Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Found: "Rogue Officer" by Garry Douglas Kilworth

Found: Rogue Officer by Garry Douglas Kilworth, 2007, 9780727865359.

I've cut back on borrowing from the library so I can read through some of the books I own. Most of my owned items are either fairly old - from college days - or withdrawn books bought from library sales. Rogue Officer is a withdrawn book. I'm not sure when I weeded this from the library's collection but must have done so within the past three years or so.

Kilworth's Fancy Jack Crossman series is one of those English series that enjoy intermittent U.S. publication.  Kilworth has done eight novels in the series but only three or four seem to have U.S. publication.  These are Richard Sharpe type novels, military adventures following a commando-type character through different battles and wars.  Most Sharpe novels focused on the Napoleonic wars, Crossman focuses on Crimea and India.

Rogue Officer picks up about halfway through the Sepoy Mutiny (or Indian Rebellion depending on your historical viewpoint) of 1857. An explanation in case you've forgotten the story: the British East India Company ruled India and ran their own army. The Company did not treat the Indians well and never saw the signs of brewing rebellion. One point of contention was that the Company wanted the Indian soldiers to serve overseas. The rumor that new rifle cartridges were coated in either pig or cow fat (Muslim and Hindu worries) was the last straw. (The cartridges were wrapped paper with powder and ball inside, the ends had to be bitten off to pour the contents down the muzzle. Both Hindus and Muslims were revolted at the need to put the fat in their mouths.) The rebels were vicious and murdered their British officers, wives, and children. The British counter-attack was equally vicious with military aged men shot down and some rebels tied to cannon muzzles and shot away.

Crossman serves in the British Army, the Irish Connaught Rangers, but has been detached to a military intelligence officer since the Crimean War.  Crossman has been challenged to a duel by a particularly nasty and fearless cavalry officer, Deighnton. Crossman's pistol shot misses and the Deighnton's pistol misfires so the duel is declared over. Deighnton is not pleased. Crossman does not understand the man's animosity but cannot turn down a duel, even though most everyone realizes how stupid duels are, or he will be an outcast.

The novel goes from there with Crossman and his three man unit traveling rural India as spies.  Joining different marches to track down rebel armies.  Crossman getting captured by runaway rebels.  Deighnton plotting against Crossman by accusing Crossman of desertion during Crossman's captivity.  Crossman's sometimes peculiar men. The culture clash between Indian and British, British class clashes, shifting Indian loyalties, horse lovers versus "it's just thing to ride".

1. I read Winter Soldiers back in 2007. The novels are done as linked stories. Kind of like a personal campaign history with a overarching plot thread from beginning to end. This one has Crossman taking various assignments with Deighnton and Deighnton's influence coming and going to influence the story.
2. A good book. At times Crossman thinks back to previous events that, I presume, were in other novels. But, you don't need to know those other things to enjoy the story.
3. The latest Crossman novel is Kiwi Wars with a 2008 pub date in the States.  The library bought it in 2009 and it has only circ'ed three times and the last checkout was January, 2010. I should probably weed it, shelving space is tight in Fiction.

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