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"Dead Ground" by Rod Humphris

Posted: 31 Aug 2016 12:00 AM PDT

Dead Ground
(Simon Ellice Book 1)
by Rod Humphris

Author Rod Humphris stops by today to share an excerpt from Dead Ground, his debut short story introducing the character of his upcoming Simon Ellice series. You can also read my review. Coming soon Go Fast.

In the mountains and passes of Nuristan the men of patrol base Azun grind through their days and nights of constant vigilance. They hunt the Taliban and try to win hearts and minds. Trouble is coming, that is certain. How or when, where and in what form, they do not know. They fear it and also long for it.
Only Lieutenant Simon Ellice, with a clarity born of grief and anger, can see the shape of it. Only he, being beyond care, will do what has to be done and pay the price. Not that he will be the only one to pay.
Dead Ground is a story of the impossibility of the task assigned to British forces in Afghanistan and the heroism of some of those who attempted it.

"Rosy fingered dawn," I said.
The high cloud had softened the light, and the new day was breaking in pink.
"Did she, sir?" Hesketh said.
"Night's candles are burnt out and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops," I said.
"You're an unusual kind of rupert sometimes, sir," Deaks said. "No offence intended."
"None taken. We must have bloody noses and crack'd crowns and pass them current too. God's me, my…"
"Are you alright, sir?" Denton said.
"Don't mind him, corp," Hesketh said. "He gets like this sometimes."
"… horse, I think," I said.
"It's getting light, sir," Denton said.
"Eyes sharp everyone," I said.
"By the way, what are we doing here, sir?" Deaks said. "I don't care like, but I was just wondering. Why today?"
"Do you know what I think?" I said.
"Not usually, sir," Hartigan said.
"I think Wur was green slime."
"Was, sir?"
"Yes, was. I found him behind the stores tent earlier. I think Jadoon and a couple of ANAs killed him and I think it means it's all about to kick off."
"Well fuck me, I'd never of guessed," Hesketh said.
Below us in the base there was a sharp crack and the signals hut collapsed in on itself. Armed men streamed out of the mosque and ran to cross the river at the bridge and at a shallow place downstream of it. As they neared the barriers a heavy machine gun opened up from the house below us.
"You were right, sir," Denton said.
"Comms on. Engage the enemy," I said.
Thompson started working with the gimpy, trying to stop the tide of men surging over the barriers.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"I have a Master's in Military History and I have been reading military books for well over 40 years. This is one of the best war books I have ever read. It is a must read now that we are stuck in this endless War on Terror. My only issue was that this book wasn't 550 pages. It is such an incredible compelling read that I was saddened it ended so quick. The author captures perfectly the insanity of theatres of war that soldiers have been sent to in this war. [...] I would suggest this brilliantly written, evocative war book is a must read." ~ N. N. Light
"Fast moving, genuinely exciting and a thoroughly cracking read, this short story reminds me of the best of John Buchan, albeit updated for today. It is well written, well researched and quickly creates a very believable atmosphere of what being a modern British soldier is like, warts and all." ~ David Shearer
"The plot hangs together well and skilfully builds to a denouement where the fine details coalesce into a clear pattern. It is well constructed, well written and sustains interest throughout. Simon Ellice is not someone you have to like, but he is both an interesting and complex character whose life and emotional responses are down to the reader to interpret and extrapolate. He is certainly someone you feel you would like to know more about and I look forward to further adventures with anticipation." ~ Emma White
"I read this book in a single sitting, it really is a terrific read. With many years experience of military life I am amazed at the way Humphris has managed to capture the day to day stresses, routines, and unpleasantness of army life. The plot is convincing and fast moving it's tough out there." ~ Colin
"This is a tremendously exciting debut, immediately throwing you into the midst of active army deployment in Afghanistan, with social and psychological conundrums facing senior personnel as they think on their feet in an almost lose-lose situation. Utterly un-put-downable after the first three pages. I await the next Simon Ellice story with relish, Mr Humphris." ~ Bevis Nathan

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Having recently suffered the loss of someone close to him, Lieutenant Simon Ellice returns to his base camp in the mountains of north eastern Afghanistan, where they train Afghan National Army soldiers. With his trusty band of C Section soldiers, Simon ventures out into the "dead ground" - the ground not visible from the base camp and, therefore, prone to attack - in search of insurgents. As the men are fond of saying, "What could possibly go wrong?"
The story is a bit hard to follow as nothing is spelled out, there are a lot of characters, and it's full of military jargon; an explanation the first time each term is used, or a glossary of terms at the end of the book, would be useful. Nevertheless, the author skillfully creates an atmosphere of foreboding and builds the tension. And once the action hits, all of the pieces come together to complete the puzzle.
Warnings: coarse language, violence.

About the Author
When I was a boy I loved stories of adventure. Inside I'm still a boy and now I love them even more. It's taken me thousands of hours to learn how to write the stories that I do, but it's one of the best things I've ever done. In my opinion anyway.
A few years ago, I started to write about a fast boat on a dark sea. Like doodling, only in words. And then there was Si speaking to me, telling me what was happening and what it felt like. At the time I thought his voice in my head was a new one, but I was wrong; I've known the ruthless, selfish bastard all my life. Since then he's become my constant companion. Or, more accurately, I've become his. We've been to a lot of places together and he's introduced me to some interesting and scary people. It's a journey that has only just begun. Come with us if you want to.
I have no special qualifications to be a writer except that I want to be. I live where I'm from in the West Country in the UK and work in a small room above a pub in Bath, which is possibly the nicest city in the world. I spend my days thinking about, learning about and writing about whatever is interesting to me, which is possibly the best job in the world.


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