Reviews – A Skirmish in Africa

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Daryl Sahli’s ‘A Skirmish in Africa’ is not only a great read, but is based largely on fact interwoven into an immensely readable account of the life of a group of young men, most of whom had only just left high school, only to find themselves in a real armed conflict and facing life threatening situations on a daily basis.

As one of those national servicemen that served along side Daryl, and an integral member of 4 Indep Co, 3 Platoon, RAR, I can attest and vouch for the accuracy of the facts woven into the story, having been a participant in the skirmishes written about.  The range of emotions the book conjures up for some, will bring back to life the stark reality of what was – a time gone by but not forgotten – the innocence of youth rapidly transformed by the hard face of war.

For those who had no involvement in the Rhodesian conflict, the book delivers a very factual yet enjoyable account of the prevailing political situation facing Rhodesia at the time.  Unfortunately the efforts of all Rhodesian servicemen, both national service and regular, both Black and White were ultimately in vain as history shows.  The battle on the field was won – unfortunately the war at the political table was lost – the rest is history.

For the few of us that can remember we can nevertheless say with pride that we were there.  For those than never made if we salute you – RIP.  - Grant Lewthwaite – 4 Indep, RAR – 3 Platoon, Callsign 43A

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It has been described as a great action thriller.  It is that and more.  Daryl’s well crafted story takes us back 40 years to the early days of the ’Bush War’ between the liberation movements and Ian Smith’s Rhodesian regime, ending with the independence of the new Zimbabwe in 1981.
Whilst many of us in Australia were preoccupied with our own war in South Vietnam, the trials and tribulations of our cousins in Rhodesia were followed keenly. Daryl relives those times for us in what could be described as a most useful military textbook in a realistic counter insurgency setting. Geographically it is set in the corner of Rhodesia which adjoins Botswana, South West Africa (now Namibia), and Zambia (formally Northern Rhodesia).
The book begins with a most useful set of maps. My only criticism is that North is not shown and I had to rely on my own placement of the settings. This was made easier having visited Victoria Falls and Botswana in 2002. The maps are followed by an extensive glossary of terms used throughout the book. They are accurate, having been taken from the Rhodesian Army Counter-Insurgency Manual 1975, and prove very useful in making sense of the narrative. Further maps are well placed to illustrate specific actions.
In the Foreword, Daryl outlines the upheavals which had been and were taking place in post-colonial Southern Africa, and the interference by the two outside communist super- powers of Russia and China. The first named supported Joshua Nkomo (Matabele), and the latter Robert Mugabe (Mashona). The apartheid regime of South Africa provided support for Rhodesia. What a complex web.
He explains the ill fated attempts by various British Governments to negotiate a settlement between the opposing groups. The resultant dictatorship of Robert Mugabe does no credit to Britain.
Being a keen student of the Anglo Boer Wars in South Africa, and the British (Cecil Rhodes) move into the tribal areas of the Matabele and the Mashona, I can see that the grounds for discontent by these people started in the late 19th century. Both tribes rebelled at various times against the occupation of their lands by the British.
I will not attempt to discuss the many actions which are detailed in the book, apart from saying that they portray realistically the experience of the combatants on the ground.
They will be readily understood by soldiers, and former soldiers. Anyone who served in the Malayan Emergency and/or South Vietnam will appreciate Daryl’s accounts. One can almost hear the drum of the helicopters overhead.
His portrayal of the main characters is very good—Fullerton (Rhodesian), Benkov (Russian), Chabanga (Insurgent), Smith (Rhodesian National Serviceman). The first two might seem a little bit larger than life, but that makes the story more interesting, particularly if you have ever known any men like them. Any Australian National Serviceman will empathise with Sergeant Mike Smith and his experience with some regulars.
The partying and romancing that is woven into the story probably makes it easier for many Rhodesian readers to recall the times they lived in, and the dangers they faced. After all their country was at war.
I found the book exciting to read, enlightening and enjoyable. I look forward to reading Daryl’s next book—“Steely-eyed Killers”, again set in the Rhodesian Bush War.
- Lt Col Miles W Farmer OAM (ret’d), former member of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, 1969-70 (8 July 2013)

