Killing Rommel

Written by Steven Pressfield
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley John R. Vallely


North Africa, 1942. The British Eighth Army is in trouble. The brilliant and daring tactician, Field-Marshal Rommel, and his Panzer divisions have captured Tobruk, giving them a base from which to capture the vital oil fields of the Middle East. The Long Range Desert Group, a small, heavily-armed yet highly mobile force, is set up to get behind the German lines and cause as much damage as possible – preferably by killing Rommel.

Young Lieutenant Chapman finds himself seconded to this new commando force. Once behind enemy lines, they have only themselves to rely on. Chapman must learn fast if he and his mates are to carry out their objectives – and survive.

In war, a man learns who he truly is. Chapman has this epiphany and learns both his limitations and, paradoxically, that he can push himself far beyond what he ever imagined. At the end of the book he says, ‘I did not go to war gravely and soberly as Lao-Tzu tells us a wise man ought. But I returned from it that way.’

This is a first-class war adventure: fast-paced, accurate without being pedantic, full of danger, chases, and hairbreadth escapes as Chapman and his men in their worn-out tanks and rapidly diminishing supplies somehow manage to keep one step ahead of the Germans. But Pressfield is too good a writer to ignore the brutal realities. He does not allow his readers to forget that soldiers get killed, sometimes agonizingly, and that military authorities can be incompetent. There is chaos as well as quiet heroism. If you want insight into the reality of life at war, as well as thrills, this is the book for you.



And for a second opinion…


Up until now I never believed it would have been possible to have a story featuring Erwin Rommel and the Long Range Desert Group leave me begging for those two critical words “The End.” Steven Pressfield has done the necessary spadework: he can write with authority on the LRDG warriors, their equipment, and their missions, and he has a definite feel for listing the dangers of life and war in the desert. The problem is, he simply can not make his characters seem as if they are anything but a list of names. They never are fleshed out enough to give them that life that is so critical for a work of fiction. Anyone could have written a story like “Journey’s End.” Could anyone other than R. C. Sherriff have made the central figures live and breathe?

Pressfield’s tale focuses on the British need to assassinate the “Desert Fox.” If the brilliant and unorthodox panzer officer is killed, the 8th Army will stand a better chance in the desert fighting. A British tank officer finds himself seconded to the larger-than-life special operatives of the LRDG in this long-range and hazardous journey behind Axis lines to find and kill Rommel. Ride along if you are more patient and forgiving than I.