A region that has been fought over for centuries, a region so hostile that Alexander the Great sought treaties with the locals rather than have to fight his way across the region. It's a lesson that no one has learned and even today we seem to have forgotten! Unlike the action that our troops are seeing today, this story is set in the time of Empire the time of great adventurers and privileged fools. This the third book in Mercer's Anthony Morgan trilogy follows a British general (Morgan) through the political minefields of the day to day life in command to the action on the battlefields and the family quarrels between his two sons. This is a story of blood action, old fashioned rifles and guts and for some glory and other a grim death in the arid regions of a hostile land. War is Hell and this story tells it straight...yet still leaves you with a wistful feeling of wanting to join our troops to share that glory, to be part of the great push for empire, to go where few have gone before.
The book has been excellently written to cover the history but allow the reader to see the parallels with today's troubles. If you like your military history then you will love this book and the rest of the series.
Product Description (from back of book) Set in the 1880s, this is a gripping adventure in which Mercer brilliantly reenacts the lives of soldiers in the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Anthony Morgan, now just appointed as general, has two of his sons, one his legitimate heir, one his bastard, both fighting in the ranks. Morgan has arrived just as one of the rival princelings has begun to control Herat, and is determined to carve out some power for himself, and so embarks upon marching to Kandahar, determined to remove the British governor and take the city and province as his own kingdom. Morgan's life is not made easier by problems with the other generals and in particular his own difficulties in dealing with the growing rivalry between his two sons.
The climax of Mercer's Anthony Morgan trilogy builds on the characters so brilliantly drawn in the first two novels. The switch into the first person for Tony's narrative is a particular strength and helps the audience to empathise with the protagonist even further than before.
The rivalry between Billy Morgan and Sam Keenan is the most compelling element of the book's narrative, with neither character crassly painted as either hero or anti-hero, while their father Tony struggles to mediate between the two of them while dealing with the huge pressure of his command.
As usual Mercer's depiction of battle is second to none. The new challenges of warfare presented by the Afghan terrain and the elusive nature of Ayub Khan's troops are no match for Mercer's pen. The return of Colour Sergeant Mcgucken was welcome as ever and the indomitable Pegg of the first two novels was more than adequately replaced by Eddie "Bottle" Battle.
However, it is the modern-day resonances that make Mercer's third book particularly effective. The parallels are there for anyone to see: the terrain, the opponent, the imperial overtones. Mercer handles these with a subtlety which is commendable, never forcing the comparison down your throat but presenting it for the perceptive reader.
A must read for any military history enthusiast. I only hope there are more novels to come from this promising author.
Quite simply a stunning end to the Anthony Morgan trilogy. Mercer's description of the Battle of Maiwand and the period leading up to it are superb. I do regret this is the last of the books in the series. Maiwand has to a great extent been largely forgotten, unless, like me you have a background in military history. The British Army had only just been defeated at Islandhlwana in 1879, and after Maiwand was to suffer defeat during the First Boer War of 1881. The narrative is particularly strong in this book with Morgan's thoughts being described in the first person. I confess I did not enjoy this book as much as the first two in the series, but I fervently hope Mercer is going to write more military fiction, perhaps we can see how Billy and Sam develop as soldiers as there are plenty of wars to be fought, in Egypt, South Africa and France and Flanders.
The final volume in the enjoyable 'page turning triology'.The general accuracy of the three story-lines is good, however, I take issue with Patrick Mercer on his version of Officer-Other Rank Relations, especially during the Crimea War (First volume) and the Indian Mutiny (second volume) and to some lesser extent during the Afghan story line of the third volume. The discipline was very strict and there was a great social barrier between the Officer Class and the lower ranks. The strict discipline and social barriers were definitely in existance up to and including the pre-war WW2 period, especially in India, (Father served there in the 20's and other family members, colleagues and friends who served there in the thirties and up to and during partition). This would have also applied during the storyline of the triology. With respect, I believe that Col. Mercer, has written of the changed, more relaxed, attitude to inter-rank discipline and relations of the British Army of his time with HM Forces.Secondly, holding a .45 Webly in your mouth is stretching (no pun intended)greduality a bit. They are heavy and unweildy weapons; the same applies to holding a sword in the mouth; he's forgotten how his arms felt after sword drill!! Otherwise three very readable sories.Well done.
The story is based on the battle of Mainwand, Afganistan, in 1880 and stands on its own - you don't need to have read the two two previous books of the trilogy to enjoy this fully - and I would say this one is better than the others. There is a Kipling-like understanding of the military mind of all ranks and indeed of the Indian Army of the time that brings the characters and location alive. A lesser author would have chosen one of the more victorious episodes of the period but I suspect Mercer deliberately wants to draw some comparison with current events in that province. As a result, the lead role has to be more rounded than an all-conquering Sharpe or Mathew Hervey, and Mercer manages that with Brig. Gen. Morgan. If I have any quibble, it is his derogatory characterisation of the most senior officers - especially Roberts, which I view as unwarranted - which detracts from the tale somewhat. Nevertheless, a thoroughly good read.
Once again the author captures the pain, the fear, the blood letting of battle. Maiwand was a battle to rival Rival Rourkes Drift the year before, it was a terrible time for the 66th Foot, Jacobs Rifles, the Grenadiers, the royal Horse Artillery and more who fought like heroes. There were a couple of things that didn't add up though, the use of the word "shufti", its of Arab origin (Safa) try to see, and it wasn't used as a British Army colloquial term until the 1940's, and also Captain McMath, in the defence of Kandahar, he was killed at Maiwand. Apart from these small errors though, Brilliant!
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
IF history tells us anything it's that Afghanistan is the place to be for a spot of regular warring. Our Boys are busy honing their skills in those deadly playing fields right now, of course. But as everyone knows us British have plenty of previous north of the Khyber Pass. Back in the 1870s the Great Game was being fought in earnest, and if you want a good idea of what that particular adventure was like treat yourself to a copy of this gripper. Red Runs the Helmand follows a Brit general through the political minefields of the day and onto the battlefields, where claret runs in grisly rivers. The enemy upsetting what passes for peace in the rotten region is a cocky prince who fancies himself as ruler and marches on Kandahar. General Morgan, hard-pressed coping with two sons at each other's throats in the ranks, has to marshal our hard-pressed lads and put a stop to his antics. No spy drones, GPS, P2P tech, satellite imagery, cruise missiles, Kevlar, night-vision and such for his troops. Just rifles and plenty of guts. Much like Our Boys today. It's the story of a hellish war, but Red Runs the Helmand makes you go to bed dreaming you were there, like the very best historical fiction is meant to do.
It took me a while to get used to the use of the first person. This hadn't been used in the two previous novels in the Morgan trilogy. The significance of the author's military experience in this part of the world never left me while reading this book and one can't escape the notion than any military occupation of Afghanistan has been doomed to failure right up to the present day. The story rattles along at a really good pace and I found it hard to put down once I had negotiated the preliminary stages. Anyone who likes military fiction will enjoy this.