The Originals

The Originals
Released Nov 2007

The Originals

I'm pleased to speak about my first novel, 'The Originals'.

The story is about Bill Dawson; a Canadian veteran of the Boer war, who joins up with the newly formed Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry at the outset of the First World War.
Dawson is a fictional character, but the events and soldiers the main character fights along side are real; based on research of actual events involving the PPCLI.

My enthusiasm for history in general and military history specifically, has lead me to similar novels from across the world. Nigel Tranter's novels of Scottish history, as well as the the Civil War triologies by Jeff Shaara and Michael Shaara, are among my favourites. It was such novels which, in part, inspired me to write about Canadian military history in the same fashion.

After writing 'The Originals' I began to search out a publisher who might entertain this genre and found Chronicler Publishing in Alberta, Canada; a company specializing in Canadian historical fiction. It was like finding one of those gas stations at the end of a very long highway when the idiot light stares you in the face from the dashboard, for not filling up at the last available pumps!

Writing 'The Originals' has been an outlet to my knowledge of the First World War. I have to expend it somewhere, as my wife is getting tired of me ranting on about it! Unfortunately for my wife, I haven't tired of the topic, quite the contrary, my knowledge and enthusiam continues to grow; I hope there will be many more such novels in the near future.

The novel is available at Amazon, (.com & .ca); Barnes & Noble and Borders or from the publisher,

A short passage to 'The Originals'

The Patricias separated into their companies and moved forward in single file. The rain had changed into sleet, smacking onto their faces. Flares lofted about the sky, lighting up acres of water saturated fields, devoid of any vegetation. It was more a region full of bogs than the pasture it once was.
With each step, Dawson didn’t know if the ground would be firm or some mud-filled hollow. Occasionally he sunk up to his ankles. It required both hands to haul his leg out. Assistance from his mates was often necessary to pull clear. Muck accumulated on his boots. Water rolled down his spine. His hands were numb from being in water soaked gloves. The wind chill was freezing his exposed ears which he attempted to protect by lying his head against his collar. The line of men floundered through the sludge one step at a time. Dawson decided they’d be all night getting to the front line.
They came to a stop.
Dawson waited. Disoriented. Expecting the line to continue on, but they just stood there, in the open. There were no landmarks or signs. He was as blind as the next man and nervously fidgeted about trying to keep from sinking too deeply in the sludge. Dawson knew the right move while at the front was to lie on the ground, but no one else had dropped into the mire. He remained standing too, hoping they’d keep mov’in soon.
The rifle cracks, the occasional ‘tat-tat-tat’ of machine guns, the unmistakable pop or singing of bullets passing dangerously close, caused the men much consternation while they waited in the darkness. The shelling hadn’t ceased either, but thankfully was concentrated behind them, along the roads in the skeleton city of Vierstraat.
“Whot da fook’s go’in on?” A voice whispered.
“Shad-up,” another whispered back harshly.
The line started moving.
The distinctive sound of water could be heard ahead. Lights reflected on the surface of some large accumulation right in the middle of their path. Dawson expected their guides would surely steer them around this mammoth puddle in the middle of the field. Soon he discovered it wasn’t a puddle after all. It was a river, and they had to cross it.
Dawson wondered if matters could possibly get any worse. Without one word of complaint, the Patricias slung their rifles, well clogged with mud at this point, and waded into the slow moving water. Any part of Dawson’s body which, by some miracle, remained dry, became soaked.
Water seeped into his deteriorating boots. A preverbal water fall began to enter down his collar and into his pants. The water was freezing. There were sounds of men sucking air in through their teeth. Discipline over powered the natural urge to shout as they wallowed their way across the icy stream in silence.
The opposite bank was a sight, its dirt walls now slick and mucky. With his rifle still slung, Dawson dug the toes of his boots into the slope and formed his hands into the shape of small spades. Weighing twice as much as he had when they arrived at Vierstraat eight hours ago, with a water soaked wool uniform, now covered by layers of mud, Dawson struggled to climb.
He lay still for a moment catching his breath and removed his forge hat. The sleet landing on his head felt like small needles.
“We’re almost their lads.” Niven’s comforting voice reached Dawson’s ears from somewhere in the darkness.
“We’re under observation now.” Jones added quietly. Dawson was unable to see him. “Take to the ground if we get flared, or Jerry’ll pink one of you.”
The line moved on.
Dawson held his rifle tightly, now looking more like a chunk of mud then a weapon of war. He followed closely behind his mates.
Flares rose up. In a moment they’d be lit up like daytime.
Dawson flopped to the ground. Mud seeped around his ears and collar. The natural reaction was to jump back onto his feet. Such a move would mean certain death. He lay still. Watching the shadows move about the muddy landscape as the flare slowly floated down and away. They rose again and continued their seemingly endless journey to the front line.
Another flare lofted up.
Like a drill movement on the parade square, Dawson and his mates dropped onto the ground as one. The mud continued to amass around his webbing, water bottle and haversack. The flare dropped from sight and like corpses rising from their graves, the Patricias rose out of the muck and continued forward. Each time he stood, Dawson felt he’d gained ten pounds.
A machine gun suddenly opened up on them. Into the muck they dove again.
Bullets whizzed past and spattered beside them. Dawson sunk as deep as he dared, searching for any protection. The Germans were positioned well on high ground some hundred yards away and fired blindly, pouring rounds over their heads.
More flares brightened their front and exposed their location to enemy machine gunners. Mud and water splashed Dawson’s face when rounds sprayed in front of him. Dawson knew he and his mates couldn’t stay where they were and live.
In the flares fading light, Dawson saw a ditch ahead of them. It wasn’t deep, but enough to afford some protection. Another machine gun joined in on the attack. Without being ordered, the Patricias took the initiative and began to drag themselves to the meager cover. Foot by foot Dawson pulled himself along, no easy task with the extra weight he’d amassing during the crossing.
The field gradually turned dark, with the extinguishment of the last flare. They jumped up and struggled the last fifteen yards to the ditch. He could hear grunts and heavy breathing around him from the other Patricias.
Flares shot up again. The ditch was directly in front of him. Five yards away. Barely visible.
He strove harder to make the distance. His legs burned with fatigue. Then the flares reached their maximum height and illuminated the field again, exposing the Patricias. Dawson threw himself down the slope of the ditch. Bullets sprayed behind him as he landed head first in knee-deep water at the bottom. Patricias splashed into the ditch beside him, right down the line. For the moment they were safe.
Bellinger tried to catch his breath. “I can’t see a bloody thing oot ‘ere.”
“Did we lose anyone corporal?” Niven, equally breathless piled into the water logged trench. “Is everyone here?”
“I don’t know sir.” Bellinger said.
“Lieutenant.” Jones dragged himself through the muddy water. “How many did we lose?”
“I don’t know sir. We’re just trying to establish that.”
“Get yourself off to our left flank and have the company sound off.”
“Yes sir.” Niven disappeared in the blackness.
“Has anyone seen McKinery?” Jones asked about their company commander.
“I last saw’im at Vierstraat sir.” Christie advised.
“All right then, take up a position as best you can. If anyone see’s McKinery tell him I’m headed to the left flank.”
“Sir?” Dawson whispered to Jones as he began to flounder away. “Where’s the front line?”
“Where? You’re in it.”
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