A SPLENDID READ. “Ghosts of the Empire” by Justin Sheedy – Review by Australian Arts Veteran, Tim Bean
A PAWN BECOMES A KNIGHT
“Ghosts of the Empire” by Justin Sheedy –Review by Australian Arts Veteran, Tim Bean
Justin Sheedy’s “Nor the Years Condemn” was a good read. Its companion novel, GHOSTS OF THE EMPIRE, is even better. This is because the theme of “Nor the Years” – that all fighting men are mere pawns in the life-and-death chess game that is war – is delivered with even greater impact in “Ghosts”.
Mick O’Regan, a young carpenter from Lewisham in Sydney, finds himself called up, selected, trained and eventually flying in the RAF against Hitler’s Luftwaffe, this despite the fact that Mick has devoted all his self-preservational energies towards securing a stay-in-Australia posting.
Luckily for Mick, he is assigned as wingman to Feliks Brozek, experienced Polish Spitfire pilot with a personal score to settle against the Nazis and who demonstrates with ruthless mid-combat lessons that war cannot be fought and won with by-the-book chivalry. Meanwhile, on almost a daily basis, Mick is appalled to see young men’s lives wasted at a horrendous rate on ill-conceived missions using badly advised tactics and unsuitable aircraft.
Brozek’s insights help Mick to become an Ace in a series of harrowing air clashes, a baptism of fire which ultimately leads Mick to Jacqueline Orval, a young Frenchwoman, as well as to German Gestapo officer, Werner Gruber. Crystalized by his experiences with these characters, Mick sets about giving the Gestapo hell from the air, whilst planning his return to Jacqueline.
Another key theme of “Ghosts of the Empire” is ‘war by media’, one brought to a head in that Mick’s exploits have the side effect of attracting ‘good press’, something the bad-press-prone Allied Top Brass desperately crave. In the book’s final chapter, Mick is given the opportunity to tell these Bomber-Command-Chess-Players, at their own insistence, exactly where they have made the wrong moves.
Mick does so in the riveting Whitehall scene – six pages of logic, conflict and humanitarian mathematics so devastating in their truth that the reader’s inclination to physically applaud is acute. (This scene is a complete mini story in its own right, powerful enough to make a splendid short film, should the right hungry young producer/director combination take it on. One can only hope.)
The accuracy of Mick’s assessment, however, inevitably leads to the moving conclusion of “Ghosts”.
Justin Sheedy is a writer by choice, a historian by passion and a promoter by necessity. He is very good at all three and, in GHOSTS OF THE EMPIRE, he delivers a novel worthy of passion and promotion.
A SPLENDID READ – Tim Bean
To purchase Justin’s books from Australian bookstores, click HERE. (Also available from Gleebooks, Berkelouw Books, Better Read Than Dead, Newtown, and ALL good bookstores.) To purchase internationally, click HERE. For ALL Reviews of “Ghosts of the Empire”, click HERE.