Magazine article The Spectator

From Cornet to Colonel

Magazine article The Spectator

From Cornet to Colonel

Article excerpt

COMPANY OF SPEARS by Allan Mallinson Bantam Press, £17.99, pp. 372, ISBN 0593053419 . £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Sometime in 1995 Colonel Allan Mallinson came, somewhat sheepishly I thought, into my office. He was clutching a sheaf of papers that I feared would be another piece of heavyweight Ministry of Defence bureaucracy. But no, it was instead the first chapter of his first Hervey novel, A Close Run Thing. He asked if I would read it and say whether I thought it worth his while writing the rest of the book. Having rattled through it, I recommended that he forthwith abandon his military career and concentrate on converting Hervey into banknotes. Luckily for the Army the Colonel stuck to his soldiering duties by day and, luckily for those who have been bitten by the Hervey bug, he sharpened his storytelling quill in what little spare time he had. I have it on the best authority that it was not the other way round.

Hervey enthusiasts first encountered him as a cornet of dragoons in 1814. Now, six books and 13 years later, we find him in temporary command of his regiment in Hounslow. Despite amorous diversions, anxieties over a disease ravaging the regiment's stables and an unglamorous action against a mysterious body of men raiding the Royal Gunpowder Factory, no doubt peacetime soldiering in Hounslow would soon have proved too dull both for our hero and for us. So by the end of the book the gallant dragoon has taken up a command in the Cape and has successfully demonstrated to Shaka's Zulus, not to mention a few Xhosa cattle thieves on the way, that the best thing to do when Hervey and a troop of the 6th Dragoons are about is to put your feet up in your kraal. …

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