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4.3 out of 5 stars
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I enjoyed this, but it is a very hard book to categorise. There is a bit of Tom Sharpe in here, along with Leslie Thomas, maybe a bit of Jeeves and Wooster too! This is a bawdy and semi comic romp set within the Airborne assault of Arnhem during Operation Market Garden in 1944.

Dick Coward and his trusty sergeant Price join the forces that dropped into Arnhem in what was anticipated to be an easy mission to take the bridge, Coward is keen to prove to his father that he is worthy of inheriting the family estate and Price wants to keep Coward alive while killing as many of the enemy as possible.

Told from the perspective of an elderly Coward recounting his life's adventures this blends an accurate and detailed military perspective with the light touch of very entertaining characters. The author treads a careful path between respect for the military action and the lives lost but injects circumstantial humour around his lead character. The Brits are shown with a stoic and sarcastic humour in the face of considerable adversity and the author also resists the opportunity to make light of the Americans, instead showing their enormous bravery as they tried to support the beleaguered British troops. In the middle of this we have the likeable Coward trying to do his best but ending up in all sorts of scrapes ranging from the bawdy to the circumstantial. The one liners zip around as much as the bullets.

This is the second in what I thought would be a long series, but I sense that the author has resolved things to the degree that he does not need to continue if his inclination takes him elsewhere. That would be a shame as the balancing act shown here demonstrates his ability but I also understand that this must be a hard book to market.

Worth seeking out.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2009
"Coward at the Bridge" is the second novel in James Delingpole's Dick Coward Adventure Series. It's set amid the mayhem of Operation Market Garden with Dick Coward and Price, as usual, in the thick of the action. And if you're after a brilliantly authentic war novel - or just a brilliant read generally - you can't do better than buy yourself a copy. It is enthralling, pacy, pitch-perfect in its historical realism and written in the elegant, vigorous prose style of a master: fact and fiction, drama and adventure are all superbly balanced. It is also extremely funny (I laughed aloud sufficiently often over this book that it was necessary to sit in a room on my own to read it) and frequently moving.

Because the market is saturated with books about the Second World War, most indistinguishable from the next, Coward at the Bridge should come with a warning: nothing else in the genre is close to being this good. As a storyteller and craftsman, James Delingpole is in a league of his own. He keeps you glued to the very last page when, exhausted and elated, you can at last put the book down and get yourself some sleep.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 2009
I'm a big fan of Flashman and a great reader of WW2 fiction (although strangely as a genre there isn't that much of it) but picked up 'Coward on the beach' with a bit of trepidation. The idea that Dick Coward has to win a VC to inherit his fathers estate and ends up flying Spits in the Battle of Britain, fighting under cover with the Germans at Stalingrad, escaping from the Japanese in Burma etc is dangerously close to farcical. Flashman worked by being very, very plausible and I had the nasty feeling that 'Coward' would fall flat because it just wasn't plausible. However I was pleasantly suprised... it worked. Just. So I bought book two.

This is much, much better. Cowards character has developed nicely, the rather over-done Price plays a back seat and nothing James Delingpole could make up could be more farcical than General Brownings decisions during Market Garden (such as using 38 precious gliders to fly his HQ into Holland and having the Poles dropped South of Arnhem bridge while their vehicles and heavy weapons were dropped north of the river!). As with Flashy Coward manages to be in the thick of just about every battle of the campaign but how he moves between them is believable and the story doesn't depend on inplausible coincidences. In format 'Coward at the Bridge' is more like Flashman than the first book with some very good historical notes at the back and an extremely useful bibliography which I'm going to use to chase up some further reading. As with Flashman you'll probably appreciate this book more if you appreciate the real events, although Wikipedia and the movie 'A bridge too far' are all you'll need.

Any comedy in this book is very very black humour. The author (doubtless as a result of some pretty impressive research and reading) describes some very nasty aspects of battle in graphic detail. He's also got respect for the other side. There are no pantomime nazi's and no overdone 'lets kill the evil hun' elements. In this book Germans burn to death exactly the same as Brits do. The achievements of the Americans & Poles are well covered and the failures of the Brits put into proper context. Although fiction, and very good fiction at that you'll finish the book knowing a lot more about 'Market Garden' than when you started it.