*

 Daryl Sahli’s ‘A Skirmish in Africa’ is not only an enthralling war novel; from an historical viewpoint, it also documents in authentic detail the struggle for control of what was once Southern Rhodesia and is now the impoverished country of Zimbabwe.  This is one of those novels that transcend the distinction between fact and fiction.  Both are perfectly blended together.  One cannot recommend this book too highly. - Ernle Young (Stanford Professor Emeritus)

*

Move over Wilbur Smith, Tom Clancy et al…
A Skirmish in Africa rates as one of the best books I have read for a long time. Gripping to the very end!! I will certainly be recommending it as a good read to friends.
– John Flint

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I have just read  A Skirmish in Africa and must congratulate you on a great novel.  It sent a flood of memories from the past since I too attended Gifford Tech and did my army service (intake 126) in the exact same area where the book is written!! - Alex Polzi

*

I recently read Daryl Sahli’s superb novel ‘A Skirmish in Africa’ and earnestly recommend it as a must-read.  Not only is it meticulously researched, providing a remarkably well-balanced understanding of the Rhodesian War, but it is written in a way that powerfully conveys the stark realities of that savage conflict.  It is grippingly entertaining to be sure, but I found it to be like a chronicle of a significant 20th century event – fiction that teaches powerful lessons about life.  It’s not just a nostalgic interlude for ex-Rhodesians – this is a book everyone should read. - Andre van Heerden (author, historian and leadership consultant)

*

I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘A Skirmish in Africa’ – it is definitely a book I put in the “can’t put it down” category.  Having served in the war in the South West and North West of Rhodesia the geographic memories of that part of the country came  flooding back.  Daryl’s detailed descriptions of the military information and weapons, the terrain and the language we used shows not only what a good memory he has but also the meticulous research that he conducted.  Whilst billed as fiction it provides a most memorable true to life read – it transported me back 35 years and brought back many memories of that chapter of my life.  I cannot wait to read Daryl’s second book ‘Steely Eyed Killers’. - Ian

*

I finished ‘A Skirmish in Africa’ and found it to be a fantastic read.  Like the author, I was also a National Serviceman in the Rhodesian Army during the same period 1978/79 but attached to a related company of the Rhodesian African Rifles on the eastern border of Rhodesia.  I found the book to be factually correct about not only the country but also the military practices of the time.  It is also historically fair and even-handed to both sides involved in that conflict.  Daryl has cleverly woven a great storyline around the brutal realities of the time in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and the book engaged me right from the start.  In the end, I found it hard to put down.  Zimbabwe has a tragic history that is unknown to many but really needs to be told.  In my view as a veteran of the era, Daryl has done a brilliant job of telling our story and for that, I would like to thank him.  He also delivered me some great entertainment and brought back some long forgotten memories from that time, both good and bad.  I wish Daryl all the success this book deserves. - Rich Hughes

*

I started reading this book and found I couldn’t put it down.  Daryl is to be congratulated for capturing the Rhodesian war as seen through the eyes of many of us National Servicemen who were thrown into a deadly serious conflict – mostly unprepared – yet so proud and willing to contribute and sacrifice for the cause.  For me, I found it stirred up emotions which had me laughing out loud on the one hand, to sobbing on the other, as I recalled the heartfelt loss of some of my friends that died in action.  The events portrayed in the book are based on fact.  This book has something for everyone.  If you were there during those tumultuous times, it will bring back memories that will move you as you remember you own part in this war.  If you weren’t, and seek some insight into a ‘Skirmish’ that happened in Africa 40 years ago, this book will enlighten and entertain you.  It will also leave you moved.  It’s a ‘ripping yarn’, and well worth a read. - Mike Winter

*

I was recently on a conference / break and read this book from cover to cover in one go.  It felt like I was there.  I must say the combination of fact and fiction completely absorbed me.  The book has something for everyone.  On the one hand it stands on its own as a fast paced ‘war’ story set in Africa, at the same time it is a well researched book offering a different perspective for those that have an interest in these times and events – but at another level (for those that know) it is far far more.  Well don Daryl.  Looking forward to reading your second book. - Kevin Williams

 *

Well done on producing an excellent book – A Skirmish in Africa. The book was well researched and entertaining to read.  I bought it on the iBookstore.  As a South African, a lot of the history surrounding the Southern African countries is know to me, although I don’t have much detailed knowledge of Zimbabwe.  Your characters were interesting and as I said, I enjoyed reading the book very much.  Good luck with your next project. - Ruti Meyer

