Third time lucky

We’re on the third printer’s proof. The first was a bit of a nightmare, actually, because the margins were too narrow and it looked as if you had to read across both pages.

The second was better but several people thought the type was too small and it needed various other amendments including replacing a glossy cover with a matte finish, which is definitely an improvement.

A third proof has just arrived and it’s looking good.

Bloody Sunday: In search of scapegoats

The threat to prosecute soldiers for their part in Bloody Sunday should come as no surprise. It seems to be the habit of the British army to abandon its faithful servants to their fate – or, worse, seek scapegoats to shoulder all the blame.

That’s what happened to Eldred Pottinger after the destruction of the ‘Army of the Indus’ which set out bravely for Afghanistan and ended up being massacred by tribesmen.

Pottinger was one of the lucky ones, he came out of it alive. The down-side was that he ended up becoming the scapegoat. When he got back to India from months of privation in captivity, he was put on trial, court martialled for cowardice.

This is the theme which runs through ‘The Trials of Eldred Pottinger’ and, having chronicled his tribulations, I can imagine how terrible the four members of the Parachute Regiment must feel today as they await their fate.

 

Brexit and the First Afghan War

It occurs to me that Eldred Pottinger would be at home in the chaos of 2019’s Brexit fiasco. He’s been there before.

The incompetence, indolence and indecision of his superiors in Kabul in 1841 ensured the destruction of an entire army in 1842.

There was Sir William Macnaghten, who insisted everything was for the best in the best of all possible worlds – because he was anxious to leave Kabul as soon as possible so he ignored any signs of trouble as it might delay his exit.

Then there was his deputy, Sir Alexander Burnes, who believed himself to be loved by the locals and thought he would do a damn sight better job of running things than Sir William.

There was poor General William Elphinstone, a well-meaning veteran who was basically recalled from retirement to take over the army in Kabul despite his dotage, constant illnesses and inability to make a decision.

And there was Brigadier-General John Shelton, of the Bombay army, Elphinstone’s second-in-command who bitterly resented his boss, hated being in Kabul and took it out on his men.

When the crisis came, they couldn’t agree on anything and led their army to disaster. Sound familiar? I have a horrible feeling it’s a national characteristic.

 

Faffing about

Aly and I are faffing about over the cover design and layout of the book. It’s fun though we don’t always see eye to eye. For instance, she thinks the text should be left ragged-right, ie that each line ends at the end of a word rather than turning onto the next line with a hyphen if necessary so the left and right hand sides of the book are in nice straight lines. This is unusual in a novel and, being a traditionalist, I am resisting this innovation. But we shall see… We’re nearly there now though and when we are I shall be updating this site to take account of the new design, images etc.