I'm writing a book!

It ain't going to be some whoary old colonel's memoirs either. I PVRed in 1991 after just 4.5 years service. Last summer I found myself on the 'broo' for the first time since getting out 12 yers earlier and decided to put my time to good use. Have now written about 70,000 words in short story form based on various incidents and anecdotes. Narrative falls somewhere between Irvine Welsh and John King (Football Factory). Have included a couple of the shorter pieces below. What do yous think?

Get yer arse up here. That was Doug Griffin telling Smudge to get his lardy backside up to the top of the byrme. A byrme, for the nigs among you, is a three-metre high sandbank built by the Engineers. It is used to create four walls, each about 100 metres long with a five-metre gap at two points to allow vehicles in and out. Sandcastles, military style. All the wagons are parked inside the walls, the logic being that if the Iraqis start bombing the area, the byrme should keep most of the flak out. Unless the chogies get lucky and land a shell inside the walls, but then, if your number’s up...

What? says Smudge between breaths having tabbed his way up to the top of the byrme.

Doug and Smudge are both on stag duty having been dicked for the 2-4 am shift. With it being an after dark stag they have been issued with one pair of image intensifying binoculars between the two of them which are then handed onto the next two lucky sods on guard. The SA-80 rifle can be fitted with night sights but the bifs at the RAOC have fucked up supplies, although rumour has it the remfs back in Riadh have all got theirs. That’s typical of the army though. We were all supposed to get desert-issue boots but they never appeared but one of the REME guys, Neil Baillie, had gone back to Camp Jack to pick up some part for a wagon and he said that all the storemen there have got them. All these remfing fucks, who you know will never get more than 5 kays from the city, are walking around with all the best kit. A lot of the lads had already gone out and bought their own desert boots, civvie ones like. The OC don’t bother that you’re wearing mixed dress as long as it does the job. All the guys have got their own kit: Lundhag boots, Norgie thermal tops, Helley Hanson fleeces, Berghaus bergens, Maglite torches. The list goes on. The rodneys and Warrant Officers know that you can’t do your job if you had to rely on army issue kit and it is just accepted that you have to shell out for your own gear, just as long as you only wear it on exercise or active duty.

Over there, says Doug pointing north with his gat. Pretty, isn’t it?

In the distance orange lights were rising from just over the horizon into the night sky. They looked like embers from a bonfire except these lights were going up in rows of a dozen or so and their paths were straight up.

What is it?

That, Smudge mate, is MLRS rockets. I reckon they are about 10 kays from here. MLRS is accurate for 15 kays. So, 25 kays or less that way there is an Iraqi position which, as we speak, is getting fragged to **** by MLRS. Just think, the poor chogies are having white-hot shrapnel from thousands of bomblets rip their bodies apart. Right now as we watch.
Wouldn’t want to be them, says Smudge taking understatement to new levels.

Then neither of them says anything. They just stand there watching the orange lights sail up into the night. After a while Smudge pipes up, Your right though.
How’s that?
It is pretty.

It fucks up your mind being in the army. One really good example was when me and Lisa was house-buying. I’d been out of the forces for five years by then and living in some council flat near Sefton Park. She was expecting Kerry and we were looking to get a place before she arrived. Lisa knew how the army had fucked my mind up. Not in a schizo way mind, it was just a bit twisted. Like how all the coathangers had to be hung up the same way in the wardrobe and all the clothes that were on them had to be facing the in one direction, just like when I was in the army. Lisa thought it was nuts, which it was, but I just couldn’t get out of the habit. She’d play this game on me where she’d take a jacket or something that was hanging up and turn it the other way and see how long it will stay like that. Not very long if you really want to know.

So we were looking at this three-bed terrace in Fairnleigh for £45,000, which was a good price for the area at the time but it needed a lot of work. It was an old-dear who owned it had been punted off into a home and the family wanted to sell the house off and pocket the dosh. Got to feel a bit sorry for her. Spend all your days raising your kids and saving and paying off your bills and then in the end your brats don’t even wait till you pop your clogs before they are pilfering all your gear. When we went for the viewing it was obvious that it hadn’t been decorated in decades. All the window frames were rotten and the place had this old woman smell. The estate agent said the gaff had wonderful potential. That’s how they all speak. They won’t tell you that the gaff is in shit-state. They assume that you ain’t going to notice ‘cos you are too stupid. So me and Lisa are looking around and I’m thinking that the place is a dive but I can see that her eyes are lighting up and she is falling in love with the gaff. She’s already thinking about how she’s going to decorate Kerry’s room and then I realise that we are going to have to buy the place. It had nothing to do with what Lisa was thinking. I was in the living room and it had these bay windows and I spied the handles. They were these well old big brass jobs except that they were all tarnished and dull. That was it. My sole motivation for buying the place was to polish up them handles. It was all I could do to stop myself from polishing them up there and then. The old dear must have been too ill to shine them up ‘cos old folks are right into that sort of thing.