*

I read Skirmish on the plane.  Wow!!  It is fantastic.  I am not usually a war story fan, but I could not put it down – the story is gripping, the people are so interesting and you have a way of bringing the diverse perspectives and motivations into equal play – making the story so engaging.  I also learned so much about the military history of that time and place – a major void in my knowledge.  It is truly a masterpiece. - Heather M. Young

*

Thoroughly enjoyable read.  A very well told story/history lesson.  Opened my eyes to a lot of experiences friends and friends parents would have experienced.  Definitely going to purchase the next one. – Richard Pearse

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I recently purchased a copy of Daryl Sahli’s novel ‘A Skirmish in Africa’, after reading a review on the Gifford High School Old Boys website.  Well, I just couldn’t put it down!  I heartily concur with all the reviews I read because the novel is absolutely brilliant.  It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me angry, it enthralled me and brought back a flood of memories, some bad, but mostly good.  I was a teenager in the late 70′s, and most of the political intrigue of the time was beyond me, but it was an exciting time to be alive.  I actually felt a common bond with the Sgt Smith character in that my take on the reality of Rhodesia’s situation in the late 70′s was initially very naive and propaganda driven.  I am very glad that I did not have to learn the hard way, as he did, that all was not as it seemed.  Hearty congratulations, you have done yourself, your family, and your old school extremely proud.  I look forward to reading ‘follow-up’ novels in the not too distant future. - Derek Hird

*

An exciting adventure set to the real history of the little-known Rhodesian bush war, Daryl Sahli’s novel presents a frank experience of what it was like to be a nineteen year old National Serviceman fresh out of training, thrown into a leadership position in the latter phase of the war.  The story is told with sincerity and with a credibility that could only be provided by someone who knows; and the veracity of its military aspects will readily be recognised by those who were there.  More than this, Daryl’s story provides a subtle insight into the thoughts and emotions of the conscripted and professional soldier, and the impact of war on civilians.  Well done Daryl! - Martin Robinson

*

I have just finished your book and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the read.  Once I started I had a hard time putting it down and I found myself reading well into the night and other in opportune times.  The real treat for me however was the familiar sounds, smells, sensations and feelings of my younger days in Southern Africa.  What a privilege to be able to relive all that and be entertained.  Thank you for the experience. - Chris Leon

*

“A Skirmish in Africa” is a very interesting and authentic account of the ‘Bush War’ in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the mid 1970s.  The characterisation is very good, the book is realistic.  I think it is of great value to ‘capture’ important times such as these and to examine the effect they had on the lives of different people – especially sensitive young men fresh out of school – whose most serious confrontations would have been on the hockey field, on the rugby pitch or in the water polo pool.  I think many authors make the mistake of presenting their heroes in these combat situations as far too ‘hard-core’.  I was also very impressed at the portrayal of the camaraderie between the white and black soldiers.  ”A Skirmish in Africa” is a great achievement.  Congratulations, Daryl! - Al Farren

*

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

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I had the pleasure of working with Sahli San and reading his book.  Although very talented as a tax consultant, I think that he has found his true following.  He could always tell a good story.  I think that I appreciated the book more than some other young readers as I just avoided national service in Australia by a couple of years, Vietnam.

I can only imagine it’s different fighting for your own country.

I look forward to reading his next novel.

Loved the last. – Jeff O’Connell

*

I enjoyed this gripping story set in Rhodesia during the bush war.  Harrowing in parts and funny in others, it follows the soldiers from both sides of this forgotten war.  Much of the story is set around Victoria Falls and describes the place just as it was then with war and tourism juxtaposed. – Joan Bishop

*

Daryl’s writing grabbed me on page 1 and held me right to the end.  As a former soldier myself, I could relate to many of the characters and have served with several just like them. Well done for having the courage to tell us your story and congratulations on telling it so well.  Looking forward to Steely-Eyed Killers from the Sky. – Scott Leonard

*

Daryl, I must congratulate you on a very enthralling, gotta see what happened next, fast action story.  Very authentic settings and descriptions of the time and places.  The characters are very believable and your mix of blood, guts and gore often to the point where I needed to walk to get rid of the built up intensity and the crazy humour of the army lifestyle made for a most excellent read.  Put me down for the next one as there must be a sequel to see what happened to those characters.  Well done. – Mark Sasman

*

Well I started reading the book at about 10.00am on a Saturday morning and could not put it down until finished!  The book transported me back to a time when the communist threat was real…  This is an exciting, action packed read that will appeal to many!  Highly recommended! - Mike Harrold

*

In writing ‘A Skirmish in Africa’, Daryl Sahli proves there is a need for a new genre of novel classification – ‘real fiction’.

