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This review is from: Desperate Glory: At War in Helmand with Britain's 16 Air Assault Brigade (Hardcover)
One had high expectations of a book written by a man slated as "one of the most intrepid foreign correspondents of our generation". The expectations were not fulfulled. Despite being granted the almost unprecedented priviledge of unrestricted access to the front line for a period of six months, Kiley is able to produce no more than an incoherent, Boy's Own narrative, lacking in depth, detailed (or convincing) analysis or even accuracy.
The book begins with the commander of 16 Air Assualt Brigade, Brig Mark Carleton-Smith in bed with his wife, immediately prior to departure, intended - one presumes - to give a homely, touching feel to the man who is about to be precipitated into the horrors of war. Instead, it comes over as what it is - a cheap narrative artifact, obviously invented because it can hardly have been witnessed by the author.
Using such artefacts, Kiley weaves in a superficial, unimpressive historical background to the campaign, a mere dusting to get him into the "wham-bam" action which he describes in tedious detail, without ever capturing the essence of life in the front line, so vividly conveyed by Michael Yon and others.
Switching from past to present tense almost at random, we are treated to a confusing mix of action laced with heavy emoting, injected one assumes from the fruits of post-action interviews, giving the narrative the feel of "Dan Dare meets Catherine Cookson".
The limited attempts at analysis are invariably shoehorned in using the device of interview sequences with some of Kiley's bewildering cast of characters, hurled into the script to give voice to his narrative, betraying the author's own lack of confidence (or understanding) of his subject.
Such is the shallowness that the book could just as well have been scripted for a video, perhaps reflecting the author's experience of scripting televisions films. Unfortunately, he seems unable to make the transition from the visual arts to the written word.
The lack of depth could perhaps have been forgiven had we been treated to comprehensive analystical chapter but, after an end which is more abrupt than the beginning, Kiley seems to lose interest. His ideas drain into the sands which he earlier so superficially describes, as the book peters out into a three-page epilogue. Mr Kiley should stick to television.