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John Ogden: Silken Dalliance . The sequel to ‘On Fire’ 
Published in 2009 
Hardback    978-085455-040-1    220 x 145mm 

302 pages   £6.50
published by Thornton's Bookshop


ORDER from Antiqbook.com



Asparkling and racy story of regimental life in the 1950s 

The Book
Miles Player the narrator is a young Englishman growing up in the British army of the 1950s, which in many ways were closer to the 1930s than 1960s. After nearly two years fighting in the Korean War (narrated in On Fire the first of the trilogy A Military Education) Miles and his regiment The Prince Regent’s Light Infantry, find themselves on the frontier of the Cold War in West Germany. Battle-worn and oblivious to the outside world the officers set out to pursue a life of pleasure, comfort and fun. Their lives become complicated by a new commanding officer who turns out to be a paranoic martinet, the arrival of a clever and louche young officer, and – for Miles – a girl he still loves who is now married to a brother officer. We watch their lives unfold, sometimes hilariously and sometimes tragically, in the closed society of a regiment undermined by amorality and the abuse of power. 

The Author. John Ogden was first a professional soldier who helped give away the British Empire and then an advertising man who helped build and sustain commercial empires. In 1952 he was commissioned into The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, with whom he served in various parts of the world until he resigned his commission in 1964. He then joined J. Walter Thompson in London, moving, in the 1980s, to Ogilvy & Mather. He now lives in Oxfordshire. 

Andrew Roberts writes:‘Ogden’s ear for the dialogue of all ranks of the British Army protecting West Germany in the 1950s is at perfect pitch. The psychological insight into the motivation of his characters is equally superb. Just as its predecessor On Fire examined the concepts of comradeship and courage, so Silken Dalliance inquires perceptively into the nature of leadership. The A Military Education trilogy is shaping up well to become one of the great Cold War novel sequences.’ 
Review in the Tablet 19 September 2009:
Beware of Toadstools

Silken Dalliance
John Ogden
THORNTON'S / Faringdon, 302 pages, originally published at £17.99

This is the second part of John Ogden's  military trilogy, the sequel to On Fire. It is set at the start of the 1950s in Western Germany, which had only recently ceased to be an occupied country and become one to be defended. It describes the life of an infantry regiment, as experienced by Captain Miles Player; the sub-plot concerns a tragic reunion with his former girlfriend, now married to a brother officer. The regiment spends a large part of its time recuperating from the hardships of the Korean War, the hero and his comrades indulging in wildly extravagant parties with a hedonistic superfluity of wine, women and song. In contrast, back at home, Britain was only just emerging from a bleak existence of socialist controls and ration books under Clement Attlee's austere government 
The 1950s are a curiously neglected if fascinating period, possibly because they looked backwards so much, in an impossible attempt to rebuild the world as it was before the Second World War. These were the days of National Service when during then- short stint young officers - the vast majority from public schools -absorbed their seniors' determination to restore "pre-war standards". (It is too often forgotten how much the ending of National Service contributed to the revolution of the 1960s.) Where the writer is so clever is in recreating the period with all its nostalgic ambience. 
A splendid gallery of officers and men, career or National Service, is portrayed. The colonel who commands the regiment is a truly awful if hilarious figure, a manipulative martinet intoxicated by his power over others, expert at blighting the careers of anyone under his command, while so incompetent that he and his driver are the only men taken prisoner during the fantasy battle of the annual army manoeuvres. His horrible end, en route for Kenya, is a deeply satisfying piece of black humour. The colonel's favourite is a totally amoral young captain, lustful, sponging and dissolute, who borrows money right and left that is never repaid, and even betrays his patron. There is a wonderfully funny map-reading and mushroom-hunting Exercise Fungi, ‘to hone your soldiers' personal and individual skills, and identify the true soldiers and NCOs among them", during which the troops are terrified of being poisoned. The uneasy, yet increasingly friendly, attitude towards our former enemies, the Germans, is conveyed with considerable sensitivity. Above all, there is a brilliant delineation of the subtle relationship between officers and men, with their shared amusement at the more ridiculous aspects of military life. 
The lovingly recreated world of Ogden, a former professional soldier, is clearly based on fond recollection, altogether convincing. For its humour, and for the easy, unaffected elegance of the writing, this trilogy should rank with Evelyn Waugh's "Sword of Honour", even though the background is the Cold War and the hero not a Catholic. Unlike Waugh, however, the melancholy alternating with the fun is never 

Review in The Bugle – The Journal of The Rifles

Number 5 Autum 2009: