Three point five stars.
Gideon – Boer Blood is a story set in South Africa at the very end of the Boer war in around 1902.
I know very little about the Boer war or those who survived it, so I was looking forward to reading this book. When a lone, injured rider arrives at a farm run only by a young woman, she makes a choice to help him and diverts those chasing him to head another way.
Lorraine knows nothing of the injured man except that he has two bullets in his shoulder which need removing and a posse of men hunting him. With the men from her family gone to fight the war, there is no one left to help farm, so Lorraine removes the bullets and escapes with the man to her cousin’s farm.
The injured man is Gideon, a soldier from the war, who found himself helping a group of men steal gold which was to be used to pay for guns. The plan went wrong, and although Gideon was the innocent party he was being chased by men who believed he knew where the gold had been hidden.
News that the war is over and a peace treaty has been signed filters through the country. Gideon would like to prove his innocence and return to a peaceful life. Lorraine and her cousin, unsure of Gideon’s story, agree to go with him back to the site of the robbery and find answers. Maybe they can all find peace after the violent war years?
Colley’s knowledge of the African bush shines through with some great detail of wildlife and Mother Nature. The historical detail about the devastation left over by the war, the treatment of the people and everyday life was very interesting, while the gold bullion storyline was extremely feasible for a nation at war. I liked the small details: dialect, friendship between people of varying nations and generosity. But also the fact that hardship, prejudice and class difference weren’t glossed over.
This is a quick read, but I felt there were still areas which needed a little more work. The book opens and closes with the observations of a Martial eagle, giving the eagle human style thoughts and views about the humans he watched; this didn’t really work for me. There were places where the writing style could have been tightened, removing weak words which diluted some of the sentences. A polish by a good proof-reader would make my star rating higher.
By 1902 the war was over. It has taken three years and 330,000 soldiers to hammer 30,000 Boer men and boys into submission. The British employed a scorched earth policy and removed the women and children on the farms to stop the Boer Commandos from obtaining supplies. Also with ammunition in short supply the Boers signed the Treaty of Peace of Vereeninging on May 31 1902. The Boers were forced to surrender their arms and sign a declaration of allegiance to the Queen.
Paul Kruger, the Boer leader, left the country but prior to him leaving he attempted to negotiate a deal with Holland and Germany for arms and ammunition in exchange for gold. The arms and ammunition reached the port of Lorenco Marques but the gold, sent by Kruger, went missing. It never reached the port so the ships sailed for home.
Into this chaos of the aftermath of the war with men, woman and children trying to make it back to the farms, Gideon Barron, an Irishman born in South Africa is accused of helping to steal the gold and hunted by his fellow Boers for treason. With the help of what becomes his friends, he attempts to prove his innocence. Travelling across, what was then, the Transvaal Republic they follow the path of the robbers
Meanwhile the true robbers manage to get away with most of the gold, some travelling into the Portuguese Protectorate of Mozambique and some beyond but some gold is left behind due to a misunderstanding.
This is just one of the many stories about the disappearance of the gold. According to many stories the gold never left South Africa. Some say the gold was worth £500,000 in the value of that time. Some say that there was no gold, that the boxes were filled with ammunition destined for the Boer Commandoes fighting on the front.
About the author
The author was born in South Africa in1942 and spent his teens of the 1950’s on a small farm just outside Naboomspruit in the Northern Province of South Africa, during which time he came to love the sounds, smells and sights of the bush. He did his basic training with 1st Special Service Battalion in Bloemfontein and has happy memories of army life in the bush. He also spent twenty five years training in the martial arts.
During his work in a steel mill and underground in a diamond mine, he yearned to be back in the bush and although his profession was Project Manager, his love of the bush remained. It was during this time that the in-depth research into his first novel – Zachariah:The Boer Diamond – began.
After a successful publishing, the research for this second work began.
The book carries on with this period after the Boer War, with a new character, Naas, searching for the treasure of Kruger’s Gold.
Malcolm now lives with his wife, Lorraine, in Horsham, England when not travelling back to South Africa as an excuse for research on his next book.