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on June 29, 2004
Let me explain!
The novel is very good, and has the potential of a good film script... but mainly is very well written, with good atmosphere and even bearable "slang"...
But, and it's an important BUT for me!, I think the novel would'nt have suffered a bit for a little more historical acuracy... all records says the body of G.A.Custer had TWO bullet wounds (ONLY TWO!) one in the front (breast) one in the temple..., I do not mind a bit if the author embraces the thesis of mass suicide (I do not believe it happened that way (mass suicide I mean!) but probably some of the troopers and officers at the LBH kept the last bullet for themselves...); but I nearly stoped reading after such ludicrous afirmation as Custer been shot in the back MANY TIMES! by his men, and even the silly (for unnecesary) reference of Crofton been part of a detail guarding wagons! (there were not wagons at the LBH!, only a mule pack train!)...
You see, I do not understand why this gratuitous mistakes... It could have been perfectly posible to adapt the plot of the novel to reality (I mean Custer could have been shot in the front by an enraged soldier for fiction sake, and even administered a shot in the temple afterwards... and change the mention of wagons for mule pack... and there you are... fans of history and specially the LBH would'nt have been so disapointed in the first few pages! (I nearly throw the book to the bin after 20 pages!... but curiosity (and the price) kept me reading on...)
I am by now reading the middle part of the book, and it's very good (I am slightly afraid of what would happen with the zulu war (military speaking)... but I do not care as long as the novel is good, but why not be accurate as G.McD. Fraser FLASHMAN? tapestry???).
STILL RECOMMENDED AS A GOOD READ (but please for those like me be more EXACT on ready available INFO on your next novel... that makes the background a BETTER READ!)
PS: OK, I have finished the book... and the novel is still rated at 3 stars... but the connoiseurs of zulu wars will be very much dissapointed with the ultrafictional aproach and faulty historic background from the historical miltary point of view... britons specially.... How awfully good it could have been if research would have been more accurate...
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on May 19, 2004
The reviewer who expressed concern that Crofton's Fire was light on military detail has a point. That said, the point is moot. Neither Flashman nor Crofton is, essentially, about military history. The contrast between Flashman and Crofton is, though, a very interesting one.
While the action in Crofton's Fire occurs during various exotic and pedestrian military assignments and engagements of the post- Civil War period, this fine novel is really not about the particulars of military history. Although the developing technology of military killing is central to Crofton's experience and reflection, the novel is not centered on battlefield tactics or weaponry and so forth.
The action of Crofton's Fire is centered on the coming into adulthood of Crofton. The theme here is the difficult but real possibility of building a self, a manhood in this case, in a world of death and dying and doing so without being defined by the horrors of one's time or by the pursuit of the opportunities inherent in skirting those horrors.
Flashman, on the other hand, defines his manhood through pursuit of his ambitions, and by doing whatever it takes to realize them. Crofton, quite the opposite, builds his manhood by transcending ambitions or, put another way, by constraining his ambitions in service to what he regards as higher causes: development of a sense of self-worth, humility, loyalty to his comrades, creating a loving family.
The beauty of Crofton's Fire lies in the reader's sense that Crofton's struggle to manhood appears to happen naturally, not easily, but naturally, without the didactic quality of an overt morality play. It is rare that a moral hero avoids being repugnantly good. Crofton does.
Who would deny that Flashman is a marvel, a unique, engaging rogue, illuminating history while manipulating his way through it? His compass points unerringly to money and fame.
Crofton is closer to Everyman. Unlike Flashman, he begins his career with no agenda at all except to do what the army assigns him to do. No guile, no real ambition, no direction, no compass to follow. Thus his journey to a full, adult self is a very different one from Flashman's. By the time Crofton understands his role in life, he finds it to be a moral one. He has found it through experience rather than bringing it TO experience.
The author of Crofton's Fire works in the delicate and difficult territory of the emerging human heart. Here, living and feeling and maturing into adulthood are not planned and not guaranteed. Failure is always an option.
One might say these two gentlemen, Flashman and Crofton, create radically different solutions to the same problem, to wit, becoming an adult. Flashman has a running start because he knows straight off where he is headed, and he forces his way to the self he has defined as his destiny. For Crofton, this is not so. All is in doubt as he lives his unpredictable life, finding out only well along the way who he has become and the special value and gratification in that.
For this reader, it is wonderful to have these alternatives so nicely drawn. Read Flashman and read Crofton, and don't feel compelled to diminish either by denigrating the one or the other. We certainly know our share of [not so clever, it is true] Flashmans, but fewer Croftons. It is ours to choose whom to admire and who to be.
