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Friday, 23 August 2019

‘Ungentlemanly Warfare’ by Howard Linskey

Published by No Exit Press,
6 June 2019.
ISBN: 978-0-85730-320-2 (PBO)

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare was how Winston Churchill described the Special Operations Executive, a collection of mavericks who were dropped behind enemy lines to offer help to resistance fighters during the Second World War. It provides fiction writers with a rich seam to mine; its operatives worked 'off the books', and getting results was deemed far more important than playing by the rules – especially since Hitler rewrote the rules to suit himself – so it's easy to invent missions for them.

Howard Linskey's protagonist Captain Harry Walsh is one of those mavericks. Promoted on the battlefield, gentleman he certainly is not, though he has his own code of honour, which includes short shrift for bureaucracy and the kind of authority that has an inflated sense of the importance of having attended the right school. Harry is prepared to break every rule in a library of books when he is sent into France to assassinate a German scientist who has come far too close to perfecting a secret weapon which might make a difference to the outcome of the war.

Linskey creates a scenario which is totally alien to most people: a motley bunch of resistance fighters or Maquisards with varying degrees of skill, holed up in squalid conditions and determined to make life as difficult as possible for the occupying forces. He uses documented history to add colour and realism, and though some of the characters are instantly recognizable from a hundred war movies, they still emerge as genuine people.

Harry Walsh himself is a troubled soul: a survivor of what amounted to a massacre at Dunkirk, a marriage that's pedestrian at best but with no chance of escape, a self-important boss who regards him with contempt. As if that wasn't enough, he's hopelessly in love with feisty fellow operative Emma Stirling, who appears unexpectedly shortly after his own arrival in France.

It all adds up to a pacy, dramatic adventure behind enemy lines, complete with explosions, bombed bridges and railway lines, kidnapping and shoot-outs. There's even a generous sprinkle of name-dropping: real-life people like Ian Fleming and Kim Philby, whose association with SOE is well documented.

Will Harry complete his mission? What will become of him and Emma? Will the Allies win the war? We know the answer to one of those questions. For the other two you'll have to read the book.  And it's well worth reading.-----Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Howard Linskey has worked as a barman, journalist, catering manager and marketing manager for a celebrity chef, as well as in a variety of sales and account management jobs. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites on a number of subjects. The Drop was Howard’s debut novel, published by ‘No Exit’ in 2011.Originally from Ferryhill in County Durham, he now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife Alison and daughter Erin.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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