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A Close Run Thing


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"Stirring...stimulating...entertaining...a richness of detail."
-USA Today

"Now at last a highly literate, deeply read cavalry officer of high rank shows one the nature of horse-borne warfare....Colonel Mallinson's a close run thing is very much to be welcomed."
-Patrick O'Brian author of the Aubrey-Maturin series "An astonishingly impressive debut in the field of Napoleonic fiction. Convincingly drawn, perfectly paced, and expertly written, this cavalryman's tale is a joy to read."
-Anthony Beevor, author of Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege "A rousing...tale of valiant heroism and dashing derring-do."
-Kirkus Reviews "Mallinson expertly captures both the glory and the gore of the battlefield in this sweeping saga.... An exciting historical adventure steeped in authentic military detail."


Intrepid cavalry officer Cornet Matthew Hervey rises through the Duke of Wellington's forces, moves through British and Irish society and helps the U.K. win the Napoleonic Wars in this first of a projected series by a British writer. Hervey's story begins in 1814, with Napoleon's defeat. Hervey narrowly escapes a court martial for impetuous, albeit brave, action in the Peninsular Campaign against the French, and is invited to purchase his lieutenancy. He returns to Britain, rekindles his affections for his childhood sweetheart, and is posted to Ireland: there he explores the country's religious strife, rides horses and reads Pride and Prejudice. But when Bonaparte escapes from Elba and raises a new army for a rematch with Wellington, Hervey's dragoons must return to war. In the battle of Waterloo, Hervey so distinguishes himself that he is again promoted and ready to carry on his derring-do in the next volume. Hervey's exploits would make a good adventure story, but Mallinson hasn't quite written one. Instead, the novel enshrines his knowledge of the period: it's full of historical data that buffs will recognize, and consequently is rather slow-moving. Mallinson's acknowledged debt to Patrick O'Brian, and his decision to emulate Austen's prose style in describing her era, serve his story poorly. None of the characters converse; they make speeches. Except for Hervey, none develops beyond a name and, occasionally, a dialect. The brutality of combat remains offstage until the end; even there the Battle of Waterloo seems recounted more than shown. Mallinson (author of the nonfiction Light Dragoons, published in the U.K., and himself a real-life officer in the British cavalry) has loaded each chapter with details of politics, geography, economics, diet, firearms, uniforms, horsemanship, courtship, huntsmanship and even ceremonial headgear. These minutiae mix with period idioms, cultural references and scholarly glosses to make the book feel at times like a study guide for an exam. Even so, this first installment of Hervey's travels will entertain the well-educated, and delight amateur historians. Readers seeking action can look to the future: Mallinson reveals real promise whenever he stops trying to demonstrate the breadth of his research and simply tells Hervey's story. (June) FYI: Mallinson was recently appointed military attach‚ for the British embassy in Rome. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"Of recent years many eminent hands have undertaken to lead the reader deep into the Royal Navy of Nelson's time, describing the life of the service, the men who sailed those 'far-distant, storm-beaten ships, upon which the Grand Army never looked' but which 'stood between it and the dominion of the world.'

"Hitherto nobody that I know of has done anything like the same for the army, which did after all have a not inconsiderable share in winning the war; but now at last a highly literate, deeply read cavalry officer of high rank shows one the nature of horse-borne warfare in those times; and Colonel Mallinson's A Close Run Thing is very much to be welcomed."
--Patrick O'Brian, author of the Aubrey-Maturin series "Mallinson's A Close Run Thing is an astonishingly impressive debut in the field of Napoleonic fiction. Convincingly drawn, perfectly paced and expertly written, this cavalryman's tale is a joy to read. I hope it will be the first of many."
--Antony Beevor, author of Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege From the Hardcover edition.

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