The estate agent had had shown us out and Lisa had looked at me and said that she wanted it and I’d agreed. We bought the gaff and moved in but before we had even had a chance to start to unpack I went into a box marked “Kitchen 1” and pulled out a yellow duster and a can of Brasso and started on them brass handles. Lisa had said that I should leave that until we’d decorated (which wouldn’t be for at least a week!) but there was no way I could leave it. I said I had to get them done now and she just laughed ‘cos she realised that it was one of my army-barmy things and left me to it. I’m lucky to have her. There’s a lot of girls that wouldn’t understand.
What's a byrme?

Is it the same as a berm: n A mound or bank of earth, used especially as a barrier or to provide insulation.
A ledge between the parapet and the moat in a fortification.

Best mispelling of this so far is in Andy McNab's latest, in which it is referred to as a 'bung'. Great editing....
A bung.

Isn't that what fcukwit editors of newspapers for morons, pay to so-called soldiers for posed photographs?
The spuds are like the regiment that time forgot. Fair dos like, it is one thing to have tradition but these punters still think they are fighting in the Crimean War or some such shit. The 14/20th King’s Hussars. The king in question was King Edward – hence the nickname, the spuds. That’s what we call them and them, being as thick as shit, don’t click that we are talking about them. They weren’t at the front of the queue when God was dishing out brains.

**** knows when they was formed but whenever it was when they still had horses and charged the enemy, swords drawn. Of course nowadays they have Challenger II Main Battle Tank – cutbacks aren’t that bad. Thing is, these punters have still got some horses for ceremonial purposes. You know when you see the Trooping of the Colour and all that bollocks? Well, that is them or if not them then some other mob stuck in the eighteenth century.

That’s how they ended up in York Barracks sharing it with us, it is the only one in Münster that has stables to house their nags. 14/20th have got their tank park at one side of the barracks and we have our tank park at the other. The tank park is exactly what is suggests (it wouldn’t do to confuse anyone now). It is a row of garage buildings that we keep the wagons in with a parking area at the front. In the middle of the barracks is the parade square and down two sides of that are the barrack blocks and office buildings. Along the bottom end of the parade square is the cookhouse or ‘Regimental Restaurant’ as the sign above it says, only don’t bother trying to book a quite candle-lit meal for you and the missus. Top end of the square is the Naafi building with the bar and the shop. Except none of us use the Naafi bar because 204 has got its own bar.

So at our side of the barracks is 204’s tank park, except that the top third of the garage buildings have been given over to the spuds so they can use them as stables. Said that is was because the noise of their panzers would disturb the beasts but as Scaff said, what the **** do the think powers our wagons, clockwork motors?

More likely the spuds just didn’t fancy the stink of horseshit all day long so they dicked us to house the nags.

If it was up to me, I’d hand them all over to Fat Hans to cook up and feed them back the spuds, Simmo had said one time as he was brushing up the horseshit on the tank park. Fat Hans is a boxhead who has schnellie van that comes into the camp at night. The scran is rank but when you are back from the boozer at 1.30 in the morning it is a lifesaver.

Thing is though, the boxheads actually eat horsemeat and some schnellies still sell it here, although it is getting harder and harder to track down. Jim Murchie, the Reme full-screw, said he eats it when he goes down at the Oktoberfest each year as all the schnellies still sell it there. Mind you, Bavarians will eat anything. Them and squaddies.

So the spuds have guys who never see the inside of a panzer and instead spend all their while looking after the nags and do nothing else. On the plus side, it means you never get dicked for duties, on the other hand, it is a shit job and it has to be done every day. Rum doo that; join the army to see the world and end up sweeping up horse shit and piss in West Germany. That said, one of their boys PVR’d and got a job with the Sultan of Oman working in his stables. Simmo had been speaking to one of the spuds one time and he had told him all about it.

