Stephen Coan
1 minute read
30 Jan 2008

‘A grab-bag of clichés and bad history’

Stephen Coan

Stephen Coan reviews the book Last Stand at Majuba Hill by John Wilcox. Headline.

This is the fourth outing for Simon Fonthill, a former British army captain, first encountered in The Horns of the Buffalo where he ended up fighting for his life in the battle for Rorke’s Drift in 1879.

At the outset of Last Stand at Majuba Hill Fonthill and his servant, stage Welshman “352” Jenkins who is much given to saying “look you” and “bach”, are down on their luck in Cairo, but then the call comes from Sir Garnet Wolseley to come and help out on the southern tip.

After some cliché-ridden skullduggery involving a double-dealing Egyptian diamond dealer, Fonthill and Jenkins are soon on their way to the First Anglo-Boer War where they encounter assorted stereotypes including a German whose eyes tend to glow with hatred and a Yorkshireman (“Kept a tripe shop in Skipton”) posing as a Texan.

Wilcox acknowledges the historical source material for the book but despite his research still manages to misrepresent the death of Lieutenant Elwes, famously shot from his horse at the battle of Laing’s Nek having just shouted “Floreat Etona!”, an incident also the subject of an iconic painting by Lady Butler. Wilcox has Elwes on foot.

Last Stand at Majuba Hill is essentially a comic Boy’s Own Adventure minus the pictures.

What I said in my review of Wilcox’s first book still applies: “It is an appalling grab-bag of clichés, paper-thin characters and bad history.”