I began reading books by Steven Pressfield because of those he’s written about Classical Greece, such as “Gates of Fire,” “Tides of War” and “The Afghan Campaign.”
Since it always seems hard to put his books down, I decided to pick up a novel of his from a decidedly different time period, “Killing Rommel.”
The bulk of the narrative is set during World War II and is a British soldier’s telling of his time with the Long Range Desert Group, an elite unit that operated mostly in the Libyan desert.
The German commander on the contintent, Erwin Rommel (aka “The Desert Fox”), and his Afrika Korps had caused great difficulty for the Allied forces there. To try to turn the tide in Africa, the LRDG is tasked with trying to kill Rommel.
Pressfield masters every type of warfare he writes about. In this case, it’s the vehicles and equipment used by the desert group (and their enemies) — and the difficulties the soldiers must face.
The realism with which Pressfield tackles any war always amazes me.
He puts a human face on war. The best characters are not generals or other leaders, but the common soldier.
You fight with them through hardships, see the horror they see, and also see the humanity, at times, that they see. Even the enemy they’re fighting has a human face. It’s compelling reading during moments when these characters, the soldiers, realize that those they are fighting are not monsters, but other people, who sometimes are not all that different.
The men of the LRDG and others in the book are still loyal — they have a mission to do — but they also understand how to act honorably amidst war. Those themes, of honor and loyalty, seem omnipresent in Pressfield’s work.
I soon might have to pick up his latest, “The Profession,” which tackles war in the future.