£35-grand a year he is getting – tax-free! recounted Simmo in the squadron bar later. Gets his quarters for free and all.

Just think, do that for 10 years and, if you’re sensible enough, you can retire. I’d have some of that just for sweeping up horseshit and doing without booze, added Flash.

Er well, he doesn’t just sweep out.

Well what ever he does, £35-grand is a brilliant wage. The stick-man only gets about £20-grand a year and that took 18 years to get where he is.

Most of the Sultan’s horses are used for stud.
So, Mad-dog cut in, you watch the old nags shagging. I’ve got some vids like that – not a problem.
Most of the mares that are, Simmo paused trying to get the right word, impregnated are in the States.
So, you get to accompany the horses to the US and watch them shagging there. What’s the difference?
The horses aren’t sent Stateside. They use artificial insemination. It is just the semen that is sent over.
Aw ****, said Scaff, forming a picture in his head.
So, piped up Kev Green, how do they get it over there?
In big, used horse-condoms, said Scaff and everyone laughed. They w@nk the horses off Kev, you thick twat!
No way! I don’t believe it.
Well how do you think they get the nags’ spunk then, give them a copy of Playhorse Monthly and ask them to fill a test-tube?
Well, I thought they would have an operation or something to get it.

After a pause, Scaff said, So this guy’s job is “Horse W@nker”. That raised a chuckle and then Simmo added, Mind you, for £35-grand a year, I’d give them blowjobs.

Still, parading on horseback in front of Her Majesty serves a purpose. That is why all those Japs and Yanks go to the UK, they want to see some eighteenth century inbred on the back of a horse trotting along to a brass band. Generates a load of cash. Maggie should privatise them like she is doing with everything else and have them on ceremonial duties full-time. There are regiments in the army that spent more time doing ceremonial duties than they do on military. That is where the likes of the airborne and bootnecks and all the other corps differ from the likes of the guards and cavalry. When we go on exercise we can dump all the army-barmy bullshit and knuckle down and do our job. Spuds on the other hand can’t leave that stuff back at camp. They actually take their mess into the field with them! By mess, we are not talking about smelly gruds and schnellie wrappers all over the place – we are talking about the officers’ club where they eat and drink. So when the rest of us are eating our compo out of our mess tins out in some boxhead forest, the spud rodneys are sitting down at tables with white tablecloths and crystal glasses with waiter service like they were all at the Ritz rather than on exercise. Mind, this is all still out in the field like.

It is like that scene out of “Carry on up the Khyber” which, incidentally, wasn’t written by Rudyard Kipling despite what Cranswick says. It is the bit where Sir Sidney Roughdiamond, ably played by Sid James, and all the other rodneys are sitting down to their evening meal in the mess while all the time these p***s are bombing the compound. The diners don’t even acknowledge that there is a battle going on outside because that would interfere with the dinner – just wouldn’t be British, see? You can just imagine that happening with the spuds. There is the Russians getting tore in about World War III and you would have the spuds sitting down at their tables in a field somewhere with their silver service getting served steak and refusing to go into battle until they have had their cheese and port.

It isn’t just the fact that the spuds take their mess with them on exercise either. When their rodneys are on exercise they are all wearing Barbour jackets and green wellies like they are off hunting pheasant on one of their estates. Anyone would think that they had stumbled on a meeting of the Young Farmers rather than the commanders of a high-tech tank regiment. Mind you, there’s worse than that. The squadron have been on exercise with Gren Guards and they wore their best boots! Unreal that mob. So the Grens running around the German countryside with their shiny bulled boots but they don’t want to get their Combat Highs all muddy like so they have got these plastic bags over their boots. Daftest looking thing ever.

Jim Murchie out of the LAD had been attached to the Life Guards at Chelsea for a while. Said that they had really looked after the Reme boys, not like us apparently but then what is expecting, a medal just because he can swing a spanner? Anyway, he said that he had been chatting to one of the troopers one time and this lad had been all upset about something and Jim had asked what was up. He said that he had lost his name and Jim had said that he hadn’t, it was still sewn onto his shirt, which was funny but this lad hadn’t laughed. Turns out that when you join the Life Guards you have to earn your name, which is something to do with honour or some other shit. So once you have earned your name you can lose it easy enough, like this lad who had been late on parade or his kit had been in shit-state or he had been caught knobbing the CO’s doris. So Jim asked if that was all there was to it and it was. None of the Reme boys ever got their name when they were with the Life Guards and, if you know the Reme guys, you would know that they can be a bit slack when it comes to ironing your kit and bulling your boots so it is hardly surprising then. Not any of them would give a flying **** anyway. Reme, probably more than any other lot in the army, just didn’t go in for this bull.

