An omnibus volume from the incomparable Fraser (Black Ajax, 1998, etc.), bringing together three of his short-story collections—The General Danced at Dawn (1972), McAuslan in the Rough (1974), and The Sheikh and the Dustbin—in their first joint US publication. These are yarns in the best Fraser tradition, narrated by one Lieutenant Dand McNeill, and focused on the barracks-and-battle life of a Highland Regiment that sees action both at home and abroad. Very Scottish in temperament and tone, the tales have a less reverent view of army life than Waugh’s Sword of Honor trilogy, but they’re infected with the same perverse delight for the human foibles of life under command. Starting with McNeill’s sorry performance before the Selection Board, the pieces take in the North Africa campaigns of WWII and center somewhat on the misadventures of Private “Piltdown” McAuslan, the dirtiest and dumbest soldier in the world, who begins as the bane of his officers’ existence and eventually becomes a kind of mascot to them. The various military high-jinks and the shameless antiheroics have an unmistakable Fraser stamp to them, but they also follow in a much longer military tradition—of the Good Soldier Schweik school.
A delightful visit from an old friend.