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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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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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on 30 June 2017
I don't like giving negative reviews. I'm usually of the "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" variety when it comes to giving feedback. But this...

But this...

This is so, so bad. A couple of Delingpole's fans seem to be getting incensed at all the comparisons between the Coward novels and Flashman, their argument being that the two characters are different and therefore shouldn't be compared. Which would be a perfectly valid argument, except, that's clearly what Delingpole was aiming for. There's a fine line between emulation and imitation, and at times it felt like Delingpole came dangerously close to owing the Fraser estate money. The format, the rambling narrative style, the concept: there is almost nothing in this book that can't be viewed as a Flashman rip-off. The problem is, this author seems to want to have his cake and eat it: he wants Coward to get into loads of it's-his-own-fault trouble, but at the same time he wants his hero to actually be heroic; he wants to have the touch of naughtiness, but goes too far by also trying to appeal to the Fifty Shades audience; he wants the memoir-style format, but shoots himself in the foot by depicting it as a tape recording intended for a grandson (how many grandfathers do you know who would, when speaking to younger members of their family, go into graphic detail about the messy end results of premature ejaculation?); the list goes on.

And on top of all that, Coward at the Bridge is 'so' badly written. When I'd realised I wasn't going to enjoy the book for its humour, which falls so embarrassingly flat, I stuck with it in the belief that (as some reviewers have commented) the action scenes would be worth the effort of getting to them; but I am genuinely struggling to think of another military-themed novel in which the action sequences are so slow, disjointed and dull. The descriptions of battle were so 'distant', there was rarely any sense of urgency and, on a staggering number of occasions, the author resorts to summarizing (!) the actual fighting after he's spent pages and pages making his readers sit through the approach.

This was definitely a below-average read--at no point did I either laugh (or even smile) or get any sense of excitement. Which is a real shame. The book had such potential. All I can say is, thank God the third book in the series got cancelled.
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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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VINE VOICEon 29 December 2009
I came to this book slightly warily, having read all the reviews on this site. Like some other readers I foiund it took its time to get going. I know comparisons with the sublime Flashman are probably unhelpful, but thi sis how the book is being pitched by the publishers (certainly in the blurb on the hardback copy I read). And as others have said, the comparisons are not really helpful. Coward is not Flashy, and World War 2 is not some Victorian music hall act with red uniforms and a rousing chorus of "We won't let the Russians get Constantinople". Not that any of Flashy's wars were very funny to those involved in them - but they are further away from us, and gave Flashy's talented creator more fictional room to operate.

Delingpole has a fine line to tread. He has to make us interested in some of the absurdities of Market Garden (step forward the immaculately turned-out General 'Boy' Browning and his insistance of taking his Corps HQ into battle on Day 1) without making fun of the frontline troops.

The author writes his action secquences well, and while it is true that some of Coward's comings-and-goings do seem a bit confusing, Delingpole has to get his character around the campaign battlefield if we as his readers are to get a flavour of some the key incidents.

I enjoyed the action sequences and I will certainly read more in the series. However, I think Delingpole needs to rethink how he does Coward's domestic background. Like some others, I found the first few chapters slow going, the book definitely changes up a gear when we get into action, and is almost another book.

What saves it, for me, is Delingpole's obvious research and reading and deep respect for the airborne soldiers he writes about.
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VINE VOICEon 22 November 2010
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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on 28 February 2016
I had both books bought for me, and on balance this one is less bad than the first, in the way that tuberculous is less bad than HIV. Still a disgrace to the Flashman memory though, which is so obviously aims to emulate.
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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 13 January 2016
An odd mix of mostly hey-wot characters and ribald humour on the one hand, and truly awful historical fact on the other. Not sure what my late father (a Glider Pilot who went into Arnhem) would have made of it.... Not sure what I made of it. There were a few things in it I hadn't heard about before, and I found that aspect of the book interesting. Curiously, I was left thinking that Arnhem had been even worse than I already knew it had been, and once again reminded of how old soldiers generally kept shtum (at least where their wives and children were concerned) about the terrible things they experienced . Hm, overall, I think I found it a little irreverent, actually.
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on 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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