Bottom line is that you can’t be a modern soldier and do all bullshit at the same time.

Scaff had gone up to one of the spuds one time and said, Let you in on a secret mate – Queen Victoria’s dead.

Spud didn’t laugh. Just didn’t get it.
Started seriously about last July. Returned to the UK then and been on the dole ever since so thought i may as well put my time to good use. When I sit down and get going I can knock out... er, I mean create about 500 words an hour.
Its good stuff mate, but I think, written the way it is will only strike a chord with other soldiers who can understand what you are on about. These days people are not interested in what we do for a living - its all sound-bite journalism.

Problem you have xmal is that the best sellers nowadays normally involve giving away a few hard core SF secrets, or betraying your mates etc (e.g. 'Andy McNab' 'Chris Ryan') or just giving it large about how you were personally present at every major military operation in the last 20 years (e.g. most of the rest of the books with a winged dagger on the front).

If you can get some SAS link - however tenuous - perhaps you once knew someone who thought about going on selection - then you can get a publisher to give you a big advance up front, and a ghost writer who will stick in a few embellishments or maybe make a load up (don't worry if it isn't true - that fact hasn't stopped many of the other so called authors)

Perhaps I am being a bit cynical. Good luck anyway - let us know if you get it into print.
A good read Xmal but echoing what Chimera said, i think the way it has been written has narrowed your audience. Not sure how you intend to link the stories to form a cohesive book? Have you considered approaching one of the soldier magazines about running a serries of your short stories, might be a way of testing the water? Just a thought.
Best of luck anyway, keep us posted! :)
and mention ARRSE in it.
Already considered the points you've made. You're right about the number of ex-SAS guys writing "been there, done that" autobiographies. Go into any bookshop and they nearly have there own section. This book, should it ever get into print (odds of about 10,000 to 1), would, however, be in the fiction section. I had thought about including a couple of stories about the sas and Int Corp doing sneeky-beeky stuff in Ireland.

It might appear that the readership might be very limited but then how many people that read Trainspotting were actually heroin addicts from Edinburgh? I got a friend to proof read some of the stories and she mentioned that the slang can be a bit inpenetrable. But then the same could be said for Trainspotting and A Clockwork Orange.

I went to a Writers' Group last night and there was a guest author there giving advice. One of the things that he mentioned was try to be original and I guess to that end the stories are.

The magazine route might be the most sensible though


Mr Happy

xmal said:
It might appear that the readership might be very limited but then how many people that read Trainspotting were actually heroin addicts from Edinburgh?
Quite right Xmal, I was going to say the same thing. Also, there are plenty of ex-forces, wanna be forces (and millions on wanna be special forces) who might like to read your book. Methinks that the hard part is the writing not the selling.

There's an amazing number of Rugby fans towards the end of a world cup too....

Mr H
Even if you do get it published you'll only make 10p in every £1 it sells for in the shops if you get the very best deal. (5p/£ for paperbacks). Then if it's good enough your publisher lets the Miltary Book Club sell it for 20p as an incentive to join. (You'll get 2p per book if that happens)
The next neat trick is for your publisher to go into voluntary liquidation, having made some dodgy deal with another publisher (who can't be traced through Companies House) who then sells your book through Amazon (who won't tell you the publisher's address as they keep suppliers' details in confidence). End result is you do all the creative work and some cnut sells your books, but doesn't pay you a penny in royalties.
I know I've been there! Sell several thousand books and get naff-all. You'd be much better off getting a day job.
Too much Army terminology/slang will make it difficult for civilian readers. It also needs to be defined whether it is biographical or truly fiction. Flow is good. Neat story lines other than the squaddy language interrupts things. Get some books by someone whose style of writing you like and analyse how they depict character and describe events and places. Then see how you do these things. Maybe spring for a creative writing course to get challenges and on=going critique and advice. Best of luck. There is a market for this sort of thing.