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on January 6, 2004
There is a reasonable selection of good fiction by 20th century
authors about 19th century military life: Cornwell's Sharpe books,
Saunders' Fenwick Travers series, and Fraser's excellent Flashman
novels. There are also innumerable potboilers, and I'm not
including here the naval side of the military. Crofton's Fire is a
decent, well-written novel that incorporates military action from
the Little Bighorn to the Zulu War--quite a lot of military action
but not a lot of the detail that helps distinguish the previously-
mentioned novels. For me, an important question is always "Do I
want to reread this book? If yes, 1 year later? 2 years? Or
do I take this book down to the local used-book dealer and sell
it?" I also ask myself when I finish the book "How much of what
I've just read do I remember?" When I first read Fraser's
Flashman, many years ago, I knew I wanted to reread it within a
year, and I was annoyed that there was only this first book
available at that time. With Cornwell's Sharpe books, I'm
hanging on to the ones I have, and will eventually reread them--
but I have not bought the most recent ones in the series. I'll
keep Crofton's Fire, and I'd like to see the next in what might
be a series.
With the Flashman and Sharpe books, there is a lot of detail
about the military actions--both authors expected to be writing
a lot of novels in the series, so they did not feel a need to
cover a large number of different battles in a single book.
These books consequently give a good flavor for military life,
weapons, strategy/tactics, etc. We'll have to see where the
Crofton series goes in this regard--I would have preferred more
Crofton starts as a Lieutenant (graduated from West Point)--
well-taught, well-trained, brave, a good fellow. No adultery,
an occasional drinking bout, no cheating at cards, etc. By
contrast, Flashman's father buys him a commission to get him out
of the house, and Flashman happily drinks, practices lechery
wholeheartedly, cheats, toadies, avoids battles (unsuccessfully,
usually winding up in the thick of the fighting)--not what you'd
call a good fellow. The problem here is that Flashman is a
whole lot more fun than Crofton, and seems more easy to relate
to as well. You would prefer your sister to marry Crofton, but
you'd rather spend time yourself with Flashman. Character flaws
can help make someone more human--even the noble Hornblower
was prone to a bit of adultery at times.
It will be interesting to see the next Crofton novel, and to see
if Crofton develops a flaw or two....
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on April 24, 2004
Crofton's Fire is a winner! With prose that flows like clear water over white rocks, the plot is enticing and terrifying, but it's the fiber of the book that is truly amazing: in an age of cardboard heroes, Lieutentant Michael Crofton is the real thing. He embodies all those American verities that we've come to admire: courage, honor, duty. And on top of that, he is a wonderful husband completely in love with his beautiful young wife and as loving a father as to be found in all of literature. The book is so good it's amazing to think it's Coplin's first novel. There's action enough to satisfy the most red-blooded male reader and a sincerity and sensitivity to satisfy the most discriminating woman. It's a book for every gender, with red, white and blue thrown in. The moral dilemma of a young American soldier in an excruciating environment makes this a must read for any soldier in Iraq or anyone who has relatives there. And on top of that, it's a darned good read.
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on February 9, 2004
I'm a nut for historic fiction and I was very excited about this book's release. It had been hyped up to me by a few friends, so when I read it, my expectations were high. And I wasn't disappointed.
Coplin's writing style is addictive - I hardly put this book down, and it only took me a day or so to read it. So much happens in this novel. There isn't really a dull moment. Even when Crofton isn't fighting in a war, it's still exciting. Crofton is a really likable character as well, because he's like a flawed hero. He has real problems just like all of us do, so you can really identify with him throughout the book. There are crazy twists that are just exciting.
I really loved this book. I think it's unfair to compare it to other works because this book is really one of a kind. It's an addictive read, with a great story and terrific writing. You should definitely check this one out.
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on March 23, 2004
Amazing to think that this is Coplin's debut novel.
He writes spare, perfectly paced prose as if he were a seasoned pro.
CROFTON'S FIRE begins in the middle of battle, at the Little Big Horn where Custer meets his well-deserved - and in Coplin's hands, surprising - fate. Thereafter, we follow Crofton, an honorable soldier wading through often dishonorable times, as he does his valiant duty. From the wild, wild west to the savage killing fields of Zululand, South Africa, Crofton moves through history, an honorable man for all seasons. Told in crisp, clear, unsentimental and often heart wrenching prose, this is a historical novel without the usual overdoes of overblown language. Slightly reminiscent of LITTLE BIG MAN and maybe even, FORREST GUMP or Woody Allen's film ZELIG, this is a book to be treasured.
I stayed up all night reading it and I suggest you do the same.
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on July 8, 2004
I picked this book up to read on a plane trip and it kept my interest even after the flight. I didn't buy it for historical fact, so I was primarily hoping the characters and story would be interesting. I wasn't disappointed. The characters were colorful & engrossing. The story moved along at an entertaining and engaging pace and was over before I knew it. The main character, Crofton, had substance and was mildly thought provoking. Overall a good read.
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on February 8, 2004
Imagine a faster-paced version of Lonesome Dove, focusing on one man instead of a group of characters, and you'll have some idea of how good Crofton's Fire is. Crofton, the narrator, has a unique, funny and thoroughly entertaining voice. There's plenty of humor, some social commentary, and several very touching scenes. I was sorry when this book ended!
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on March 27, 2004
At first, the book feels insubstantial, too light. Then the spare, lean language flowing like water drags you along to deeper meaning. At the end genuine emotion appears, surprising the reader that this work could produce the result. A very good book.
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