Echoes of Madness – Roy E. Stolworthy

Pitches you head first into the vividly described, inglorious battlefields of the great war with a painter’s eye for detail. You can almost smell the filth of the trenches, and feel the tangible fear of the men and horses as they fight for their survival.  Finch, the troubled hero, is touchingly human, with all the flaws and frailties we all have, but hate admitting to.” – Joyce W

What surprises me about the author is his ability to take you places you would never have thought of. I can only wonder at where the ideas come from…  It’s a complex story and, like his other novels, leaves you pondering what you’ve read for quite some time afterwards.” – David J Mccarlie

From the brutality of World War One springs a conflict between two officers so deadly that all horrors of the Western Front are pushed to one side.

Captain Sebastian Windward, the only son and heir of Lord Windward stands accused of cowardice in the face of the enemy by one of his junior officers, Lt Richard Finch. During a heated argument Windward attempts to kill Finch hopeful of keeping his cowardice hidden. When Finch survives Windward orders his arrest for attacking a senior officer. Aware it is his word against his senior officer Finch is confined and awaits a court martial. But others, also familiar with Windward’s cowardice help Finch escape. Dressed as a private and swearing revenge Finch makes his way back to England.

Skulking in the shadows of the East End of London, Finch is forced into a number of unsavoury jobs to earn a living and keep from the clutches of authority. Soon his personal conflict becomes enmeshed with guilt and a burning desire for revenge begins to prey on his mind and the death of Windward becomes an obsession.

When their paths cross once more it is Windward who strikes the first blow, and Finch is dealt a shattering blow and teetering on the edge of insanity fears he is about to lose his mind.

The frontline battle sections play out like a war movie in your mind with vivid detail and heart in the mouth action. Very well written. Another triumph from Roy.” – Colin Middlemass

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About the Author

After nine years serving with the Royal Air Force, Roy E Stolworthy worked in the Middle East for five years before returning to UK.  After various jobs Roy retired to a life of boredom, interrupted by the odd round of golf.

Roy was always an avid reader of anything close at hand and knew that somewhere inside of him he had a book waiting to be written.  In fact, he had several.  His first book, the traditionally published Coming Home, is the story of a 15-year-old sniper in WW1.  The book was shortlisted to the final 140 of 24,000 entries of the London Brit Writers Awards 2010.

Following this success, Roy turned his hand to self-publishing for his next book, All In and has followed this route for his six subsequent books.

Roy now lives on the outskirts of Northampton, UK, with his partner, Janice.

Excerpt

Suddenly the silence was broken. All along the horizon the sky darkened to a deep purple and gun flashes darted like dancing nymphs lost in the approaching dusk. The far-off growl of a bombardment rolled closer and shells howled and exploded tearing the earth to millions of showering particles in a vista of lunacy. Cowering in his makeshift prison Finch clasped his hands over his ears attempting to block out the noise threatening to unsettle the fragments of his mind. Along the front trenches collapsed leaving hundreds of men to die of suffocation and drown in the knee high water. Huge mounds of earth packed full of mutilated bodies erupted staining the pale green earth blood red. Fearful for his life he fought for his sanity. Shellfire had always left him feeling small and helpless, like a worm trying to burrow into granite. Throughout the night death came without respite and shells fell with monotonous regularity until it mattered little which one might eventually end his life. Midnight came and went as the ground shook and shuddered beneath his feet like a never ending earthquake and peace seemed a million years away. Then at last the shelling came to a halt, replaced by an unbearable silence that pressed against his eardrums leaving him feeling light headed.

The hours passed long and without interest spasmodically broken by the screams of mutilated men mingling with the choking cries of the dying. Darkness dwindled and dawn crept over smoking shell craters. Po faced stretcher bearers fearful of enemy snipers rose from the trenches to search out the living from the mutilated remains of a nation’s cream. Any hope he harboured of escape dimmed to a morose brooding existence and he sat trembling resigned to the fact he had only days to live. An image of Dobbs sneering features loomed uninvited into his mind so full of violence and revulsion it took a constant effort by him to keep it suppressed. He’d willingly stand before a firing squad in exchange for two minutes with his hands clasped round Dobbs throat, watch his eyes bulge and hear the gurgle as he fought for his breath. Nothing could be better than to witness the last death throe as his legs threshed and his heart ceased to function. It would be heaven in hell. Then he heard a different sound and the dull light of lanterns winking accompanied by the rasp of a key pushed into a resisting lock sent his hopes soaring. Out of the semi darkness strong hands pulled him to his feet and he recognised two of the regiments senior NCO’s, Sergeant Blake and Sergeant Newstead. Hoisted onto a horse’s back he gripped the animal’s flanks with his knees ready to ride to freedom. Then a loud voice startled him and he fumbled for the reins.

“Hold or I fire,” Dobbs called out.

“Go Richard; before it’s too la-” Callow’s words were cut short by the sharp crack of a revolver.

Finch stared down at the black gaping hole where the doctor’s right eye should have been. Grasping the reins he sensed a deep disoriented rush of hatred for Dobbs and kicked the horse forward, then yanked the animal round and dug his heels into the flanks. Crouched low over the horse’s neck he urged the horse towards Dobbs flailing arms; unable to move out of the way Dobbs fell screaming beneath the hooves. Filled with elation Finch wanted to laugh and celebrate the demise of the swaggering coward.

Sergeant Blake growled and slapped the horse’s hindquarters. “Shift your arse you young fool.”

Then men appeared carrying lanterns. The hollow metallic click of sliding bolts echoed through the night as rifles were cocked ready. Reluctant to fire on the young officer nervous fingers hovered loose over triggers. Hunched over the withers Finch gave the horse her head. By the time daylight pushed away what remained of the night, his wound opened and blood trickled and gathered at his trousers top. Worn from fatigue and loss of blood he slipped into unconsciousness and fell from the horse.

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In his customary way Stolworthy gives a character portrait of each player in the story, and creates a recognizable group of participants as the story unfolds and discloses the path to the heart of it all.  My main attraction to this author is the way he draws pictures with words. The way he describes impending doom, war, fear and death itself, is often a breath changing experience.” – Joanne Mazzotta

 

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