THE LEOPARD AND THE CLIFF by Wallace Breem
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THE LEOPARD AND THE CLIFF

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Tight-lipped British Army adventure in India--with a tragic climax that fits like a coffin lid. It is 1919 and Khaisora, the British outpost near Afghanistan, receives word that an Afghan brigade supported by artillery has crossed the border into Waziristan and is heading toward the outpost. Second-in-command Sandeman sends word to smaller British outposts nearby, telling them to fall in at the main post and prepare for an 80-mile retreat to Fort Gumal, burning their outposts, their provisions, and their weapons behind them. Sandeman's main problem is that over half of these troops are Waziri and Mahsud tribesmen whose loyalty is toward their homeland, which lies between Khaisora and the Afghanistan border; they are being asked to retreat away from home. What's more, the Waziri and Mahsud are enemies, despite both being under the British flag, and both are trying to capture the abandoned arms for themselves. As the retreat gets in motion, Sandeman, now in full command, has only six British officers and a score of native officers to command the 1500 troops. As the Afghans slowly creep up on the column and death descends, the native troops begin deserting. By the third day of forced march, all the officers are dead but Sandeman and a handful of Mahsuds, and even their loyalty is compromised between the leopard of the Afghans and the cliff of death. Gunga Din played straight, full of honor but no phony heroics.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1979
Publisher: St. Martin's