Dust Clouds of War

Written by John Wilcox
Review by Robert Southworth

John Wilcox is an author known to me by reputation only. I have heard many claims that the Simon Fonthill series was a match for the Sharpe series penned by Bernard Cornwell – high praise indeed. The cover. while being functional. is in truth a little bland for my tastes.

To the novel itself: First World War novels are becoming a rarity these days; add to that a novel which concentrates on the African theatre of war, and that rarity becomes more so. That alone is enough to spark the interest of an amateur historian such as myself and, I’m sure, many readers. The book begins in the year 1914 on the border of Northern Rhodesia and German East Africa. That, I am afraid, is all the spoilers that you will get from me.

John Wilcox is masterly in his building of characters; just a few pages reading, and often you feel you know them as individuals. The quality of the created characters enables the storyline to feel authentic. For the most part, the story moves along at good pace; I admit once or twice I felt the author lost focus, but these lapses were short-lived. For the most part the story is compelling. The action and mission scenes were extremely well done; the reader does not need much imagination to find themselves transported back to 1914, tiptoeing through the bush with the enemy all around. The main character, Fonthill, is complex, though I disagree that he is a First World War version of Sharpe. John Wilcox has created a main protagonist that stands in no other fictional characters’ shadow. Dust Clouds of War is an enjoyable and, at times, compelling read. The plot and sub-plots are well thought out and never stretch the realms of plausibility. I would have no reluctance in opening another novel by John Wilcox.