The author has a bit of an uphill struggle writing a third book though. George McDonald Frazer wisely started Flashman at the beginning of his career. With Dick Coward its Oct 1944 and we're only onto book 2. Going back in time to Dunkirk, Stalingrad & Burma will be perfectly possible but we'll be reading his earlier adventures knowing how they work out for him in 1944. However on the strength of this book I'll be buying the next one regardless.
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on 27 April 2013
I can see what Delingpole was trying to do with the Coward series. I too was pretty put out when George MacDonald Frasier died and I realized there would be no more Flashman Novels. Delingpole's book is fun, light weight, cliched but you always have the feeling that you've read it all before somewhere better written, Shifting the action to World War Two with some revisionist insight on weaponry doesn't disguise the fact.

Upper class amorous hero with a horrible family with asides to having fought in every campaign in the second world war on a mission to win a V.C.? -hmmm. Highly original. Still well worth a read though.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 September 2010
This is the second volume of Delingpole's Dick Coward adventures - it opens with him trapped in a cupboard with beautiful nymphomaniac, closes with him entwined with a pair of young herefordshire ladies in a menage a trois, and in between he is having more fun being shot at while losing the Battle of Arnhem.

Volume II is a direct sequel to Coward on the Beach, and the war in Europe is nearing its end: with 10 volumes planned by the author, I don't think another 8 can be fitted 6 months. This means, I assume, that some later Coward volumes will be "flashbacks" to adventures alluded to previously - Burma, the Western Desert, flying Spits, Crete, fighting with the brave defenders of Stalingrad (well, the German ones anyway) and so on. To a degree that may also be necessary as Coward has now achieved the fame (and fortune) that he was fighting WWII to win.

There is less Price here - a mixed blessing, as we get more focus on Dick Coward, but miss Price's no-nonsense approach to war - and Coward seems more sympathetic than he did in "on the Beach". Operation Market Garden is told accurately, and if it seems improbable that one man could have so many adventures...well, that's wartime for you.
Bridge is better than Beach, but not as good as Flashman at his best. Which brings me to the quibble in the review title: its all very well to write a WWII homage to Flashy, really it is. But please, there is no need to beat us over the head with that in the endnotes. One simple reference is sufficient to refer interested readers, but three is the literary equivalent of Madonna's conical foot-long bra: unnecessary, distracting, and frankly just a bit much.

Still, if that's the worst complaint I have about the book - and it is - that means it's a pretty good read, aimed at lovers of military history who don't mind a mention of sex and benzedrine on the side.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2009
James Delingpole has really delivered here. At a time where there are a few WW2 books about (James Holland and Michael Asher etc) this one really stands out, perhaps it's only weakness being an insipid cover.
The author really tugs the emotions here, spreading wit and pathos in equal measure with some very entertaining characterisation.
This is a real romp from start to finish and highly recommended.
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on 23 September 2011
I won't say too much as I got carried away reviewing the first book.I liked this one even more and think the author has very quickly got into his stride. The tone of the book is a bit darker but that's not surprising considering the battle that this one is based on.

I hope the next book arrives soon though it might cost me as they keep inspiring me to visit the locations!
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on 11 July 2011
Oh I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.

This had me grabbed from page 1 - the first couple of lines are hilarious and I'm glad to say it continues right the way through to the end.

A fantastic book, only downside is the next one isnt due for over a year! When can I pre-order

Bravo Mr Delingpole
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on 20 November 2013
I'd never read delingpole before and so this was just a stab in the dark. Glad to say that I loved it though. Kept me amused, entertained and enthralled all the way through. But then again, who doesn't love a bit of boys own adventure war story?
I loved it so hope you do too.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2010
Coward at the Bridge is a romp, bawdy in parts and with some well written battlefield sequences. My concern is that Dalingpole's writing is something of a blunt instrument. The action scenes are fine but the "comic" interludes are not particularly funny or well written and lack any form of subtlety.

Although as reviewers have pointed out this is not Flashman the book itself acknowledges Flashman as an inspiration and is marketed as such which is a mistake as comparisons must be drawn and poor old Coward does not stand a chance against Flashy.

However, take away the Flashyesque footnotes and conscious aping of Flashman and you have an entertaining and engaging story, the timeline can be annoyingly disjointed in places but it all ties to gether in the end. A good read but not a great one.
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Coward on the Beach: 1 (Dick Coward 1)
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