If military campaigns are your cup of tea, then author Steven Pressfield’s latest novel, Killing Rommel is just the right brew. Pressfield is a military writer par excellence having authored three previous great novels, Gates of Fire, The Virtues of War, Tides of War and The Afghan Campaign. Fellow adventure author, Stephen Coonts has rightfully described Pressfield as the “finest military writer alive, bar none.”
In his latest foray, Killing Rommel, Pressfield focuses on a fearless British Army unit, Long Range Dessert Group that was formed in 1940 and up until 1943 their patrols daringly operated hundreds of miles behind enemy lines in North Africa gathering intelligence and causing a great deal of havoc to the Germans and Italians. In fact, as mentioned in the book, Germany’s famous General Rommel or as he was known as the "the dessert fox" stated: “The LRDG caused us more damage than any other unit of their size.”
The story, as narrated through the main character, twenty-two year old Lieutenant Richmond Lawrence Chapman, who was attached to the 22nd Armoured Brigade, 7th Armoured Division, is a work of fiction, however Pressfield mentions in his introductory historical note, “its basis in reality is fact.”All of the surrounding historical events actually happened and the forces mentioned all existed. Moreover, all of the types of operations performed by this gallant group of men are accurately depicted. Most of the geographic locations and protocol has been lifted from actual combat reports of the time. As for Rommel’s character, Pressfield assures us that they are likewise factually accurate.
Divided into six sections, our protagonist, Lt. Chapman begins by telling us something about himself and the predicament the British were in during the early part of 1940 when he states: “It’s a sickening feeling, knowing the enemy has your number. We can feel the force of Rommel’s genius. He calls the tune, we dance-and always one step behind. Rommel concentrates his armour; we fritter ours away in dribs and drabs.” The British are in a bad way as they are at a loss as what to do about Rommel. One disaster follows another and eventually Tobruk falls in June of 1940. Rommel now has control of a seaport within three hundred miles of Alexandria. Furthermore, the British have lost their lost stronghold in Cyrenaica. “The gallop is on, back to Cairo.” Defeat is very close and if Cairo falls and the Germans take Suez, the British will be cut off from India and the Far East. Moreover, Hitler will get his paws on the oilfields of Iraq and Arabia.
It is at this point where we learn about the formation of the Long Range Dessert Group where only certain soldiers with particular qualifications are accepted as participants and although Lt. Chapman was initially rejected, eventually he does find his way into the unit.
As the story proceeds, we discover how this daring unit, whose principal mission was to find and kill Rommel, had carried out dozens of hard-hitting strike operations as well as paving the way for the British and eventually the Americans to succeed in forcing Rommel and his Afrika Corps to quit North Africa, which was probably one of the most important turning points of World War II.
Killing Rommel is an expertly crafted and fascinating book which is not only illuminating to read for its information and learning, but it is also thought provoking as it alludes to the existence of chivalry and self-restraint that apparently existed on both sides during the North African campaign. Pressfield does a great job of recreating the North African battle theatre and there is little doubt that he can always be counted on to turn out books that are both intelligent and gripping. This one is no exception, as he immerses his readers in the sights, smells, fears and battles of the war.
The above review was contributed by: The Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com, Norm Goldman, B.A. LL.L, Retired Title Attorney: Norm is also a travel writer and together with his artist wife, Lily, the couple meld Norm's words with Lily's art. To check out their travel site click on Sketchandtravel.comClick here to view Norm’s Reviews & Interviews.
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