The author has delivered a concise and enthralling account of a dreadful conflict little known beyond the confines of then Rhodesia in the 1970′s.  ’A Skirmish in Africa’ provides a historical context to events of the time in fine detail – the tribal politics of Africa, the ‘no rules’ context of guerilla soldiering, military tactics and weaponry.

In doing so, we are placed firmly in the mind and psyche of the young soldier going to battle for the first time, in a war where no one plays fair, and where boys quickly become men.  Daryl Sahli delivers ‘real character – flawed, fearful and heroic – genuine rather than extraordinary characters, most in a situation not of their choosing.

Although it is noted that this is a work of fiction, the colour and authenticity Sahli brings to the telling of the tale speaks of experience, research and passion, of vivid and enduring first hand encounter.

I highly recommend this novel to readers with a desire for a story, a perspective on a chapter of African military history, or a need for entertainment – you won’t be disappointed!

Daryl Sahli is a writer with the Wilbur Smith ability to weave a narrative and the Tom Clancy eye for detail.  I look forward to his next read with anticipation. - Darryl Barber

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I have just finished reading Daryl Sahli’s book, “A Skirmish in Africa” this past weekend.  In Singapore on business for a month, I finally had a chance to relax for a couple of days and consume this wonderful story while drinking a few cold beers sitting in an outdoor pub on the banks of the Singapore river.

I lived this period in Rhodesia also.  Reading this story made me cry, literally – tears streaming down my face; it made me laugh, it made me cry and at times I was both laughing and crying at the same time.  Great fiction always is.  A catharsis even!  Can’t imagine what the staff and other patrons were thinking.  Daryl – thanks for writing “A Skirmish in Africa”.  I look forward to reading your next book. – Ashley Konson

*

Set in one of the world’s harshest continents at a time when superpowers were all jockeying for position, the brutal realities of a hard fought guerilla war are portrayed in a riveting story filled with suspense right to the end.  It undoubtedly has a lot more fact in it than fiction. – Stuart Smith

*

I have read numerous war related fiction books and found that ‘A Skirmish in Africa’ compares to the best of them.  The authors who’s books I love reading is Andy McNab and Duncan Falconer and in my opinion Daryl Sahli’s storytelling is at the same level.  The level of detail of the research on the skirmishes is excellent and storytelling superb.  I really enjoyed the book and it had me gripped till late at night. – Gavin Paton

*

A Skirmish in Africa by Daryl Sahli is a great read.  Daryl has gone to a lot of trouble in researching and providing numerous details of the bush war which was great for those who were there.  He also provides detailed explanations for those who did not experience the war in Rhodesia.  He captures the tension between national servicemen and regular soldiers excellently.  It was one of those books that you did not want to put down. - Adrian Vosloo

*

I couldn’t put this book down.  I was riveted from beginning to end.  A compelling read for me exposing what was happening in the bush in the late 70′s while I was being escorted in ignorant oblivion by Dad’s Army convoys between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.  I’m familiar with the landscape, cultures, history, people and politics of Southern Africa at the time, and this book did a marvellous job tying all these together in a work that gives the Rhodesian bush war a human face.  It is well researched historically and technically and has given me further insight into the harsh reality and tragedy of the war.  A great read. - Lesley McGuinn

*

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

*

A tale of a Rhodesian soldier at his imperfect best.  It speaks to the heart of all who were part of that war. - Pat Taylor

*

I really enjoyed the story.  It rattles along at a frenetic pace.  The background of recent historical events, that many of us have lived through, gives added immediacy. - Jeremy Martineau

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

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A fascinating insight into the hearts and minds of combatants on both sides of this tragic struggle.  This gripping story helps the reader to understand the Africa of today by living through the events of yesterday. - Phil Morgan