A Skirmish in Africa by Daryl Sahli

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As is to be expected, readers are interested to know the motivation for writing this my first book. Well in my case, it was a combination of things. The most important driver was the need to try to educate my children on what it was like in Rhodesia during the bush war. As with most immigrant children they aren’t necessarily interested in the history of their parents and the majority are unlikely to pick up a history book to find out more. I decided that framing the ‘history’ in the form of a story might work better. I can say that it has. My daughter, in particular, who is now 23, has made some interesting observations. The most telling for me was ‘you have lost your country and your roots!’ She enjoyed the book very much and, I guess, because of her age, she could identify with the young man in my story. The sense of loss that I have felt since leaving Zimbabwe has haunted me for many years. Writing this book has helped me deal with this. Another motivation is the fact that literature is the only way of preserving history and providing some perspective. Both fiction and non-fiction have their place. A number of historical accounts and biographies have been written on Rhodesia and Zimbabwe but relatively few novels. There are so many interesting aspects of the war and the circumstances surrounding it that lend themselves to stories.

We need to preserve our collective history, the good and the bad, for future generations. Literature is the key. I hope to make a small contribution and I truly hope that others will be motivated to tell their stories too.

This book is set in an almost forgotten guerrilla war in what is now called Zimbabwe during the 1970s, this is a journey into the world of young men fighting and dying at the behest of their political masters. The strain of having to survive close-quarter skirmishes preoccupy the combatants, who helplessly find themselves caught up in a conflict spinning out of control.

“Seen through the eyes of a reluctant conscript, only just out of school, it is possible to imagine oneself increasingly inured to the heartbreaking and brutal realities of guerrilla warfare.”
– James Knox

Mike Smith, an insecure nineteen-year old national serviceman, is immersed in a bloody insurgency witnessing horrors that seem too much for a young man to have to bear.

Tongerai Chabanga, a commander of the liberation movement, must withstand political pressure from his leaders outside the country to prosecute the war in a manner he disagrees with. At the same time, he is faced with atrocities perpetrated of a depraved Soviet Spetznaz military advisor who threatens to undo the work he has done.

I have tried, to the greatest degree possible (and still make the story exciting and interesting), to make it as authentic as possible. In this sense, this book is one for the military enthusiast. I have used the military slang of the time (with explanations of course) and details of military tactics and weapons. I have also used the original voice-procedure, as this was the main source of communication. This can certainly be confusing for some readers, but I have left it in because it adds to the colour and authenticity. In a way, the feeling of confusion and uncertainty (even frustration) experienced by the reader is deliberate because … that is exactly what it was like, chaotic, confusing, frustrating … and terrifying.

“A riveting read. A great blend of action and well researched military history. The story contains several ‘laugh-out-loud’ moments. Suspenseful right to the end with many unpredictable twists and turns.
– Tom Dawe

‘Daryl Sahli served in the Rhodesian Army as a National Serviceman in 4 Independent Company, Rhodesian African Rifles. The novel he has written, whilst fiction, is based on true events. A great deal of effort has gone into ensuring that details of weapons and military procedure are factually correct. Where this book stands out from other Rhodesian war accounts is that it is written through the eyes of a National Serviceman serving in a unit run by regular officers and senior NCOs who had little respect for part-time soldiers. These nineteen year-old men were expected to perform against the enemy as professionals and in most cases, they did exactly that. Many of the characters in this book did exist and for someone who was there, it makes for a good read. Daryl Sahli`s novel is a great action thriller and an authentic account of a war, now forgotten and unknown to many. This book is as enthralling as any war novel I have read.’ – Ian Livingston-Blevins Books

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