Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Book Review

"10 weeks ago a crack mercenary unit was evacuated from Biafra for a war they didn't win. These men promptly scattered back to their homelands or to the Paris underground. Today, still unemployed but looking for a contract, they intend to continue being soldiers of fortune. If you have a coup to launch, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the Cliché-Team."
I just finished re-reading Frederick Forsythe's The Dogs of War, which is, along with The Wild Geese, probably the definitive Seventies mercenary novel.

Understand going in that this is a lot more of a novel of intrigue and the mechanics of setting up a mercenary operation than it is an action novel of small unit combat. The actual portions of the story that generate spent brass and what novelists persist in referring to as "cordite" smoke take place in the last dozen pages or so.

The characters in the mercenary outfit are like a group of friends rolled up a party for a Top Secret game back in the day, hence my opening paragraph.
Curt: "Okay, my guy's gonna be German, and he's a smuggler, so I'm putting the most points in Knowledge and Deception." 
Mark: "I'm gonna have a huge dude with massive Strength and Life Level. He'll be a Belgian dude nicknamed 'Tiny' who's, like, a wizard with a bazooka." 
John: "My character's this really high-dexterity wiry little Corsican dude, who's got mob connections and I'm putting all my skill points into knife-fighting. His trademark is carrying a big-ass Bowie knife everywhere that he keeps razor sharp."
Along the way you get a look at buying weapons and equipment legally and illegally, smuggling Schmeissers, forging End User Certificates, and all the stuff that eventually became tropes in novels of the type.

There's plenty of intrigue, the plot steps along nicely, and the outcome is always in doubt. Also, the ending is still one of the more unexpectedly jarring ones I've read.

Recommended reading.