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We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig


24 aUG 2014

Imperial Rescript by Elwyn Nicol (The Electronic Book Company: June 2014) A post-WWII yarn about a sailor who has to build a new life as he continues to be haunted by the shadow of his brother, who was killed in the Pacific conflict. Or was he…


Amazon is choc-a-block with self-published ebooks. Wading your way through them and hunting for nuggets of gold usually seems more hassle than it’s worth. But this one was flagged up to me, and I thought what the hey, let’s give it a go.


I’m glad I did. It brought a few things crashing home to me.


First is how much fun it is to read something written with love. I’m not talking the heaving bosom kind. I’m talking a writer who is enraptured by his subject material. A guy who cares for the world he’s writing about. I know jack all about the author here, but I’ll be damned if he’s not someone with a healthy WWII interest, some connection with the Navy, and maybe a bit of love for New Zealand. And if he doesn’t, then he’s putting on a pretty good show of it. And that matters big time. Every section came dripping with an obvious warmth for all of this jazz, and it made me love it too.


Then there was the buccaneering nature of it. I used to read the Sharpe books pretty avidly. You know the ones, the Bernard Cornwell stuff that Sean Bean made big time. And this reminded me of how much I enjoyed that stuff. It had a lot of the same hallmarks – adventure, camaraderie, shady manoeuvring by the bad guys, the occasional horror of war – all that song and dance. And it was fronted by a character you could understand from the get go. No slow reveal of inner complexities here. An honest to goodness stand-up chap whose side you’re on from page 1. Not high art, not provoking literature, but effective and (again) fun.


For those reasons, I’m glad I picked this guy up. There were awkward edges, sure. Elbows and knees. This is an amateur writer we’re talking about. There were plot detours, a little too much happening off the page, and a bit of a dated dialogue style. But heck, for all that, I enjoyed the hell out of it. So he's doing something right, right?




Solid score for an entertaining read. I’m not going to shove this in your face, but I’ll probably read the sequel.


Next week, some classic crime that I wished I’d read years ago.

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© Gavin Collins