Author
Geoffrey Gudgion
ARRSE Rating
3 Mushroom Heads
Review by Bubbles Barker

I rarely read fiction but I confess to enjoying reminders that fiction is worth it whenever they come around. The author of ‘Draca’ is Geoffrey Gudgion, a retired RN officer of 11 years’ service who then dabbled in marketing before becoming a freelance consultant and part-time writer. Gudgion is an enthusiast for Dark Ages history (another book is titled ‘Saxon’s Bane’) and sailing small boats and it helps (well he seems to think so) that he can drop in a Vice Admiral as one of his previous COs in the ‘About the Author’ section. That’s balanced by doing the right thing by donating 50% of his royalties to Combat Stress and in return he has two 4* reviewers on the cover (and the sainted Ewen Southby-Tailyour!). It’s also perhaps pertinent to note that the book is published by Unbound, a crowdfunding organisation.

So what of the story? In short, it’s a sort of spooky maritime thriller with an Op HERRICK back story, familial differences, ghostly apparitions, a couple of foxy chicks and a possessed Bristol Channel pilot cutter (boat to you and me). I won’t spoil the plot totally but the hero is a medically discharged RM officer who won an MC but lost a leg on HERRICK. Perhaps unsurprisingly he also suffers from PTSD and the effects of this on him and his friends and family are quite well described although I can’t understand how he apparently managed to keep knowledge of both the MC and his injury from his parents. I think this relationship with his family is one of the weakest parts of the story and it highlights my biggest issue with the book. While the story is a good one (hero inherits ship with a Norse connection that ultimately possesses him in the same way it did his Grandfather but ultimately comes through with the love of a good woman) it is spoiled by the use of caricatures instead of genuine characters. They’re all here: the stiff, martinet ex-WO of a father (who’s time on Op BANNER doesn’t count as active service according to the author), the understanding but submissive mother, the obnoxious sister, the difficult (and bisexual) wife and the not quite beautiful, but heart of gold love interest in the boatyard. The dialogue is a bit clunky at times and although he hints at it, he wisely avoids any descriptive soft porn on the relationship front. He’s at his best describing those moments spent sitting alone, outside and just remembering and in describing the action on the water – he clearly loves the sea and ships and this comes across in spades as does his love of Norse mythology – one of the best parts of the book is the Norse saga context setting at the start of each chapter that helps explain why the boat is possessed in the first place.

Overall it wasn’t a bad read but it’ll be a while before Gudgion’s books are on every bookshop shelf. For me, the characters needed to have more depth and greater subtlety to make me invest in them more – that would have elevated ‘Draca’ to four mushroom heads, as it is, I’ll stick to three.

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