Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Spider Zero Seven

Spider Zero Seven is Mike Borlace's own very personal memoirs of life as a combat helicopter pilor with the Rhodesian Defence Force during that country's civil war during the 1970s.

Although small, the RDF was a highly professional army and, as he points out, helicopters played a very important role in the operations of the RDF whilst fighting against Communist backed guerrilla forces such as those of Robert Mugabe.

An experienced helicopter pilot with training from the RAF and the Royal Navy, Mike was an operational commando helicopter pilot and special forces soldier.

In 1974 he was recruited to join the Rhodesian Air Force and although he was initially expected to pilot Hawker Hunter planes, his experience as a combat helicopter pilot saw him moved over to 7 (Helicopter) Squadron which was becoming very heavily enmeshed in the war against terrorists, meaning they were desperate for trained helicopter pilots.

He served with  the squadron for exactly 1,096 days, of which a total of 793 were on active combat missions.

327 of these days was as the pilot of helicopter gunships, and a fireforce commander. During which he had 149 enemy contacts. He also undertook many casualty evacuations (casevacs) and also nearly 100 operations involving the Rhodesian SAS, the Selous Scouts and the Rhodesian Light Infantry Commandos on cross-border raids.

He was shot down five times and received wounds twice and was presented with the Silver Cross.

After he left the Rhodesian Air Force in 1978 he joined the crack and top secret Selous Scouts special forces unit.

After being kidnapped whilst working as an undercover operative in Zambia he was subjected to such a brutal regime of torture that the High Court of Zambia was 'horrified' by what he had undergone, so released him, only for the government to immediately re-arrest him.

Eventually he was released and deported to London.

In 1982 he began a new career as a private military adviser to various Western-backed allies, globally. Some of the enemies he helped deal with, such as the Sierra Leone Revolutionary United Front, were committing unspeakable atrocities against children and civilians.

The book is written in a warm and humorous tone, but it pulls no punches whatsoever and is one heck of an action-packed, exciting read.

It really does belong on the bookshelf of any self-respecting student of military history.

It is published by Matador at £12.99.

Far Far the Mountain Peak a Bumpy Journey

Far Far the Mountain Peak a Bumpy Journey is a new novel from Arthur Clifford. Long time readers of this review emporium will recall Arthur's previous novel Far Far the Mountain Peak which introduced us to John Denby.

We left John as he was coming to terms with his adolescence in the 1980s.

We pick up John's story when John is now attending a private school. Like many people John has struggles with life. He is mystified, to coin a phrase, by his sexuality and this, in part, might be a reason why he seems to have problems with his relationships.

John's desperate to be accepted by his circle of friends, but he seems to sense that he needs to keep some sort of distance from them, for fear of exposing his true inner self to them.

He fears, justifiably or not, you must decide, that some of the people who he should be able to rely on for support might not, after all, always have his best interests at heart.

John's life is, as usual, a little bit too interesting for his own good and after an incident takes place that unsettles him, he decides to set off on a big adventure.

Because this, he feels, will help him make something of his life, help him to become more self aware and more knowledgeable about the big, wide world and also himself.

But, of course, this is all a backdrop, of a sort, for his beloved mountaineering.

This is, of course, only a little further along the long and winding mountain path that is John's life. Let's stick around for the rest of the journey!

It's published by The Book Guild at £8.99.

The Folded Notes

The Folded Notes is an historical romance set in the 19th century.

Catherine Rose is an Englishwoman who is travelling with her mother to India to meet her father who is working at Punjab University.

However, fate intervenes and she meets a newly qualified Sikh engineer called Kharak, who works for the Indian Railways.

They fall in love with each other, but will destiny, in the shape of her father and a colonial engineer by the name of Ivan, conspire against the lovers?

They are separated, but they meet again in Mombasa because Catherine has followed her lover there.

But they have been followed by others who have evil on their minds.

Who will win? Who will lose?

