Tuesday, June 11, 2019

David Drake

The Army took David Drake from Duke Law School and sent him on a motorized tour of Viet Nam and Cambodia with the 11th Cav, the Blackhorse. He learned new skills, saw interesting sights, and met exotic people who hadn’t run fast enough to get away.

Drake returned to become Chapel Hill’s Assistant Town Attorney and to try to put his life back together through fiction making sense of his Army experiences.

He describes war from where he saw it: the loader’s hatch of a tank in Cambodia. Drake's military experience, combined with his formal education in history and Latin, has made him one of the foremost writers of realistic action SF and fantasy. His bestselling Hammer’s Slammers series is credited with creating the genre of modern Military SF. He often wishes he had a less interesting background.

Drake's new novel is To Clear Away the Shadows.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Drake's reply:
Rustics in Rebellion/George Alfred Townsend

Townsend was a correspondent from Tidewater Maryland writing for northern papers during the Civil War. He was strongly opposed to Secession but he understood the common people who were doing the fighting--and who were being trampled by being in the path of the armies. He was one of those people himself.

This is an honest account of the civil war by a non-combatant who went where the fighting was so that he could report it. It is full of homely details, like writing a note for an illiterate private to his wife and baby girl before the Battle of Cedar Mountain, who says that he'll write more if he survives.

He didn't survive.

This is war at the bottom level, the reality, with some heroism but no bombast. It is a powerful book for its worm's eye truth.

We Fought at Arnhem/Mike Rossiter

This is something between oral history and a general history of operation Market Garden, the Bridge Too Far (in the words of one of the British Airborne officers who led the disastrous assault).

Rossiter extensively interviewed three survivors. They were common soldiers who had gotten into the Airborne more or less by happenstance. They went where their superiors directed and did the jobs for which they were trained. High command failed them at every stage from planning, to assigning the task of linking up with them to Guards units rather than to an experienced breakthrough battalion like the Sherwood Rangers which would not have stopped on the outskirts of success as the Guards did.

The men on the ground didn't fail.

This is an account of common soldiers doing their jobs under crushing opposition, until the opposition crushes them. This is an account of ordinary people who don't quit.
Visit David Drake's website.

--Marshal Zeringue