Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Such Are the Valiant

“Such Are the Valiant”, perhaps John C. Andrews' only literary offering, was released in 1965 by Belmont Tower. It's a paperback war novel set in the Burmese Jungle during the Pacific-Asian Theatre of World War II. It is a short read at 155-pages but Andrews makes the most of it with a thrilling, action-packed narrative. 

The novel centers on a small British reconnaissance unit led by Captain Barrington, Sergeant McCallum and Lieutenant Fulton. This patrol is deep in the jungle probing Japanese lines to determine strengths and weaknesses. Utilizing terrain maps, the men are locating trails and pathways that are hidden from aerial intelligence. With this extreme scouting comes Japanese patrols, sweltering heat, insects and their own weaknesses from the excursion. 

The first 60-pages has the patrol navigating a river, assassinating a Japanese scout and climbing a rocky mountain ridge to root out a Japanese gun post. Andrews writes these scenes with a harrowing pace but pausing to inject a good amount of suspense. The dialogue and point of view is distributed evenly among the squad members, allowing the reader to see the whole squad as chief protagonist instead of an individual member. 

Eventually the patrol finds rest at a nearby village. After negotiation with the village elders, the tribesmen agree to help the Allies due to broken promises by Japanese leaders. Their much-needed rest is short-lived when a large Japanese battalion is spotted outside of the village. Knowing they can't fend off waves of enemy troops, Barrington makes the decision to send McCallum and two others through the lines to relay the news to HQ. This is where the narrative is split into two equally exciting portions.

The first has Barrington making quick preparations for the impending attack. He has a brief love interest with a village nurse that eventually leads into a quick history of her action during the war. As wave after wave of Japanese descend onto the village, the narrative switches to McCallum's trio desperately trying to venture back to camp for help. The chapters spend an equal amount of time telling us both fascinating tales. There's a riveting finale to the battle...but who wins?

The author's description of soaked boots, sucking mud and leech bites leaves me wondering if he spent wartime in Asia himself. There's a great sense of authenticity from the soldier's point of view – cumbersome Sten Sub-Machine guns (they were junk), the rattling of metal and the inner turmoil of killing another man.  Other than a 1981 WW2 photo album, I can't find any other work by this author. I'd suspect he is a former British soldier but have no basis of truth other than this captivating, authentic novel. “Such Are the Valiant” is a mandatory read for war fiction fans.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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