannot pass comment!
A Person of No Consequence by Alison Stuart:
Picture a glittering ballroom and fine array of coming-out damsels in search of wealthy husbands, chaperones in abundance like faded wallflowers, and young bucks in search of suitable brides. Thus the scene is set for an elegant marriage mart, though not all the guests are seeking marriageable prey. Hence a heart-stopping moment occurs, and memories from the past leap to the fore and cause distress to one person, whilst curiosity is heightened for another. But can one dare to dream the past could ever be revisited in the present and secure a differing outcome?
A lovely sweet romance in Alison Stuart’s inimitable and award winning style.
August 27th by Jacqueline Reiter: Historical Fact.
Here we have a brief glimpse of the Walcheren Island Campaign of 1809, where the initial object of the British Navy is to blockade the mouth of the Scheldt (Antwerp Netherlands) and the primary objective to destroy the French fleet purportedly lying at anchor in Flushing. But as you will see from the interaction between leading field commanders of their day, not all are of like mind in how best to proceed or indeed cope with an unforeseen pestilence that more or less has rendered their task nigh impossible.
For the most part the reader affords insight to proceedings as they unfold through the eyes and thoughts of Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Keats, and it’s easy to see how politics, personal ambitions, and military strategy oft clash when things go awry.
A Clash of Empires by Paul Bennett: Historical fact inclusive fictional characters.
In this novella the reader is transported to the American Colonies the year of 1763, when the Pontiac Rebellion – in opposition to British rule on former French territory – begins in earnest with a confederacy of Native American warriors who attack British forts. But the fort in Detroit defies all the efforts of a combined tribal force to destroy its very existence, and Pontiac thence lays siege to the fort. A siege is the last thing any commander would willingly face, and whilst some might raise a white flag, Major Gladwin is made of sterner stuff.
Again no quarter is given to the squeamish reader, for this is a war situation, in which brutal retaliation is markedly atmospheric.
Over the Moon and Faraway by Daniel Methwell: Fiction.
This story is set, I believe, in the region of Aragon, Spain during the Peninsular War (1808-1814). If not, my apology to the author, who spins an amusing yarn not unalike a “Carry-On” movie style plot – as far as the humour goes. Thus with bungling French troopers and equally bungling British troopers, this story equates to laughs-a-minute, and combined with earthy trooper language drifting across the ether, a somewhat blue hue prevails. And yet, the awfulness of war is lingering beyond the veiled fringe of humour, and one can almost hear the old soldiers recounting this tale with touches of laughter and a tear to eye.
Suffice to say, it’s an all round fun chuckle read.