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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Saturday 16 July 2022

The Devil's Pact

 I have read most of James Holland's history books, but his historical fiction has passed me by. However, I saw this book in his Jack Tanner series in my local library and decided to give it a go. 

Jack Tanner is an infantry officer in a fictional Yorkshire regiment. This is book 5, and he has reached the rank of Captain. The Tunisian campaign is ending, and he is seconded to the Americans as the allies prepare to invade Sicily. He takes part in an undercover operation to liaise with the Mafia, who have agreed to assist with the invasion in return for giving them a free run to return to their pre-fascist glory days. This is a historical fact, although the details have remained shrouded in secrecy. This is the devil's pact in the title.

On returning to the unit for the invasion, there is a new battalion commander. They have a past, and the new commander engages in various dirty deeds to get Tanner killed or injured. As if war isn't dangerous enough. I won't spoil the story, but our hero fights his way up the east coast of Sicily, around Mount Etna, with Monty's army. With a bit help from the Mafia, his American pals under Patton go the long way around.

The sales blurb calls this series 'A Sharpe for the Blitz years', which is a pretty good description of the style. Tanner has been promoted from the ranks and is despised by some of his seniors and supported by others. He has a positive relationship with his men and leads from the front. If you like Sharpe, you will enjoy this. I certainly did and will probably go back to the start. That appears to be the Norway campaign, a particular favourite of mine.

I have also visited the main battle sites on Sicily. One of the operations covered in this book was the airborne assault on Primosole Bridge across the Simeto River and the infantry relief operation. A smaller version of Operation Market Garden. I remember my wife looking bemused (not for the first time!) as I stopped the car on the rather grubby-looking river. The bridge in the pictures below is, of course, a modern one. Much to my wife's amusement, a group on the river bank turned out to be a Sandhurst field trip.


  1. I haven’t read any of these books but do enjoy historical fiction that includes historical characters and events (the late Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther novels are marvellous examples and I would recommend them highly).

    1. Crime novels are not normally my thing, but the settings look interesting.