Churchill's Rogue: Volume 1 (Rogues Trilogy) by John Righten
|Churchill's Rogue: Volume 1 (Rogues Trilogy) by John Righten|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: The first in a trilogy about a small international rescue force with a conscience operating in pre-war Nazi Germany. Dark, violent, stomach-punchingly breath-taking and nail-bitingly brilliant! John Righten popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: December 2013|
|Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform|
|External links: Author's website|
Sean Ryan grew up in Ireland during the 20th century's first quarter and so understands death and loss. He learnt to defend what he felt right during his time as a bodyguard for Michael Collins. Therefore when Winston Churchill called upon his services in 1937 to bring a mother and child out of Germany, Ryan doesn't say no. However Ryan soon discovers this is no easy escort duty. The mother and child in question are for some reason being hunted by an elite German force led by Cerberus, a code name for a sadist incarnate. On the plus side, Ryan soon discovers he's not alone. There are more like him across Europe; those with pasts that forged them into violent defenders of the vulnerable in an increasingly dangerous world. These are the Rogues and, this time, Ryan needs their help.
This is British author John Righten's debut novel following the first instalment of his non-fiction autobiography Benevolence of Rogues which brought to the fore some of the real life 'Rogues' he's met during a multi-faceted life spent in some very dangerous places. John isn't someone who has just had an exciting, precariously balanced life; he also has a talent for transferring such existences to the page. Anyone doubting this should certainly read Churchill's Rogues – and hold onto your seats!
To be fair, the novel has a bit of a false start. At the beginning the scene is set as Churchill meets Ryan in the former's office to discuss the Irishman's mission. This is a scene that's nothing like the rest of the story. In this short opener the discussion feels a little stilted in places and historical fact feels as though it's been shoe-horned in. However this is a passing moment compared to the rest of the novel, so short it doesn't affect the perfect rating and so passing that it's soon forgotten in a flurry of tense, bloody brilliance.
Once Ryan leaves Churchill the historical facts are added in a more subtle way, providing fascinating insight into a Germany in which Hitler has swept himself to power and the atrocities in the name of 'racial cleansing' are being introduced with increasing intensity. Churchill's involvement is interesting as, in an era when the UK and US were dithering as to whether the Nazis should be fought or be expeditiously befriended, the future Prime Minister was a lone voice of almost prophetic warning.
Although there are other factual characters appearing (e.g. Himmler and the Fuhrer himself) the most compelling are the fictionalised. Sean Ryan is almost a 1930s Irish Jack Reacher and yet, as much as I love Lee Child's work (and I do love it!), John Righten adds rugged, scream-curdling realism and a pace that would render Jack Reacher an asthmatic wreck.
Speaking of scream-curdling brings us to the most wonderful baddie in the Earl Grey drinking Cerberus. His real name – Major Krak - may give rise to a smirk or two but we don't laugh for long. He enjoys torture and, to give him credit, he's certainly got an imagination for it.
Indeed, earlier I described the novel as 'bloody' and for a good reason; it's definitely not a story for the delicate. However, the intensity of violence isn't for gratification. It reminds us that in the real world shootings and explosions don't just produce a tidy red dot on victims' bodies; death can be a messy business!
The other thing we notice is that this is doesn’t suffer from that usual first in series malady, set-up-lull. As we follow the pasts and presents of Australian, Russian, American and British Rogues we back-track them through other conflicts like the Spanish Civil War and the Russian Revolution. The more we come to know them, the more we can't help loving them while also realising why it's best not to get close to anyone in this line of work. We're at the mercy of an author who will kill at will (in literary terms) but having started on the emotional roller coaster, I don't want to the series to end. Bring on The Gathering Storm – I'm braced and more than ready!
(A huge thank you to the author for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you'd like to read more about pre-war Europe, a great starting point is the classic Orwell Homage to Catalonia. If you prefer something more of peri-war Germany, this time from an ordinary person's perspective, we also heartily recommend Wolfram: The Boy Who Went To War by Giles Milton.
John Righten was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy Churchill's Rogue: Volume 1 (Rogues Trilogy) by John Righten at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Churchill's Rogue: Volume 1 (Rogues Trilogy) by John Righten at Amazon.com.
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