Book Review – “Those Who Dare”

November 1, 2011 - 3 Comments

by Jim Barnes

A few months ago, I received an email from a publisher’s representative asking if I would be interested in getting an advance copy of a new book about WWII. Naturally, the prospect of getting something for free caught my attention and I replied that I would. After some wait, I got the book and dug it out of its packaging. The book was Those Who Dare  by Phil Ward. The author is a decorated military veteran who is writing a series of books about a fictional Raiding unit organized by the British in the early days of WWII and commanded by an American serving in the British Army.

The concept is interesting and Phil Ward’s knowledge of the military is undeniable. The story revolves around Lieutenant (he gets promoted during the course of the book) John Randall, who does such a bang-up job of leading a small force of British troops slowing the German advance on Calais during the British retreat to the Channel in May 1940, that he is selected to head up an ultra-secret Raider unit.

The book goes into great detail describing the various stages that this fictional unit goes through as it develops into a fighting force. Apparently this is the first installment of a planned series about this outfit. As it is, there is a dearth of actual combat in the book, since so much time is spent on all the various machinations the principle characters go through to obtain weapons and improve their logistics. I guess the bulk of the fighting will take place in subsequent volumes. However, as I got into this book, I found that I had difficulty sticking with it. I kept wanting them to go shoot some Krauts and when they did, it was almost an anticlimax.

The characters were also a bit of a problem. They reminded me of one of the old propaganda movies made during WWII. Among the main characters, all the men are either handsome and brave or are comic relief while the women are all spunky and beautiful. None of these characters ever seem to be lacking a snappy comeback.  The author also has a maddening habit of constantly referring to characters, with few exceptions,  by their full titles…Captain Randall, Lady Jane Seaborn…etc. Until of course, when Jane Seaborn joins the Royal Marines (!!!) and becomes “Captain Lady Jane Seaborn.”

Another issue is that of outright mistakes in the factual material. One of the ‘colorful characters’, Geronimo Joe, who is leading his Wild West Show in a tour around Britain, states that Randall got his battle experience fighting Huk guerrillas in the Philippines. The problem with this, of course, is that the Huk rebellion did not start until 1946…six years after the events depicted in the book takes place. Also, the characters mouth way too many cliche’s. I know that people do that in real life, but it is just as annoying when it really happens.

In short, this is not a work of war fiction that is going to take its place alongside The Thin Red Line, The Winds of War, or for that matter, The Killer Angels. Still, if you don’t need your fiction to be particularly literary, then you might like it. Just don’t expect a lot of shooting until the next installment.



Comments (3)

Bill Donegan

November 10th, 2011 at 9:46 am    

Good review. Were there any pictures in the book? I know it was fiction, but if and when I write my book I am going to include photos of reenactors and equipment.

Jim Barnes

November 11th, 2011 at 11:24 am    

Sorry, no pictures. I would like a preview copy of your book when you get it done! 🙂

Bill Donegan

November 13th, 2011 at 6:32 pm    


You got it. BTW may I include some photos of you?

Again BTW got any more articles to publish?

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