Nullis Secondus: Second To None
Headstrong young Jack Cardwell, son of a 19th century Sheffield coal miner, seeks to escape from the life of the mines and find a new world with the elite Coldstream Guards in this well-researched, involving novel of a world in upheaval. Jack has learned the savage art of bare knuckle boxing from his father, and he hopes to use his talents to rise far above the squalid poverty of his youth. Jack thinks much more with his heart than his head (one friends comments “there are times when you’re as thick as a brick,” and readers will likely agree), and this quality endears him to Annie, whom he seeks to impress with his string of victories in the ring. The picture is darkened by the outbreak of the First World War.
Readers noticing the author’s name (or the black-and-white family photos at the rear of the book) will suspect that perhaps young Jack is not blown to pieces like so many of his comrades, but the story retains its narrative tension just the same, with vivid action sequences and some winningly funny bits. Nullis Secundus covers no radically new ground, but it’s very enjoyable just the same.