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Book Review – A Time for Courage: and other military stories

Tom Benson is a multi-genre author and artist whose work I’ve reviewed several times since first discovering his writing on his wordpress site (see link below).

In 1969 at the age of 17, Tom left his native Glasgow to join the British Army. Tom’s military career spanned from 1969 to 1992. He followed this with a career in Retail Management, in which he was employed from 1992 to 2012.
Tom is a prolific writer and book reviewer and has been writing since 2007. He has published seven novels, five anthologies of short stories, a five-part novel, a five-part series of erotica novellas, and a series of five anthologies of genre-based poetry. In addition to his own writing, Tom Benson has contributed short stories to several other multi-author anthologies both commercially and in aid of various charities.

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Tom is presently working on a number of other projects including helping manage and promote an international collection of indie authors on the indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com website which he helped create.

 

Tom’s other websites and contact details:
www.tombensonauthor.com 
www.tombensoncreative.com
www.tom-benson.co.uk

&

@TomBensonWriter

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 Amazon Description

A collection of 12 stories created using a wide spectrum of scenarios. Military experiences can be funny, heart-breaking and, everything in between.
This anthology is a blend of my personal experience and knowledge together with specially created pieces to highlight the highs and lows of service life.
These tales can be enjoyed equally by those who have served and, those who have never donned a uniform.

Humour, fact, fiction, and fantasy are used to portray service in theatres as varied as Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Ancient Briton, the Persian Gulf, Africa, and elsewhere.

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A Time for Courage: and other military stories

By Tom Benson

(Available as an eBook from Amazon – click on above title for link)

A Time for Courage - 2Of all the short story collections the author has written this is by far and away my favourite. Tom Benson has drawn on both his imagination and his considerable length of service to craft a poignant collection of short stories across a variety of military theatres. Unusually for a short story collection, not a single story here disappointed or fell even slightly below the high standard of every other.

Throughout this collection, Tom Benson has applied meticulous attention to authentic military detail but not to the point of overkill as to confuse the non-military reader. As anyone who has served will know, the army and other services practically speak another language with all the acronyms, slang and other assorted colourful phrases, but the author’s  clever use of dialogue and context give all the slang and military terminology clear and obvious meaning thus ensuring  the non-military is never left confused or wondering at certain words.

The opening story is a real ‘lump in the throat’ one of courage and self-sacrifice but it is immediately contrasted by the side-splittingly funny satire of the second, one that any military wife (or husband for that matter) will immediately identify with but its razor-sharp humour it cannot help but appeal to all. In the third, the author takes a somewhat personal trip down memory lane in a way that we can all relate to from some time in our lives when we were determined to prove our doubters wrong. Others in the collection highlight much of the military ethos of courage and protecting the weak and vulnerable but still providing the reader with a captivating story, and in the case of Photographic Memory, a real ‘punch the air feel good factor. In The Odd Couple we get a glimpse into some of the more covert activities of ‘The Toubles,’ bringing back painful memories for some of real events that mirror some aspects of the story. Another thing I liked about this collection was its sheer variety; from modern-day Afghanistan and  Northern Ireland right back to the 2nd Century, from Jungle warfare to covert missions in the desert, from the sadness of a family torn apart from being on opposite sites to the sort of comradeship that transcends family that can only be formed with those you would die for and they for you. One story that is particularly pertinent to modern times is that of Walking Wounded; with today’s modern medicine and better field facilities, many more servicemen and women are surviving the sort of injuries only a few decades ago would have spelt certain death. The downside to this, of course, is that we have a whole generation of soldiers returning from conflicts having to face and cope with life-changing disabilities, and it is easy to understand the increased cases of PTSD in many such people. In the Walking Wounded we see the beginnings of one such man’s journey in finding a reason to look to the future with some hope, and with an unusually heart-warming twist too.

In ‘The Afterlife’ the author once again uses mostly his personal experience to round off the collection, giving the reader some brief comparisons of his life since leaving the army with that of a younger man who has never served and through it we see just why so many ex-servicemen refer to themselves as such rather than simply accepting their post-service ‘civilian’ status.

Overall, a thoroughly entertaining collection that will not only entertain but give the non-military reader some rare insights into military service. For others, again it will entertain but also bring back memories, some good, others not so maybe, but if nothing else, for me personally they remind me how very much I have to be thankful for still being in a position to read such stories when so many others are not.

