Please welcome Aussie author Bram Connolly to my blog. Bram talks books, reading and reading influences.
“When I joined the Army there was a period of a few years where I didn’t read very much. The weekly training was intense and the sudden existence of a fortnightly wage saw me pursue other less wholesome pursuits on the weekends (drinking with my mates and chasing girls mostly). Don’t get me wrong; there were certainly lots of opportunities to read. One constant of being in the Army is that there is much sitting around and waiting involved: waiting for work to start, waiting for the next lesson, waiting for your turn at something, waiting for lunch, waiting for knock off – the list goes on. Soldiers are good at amusing each other. Dark humor and situational comedies are the main narratives of their tales; and we are colourful liars when it’s required to “sell” the story. I love this about us.
I fell into reading again by necessity when I was sent off on a six-week exercise to Weipa in Far North Queensland with a section of nine men. I remember we all took books to pass the time, knowing that sitting around an airfield in Northern Australia, as static defence, was going to be a boring undertaking. I discovered Robert G. Barrett’s books about Les Norton. In later years I also found these were the easiest to wrap in a small sandwich bag, secured by rubber bands, and thrown in the bottom of a military rucksack. Barrett’s books seemed to be impervious to the Tully monsoon rain that could seep into everything. I would sit under my individual shelter out in the middle of the jungle, as the rain pounded down, and immerse myself in Les Norton’s world of Sydney nightclubs and summer beaches. Easy reading and with strong Australian characters, the books reignited my passion for storytelling. With Barrett’s books complete, I graduated myself onto Jack Higgins, The Eagle has Landed and then every other book he ever wrote.
In the late 1990s, I was influenced in what I read by some of the older members of the battalion. The following books were considered required reading:
1 – Devil’s Guard by George Robert Elford. The story of a German SS officer who, with the rest of his Battalion, was seconded into the Foreign Legion at the completion of WWII, this book begins on the eastern front and continues into the First Indochina War. I remember it mostly because of the detail the author went into regarding the German operations. It was initially published as non-fiction but I understand that over time it was suggested this was a work of fiction. Either way, The Devils Guard is a riveting read and worth having on the bookshelf.
2 – As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me. Written by Bavarian novelist Josef Martin Bauer, this is the story of a German World War II prisoner of war Clemens Forell (Cornelius Rost changed his name to avoid detection by the KGB) and his escape from a Siberian Gulag in the Soviet Union back to Germany. Rich in its description of the landscapes, Bauer does a great job of making the reader anxious for Clemens the whole way through.
3 – Chickenhawk by Robert Mason. The story of Mason’s experiences as a ‘Huey’ UH-1 Iroquois helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, this is full of detail required to operate the aircraft. The book chronicles Mason’s entire career from his enlistment to his experiences in Vietnam, and his experiences after returning from the war. I think a generation of us who read this book believed we could jump straight in and fly a helicopter. I wouldn’t like to test that theory though.
4 – Marine Sniper. With 93 confirmed enemy kills, Carlos Hathcock was the most lethal sniper to emerge from the Vietnam War. This book describes his career and outlines the art of sniping in its purest form. I particularly like the details of the difficulties faced by those conducting operations in the jungles of Vietnam, something I could relate to at the time because of the intensive training we had also undertaken in jungle operations.
5 – Bravo two Zero by Steven Mitchell (writing under the pseudonym Andy McNab). This was the must have book of the 1990s. It was the first time a member of the British SAS had broke ranks completely to tell his story and give an account of what it was really like for the men on the ground. The book inspired a generation of soldiers in the UK and Australia to attempt Special Forces selection.
6 – The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Based on the story of four British soldiers targeted by a hit squad known as ‘The Clinic’ on the orders of a Sheik whose own sons were killed in Oman by British forces, this book created real controversy in the UK when it was released. Sir Ranulph added much fuel to the speculation at the time about whether or not it was a disguised factual account by branding it fictional and contesting that elements were true, a great marketing plan. He also wrote Where Soldiers Fear to Tread, a brilliant book full of romantic images of the Middle East and well worth a read.
The books on this list are rich in characterisation and landscape description, skills I take great pride in developing as a writer. The books I read as a young adult demonstrated to me that fiction can be written within an historical context. It’s a complex balancing act to not let one aspect overshadow the other, but if you get it right then the story really sings.”
Bram has a new book out – see how his personal experiences and reading have influenced his written work.
Introducing Matt Rix… Australian commando. An explosive thriller from the heart of Afghanistan.
‘The Fighting Season is military fiction of the first order: as tough as nails and packed with the insider knowledge of someone who has done it for real.’ – Matthew Reilly
‘Action packed, gritty and authentic to the core.’ – Merrick Watts
An explosive thriller from the heart of Afghanistan
Outside the wire, Uruzghan Province, Afghanistan, 2010…
In the badlands of central Afghanistan an Australian Special Forces platoon is fatally hit by a roadside bomb.
A shadowy Taliban commander, codenamed ‘Rapier’, is identified as responsible for the deadly attack. Matt Rix, the ultra tough commando who led the ambushed platoon, swears vengeance. Rix is one of Special Forces’ most lethal operators. He’ll neutralise Rapier – whatever it takes.
But in Afghanistan’s brutal war, not all things are as they seem.