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on 19 September 2012
When I was growing up in the 1970s, "War and Westerns" was an established section of the average WH Smiths, and authors like Sven Hassel and Leo Kessler were practically household names (at least to the boys, sorry "young adults" of my generation). But while military history still takes up half the non-fiction shelves in Waterstones, military fiction seems to have slipped out of the mainstream. Recently, however, it's been making something of a comeback, pioneered by gritty WW2 series from the likes of James Holland and Michael Asher. And indie authors have followed them into the breach, including Jack Badelaire, whose Commando: Operation Arrowhead kicks off an action-packed new series of its own.

Badelaire writes an insightful blog on what he calls post-modern pulp fiction and he highlights the suitability of the ebook format for short, punchy, 'disposable' stories written primarily to entertain. Operation Arrowhead follows the body-littered progress of a British commando mission into occupied France, a focus that is particularly welcome coming from an American writer, given that Hollywod tends to focus exclusively on the US experience of war. Badelaire clearly has an interest in the subject, backed up by detailed research, and he largely manages to make his British characters sound British (No mean feat, as Dick van Dyke could testify). Tom Lynch, the hero, hails from Ulster, and I didn't really get a sense of his Irishness, but his sergeant is unmistakeably Scottish! More significantly, Lynch can serve in the British Army with scarcely a qualm even though his father was killed by the British during the war of indepence. They're uniting against a common enemy, of course, but I think Badelaire could draw out a more conflicted aspect to his character in future stories.

The real appeal of this kind of book is that it cuts away the fat and gets stuck in to the action in short order, with numerous gunbattles, air strikes and scenes of wholesale slaughter packed into its 190 pages (I read the printed version). But there's also some insight into the characters and an appreciation of the tensions between hit-and-run raiders and their French allies who have to stay and fight on their own soil. Badelaire cites films like Where Eagles Dare and the Dirty Dozen as an inspiration, but I was put more in mind of straight-ahead commando movies like Attack on the Iron Coast and the recent Age of Heroes. He also mentions pulp war fiction such as the Rat Bastards series. I haven't read any of these, but Badelaire doesn't go for the exploitation jugular in the quite same way, at least if the Amazon previews are anything to go by. In Operation Arrowhead, a beautiful French girl must be rescued from her evil captors, but there's no time for any steamy sexual encounters amid the ongoing mayhem.

As befits the genre, the Nazi characters are reliably cruel, sadistic and/or stupid. After a spectacular final battle, I felt that the chief villain was dispatched a bit too easily, but the book ends with the arrival of a new and formidable opponent whose SS unit will obviously feature in forthcoming tales.

Those of us who take an interest in World War 2 are sometimes asked why we're still talking about it 70 years after the event. The obvious answer is that people will be reading, writing and myth-making about World War 2 for as long as they have about the Trojan War. It is an archetypal human conflict, the most dramatic (and dramatically satisfying) event in the whole of history. Operation Arrowhead is an enjoyable, fast-moving read which continues that tradition, and I look forward to the next instalment.

(The title of this review is a comment quoted in Nicholas Rankin's book on Ian Fleming's Commandos, referring to a vigorous shoot-out. It seems to sum up the attitude quite nicely)
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on 1 May 2013
This is a fictional story just like a war movie. But you find it easy to get into and follow the story line with expectation. Was enjoyable and also informative. Have also bought the follow up to this and look forward to reading when on my hols.
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on 29 January 2014
I didn't realise that this was a short story,and was a bit disappointed as it seemed that just as the reader got into the story that the book comes to an end, having said that,the story is well told and enjoyable,the characters are believable. I have now purchased the other two books in this series and enjoying the follow on story
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on 11 March 2013
Read this book over a couple of days and enjoyed it. It reminded me of the monthly comic books of my youth. The story rattles along at a good pace which makes you want to turn the next page which is always a good indication.
The characters have enough depth to make them believable and there is enough action for most people.
A good read
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on 1 May 2016
If you liked the commando war comics you will like these similar genre. Good short read characters developed quite well and some were interesting worth a read. The book was not very long and looking at the series they all are shortbread. Not sure whether to get next one.
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on 20 October 2013
Like an old fashioned Commando Comic in novel form. I real ly enjoyed it, a bit contrived in places but none the worse for that, not high art but really good fun. Good characters great story can't wait for the next one.
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on 18 May 2016
I REALLY enjoyed this action packed story of the small elite commando team fighting alongside the French Resistance behind enemy lines. Cannot wait to read the next book. Keep the. Coming
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on 3 May 2013
great book! if you like reading second world war books this is a must! first in a series about british commandos! i have read this one and the second cannot wait for the third!
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on 19 May 2013
A well written, easy to follow book. An interesting subject that appears to be well researched. I'll be looking for other books by Jack Badelaire.
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on 16 December 2012
I really enjoyed this book about Corporal Lynch. Lynch joins the army and escaped from France in 1940. Desperate to get back at the Germans he joins the Commandos and gets selected for an elite squad who get taken to France to assist the Partisans in killing alot of Germans, which they do. A good read.
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