I will not give the story away, but I can recommend this book as a truly breathtaking historical romance.

It is published by Matador at £9.99.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Brutal Terminations

Brutal Terminations is a new mystery novel from Cherith Baldry.

A team of workmen who are digging the foundations for an extension to the library at St Clement's College, Oxford, are shocked when they stumble upon the skeletal remains of a woman.

Gawaine St Clair is an amateur detective (who seems to have this role thrust upon him, somewhat unwillingly, it has to be said) is a former undergraduate at the college.

When he arrives in Oxford he is told that the remains were buried some three decades before, and that the woman had been with child at the time of her death.

A don, Richard Templeman is reported to be missing. His corpse is subsequently discovered.

Naturally Gawaine's suspicions fall on men who were at the college 30 years before.

With the death of the don, he believes that only those men who are still at the college 30 years later could have been responsible for the death of the woman and of Templeman.

These include Stephen Verner, Father Gerard, the chaplain, the creepy head porter, Heatherington, the bursar Colonel Morrison and Dr Porteous.

There's a letter that gives Gawaine a clue as to the potential identity of the murder victim and the identity of her lover.

Eventually, he is pretty certain that he has found the identity of the killer. But there are two things. Firstly, is he correct in his deduction? Secondly, will he be able to live to tell his tale?

This is a remarkably well-written mystery novel and I am glad to have found another mystery voice in Cherith Baldry. Another author for me to keep an eye out for!

It's published by Matador at £8.99.

Seven Shades of J

Seven Shades of J is the memoir by Jean Riley, written with the assistance of Lesley Halliwell.

From a "highly strung" child to someone diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder only took the heartbreaking divorce from her first husband, the father of her two children, who, it transpired was much worse than the flirt he appeared to be.

He kept the marriage sexless, whilst having serial affairs with people who Jan should have been able to rely on. Well, ween't they supposed to be her friends? Apparently not, as it turned out.

This caused her to be prescribed Haloperidol, which removed her zest for life. As a result Jean took the decision to stop taking prescription medications until some sexual encounters in Tunisia brought her to the conclusion that some form of prescription medications would be advisable.

A female psychiatrist was able to help her sort out some medications that would help moderate her condition, but also allow her to retain a sense of self.

The book is an honest and forthright account of, to borrow an expression, "a life well lived" or at least, a life lived very interestingly.

Some of her problems resulted from her mental health, but others were inflicted upon her as a direct result of the actions of other people. Her first husband, and her second husband who died in the throws of sexual ecstasy. Unfortunately whilst he was with his rather submissive secretary.

The story of the funeral and the ashes including a holiday in Bali is both moving and also tinged with humour, which brought her to yet another wedding.

Unlike some memoirs from people with bipolar conditions this book is remarkably cheery and filled with the zest for life that Jean mentioned.

I can highly recommend it.

It's published by Matador at £8.99.

The Gilded Ones

It's a hot day in 1984 and Pulse, who is an intuitive designer who has two job interviews to attend.

The first interview is with a company that is very busy and very mainstream. The second is with what appears to be a deserted practice based within an old London house, owned by Patrick Lloyd-Lewis, whose wife, Freia died recently, in circumstances that have yet to be fully explained.

Pulse comes to the startling realisation that he had dreamt about Frie's death only the night before. As a result he feels a compulsion to help solve the mystery of her death. So he accepts theo ffer of a job from Patrick.

When he does a little digging into the personal life of Patrick, Pulse realises that he is under some degree of suspicion from those closest to him.

A shocking link between Patrick, Freia and a gangster who had previously been encountered in the North, Pulse wonders if, perhaps, Patrick might have been involved, or to be responsible in some way?

 Could Pulse discover the identity of the murderer before they commit further murders? Can Pulse keep himself safe?

This is a gritty psychological crime novel from designer turned author Brooke Fieldhouse. This is his debut novel.

It's published by Matador at £9.99.