A Murmur of Mutiny (1972) by Marshall Pugh

exspy

LE
Marshall Pugh served in the Parachute Regiment on a Short Service Commission. After he left the Army he became a writer. He was the biographer of Commander Lionel Crabb and one of the last persons to see him alive. (An article on Crabb's life and disappearance along with Pugh's involvement with him can be found in this 1956 issue of LIFE magazine).

In the early '70s he wrote two novels about a character named Max, a Short Service Commission officer with the Parachute Regiment, and Max's love-hate relationship with the Army. The first novel, A Murmur of Mutiny, is set in the mythical Persian Gulf sultanate of Akdhar during 1971. Max is the troop commander of 11 Troop of the 14th Parachute Patrol Company, and weeks away from his commission obligation ending for which he cannot wait. The troop (the company rear party) are possibly the last British infantry in the Gulf and are awaiting transport home at Bahrain airport after a year away from Britain. Instead, a mutiny has occurred in Akdhar and the troop is diverted to serve with / under the sultan's armed forces, a British officered force of mercenaries from all the tribes in the Middle East and Pakistan.

While the mutiny in the book's title does refer to some of the Akdhar Scouts, it also refers to the fact that Max, his sergeant, and his troop are (and have been for a while) at mutiny with the Army. While the situation with the troop eases Max's conscience with regard to how he feels about the Army, the mutiny against the Army, the chain of command and against discipline eventually has consequences which he had not, but should have, foreseen.

The character of Max must be semi-biographical as the author's info on the dust cover states that Pugh's platoon was known as 'Tam Pugh's Private Army' when he served. Some of the sub-plots are a bit contrived, as Max seduces the Colonel's wife at their second meeting. An older American woman who, until that time, was completely faithful to her husband. Maybe a little ego there, but it's certainly not a major point in the plot.

The second novel, A Dream of Treason (1974), continues Max's story as he, believing that his short service obligation has been fulfilled, tries to leave the Army only to discover that his hereforeto unknown to him application to the Special Air Service has been approved. It seems he is needed for an operation in Britain as he is considered (due to the ramifications of his actions in Akdhar) to be expendable.

Marshall Pugh didn't write any further novels of Max or the Army after this. In fact, information on Pugh is very limited. He's purported to have a birth year of 1925 and there's no indication on the 'net that he's passed. He'd be 92 today if he's still alive.

Neither novel is an opus magnus, but if you come across one at a second hand store you could probably do worse by picking it up. Particularly if the '70s seem like yesterday to you, as they do to me.

Cheers,
Dan.
 

Auld-Yin

ADC
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor

1&12

LE
Read them both back in the 70s, for some reason the cover of A Murmur has always stuck in my mind.
Gave them away to a local military collectors society some years ago with bin liners full of other military fiction books.
 

sirbhp

LE
Book Reviewer
did buster crabb have his head cut off as a warning to mi5?? Or have i made that up ? thought the Russians did it .
 
Sounds good, I've just bought a copy of Amazon, there's only three paperback copies left so get cracking.

The twunts won't post to BFPO, so I'll have to read it in June............
 

exspy

LE
Interesting. According to IMDb Marshall Pugh's credits include Guns at Batasi and an episode of Redcap, and he died in 1976 aged 51.

Good spot. Thanks for the info. Guess that explains why there were no further books about 'Max.'

Cheers,
Dan.
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
Sounds like he belongs to the Jon Manchip-White school of weird 1970s military fiction, although I loved ‘The Robinson Factor’ myself!
 

Latest Threads

Top