In the mountains and passes of Nuristan the men of patrol base Azun grind through their days and nights of constant vigilance. They hunt the Taliban and try to win hearts and minds. Trouble is coming, that is certain. How or when, where and in what form, they do not know. They fear it and also long for it.
Only Lieutenant Simon Ellice, with a clarity born of grief and anger, can see the shape of it. Only he, being beyond care, will do what has to be done and pay the price. Not that he will be the only one to pay.
Dead Ground is a story of the impossibility of the task assigned to British forces in Afghanistan and the heroism of some of those who attempted it.
“[Dead Ground]… unfolds with stealth, careful observation and close detail combining to produce an explosive ending. The battle narrative is superb, understated and economical, it’s an immersive, terrifying and moving experience.”
I have no special qualifications to be a writer except that I want to be. I live where I’m from in the West Country in the UK and work in a small room above a pub in Bath, which is possibly the nicest city in the world. I spend my days thinking about, learning about and writing about whatever is interesting to me, which is possibly the best job in the world.
I’ve been working away quietly for many years, learning my trade and starting to build up a body of work. Now, at last, it’s all starting to happen. The first full length novel of my Simon Ellice series goes to print shortly and will be available in all the usual places.
To introduce the series and the main character I’ve released a short story called Dead Ground in the digital formats. Set in Nuristan, Afghanistan, it tells of how a young man begins to deal with his personal grief amid the chaos of war and is launched on a course that will get him into a lot of trouble in Morocco a year later...
This is very good, powerful, highly authentic, vivid, demonstrating an impressive confidence in the mechanics of the story. It unfolds with stealth, careful observation and close detail combining to produce an explosive ending. The battle narrative is superb, understated and economical, it’s an immersive, terrifying and moving experience.
The details of place, operational procedure, the dynamics of the Taliban’s deep insertion, their effect on local culture and the Catch-22 impossibility of knowing where or who the enemy is are fascinating. There’s a stringency and elegance to the storytelling that elevates it above the war adventures of say Andy McNab or Chris Ryan as it explores wider, more universal themes of heroism, loyalty, individual responsibility. It tends towards the literary end of the military fiction market, in the vein of Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers which was highly acclaimed but commercially less successful. Karl Marlantes’ Matterhorn also comes to mind, about the Vietnam War. Other recent war narratives in this area are Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain and Fobbit by David Abrams, both American authors.
This is a fine piece of writing: an excellent example of quality war fiction with a strong sense of the chaos and breakdown within the theatre of battle.