||Lachlan Gunn in association with BenAlpin Books
||Nov 27, 2011
Malaya 1957. A country gains freedom, but deep in the jungle fighting continues.........
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Malaya 1957 and a country on the brink of independence.
Acting on secret intelligence a Gurkha patrol from the British Army is sent deep into the jungle to ambush a group of Chinese Communist Terrorists. It is accompanied by Alick Gordon, a young officer from the Scottish Border Regiment, Arthur Bryant, a seasoned District Superintendent from the Special Branch of the Malayan Police and Jalil, a tracker and guide from the local orang asli people.
The Communist Unit is led by Hor Too, a renowned and ruthless jungle fighter and is accompanied by Ah Sim, a female member of the Politburo. The tide has turned for the Communists due to the successful counter-insurgency campaign, where the phrase winning the 'hearts and minds' of a population was first coined.
The outcome of the ambush is unexpected and Alick Gordon is deeply affected by some of the deaths. In the days after independence (Merdeka) he takes a short break and makes a journey across Malaya. He finds comfort and solace in the company of those he meets, and one person will change his life forever.
The acrid smell of cordite filled her nostrils as the Tommy gun chattered, hurling bullets out towards the enemy position. Peering cautiously over the tree root she could see the slow, placid waters of the brown river meandering around the edge of the swamp she had so recently crossed. The soldiers had taken cover on a small beach, hidden from view by some fallen branches. As they fired at her their red and yellow muzzle flashes were startlingly bright in the fading light of the jungle gloaming, but any illusion of beauty was quickly dispelled by the sound of bullets cracking over her head, accompanied by dull thuds as some of them hit the trunks and branches of trees.
Leaves drifted down slowly from the gloom of the jungle canopy, sliced away from their stems by the high velocity rounds. Her stomach tensed as she gently squeezed the trigger again, aiming at where she knew that she had seen one of the men go to ground.
She tried to ignore the throbbing pain from her injured leg and bit her lip as she forced herself to focus, raising her left hand to wipe away the sweat that was stinging her eyes. There was a sudden movement to her right and, switching her aim, she fired another burst, vaguely registering that the soldier had thrown himself backwards into the swamp to avoid her bullets.......................
A book well worth reading
For anyone with any interest in Malaysia, this book is a must-read book. It is set during the Malaysian Emergency-a forgotten but honourable colonial war.The author takes great care to be very accurate about historical details and this makes the whole story feel very authentic. It is clear that the author has also spent time in the Far East as he conjures up the country so well. The jungle scenes where much of the action takes place are particularly well drawn.The beautiful descriptions of the Malaysian peninsular and Penang made me want to book a flight to Kuala Lumper immediately!
This book will certainly appeal to anyone who has an interest in military affairs but speaking as someone who doesn't, don't let it put you off. There are some wonderfully portrayed characters who really keep your attention throughout.Surprisingly the female characters are very convincing too
The novel is very exciting , positively nail biting at some points, and it ends by making you want to know more about what happens to Alick -the central character and the country he so clearly loves.
Can I make a plea for a sequel?
Merdeka, a novel set at the time of the granting of independence to Malaya, is a compelling and interesting read. In the earlier psrt of the book there are wonderul descriptions of the jungle - reminiscent of the Far Eastern novels of Joseph Conrad. Although a novel of action, it is tempered by a touch of philosophy and a sensitive understanding on the part of the principal protagonist, a young British army officer, of the aspirations of the indigenous Malays, Indians and Chinese.It is a novel where action and thought achieve a healthy balance. The exotic setting adds much to the unfolding of a delicately handled love theme.
Merdeka is a book well worth the read
Merdeka was recommended to me by a friend. Initially I thought it was going to be a book for the boys! Not so.....yes there is plenty of action, but there is also a real depth of feeling and sensitivity to the characters which the author manages to get across. The hot pursuit through the jungle, kept me turning the pages and I began to really live the story having been to that part of the world. I would definitely recommend this book as it reaches all the emotions!
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