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Book of the Year 2018

Well, the short list for the 2018 Book of the Year Award was very short - three books only. Dan Collins did a nice, not say sensitive job, of interviewing 25 winners of gallantry awards from Iraq and Afghanistan in his book In Foreign Fields. The former sports journalist obviously had a knack for getting soldiers to open up to him and tell their stories. The second runner-up also featured a gallantry medal winner. This time it was Australian SAS signaller Martin "Jock" Wallace in a story told by fellow Aussie journalist Sandra Lee. Lee succeeds in bringing Wallace to life and also the wintry Afghan mountainside where the SAS man and a company from the US 10th Mountain Division battled a determined and skillful Taliban force for 18 desperate hours in 2002. But the winner is In the Service of the Sultan by Ian Gardiner. The Sultan is the Sultan of Oman, a former Cameronians/Scottish Rifles officer, the time is the mid-1970s, and Gardiner is a young Royal Marine officer on attachment. He proves to be a born raconteur with a knack for putting his patter into very readable prose. He is also a skilled soldier, who would go to command a company of Royal Marines in the Falklands War, and the book is an excellent primer on small unit actions and counter-insurgency operations; in this case against communist-backed rebel tribesmen in the province of Dhofar. He also incorporates the experiences of many of his fellow officers serving the Sultan and has an obvious affection and respect for his Muslim soldiers. This book took an early lead in the search for the 2018 Book of the Year and never really lost it. The full review of In the Service of the Sultan and all the other books reviewed on this website can be seen at Book Briefing.

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