 

For further links to Tom’s many other books please visit his Amazon author page by clicking on the link below:

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Tom Benson Amazon author page TomB1 

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A Mis-Understanding…

sunrise2    images4Y0APJ9S    This is a little piece I was inspired to write after reading a short, rather sad but heart-warming ‘tweet’. All I’ve done is add a bit of ‘what if’ imagination either side of the gist of the original ‘tweet.’

Jack Morgan, still a little dazed and confused from the past few days, sat down in the bland interview room, he one side of the small equally bland table, and Detective Higgins, the other:

“It’s like this Jack; we’ve a few concerns about your wife.” The friendly approach to start.

“My wife? Wh..What are you talking about?” Jack replied, clearly upset by the question.

“We’re concerned for her whereabouts.” Still quite informal.

“Her whereabouts?” Jack repeated, “Is this some sort of sick joke?”

“I hardly think disposing of your wife off the top of a mountain to be a joke Mr Morgan.” The detective’s tone  now more formal and assertive, closing in for the kill, that detailed confession, so beloved of courts and prosecutors, that would lay to rest any doubts of Jack’s guilt.

“It was her dying wish, it’s what she wanted.. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Detective Higgins was not moved by Jack’s tearful pleas. A life was a life and no one had the right to terminate it prematurely, no matter what the reason. The evidence was all there: reservations for Mr and Mrs Morgan at a local hotel, eye witness accounts of Jack Morgan accompanied by and talking to a woman both in the hotel and whilst ascending the tourist path up ‘The Ben’, as it was called, and lastly, reports from the hotel manageress, that Jack Morgan had returned alone in a distressed state, muttering about having held his wife aloft at the top of Ben Nevis…

 **********

They’d planned the trip many years ago, when they young and full of life. They were going to climb every mountain in the UK, leaving the highest till the last. That was a lifetime ago, but now they were finally going to make that climb to the top of Ben Nevis, the last and highest of the Munros they’d yet to climb during their forty years together.

The hotel had been booked several months in advance, and so they arrived…

Maggie, Jack’s wife’s sister, had met them at the station for the short drive to the hotel.

“Reservation in the name of Morgan,” Jack informed the hotel receptionist.

“Yes of course, a double room for you and your wife, room four.”

Jack didn’t reply other than with a forced smile and a slight nod of the head; she wasn’t to know, after all. He kissed Maggie goodbye, thanking her for their lift, and took Jill, his wife, upstairs to their room. He remembered for a moment the many wry smiles and knowing chuckles every time a hotel receptionist or stranger had noted their names, Jack and Jill. And their friends too, they’d become minor celebrities in the rambling and climbing communities – Jack and Jill going up another hill, their friends would say. It had been a little irritating at first, as if everyone who ever made the connection with the nursery rhyme of the same time naively believed they were the first to make it – but eventually they just accepted the comments and smiles, they knew there was nothing malicious about them, and were soon making the comment themselves, beating whoever to the punch line. Jill of course had never minded, happy to smile and laugh along with anyone and everyone, before the cancer that was. It was because of the cancer that they’d had to leave this last Munro for so long. But that was behind them now… Now they were on the verge of one last adventure, to watch the sun rise atop of the highest peak in all the UK…

That was enough reminiscing he thought, time for bed. He was going to need several hours sleep if he was to make the climb up The Ben in time to watch the sunrise.

Maggie pulled up at the hotel just before ten that night. Jack and his wife were waiting for her. They were taking the easiest of the routes up the Ben, so there was no reason they shouldn’t reach the summit in time for the 05:20 sun rise for that day, but what with the darkness, he was taking no chances – an easy steady pace was all that was needed.

Maggie had agreed to accompany them, just as far as the point where the tourist path diverges for those wanting to take a more ambitious route. The extra company was very welcome, but he was glad of his time alone with his wife as they made the final trek to the top.

It had been a hard slog, a far cry from the energetic exertions of their youth but there they were, watching the first rays of sun emerging on the horizon, watching from the last of the mountain peaks they had sworn to scale…

 **********

 “Yes, that’s right Detective, my wife died just a month ago from cancer. She made me promise we’d finish our climbing ambitions together. We weren’t religious people; neither of us wanted a funeral or a gravestone…

…I took the small urn from my rucksack and held it aloft just as the sun began to rise, and pulled the lid from the top and allowed her ashes to scatter to the wind. I was keeping my promise and saying goodbye at the same time…”

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