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A Close Run Thing by Allan Mallinson

A Close Run Thing (original 1999; edition 1999)

by Allan Mallinson

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206556,890 (3.19)7
Title:A Close Run Thing
Authors:Allan Mallinson
Info:Bantam Press (1999), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Modern Fiction
Tags:1000 AUTHORS

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A Close Run Thing by Allan Mallinson (1999)



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Though a competent officer serving with the Sixth Dragoons for 6 years having never gotten promotion suddenly in the course of the end of the main campaign against Napoleon and the resumption during the last battles of the 100 days seems far fetched, Matthew Hervey is a worthy addition to those we look at to explain what happens in this era. We have a few tales that look closely at the British Cavalry, and perhaps signaling out this hero to not only get noticed by Wellington but to do a service far above his rank, and his training seems also out of place.

Surely with the many cavalry charges that day of June 18th, any young officer would have been able to distinguish themselves in the normal course of combat without taking upon themselves one of the few things that were necessary to decisive victory.

And then finding issues that most officers would not have involved themselves in during the year of peace also makes it hard to think of Mallinson's Hervey as anything but a magnet for issues that he should have been more of an observer to, than involved in. To also find a the son of a vicar so well received by Thynne on one hand, and Cavendish on the other should signify a long life as a Whig, which perhaps most persons of our time would think of themselves if thrust back to the early 1800s. But would someone so far on the outskirts of the Ton really interact with the highest amongst the Ton?

Mallinson has jumps of logic so that he can write in the name of a few historical figures that most Cornets and Lieutenants would never meet. That detracts from what could be a better story. Further, making the first novel of this series at the end of years of action to give the last third the telling of Waterloo, when perhaps there should have been a half dozen books leading up to it is the true test. Thus only 3.5 instead of a higher rating, We should have known more of Hervey before the telling here. ( )
  DWWilkin | Jun 7, 2015 |
This Peninsula War historical is billed as 'Introducing Matthew Hervey of the Light Dragoons' and was recommended to me as a horseman's Sharpe. Unfortunately, the best I can say for it is that it's well researched, and it has helped me clarify some of the things I like about Patrick O'Brian's writing.

It is very well researched though - credit where it's due.

Rather than focussing on a single battle or other action, this book covers the period from April 1814 to the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo, as we follow Matthew - an impoverished junior officer - from Spain, to England, Ireland, France, back to England, and finally back to France.

The tone is flat, the language uninspiring, and the tell-don't-show action moves along at such a clip there's hardly time to get to know, let alone care about, anyone but Matthew Hervey, and even he never quite feels fully rounded.

I don't regret the time spent reading it, but I don't care enough to hunt down the rest of the series, so this is one for the BookMooch pile, I'm afraid. ( )
1 vote AlexDraven | Nov 29, 2008 |
Allan Mallinson is definitely a gifted writer and a kindred spirit to Patrick O’Brian. Whereas his ability to bring to the fore the machinations of British society and the subtle nuances of horsemanship are exhaustive, there is an aloofness in his recounting of the battle Waterloo that is disconcerting. While I enjoyed Mr. Mallinson’s “A Close Run Thing,” I didn’t feel as much empathy for his characters as I have in other military and historical fiction. Nonetheless, as with Mr. O’Brian, I am willing to try another one of his novels to see how his characters and writing style develops. ( )
  BruderBane | Jan 11, 2008 |
This book was highly recommended to me by various military historians, as in 'you HAVE TO read the Alan Mallinson books'. So I gave it a crack.

Obviously military historical fiction is not for me. Firstly, it suffers from some of the problems that plague a lot of genre fiction - the characters are very one-dimensional. The lead character is of course good, extremely moral, extremely intelligent (speaks French and German as well as English, and of course gets to use it to good effect), the best rider, the best swordsman, and always in the right place at the right time.
Then there is the way the writer feels the need to shoe-horn his research into the narrative. When you have characters asking 'So, I haven't seen that type of bridle/sword/thingame before' ' Well, funny you should ask, let me tell you all about it for a few paragraphs' it gets grating very quickly. We know you are a clever man and diligent researcher Brigadier Mallinson, you don't have to wear your research quite so heavily.

All that said, this is not necessarily a bad book. I am sure that it appeals to those who enjoy the genre of military historical fiction. It just doesn't appeal to this reader. ( )
1 vote ForrestFamily | Jul 6, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553507133, Paperback)

Allan Mallinson wastes no time getting the reader into the thick of things: by page 2 of this novel, set during the Napoleonic wars, protagonist Coronet Matthew Hervey of the 6th Light Dragoons is up to his neck in battle and blood. By page 8, he's on his way to a court martial, the result of his own hasty temper and the politics of the military. Though the young soldier's career is never in serious danger, Mallinson uses the episode effectively to make a point about 19th-century military life:
Anyone who thought that survival in this war depended merely on fighting the enemy was naïve in the extreme. Jealousy, snobbery, intrigue, and patronage were the preoccupations of men of ambition in the Marquess of Wellington's army; and Hervey and others like him, decent officers with little but the ability to recommend them, were increasingly resentful of Wellington's indifference to it all. Indeed, many believed he actively connived at it.
Politics and infighting within the ranks are, indeed, important elements in A Close Run Thing, which follows the fortunes of young Matthew Hervey, his regiment, and Wellington's army through the last year of the Napoleonic wars. What makes the novel so fascinating is that the most dangerous enemies are seldom the ones being fought on the battlefield. There are the villains--General "Black Jack" Slade, for example, "as incompetent an officer as was ever placed in command of a brigade of cavalry"; and to a lesser degree, Wellington himself, who seems indifferent to the system of patronage that kept people like Slade in positions of power. And there are the heroes--Hervey and his commanding officer, Major Joseph Edmonds, among others. As war's fortunes take them from France to Ireland and back again to the continent and an insignificant Belgian village called Waterloo, Mallinson paints a vivid portrait not only of military life but of the European political milieu.

In his note at the beginning of A Close Run Thing, Mallinson writes that he's long been a fan of Patrick O'Brian 's naval fictions set during the Napoleonic wars and that he "began to fret for anything remotely comparable for the cavalry of that period." Though one might wish Matthew Hervey had been more fully developed as a character, à la O'Brian's Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, Mallinson writes a battlefield scene with the same brio and encyclopedic knowledge that O'Brian brings to his engagements at sea. From the details of charging a French battery of guns to the peculiar ailments of a cavalry horse, Mallinson, himself a serving officer in a British cavalry regiment, knows his subject inside and out. This is a book sure to appeal to military-history buffs and readers looking for a ripping good adventure tale alike. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:42 -0400)

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A Close Run Thing is the story of the Napoleonic Wars. A young cornet in the 6th Light Dragoons, Matthew Hervey, a soldier and a gentleman, finds himself allotted a hero's role.

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