Clouds in the Wind by Ian McKenzie
Clouds in the Wind is a military thriller by Ian McKenzie
The winds of change are blowing through Africa and, like clouds, lives are being fragmented, altered or blotted out in an instant. This powerful novel is set predominantly in the mid to late ’70s when the Rhodesian bush war was at its height before the Lancaster House agreement and the end of white rule. Get on to the story of Andy Mason, first as a schoolboy discovering the beauty of Africa on a trip to Northern Rhodesia in the ’60s, then as a sergeant in the Rhodesian SAS in 1974 and 1979. This is powerful and authentic story-telling. The author was there and it shows in the detail, the sights, the sounds, the smells and the fear. Sent out on a routine recce, the four-man team is ambushed, reinforcements are sent in and a full-on fire fight evolves. Step back in time and we discover what led the young South African schoolboy to blood and death in the African bush. The author shows he is equally at home in the concrete jungle of Johannesburg amid high-flying fraud and corruption. A farm murder in Rhodesia and a plea for help from a former girlfriend sends Andy to the battlefield and the winds of war. Torn by anger and grief he enrols in the SAS. One of 12 recruits out of 500 to complete the gruelling course, and finds himself among the close-knit camaraderie of the forces. But the writing is on the wall. The superbly trained Rhodesian army never lost a battle, but they are fighting a war they cannot win. The contrast is here – the stark reality of war, mutilation and death and the lavish lifestyle of the Salisbury elite; elegant dancing and dining with a rifle always at the ready; luxurious living on the prosperous farms that have been in families for generations and armed convoys anywhere outside the city. Andy falls for laughing, beautiful Alyson, spoilt and protected darling of her wealthy parents, but even there the war takes its toll. This is yet another gripping piece of story-telling and the author succeeds remarkably well in getting into the skin of this anguished young girl. Naturally politics of the period is entrenched, but the author lets his characters give their viewpoints – angry, paternalistic, stubborn or entitled. This is a book that will enthrall and enlighten. It’s a passionately told story that will simply take your breath away.
22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Book Awards
Entry Title Clouds In The Wind
Author: Ian Mackenzie
Judge Number: 61
Entry Category: Mainstream/Literary Fiction
Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.
Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 4/5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 4/5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 4/5
Plot and Story Appeal: 5/5
Character Appeal and Development: 4/5
Voice and Writing Style: 4/5
The book’s title, Clouds in the Wind, is an expression that means futility, and nothing is more futile than war. In the 1970s in Southern Africa, successful business man Andrew Mason is drawn into the Rhodesian bush war. With great narrative energy and a keen visual sense of detail, Ian Mackenzie guides us into the fray. He describes skirmishes with blood-curdling accuracy where the Rhodesian side wins every battle, but as we all know, they eventually lost the war. White supremacy is defeated.
The characterization in this book is excellent. The protagonist, Andrew Mason, is a respected and decorated soldier, but his personal life is a shambles, mostly due to the war. After his relationship with Merryl and her daughter is ended through an attack on their convoy, he goes through a series of wanton relationships until he meets Alyson Carstens.
The fragility of life is brought home to him, and to us, as one by one people he is close to and cares about deeply are lost to him
This story has a number of plot twists and exceptional drama that makes it a compelling read.
In the end we are left with the question: What will become of Andrew Mason, a soldier without a war?
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested is a good solid read with compelling characters and an excellent plot. It finishes with an ending that suggests a sequel, which would be welcome.
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