Wednesday 21 January 2009

Rebel Run by Jack Giles

REBEL RUN by Jack Giles
Black Horse Western published by Robert Hale Ltd - 1985

The Island.
It was supposed to be escape proof, even more so as it was Confederate prisoners of war who were building their own cage. The Commandant worked them hard enough so that they would be too tired to try anything.
Then Van Essen, a Confederate artilleryman, arrived. He had already broken out of two prison camps and was looking to make the next one third time lucky.
The Commandant had other ideas so he assigned Van Essen to a workforce that consisted of cavalrymen. Men with a reason to treat the new arrival with mistrust and suspicion. For they had their own plans and Van Essen was an added complication.
Escape was the one thing that they had in common and when they got out the whole Union Army would know they were on the loose.

Probably, the most frequently asked question is that with my memory loss how did I view my books.

So from this unique stand point I thought that I would do a review of a couple of my own books.

For starters REBEL RUN is not a standard western - that is if it can be classified as a western at all as all the action takes place in the Eastern states during the American Civil War.

I suppose, in many ways, that a book like Rebel Run would have been inevitable at some stage. My interest in the American Civil War dates back to my schooldays as did my passion for the World War Two escape books like Pat Reid's 'The Colditz Story', Charles McCormac's 'You'll Die In Singapore' and Paul Brickhill's 'The Great Escape' - books that are still on my bookshelf.

The book opens with a view of the island and 'pans' back to the privations of the rough and ready prison camp where the reader meets Van Essen. Van Essen was a Sergeant with the Virginia (Rockbridge) Battery and was taken prisoner at Cedar Run on the 9th August 1862.

At the beginning of the book Van Essen comes across as tough and cynical and will use anybody in his own bid to escape. Very much the loner and the outsider he is placed with a group of cavalrymen who hold a grudge because they are the victims of 'friendly' artillery fire. They, also, have their own escape plans. In charge of the cavalrymen is Sergeant Dave Becker who makes it clear from the start that despite their equal rank while Van Essen is with them he will take orders.

Eventually, they do escape and become a fighting unit when they come across a battery of cannons heading for the Union front line. It is here that Van Essen takes charge and the relationship between himself and the cavalrymen begins to change. They destroy the cannons but are persued.

As they debate on how to cross the Union lines so a curious twist of fate occurs as the Confederate Army comes to them in the shape of Rodes Division as it sweeps up the relaxed Union troops of Howard's XI Corps near Hazel Grove.

And I like the last line - it has a double meaning.

So what do I think of it. Well, it was the first Jack Giles book that I read after my stroke. On the plus side it made me want to read more books by that author. There is a downside in that the early confrontation between the two sergeants - well, it's rather stock - but it does get lost in the progression with the action sequences and none of the characters were there to make up the numbers and all had personalities.

I was, also, intrigued by the historical detail that when I got the Internet I decided to check it all out. This, in turn, was an eye opener for every Battery, Division, Regiment and Corps existed and was where it is said it was in the book. As are the farms and Hunting Run that are mentioned. And all that research had been done before the Internet existed.

So, if anyone wants to read a Jack Giles then I would say start there with 'Rebel Run' - a western that isn't a western.


Jo Walpole said...

Sounds good. It's absolutely brilliant that you can review your own book like a third party reader. I know it's not a skill gained under ideal circumstances but I wish I could do it. :-)

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

That's quite amazine - that makes you a Jack Giles fan.

Steve M said...

Enjoyed reading your thoughts on that man Jack Giles work - I'm a fan too, but then me thinks he already knows that.

David Cranmer said...

Thanks Ray. I continue to compile a list of books to read and I will add REBEL RUN. And I like offbeat (if that's the right word) stories like the plot you mentioned here.

Ray said...

Joanne - I agree but looking at these old books have taught me to be a bit more critical. If something doesn't work - it doesn't work. Of them all there is one that could have done with a rewrite. It has a good opening and an okay ending - I just got confused as to who the hero was supposed to be.
Gary - I hadn't thought of that.
Steve - yes and thanks.
David - I hope you find a copy.